I think about the possibility of the Appetite for Destruction lineup reuniting more often than I think about many of my dead relatives. So pop-culture website Uproxx’s three-part mini-documentary, One Man's Plan to Reunite Guns N' Roses, grabbed my fascination by its imaginary leather pants within seven opening seconds: A mid-'80s clip of grimy guitar hero Slash shredding away and Axl Rose in the midst of mic-stand-twirling, snake-dancing badassery, followed by a bold title-card proclamation: “There’s one man who can get Guns N’ Roses back together.”
The man is Marc Canter. As most GNR super-fans know, the Canter’s Deli scion — now owner — is a central figure in the Los Angeles rockers’ origin story. He’s been friends with Slash since they were 11, riding BMX bikes together. The first Guns publicity photo was taken in a Canter’s booth. As former bassist Duff McKagan says of Marc in part one of the Uproxx mini-doc, which posted April 22, “When Guns N’ Roses was formed he was sort of like a sixth guy in there. He was always around.” (McKagan is the only Appetite-era Gunner to appear in part one, so it will be interesting to see if any others show up in parts two and three.)
Besides featuring Canter’s excellent early GNR photos — from his 2007 book, Reckless Road — the documentary boasts compelling recent video footage. Canter opens up a residential garage door to show where, in 1981, he first heard a teenaged Slash jam on guitar. The space now stores bicycles, lawn chairs, a ladder and other typical junk. “It was such a rich, thick sound,” Canter says. “It was like seeing Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix or some old blues guitar player. It didn’t fit the 15-year-old kid.”
As the band took off, Canter not only helped support Guns N’ Roses “with flyers, ads, demos, equipment, food and friendship” as his website states. He also shot the group’s first 50 shows with his trusty Canon AE-1. Some of his photos appear in the Appetite album art.
In addition to his history with Slash, who describes Canter as “my best friend” in Reckless Road, the deli owner also has deep backstory with Rose. The singer played piano at Canter’s wedding, performing “November Rain” years before the song would be released. (You might remember the dramatic “November Rain” music video was set around a wedding, too.)
Axl and Slash have reportedly not spoken since 1996. “This is a shame, to watch two of my best friends that made beautiful music together not communicate at all for the wrong reasons,” Canter says.
Part one of One Man's Plan to Reunite Guns N' Roses ends with Canter visiting a red-doored, “tiny, crappy rehearsal space,” where the Appetite lineup first jammed, days before Rose, Slash, McKagan, drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Izzy Stradlin’s first gig together, June 6, 1985 at the Troubadour. “What it would take to get these guys back together is simple. Come back where it all started, right here,” Canter says.
Canter comes across as rational and earnest in the doc’s first installment. His photo book came out eight years ago, so he doesn’t appear to have anything new to shill — although he does prominently sport a Canter’s T-shirt throughout.
Guns N’ Roses fans will find One Man’s Plan riveting. However, given the long-running personal and professional beef between Axl and Slash, I doubt anyone outside the IRS will ever reunite the two musicians — at least for anything more than a business meeting regarding the inevitable 30th anniversary Appetite reissue in 2017. Unless, perhaps, parts two or three of the Uproxx doc drop a “Paradise City”-guitar-solo-sized bomb.
Parts two and three of One Man's Plan to Reunite Guns N' Roses are scheduled to post April 29 and May 6 on uproxx.com.
Update, Wednesday, April 29: Uproxx posted part two, titled The Story of How Guns N' Roses Broke MTV.
Update, Friday, May 8: Uproxx posted part three, about the women who helped Guns N' Roses when they were starting out.