Backstage Adventures

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The Adventures of Zoë

The Cult

The Cult (Ian Astbury on the left, Billy Duffy on the right)
San Francisco, CA
photo © Randy Bachman/Artist Publications

Chapter 11 -

In which The Cult's Billy Duffy throws a hissy fit and Slash goes into full confessional mode

Guns N' Roses had just released Appetite for Destruction and hadn't really hit it big yet, so they were on the road as the opening act for The Cult, whose eponymous LP had yielded a cult hit, thanks to MTV and Frank Andrick's "Early Tremors" show on San Francisco's hip KQAK radio station.

It's a show Zoë and Corinne just have to see, though: Zoë because she's convinced GNR are gonna be big, and Corinne because she finds Billy Duffy, um, interesting....

Originally scheduled for a more suitable venue, the ticket sales aren't all that great, so Bill Graham Presents moves the show to the Warfield Theatre. Now, the Warfield is a real theater right smack in the middle of the theater district on Market Street, in the heart of the city. It's a venue where plays were once shown, all ornate and with sit-down seats both upstairs and down, all the way up to the front of the stage—not at all the sort of place you'd expect to see a metal show.

Zoë'd seen Echo and the Bunnymen here, and Tom Petty, and Prince (a special midnight show for "insiders" only), but a metal show?  "This should be interesting," Zoë muses as she drives round and round the area, desperately searching for a parking place.

Ian Astbury/The Cult c Ruby Michael/Artist Publications

Ian Astbury
photo © Ruby Michael/Artist Publications

At last! Up an alley, on the sidewalk: "Let's hope the parking police don't come up this way tonight, nor anyone wanting to break into cars, and no resident decides to call the cops to have me towed away," Zoë mumbles to herself on the several-block trek to the theater and through the homeless—some of whom are very hostile and very scary. "Freaking Reagan and his trickle-down economy... it never used to be like this," Zoë muses.  "Throwing all the mentally ill onto the streets. I hope he loses his ability to function some day."

At last, here's the Warfield, and there's Corinne and the tickets are at the Will Call window and the guard actually lets us in (thank God it's not one of those nights they get it into their head to make the guests wait in a long line until all the paying customers go in first).

Billy Duffy/The Cult c Ruby Michael/Artist Publications

Billy Duffy
photo © Ruby Michael/Artist Publications

The Warfield is really cool inside, there are bars upstairs and down—and upstairs there's often a record company-sponsored party afterwards, though not tonight. So Zoë and Corinne just wander around for a while, greeting people they know, until it's finally time for the show to start.

They show their tickets to the ushers (told you, it's just like a regular theater—you even have to go in through the right door for your aisle), and find their seats.

Lights out and The Cult storm on stage, with the amps cranked to "11", just like Spinal Tap...  "Lord," Zoë thinks to herself, "I can feel the music pulsing through the floor, through the seat, through my body...." As Corinne turns to her and says, pain contorting her face: "I think my nose is going to start bleeding! Let's go downstairs!"

By "downstairs" she means backstage—which is underneath the theater, underground in fact, in rooms lined with concrete. "Hmm," Zoë wonders, "how are we going to manage that? We don't have backstage passes tonight....  Well, I'll send a note down to see if Slash will talk to me again. The phone interview didn't go so well, but you never know."

Amazingly, it works: "It was a one in a million shot," Zoë assures Corinne, "but now I have to do an interview!" As GNR's tour manager leads Zoë away to an equipment room where Slash is waiting.

"Nothing like being prepared," Zoë thinks glumly. "Oh, well, it's not the first time...."  As she eyes Slash, head bowed, eyes to the floor. "I can't even see this guy's eyes, to help me judge the effect of what I'm saying..."

Slash/GNRBut, surprisingly, this time it goes well. Indeed, Slash talks and talks, though still staring at the floor, until he mentions heroin. Zoë interrupts: "Hey, Slash, I have to tell you: I hate heroin, I hate what it does to people...." Instead of shutting him up—which is what you'd expect—he goes into full confessional mode, telling Zoë how unhappy he is about what's happened to him, how he thought he could just fool around with it, until he realized that without it he was really sick, that he was hooked. "I hate how it makes me behave," he says. And looks up for the first time: "Why am I telling you this!?!"

And then he puts his head down again and goes on, talking about how heroin is ruining his life, ruining the lives of those around him. And Zoë wonders once again how anybody can get involved with heroin when they see what it does to people—not just them, but everyone around them. 

At last, Zoë walks out of the room, feeling rather stunned. Though it was to become common knowledge eventually, at this point in time nobody knew about the drug problems inside Guns N' Roses. Indeed, Zoë was to find that nobody wanted to print her story, either—"The kids don't need to know," they'd say.

And there's Corinne, talking to The Cult's tour manager, Barry. Seems she knows him from when he was on the road with Adam Ant, and they're laughing about one of the band members: "He's into bondage, you see, so his wife was really angry with him one day and hatched a little plan. She pretended they'd have sex, tied him up—he was happy at this point—then went off and left him there. All weekend!  Hahahaha!"

The Cult backstage pass

"Well, isn't this lucky! Now we don't have to leave just because my interview is over": Barry gives Zoë and Corinne a Cult backstage pass each, so they can stay underground and hang out without being harassed by the guards.

And when the show's over, Barry takes them out to a bar where, as the waitress tells them about how she and her husband used to have their own restaurant until it went bankrupt, Billy Duffy's guitar roadie comes storming in. "I can't take it anymore!" he wails. 

Barry, very annoyed at this interruption to his having drinks with two women, says, "What's your problem?"

"Billy is throwing a tantrum again! He didn't like something I did or didn't do, and he's screaming and calling me names, and.... I'm going to quit! I'm going to get on a plane tonight and go back to England!"

"Whatever," Barry shrugs, and turns back to his guests: "Say, did you see Spinal Tap? I'm sure Ian Grant [Led Zeppelin's manager—for whom Barry now works] was the model for the Spinal Tap's manager."

"Well, well," Zoë thinks to herself as she raises her glass for another Scotch and water, "hasn't this been a great night for gossip! I wonder what the rest of the night has to offer...."

interview with Guns N' Roses next


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