Guitar Player, 1986
after Mark Halliday’s “Trumpet Player, 1963”
When Guns N’ Roses records “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
Slash is just fucking around,
making noise and thinking no one’s listening,
but Axl is upstairs making puppy-face at his girlfriend,
writing bad poetry and calling it art
until he hears the riff and runs down
with these lyrics about her hair and eyes
and warm safe places to hide—
this is Slash’s first lesson
in Be Careful What You Wish For.
The rest of his life, all anyone will ever want from him
is this lick, these whiny rising D-flat chimes,
and he sees it happening in car-crash slow motion:
Axl yelling, “Where do we go now? Where do we go now?”
the money guy from the studio saying, “Just record that!”
the producer twitching behind his sunglasses,
the engineer sitting up straighter
as Duff lays down the bassline—
they can all hear it: the one they’ve been waiting for.
Nobody’s asking Slash what he thinks,
which is probably good, because he’s thinking fuck,
this isn’t going away, is it? And thinking,
not for the last time,
that fucking Axl,
and thinking, finally, fuck it—
he’s been waiting for this, too, right?
Yes. Waiting since he was 14,
weed-bleary and listening to Aerosmith
when he realized music was the only true thing in the world.
It’s a short flight from L.A. to anywhere,
from bad poetry to platinum records—
from fucking around to being in love.
In two hours, he will walk out
into the simmer and smog of a summer night
on a planet where this song exists
but no one’s heard it yet.
Everything will have changed and he will be the only one who knows it.
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