Wow. Talk about idolatry. Here are just a few adjectives to convey how I feel about Duff McKagan’s It’s So Easy (and Other Lies):
But don’t put rock star up in there. McKagan makes clear that he doesn’t love the term and does well to paint the perfect clichéd image of two words he despises but knows describe him to a T and shatters that clichéd image into a million pieces.
Writer. There’s another adjective to describe him, and McKagan crafts a killer story.
Cautionary tale? Absolutely.
All the sex, drugs and debauch you’d expect in a biography about a famous rocker from the 80s? Yup.
The story of a man who falls from grace, and rises from the brink of death to overcome trial after tribulation after trial only to come out the other side smarter and wiser for it? Paging Joseph Campbell…
To borrow a phrase from another Seattle-ite (Cameron Crowe) taken from a movie set in Seattle (Singles) steeped in the Seattle-based sound (grunge), Duff McKagan, you are Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man. And that would be scratching the absolute surface. McKagan’s also a finance guy, passionate academic, mountain biker, mountain climber, marathon runner, sports columnist, self-proclaimed dorky father of two, and oh, yea, he plays music from time to time, too.
My inability to get my nose out of a biography such as this usually hinders on the ordinary element extracted from these extra-ordinary lives. I know that may not make much sense, but the whole sex, drugs and rock & roll motif has always been very intriguing, and with pop culture serving as a totem I’ve always been drawn to, the human, average-Joe element is how it becomes relateable. McKagan does that with a such a present, self-awareness, I was a bit awe-struck.
McKagan used drugs and (mostly) alcohol to quell his panic disorder and tamper his insecurities while also serving to perpetuate an image he felt he needed to feed and uphold. In a heavily diluted way, that resonated with me. I could definitely connect the dots to my own journey as I wade through my own issues and insecurities and trying to get away from an image that no longer fits. McKagan overcame his issues, in part, through martial arts and meditation, and I’m now doing so through yoga and meditation. It’s a never-ending process, and it is fucking work, something else McKagan seems to understand and explain in unabashed detail.
I think it’s important and almost a responsibility for celebrities to tell their stories with the most bare bones truth and great detail, especially when they’re suffering from something like bipolar or panic disorder or addiction. That is why I loved It’s So Easy, and why I loved Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland. It’s also why Not Dead and Not For Sale by Scott Weiland fell flat.
Speaking of and to put this into a slightly less-biased context, I was never a huge Guns N’ Roses fan. Of course, how could one avoid the band’s grandiose “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain” videos, especially when my career goals at the time were to direct music videos. How could one avoid their grandiosity, period.
Axl Rose’s antics tended to wear thin with me, which is funny because it recently dawned on me that Jim Morrison pulled some of the same shit, and I tend to hold him in a very different light. While Rose and his ego annoyed me, I always liked McKagan, Slash and later, Matt Sorum and Gilby Clark. Naturally, and given my love of Scott Weiland and STP, I latched onto Velvet Revolver. And then I grew increasingly intrigued by McKagan’s journey after surviving a near-death experience when his pancreas exploded, hearing murmurings that he’d gone back to college in pursuit of a finance degree. Wha-? That sounded more like the trajectory for someone who’d been in a band that only achieved mid-level success before fading into the ether. Not a guy who played bass in not one, but two of the biggest rock acts the world had ever known.
If you’re into rock bios, It’s So Easy (and Other Lies) is a must read. I laughed, I cried, I loved this book. Read it: ASAP.