The Rolling Stones are a band that has welcomed literally thousands of covers during their career. This special rendition of their song ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, which arrived from none other than America’s most dangerous band Guns ‘N’ Roses, might well be the most high profile player to ever jump on a Stones track.
The special effort was covered as part of the Interview With the Vampire soundtrack and, according to Slash, is indicative of the stage of disbandment the group were at during it’s recording. As the famed guitarist puts it: “The sound of a band breaking up.”
In 1994, as the producers mosied up to Axl Rose and Slash with an enquiry as to their availability to record a cover of a Rolling Stones song, they couldn’t have known how close to the edge Guns ‘N’ Roses truly were. The duo wasn’t even really on speaking terms.
The band had just finished a gigantic 192 show tour and the two-and-a-half years it took to complete those dates had taken its toll on the group. While they were looking to record a new LP, Axl made the decision to remove guitarist Gilby Clarke and replace him with a childhood friend Paul Tobias. It was a decision that did not go down well with Slash. Still, the guitarist knew that Guns ‘N’ Roses were bigger than any one member of the group so took the personnel change with a modicum of decorum.
Slash was a fan of the Interview with the Vampire book by Anne Rice and was intrigued by the opportunity to work on the film adaptation. However, after he caught a sneak preview of the picture, the guitarist was firmly put off the project—he hated the film. Axl, perhaps to compound the distance between them, went to a separate screening of the film and loved it. He was keen to get the band involved.
“I couldn’t have been more disappointed, pissed, frustrated and confused,” Slash wrote in his 2010 memoir. “The only upside I saw to signing off on it was that it would accomplish what we’d been unable to do to any degree in the past seven months: it would actually get all of us into the studio.”
The time in the studio wouldn’t be well spent though. Axl Rose was beginning to cut himself off from the rest of the band and reportedly wouldn’t share any studio time with the group. Instead, he used a minder to issue instructions to the band from the safety of his home.
One such instruction was for Slash to perform the song’s guitar solo ‘more like Keith Richards’. “That was the last thing I wanted to do,” Slash wrote. “Keith’s playing is so awesome on that song that I didn’t want to even come near it, but I did. And doing so left me feeling even more pissed and put out than ever.” It was a moment Slash would remember forever.
To make matters worse and to put the final nail in the coffin for Slash and Guns ‘N’ Roses, Axl then had Tobias play all of Slash’s guitar parts and placed them on top of Slash’s in the final mix. It’s something that the guitarist wouldn’t find out until he was handed the finished song. Slash would wait a few more years before officially leaving the band but this was the final straw.
“If you’ve ever wondered what the sound of a band breaking up sounds like,” Slash shared, “Listen to Guns N’ Roses’ cover of ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ If there is one Guns track I’d like to never hear again, it’s that one.” Sorry Slash, you can find that very track below.