Recently we ran an excerpt about Van Halen from the new memoir Backstage Past, by Barry Fey, a legendary Denver concert promoter. That piece dealt with why Van Halen refused the brown M&Ms on their tour rider. But Fey wasn't done yet; in his interview with our sister paper Denver Westword, he talked with music editor Dave Herrera about the time he (allegedly) held a gun to Axl Rose's head.
Ahead of Guns N' Roses' show at The Forum tomorrow night, Dec. 21, peep this account, in which Fey shows Axl who's the boss. Oh, and keep reading for the details of Slash's bachelor party, where they handed out blue tickets if you wanted a blow job.
Dave Herrera: So what's your favorite story [from Backstage Past]?
Barry Fey: I guess my favorite story… oh, God, that's hard. Dave, that's really hard — and I'm not being cool – but the one I had most fun with is debunking the story that's not true.
The Axl Rose story, as told by Lars Ulrich. You've heard about that one, right? That story is, I guess, the most famous of the stories. We had Guns and Metallica at Mile High [Stadium]. And there was 48-49,000 people there. It was a big tour, and they alternated closing. One night, one band would close, and the other night the other one.
This one, Metallica opened, and… the whole story's in the book, but I'll tell you… Metallica opened, and I went out – it was a great set – I went backstage for the opening number of Guns. I went out, and they played “Welcome to the Jungle.” I'm walking out – I'm going to give you the language, and you clean it up however you want; I'm just telling you how it happened – I'm walking backstage, and this guy comes running out and says, “Barry, Axl just left.”
I said, “'The fuck are you talking about, 'Axl left'?” So I ran backstage, and I found out that he had come down off the stage, got into the limousine and left the site. So I said to… I went up to – his name was Big John; he was the guy who ran the limo company – and I said, 'You don't work for him; you work for me.' I said, 'You ever want to see another fucking dime of this company's money, you get that car back here.' And he said, “What?” I said, “Yeah. The only way he gets out of that car is if he jumps out. And if he jumps out, you leave him in the street. But you get that car back here.”
So he gets on his little telephone. People are getting a little pissed by this time. Guns is up there just jamming, right? They played “Welcome to the Jungle,” and then they didn't do anything; they were just jamming, and people were getting a little pissed off. In fact, I found out that they were taking their Guns N' Roses T-shirts back to the concession stand and throwing them at them and saying, “Give me a Metallica shirt.”
So I went into the Guns and Metallica dressing room. So Guns sends down an emissary — and this I know for sure because I was standing there within three feet – and he tells Lars, “Would you guys consider coming back up and jamming with us, because the crowd's going to get out of line?” So Lars tells him, word for word, “You bozos don't have enough money in your collective bank accounts for me to get back on that stage.”
So at that point, I left the dressing room, went back out to the parking lot and got my .357 out of my glove box and put it in my back pocket. So I go out there, and I don't know what I'm going to do, because, you know, he had caused a riot in Montreal, I believe, by leaving and not coming back. Well, a few minutes later, the car comes back, and Axl gets out and talks to his manager – his name was Doug Goldstein; he was a glorified security guy; he use to do their security, and he took over their management. But how do you manage, manic depressive heroin addicts? That's a pretty good trick. I don't know how you do that.
So he [Axl] comes and talks to his manager and goes right up on the stage and gets back into it. So I put three of my, what do you want to call 'em, security, goons, thugs — the toughest ones I have – at the top of the stairs and three Denver cops at the bottom. My instructions are: “The only way he gets out, if he leaves again, is that way,” and I point to the crowd. Doug Goldstein says, “Barry, you can't do that. Axl will get so pissed.” I said, “I don't give a fuck about him, and I don't give the same about you. I care about them,” and I pointed to the people.
So that, basically, is what happened. But Lars tends to tell a different story, and Lars has far more credibility out in the industry than I have. He swears I put the gun up to Axl's temple and said, “Get on that fucking stage or you're going to die.” It [his .357] never left my pocket. But every time he sees me today, he says, “Barry, are you packing today?” So that was that story.
Details of Slash's insane bachelor party below.
Of course, that also was Slash's bachelor party that night. It was downtown at the Embassy Suites, which is no longer there. They were handing out little tickets – a blue ticket, like if you wanted a blow job, a yellow ticket if you wanted to get laid, a red ticket if you wanted to do both. It was a crazy night. And it turns out, I found out later, the reason Axl left was because he had a fight with Slash on the stage. But you know, I didn't really care. I just… I wasn't going to let him get away with that.
And Lars says to me, “Don't tell me you wouldn't have shot him.” I said, 'Oh if he's not going to go on, he's going to get shot.” But it didn't have to happen. So that's a great story, but it's true. That's the way it is. If you hang up with me and call Lars, he'll tell you the story, “Yeah, Barry put this fucking gun to his head.” Didn't happen.