When Slash and Michael Jackson Staged a ‘Dangerous’ Team-Up
Slash and his Guns N' Roses cohorts were kings of the hard-rock mountain during the early '90s, but in 1991 the top-hatted guitarist collaborated with one of the few musicians on the planet more famous than him: Michael Jackson.
The King of Pop was no stranger to collaborating with guitar heroes, having recruited Eddie Van Halen and Steve Lukather for the Thriller smash "Beat It" and Steve Stevens for the hit Bad single "Dirty Diana." Jackson continued to prove he had his finger on the pulse of hard rock by enlisting Slash to play guitar on two tracks on his eighth solo album, Dangerous, which came out on Nov. 26, 1991.
Slash, who was deep in the throes of recording Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion albums at the time, was all too familiar with studio dysfunction after working with Axl Rose for years. But the Dangerous sessions were disjointed even by his standards. "Michael Jackson was somebody I admire and have a lot of respect for. But when it came down to it, the sessions were so unorganized," the guitarist told Rolling Stone in a January 1991 story. "I like to keep a schedule and be punctual, but those dates just sat there for months and months until I kept thinking they didn’t want to use me anymore. I got a call three months later to do it at such and such a date, but when that date came, it wouldn’t happen. I finally went down and recorded some rhythm stuff for a couple of songs."
One of those songs was the menacing ballad "Give in to Me," which features sizzling leads and a blistering solo from Slash. The guitarist also played on the intro skit to Dangerous' lead single "Black or White," which blares through a boombox in Macaulay Culkin's bedroom in the song's music video. Many people wrongly credited Slash for playing the song's choppy main riff, but he debunked the rumor at the 2010 Canadian Music Week. "The recorded song 'Black or White,' I did not play on," he told CNN anchors John Roberts and Kyra Phillips. "If you listen to [the hook], that's gay. I would never play that."
Watch Michael Jackson's 'Black or White' Video
Jackson's recording process was also much different than the raw, live-in-the-studio takes to which Slash had become accustomed. "It’s at once the most sterile and creative process I've been involved in," he told Musician magazine in February 1991. "Everything is pieced together from samples; you use the same drum beat and chords, then later add things to make it different in some places. Which is so different from what we do. Michael hires out the studio for, like, 10 years and shows up once a month. I’ll probably never meet him."
That prediction quickly proved false, as Slash and Jackson performed "Black or White" together for MTV's 10th-anniversary special, which aired on Nov. 27, 1991. Jackson summoned waves of applause from the audience as Slash played an extended outro solo, which climaxed with him hurling his guitar through the windshield of the car parked onstage.
Slash and Jackson's creative partnership continued throughout the next decade, with the guitarist playing on the hard-rocking HIStory track "D.S." in 1995, the Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix cut "Morphine" in 1997 and the Invincible tune "Privacy" in 2001. He also made several other onstage cameos with Jackson, including the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards and the 1999 MJ & Friends benefit concerts, during which Jackson's bodyguards threw the guitarist offstage for "refusing" to stop soloing.
Watch Slash and Michael Jackson Perform at MTV's 10th Anniversary
As a member of rock's most dysfunctional circus, Slash empathized with Jackson and recognized the solace he found in performing.
"Onstage, his whole professional thing was really where he clicked," he told Kerrang! in 2021 "When he wasn’t working, or in production or whatever, it was then you could see that he was sort of at the mercy of his own success. All the people he had around him, the tugging, and the yes people, you could tell that he knew 90 percent of them were full of shit. ... [Guns N' Roses'] success was massive, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as what Michael was going through. It was just an interesting light, looking at the two things and being careful about what you wished for."