Welcome To My Jungle (and long ass subtitle) by Craig Duswalt (4 out of 5)
This was a fun little book to follow up the previous book which pissed me off. Good job, Craig Duswalt. Anything rock and roll and metal related usually piques my interest enough for me to order it and then buy it. That was the case when I saw this book in the Ingram advance catalog. For those unaware, I am a Guns N’ Roses fan, and this struck me as just the sort of fun book I would enjoy reading about. I wasn’t aware that it only encompassed the Use Your Illusion I & II tours, and that Duswalt was primarily Axl’s personal manager, and so the majority of the stories are about Axl, as they would be. I was hoping it was a landscape of the beginning, middle, and end of the GNR dynasty, the emperor, the minions, and the adoring public. Despite my misgivings with the title and subtitle not mentioning that it was such a small amount of time, I enjoyed the book. The stories? Well, let’s discuss.
Probably the first thing I saw on the cover itself when I got the book into the store was “Axl Rose’s Moth Extermination System”. How can you go wrong with that as part of a subtitle almost as long as Fiona Apple’s last album? Duswalt was Axl’s personal tour manager from 1991-1993, during the haywire sonic extravaganza known as the Use Your Illusion tour. This was also the last time this lineup performed together; after all was said and done, GNR was never the same. Slash left, Duff left, Sorum left, Dizzy Reed started a hair salon (kidding!), Axl went completely recluse and unresponsive to anything that wasn’t his personal assistant or an Elton John concert. This was the beginning of the end, this tour. I really honestly did expect that Duswalt would refer to some strife somewhere in the pages, but none is really to be found. There are a few sentences here and there where he uses the old “for legal reasons” line in not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I think if he could, he would. However, he doesn’t tell much in the way of what led things to get as ugly as they did (and if you want an idea what DID go down; read Slash’s biography and also Duff McKagan’s, although Duff is a lot less blunt, Slash is very upfront about what happened). You don’t see a lot of the ugly side of Axl Rose, and I think I was hoping for some of that side from someone who was his personal assistant at a time when there were cancelled shows, shows that were two hours late, shows where your opening act’s lead singer is burned hideously during one show (Metallica’s James Hetfield), and where there were all sorts of stories coming out of the camp that bore witness to Axl Rose’s blooming case of megalomania. Not really covered here, regrettably. Then again, there is a reason that Craig is still on good terms with everyone in the GNR camp, present and past. Because there is a lot of dirty laundry that he didn’t air. He took the high road. Kudos for that, even if my curious side hoped for more disclosure.
With that out of my system, I loved the book. It was a quick read, enjoyable at parts, eye raising at other parts (the moth extermination system, Axl’s bath salts spilling in customs and almost creating an international incident, Liz Taylor hanging out with a naked Slash, etc!). That’s the mark of a fair and unbiased book. You can tell that Duswalt worked hard in writing a neutral, behind the scenes look at the circus-like atmosphere that had to be going down at the time. It is a funny book. I laughed a lot. Craig has a quick way of telling the story and getting to the point, and that ability results in a lot of anecdotes being squeezed into this collection. I also enjoyed his life story, from being Air Supply (Air Supply!)’s personal manager to meeting his wife during his time as Axl’s personal manager, to his departure and opening his own ad agency, and being a professional motivational speaker and author who hawks his own “RockStar System For Success” these days. Craig’s laidback approach no doubt served as some sort of balm to Axl’s rock star ego, and that’s why they got along so well. It certainly worked well enough that he was able to pen this memoir and have it be a satisfying experience. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is a GNR fan, who liked any sort of metal during its heyday in the late 80’s- late 90’s, and who just wants a nice, balanced look at the sometimes insane goings on of the biggest rock and roll band at the time. It definitely delivers.