By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Marc Canter is perhaps the only Guns N’ Roses fan who had Axl Rose tickle the ivories to the tune of “November Rain” while he and his bride walked down the aisle on their wedding day. And he’s perhaps the only fan who had Slash jam with his son at his bar mitzvah. He’s still schlepping to places like San Bernardino, as he did in 2006, family in tow, for KROQ’s Inland Invasion, where he successfully caught the mike that Axl threw to 65,000 other people. Canter can estimate how many copies Appetite for Destruction is still selling; tell you the first time Slash played a Les Paul; and even point out inaccuracies in Slash’s own recently published autobiography. And, yes, there is a new record out there; Rose personally plays it for him. Why? Because years after the classic lineup disintegrated, and years after people stopped asking about Chinese Democracy, Canter — a 42-year-old father of two and owner of Canter’s Deli — has been the sixth Guns N’ Roses member ever since Slash tried to steal his motorbike in the fifth grade.
(Click to enlarge)
Marc Canter sits in with the band.
In the restaurant’s Kibitz Room, where a poster of Guns N’ Roses opening for Aerosmith on their Permanent Vacation tour hangs above the stage, Canter reminisces about those musician buddies he used to feed free pastrami sandwiches before they went on to become, as he rightly puts it, the “last of the poster bands.” And as I listen to Canter, it’s clear he wasn’t merely the one with the car and steady job. It’s as if he attended every band meeting and never stopped recording the minutes, all of which are seemingly included in Canter’s book, Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction, a gig-by-gig pictorial guide of Guns N’ Roses’ beginnings, from their first appearance as the Appetite incarnation at the Troubadour in 1985 to the day they became Geffen recording artists. The man behind the most popular local after-hours hangout writing about L.A.’s most legendary hard-rock band of the ’80s is as close to the source as if every Queens pizza-parlor owner wrote about the Ramones in the ’70s.
“I grew up with Slash, so I already knew his talents,” says Canter. “I knew he’d make it somehow, even if he was giving guitar lessons.
“When I went to that first rehearsal and saw them play ‘Anything Goes,’ I was blown away,” he remembers. “All of a sudden, there’s Axl giving it everything, and his sound, his range, the melody. It was like, ‘This is real music. This is Led Zeppelin.’ It was songwriting, it was image, it was style of playing, it was the sound they had. I noticed that about every three weeks, a new song would come that didn’t need any more arranging. I never saw them write a song and throw it out. Everything they came up with was gold. It was perfect. I had butterflies in my stomach before each show.”
Canter actually started the book in the early ’90s, after having spent years photographing and videotaping Slash and Rose back in their pre-GN’R groups. “I was gonna capture it even if they didn’t go anywhere,” says Canter. “I was taking these photos, recording these shows for myself, if nothing else.” He’s amassed a treasure-trove of memorabilia, as well: newspaper clippings, backstage passes, ticket stubs, club ads, and DIY fliers of the band opening for Johnny Thunders, Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper. Canter even includes the lyrics to “My Michelle,” written on the back of a water-stained flier, and a $37,500 advance check from Geffen that has Slash's name misspelled as “Stash.”
Some of Reckless’ photographs were included in Rolling Stone’s 20th-anniversary-of-Appetite issue last summer, and indeed, they are eye-popping. A framed black-and-white picture of the group still hangs above the Canter’s booth where they had their first publicity shot taken, and the ones taken in the alley wound up on the back cover of their 1986 Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide EP. You’d have to look long and hard on YouTube to find Rose in a thong and chaps, or dancing with Hollywood strippers back when they used to be part of the show. And funny how groups like Poison were the mortal enemies of all serious hard-rock artists back in the day, yet there’s Guns in more early publicity shots dabbling in eye shadow and lipstick and eating spaghetti. Foreshadowing?
Canter includes some audio samples of the shows on the book’s Web site, Recklessroad.com. But he almost didn’t have to bother. If Guns N’ Roses were L.A. to the bone, Reckless functions as a sort of before-they-were-stars map taking you through every Sunset Strip joint and beyond, sweat, smoke and all. Every one of the approximately 50 gigs is broken down by set list and the stage banter of beer-and-cigarette calls. You can practically hear Rose tell the Roxy one night, “This is the ‘Fuck the L.A. Weekly’ show,” and the Whisky on another, “I would like the L.A. Weekly, and the Music Connection, and BAM magazine, and the Reader to feel this one right between the legs.” And you can feel the spit too. “The Street Scene has gotta be my favorite,” says Canter, referring to the 1985 free outdoor festival, or, as Slash called it, the “loogie fest,” where the guys were met with a spitting reception from the punk fans of Social Distortion, which followed them.