Six Degrees of Duff McKagan

My students recently busted me. Perhaps I should rephrase that: they finally figured me out. And, they laughed about it.

I should preface this by noting that I used Guns N’ Roses as an example when discussing parody and satire in World Literature this semester. I provided my class with a glimpse into the psyche that is Axl by sending a link to the video for “Estranged” (Axl, Douglas Adams called; he wants his dolphins back. Never seen it? If you have 10 minutes to kill, I offer you this). I have several theories about this video, but that mental exercise is for a later date.

So, they had some insight into me after that point.

A few weeks ago, I asked my students what their favorite songs were. Now, I asked this as a freebie quiz question, but the “freebie” part didn’t really make the question any less painful for them. Like many of us, they struggled with the question. Music defines us so very much; will that song be forever associated in someone’s mind with me if I choose it? (Yes, if you are really wondering.)

Interesting revelations:

  • 6 of the 17 cited either 311 or Sublime. Not itself surprising, I suppose, except that most of my students were about 8 when Bradley died. Granted, I was weaned on Janis, Jimi, Jim and Brian and ALL of them were dead and gone by the time I made it into the world. That said, I’m having a hard time imagining that they were introduced to Sublime and/or 311 by their parents. What gives?
  • One student listed Flo Rida. Shocked my own kids haven’t brought him to my attention already; was also surprised to learn that he toured with 2 Live Crew back in the day.
  • One student mentioned Jim O’Rourke’s “Get A Room.” Not surprising, but his rationale for why it was his favorite was intriguing: it’s the song his iPod says is most often played.

After the quiz, R. asked what my favorite song was. Now, I was prepared for the question. I had thought about what I would say if anyone asked (most classes don’t for whatever reason). I gave two, because, quite frankly, I can’t just name one. They should consider themselves lucky that I didn’t offer a dissertation on the subject. So, I offered my current favorites: “Mezz” by 10 Minute Warning and “Then & Now” by Loaded.

(**R is the same student who defined “favorite” by iPod, by the way. If I use his definition, my account of my favorite above is incorrect. According to my iPod, my favorite song is GnR’s “Mr. Brownstone.” I would have said “Nightrain” or “It’s So Easy” myself, but iPods never lie. Yes, they are all Guns N’ Roses songs. Did you notice the title of this post yet?)

Anyway, they looked at me quite blankly (itself an interesting experience as it happened collectively). I gave them a bit of information on each band, and suggested they take the chance to seek them out.

Hence, I was busted when they actually did. I wandered into class one fine day to find them laughing at me (please use Bill Cosby’s voice for that statement). “So,” R. asks, “exactly how deep does your fascination with Guns N’ Roses go? They all have Duff, right?”

I was forced to confess that my obsession runs deep; when I was a teen, I wanted to be Duff when I grew up. Badass punk. Inveterate partier. Instead, I became an English Professor. Not quite sure what happened there. I did manage to follow in his tracks in one noteably awful way, but we’ll leave that one be.

For those who aren’t following, allow me to help you out:

Duff McKagan was in Guns N’ Roses. He is currently in Loaded (and Velvet Revolver). He was in 10 Minute Warning. And, if you want to get right down to it, he influences much of my music collection, which includes:

  • GNR: Live Like a Suicide, Appetite for Destruction, Lies, Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, The Spaghetti Incident, Live Era
  • Duff/Duff McKagan: Believe in Me, Beautiful Disease
  • Neurotic Outsiders
  • Mad for the Racket
  • Betty Blowtorch (he co-produced the Get Off EP)
  • Velvet Revolver: Contraband, Libertad
  • 10 Minute Warning
  • Loaded: Episode 1999: Live, Dark Days

Duff is/was in all of those bands, save Betty Blowtorch. The Duff-connectivity gets worse, by the way:

  • One member of 10 Minute Warning was a gentleman by the name of Greg Gilmore, who was also the drummer of Mother Love Bone, who have a long standing and storied role in my life, even if Andy OD’d 18 years ago.
  • 10 Minute Warning was cited by Stone Gossard (Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam) as the reason he started playing guitar in the first place. Check. Check.
  • The Betty Blowtorch connection really surprised me. I didn’t know he’d produced “Get Off” until I bothered to read liner notes. But, at least at that point I knew he was alive. Then came the video for “Slither.” Definitely alive.

The list, sadly, isn’t comprehensive.

All of this probably suggests that I am hopeless, doesn’t it? In my defense, much of this was accidental. I’m thinking, though, that one could play a pretty successful game of “Six Degrees of Duff McKagan” because he’s played in so many bands over the years. Anyone up for the challenge?


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