When Axl Rose’s 3AM Invite Brought Alice Cooper to ‘The Garden’
When Guns N' Roses were still a young band on the rise, prior to the release of 1987's Appetite for Destruction, they were booked to open for Cooper at a show in Santa Barbara. "We were supposed to do the hour-long drive out there together," Slash recalls in his self-titled 2008 autobiography. "But Axl insisted on driving with his girlfriend Erin at the very last minute."
If you're familiar with the since-reformed Rose's old lack of punctuality you know what happened next: he missed the entire show, forcing Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin to split lead vocal duties. "Basically that set was a drunken jam fit for a bar - except we were in an arena," Slash ruefully recalled. "We stayed up there for the allotted amount of time and then retreated from a totally embarrassing disaster... we talked about kicking Axl out of the band and looking for a new singer."
The band smoothed things over, and Cooper was still impressed enough by Guns N' Roses to bring them out on a leg of his tour in support of 1987's Raise Your Fist and Yell. "We would hear them on stage and say 'These guys are really good,'" Cooper remembered during an appearance on the Appetite for Distortion podcast. "It raises the quality of everybody's playing when you hear somebody play that good, it brings you up."
Guns N' Roses also wound up backing Cooper on a new version of "Under My Wheels" for the soundtrack to The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, and Slash appeared on the title track to Cooper's 1991 Hey Stoopid album.
Hear Alice Cooper and Guns N' Roses Perform 'Under My Wheels'
A couple of years later Cooper got a very late phone call, and an invitation to appear on Use Your Illusion's woozy, borderline psychedelic track "The Garden." "It's about 3:00 in the morning, Axl calls up and says, 'Hey, I got this song' - Axl works all night, you know - and he says, 'It's perfect for you,'" Cooper told Appetite for Distortion. "And I said, 'Okay, I'll be right down there. But it's not gonna take six years to put this out?' He says, 'No'. I said, 'I'm gonna come down and it will probably take a couple of hours,' and I did it in two takes."
Guns N' Roses spent over a year and a half recording the 29 songs that ended up on the twin Use Your Illusion albums, partially (though certainly not entirely) as a result of Rose's exacting attention to detail. "When you’re in the studio one-on-one with him, he’s really amazing, the guy can really sing," Cooper explained to Spin in 1999. "I did my bit maybe three times, but Axl was a perfectionist - almost to the point where you want to say, 'At some point, Axl, it’s gotta be good enough.'"
Watch Guns N' Roses 'The Garden' Video