The first of my weekly look at musicians who never quite got their due. This week’s underappreciated musician wrote or co-wrote many of my generation’s definitive hard rock songs.
When most people think of Guns n’ Roses, they think of Axl and Slash. People who know them a little better might remember Duff. But the engine of this band, or rather, what made this band great, was Izzy Stradlin. I didn’t really know anything about him when I was 9 years old and listening to Appetite for Destruction. My focus was on the rambunctious lead singer and the guitarist with the top hat whose face was always hidden by his hair. Those two also received most of the media attention the band got, and so I just assumed they were the driving force behind these awesome hard rock songs. The blonde guy playing bass looked pretty cool with his bass guitar slung so low on his body, and the drummer always seemed to be having a blast, but the other guy, with the taxi cab driver’s hat and the oversized guitar that didn’t look nearly as cool as Slash’s flame top Les Paul, seemed to my young eyes as just a bystander. Sure, he was part of the band, but he appeared to me as just a guy who filled in the noise while Slash ripped off solos.
As my musical appreciation grew, I came to find that many of the songs written on Appetite, as well as Lies, and the Use Your Illusion albums, were penned by their rhythm guitarist, Izzy. And we’re not talking deep album cuts here, we’re talking “Nightrain,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Patience,” “You Could Be Mine,” as well as co-writing “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” “Don’t Cry,” and the list goes on. It’s no coincidence that when he got fed up with Axl’s antics and quit the band, their career started spinning down the toilet.
Izzy wound up going solo, and I’ve tried to check out some of his solo work (Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds – yes, it’s a terrible name), but I found it a little too bluesy and mid tempo for my tastes. He’s clearly at his best when writing hard rock riffs. This guy has never gotten nearly the credit he deserves.