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25 Years Ago: Slash and Duff Give Network Censors a Workout at the American Music Awards

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Axl Rose catches a lot of flak for the way he ended up seizing iron-fisted control of Guns N’ Roses, but he had his reasons — one of which may have been a dream of not having to deal with stuff like the fallout from Slash and Duff McKagan‘s infamously inebriated appearance at the 1990 American Music Awards.

The band won two awards at the ceremony — which was held on Jan. 22, 1990 — and both times Slash and McKagan were called up to the podium, they made alcoholic magic happen in that special way only happy drunks can manage, stumbling and slurring and swearing their way to a funny footnote in rock ‘n’ roll awards-show history.

“What do we say?” wondered McKagan upon arriving at the podium for the first time. “OK, so listen,” responded Slash. “We really didn’t even expect this. It’s like, just come down to the show and hang out and stuff. We thought we’d come down and hang out for two hours and s—.”

Obviously impaired but perhaps still aware enough to realize he and Slash were about to get the “exit stage left” music, McKagan swiveled back to the mic and added, “Have a drink on us! Thank you.”

Fortunately for the kids at home — and fans of non-boring awards shows everywhere — the two weren’t done accepting honors that night, and their second trip to the dais was almost as memorable as the first (for everyone but the two guys who probably didn’t remember it the next morning, anyway).

“What do we say?” wondered McKagan again; fortunately, Slash had a quick answer, telling the audience he wanted to share some things he “didn’t get to say last time.” Unfortunately for the beleaguered network censors, some of those things aren’t supposed to be said on television, and most of the others were simply the names of industry flacks who helped promote the band’s first couple of albums.

The duo continued their unintentional comedy act at the AMA press conference, where McKagan announced, “Record sales is not our main priority whatsoever. It’s like … integrity.”

“We’re a band, man!” interjected Slash. “We go in, we jam, we hang out. And we listen to rap records, and we go [swaggering dance move], you know? Our audience is the only thing that made this happen. Geffen’s great and stuff, but–”

“You think about when you’re 15 and 16 and stuff,” McKagan continued. “When you’re influenced by, like, when I was 15, Aerosmith and blah blah blah. So you think, ‘How’s this song gonna affect a kid?,’ but you’ve also gotta think, ‘How am I writing this song? Am I doing it sincerely?'”

“We go out and we play, you know. And we record and we rehearse and we go through our own personal problems,” observed Slash. “And the differentiation between the media and your personal life is starting to become a really big hassle.”

For the sake of their health, we’re glad these guys sobered up, but awards shows everywhere could still use a major dose of the cheerful irreverence they showed here. Cheers to you, Slash and Duff.

Watch Guns N’ Roses at the 1990 American Music Awards

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