As an archetypical rock ‘n’ roll frontman, Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose may seem like someone who lives on the edge, void of empathy, deliberation or regret. As it transpires, some of the provocative character’s past actions have lingered in the mind over the years. In 2013, he even deigned to apologise for turning up late to concerts, almost as a rule, since the band formed in 1985. But this wasn’t the biggest of his regrets.
One of Rose’s biggest regrets was from the mid-1980s when he neglected to reach out to a close friend in desperate need of support. In 1987, Todd Crew, the bassist for the New York hard rock group Jetboy, died of a heroin overdose following 18 hours of binge drinking and partying. At the time, Crew was on tour with Guns N’ Roses, working for Slash as a roadie. The night he died, aged 21, he had been partying with Slash and porn star Lois Ayres in a room at the Milford Plaza Hotel, New York.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1989, Rose discussed the difficult period: “I didn’t talk to Todd Crew before he went to New York. I felt a massive need to talk to him out of concern for his well-being. But I wasn’t aware enough to realise I didn’t have the time I thought I did. I thought I’d have time later.”
Stories depicting the events surrounding Crew’s overdose vary from source to source. As Slash reported, after Guns N’ Roses returned to the US from London, he spent the night in New York scoring heroin. The Jetboy bassist overdosed, and Slash tried in vain to save him. “Todd had done heroin, but he wasn’t that experienced,” Slash said. “His breathing stopped. I called 911. I threw water on him. Nothing worked. I couldn’t save him. Todd — all of twenty-one years old — died in my arms.”
However, in an interview with Marion Pierson of Punk Globe, the surviving members of Jetboy shared their account of the story, saying: “Slash is a liar and he knows it. The few people that were there that night know what really happened and that Slash is 100% full of shit. Todd OD’d twice that night, we were told. The first time Slash didn’t even bother calling 911. After they revived him for a minute, everyone freaked out, being high on dope; and left [Slash included].”
Whichever way it played out that evening, be it Slash’s negligence or otherwise, Crew’s death marked a particularly dark and gruelling moment in Guns N’ Roses history and was doubtless among Slash’s most haunting regrets as well.