“Today is a good day to die,” learns Duff McKagan in his autobiographical novel, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies). And it’s a key learning I’ll never forget. I won’t explain it here as I’d hate to take that away from any future reader. But it’s deep, as is this book.
Given to me as a present, I initially thought, “Great, another boasting autobiography about a drugged out rock star.” I’d read Slash’s Slash and thoroughly enjoyed the outrageous ride that it was. Then I read Mötley Crew’s, The Dirt and then Anthony Keidis’, Scar Tissue, and it all started to sound a bit the same. While great reads, and thoroughly enjoyable, I was quickly growing tired of the format. And Duff? Well, he was just the bass guitarist for Guns n’ Roses. What more could he possibly have to say about the sordid tales of one of the worlds greatest, and most dysfunctional, rock bands that I didn’t already know?
It turns out, quite a bit.
First, just over half of Duff’s masterpiece is actually an account of him getting clean and sober. Sure, the earlier mentioned novels cover this, briefly, almost in a way that states it was way too easy for them. But Duff actually dedicates so much more of his novel to the effort and challenge of this process. And the insight into addiction and overcoming it is worth it’s weight in gold. Duff’s account displays for all to see that it is clearly not easy. What else this novel outlines wonderfully is the business side of music. From one burgeoning artist to another, I found Duff’s account of Slash and him cold calling friends and fans to sell pre-purchased tickets to a venue just so the venue would allow them to play there was absolute gold. Gunner’s did it tough in the beginning. Real tough! And it’s a testament to their tenacity and self-belief that these guys actually ever even made it. What’s also a miracle is that these guys made it into the 21st century alive and still playing. What is clear in McKagan’s book is that none of them ever expected to!
For me, a sign of a good book is not wanting it to end. As I came closer and closer to those last pages of It’s So Easy (And Other Lies), I just wanted it to keep going. There was still more for me to learn here. And I’m not an addict, or a recovering addict. What I was learning from this book, was how to become a better person, a better artist, and how to strive for everything I want, no matter the challenges. Duff’s novel, which he wrote himself (kudos to him as most of these guys use a “co-writer or ghost writer”), has all the debauchery, madness, and page turning larger than life stories that the others have. But it also has soul, and a depth to it that makes it a must read, no matter how many you’ve encountered before it.