Steve Darrow is known as the musician who flew closest to the sun in terms of being a part of the Appetite linup. In 1983, Steve Darrow entered into the incestuous, revolving door of bands and musicians when he responded to a classified ad Izzy had placed in the Recycler looking for musicians who liked Glam, Metal and Motley Crüe. Izzy, Axl and Steve bonded over Hanoi Rocks and Aerosmith. Eventually, Steve was recruited into the New Hollywood Rose, a lineup that included every member of the Appetite lineup except for Duff.
In 1983, Steve Darrow entered into the incestuous, revolving door of bands and musicians when he responded to a classified ad Izzy had placed in the Recycler looking for musicians who liked Glam, Metal and Motley Crüe. Izzy, Axl and Steve bonded over Hanoi Rocks and Aerosmith and jammed a few times; but it was Izzy that thought Steve’s sound as a drummer was too heavy and the gig would ultimately go to Chris Weber.
Steve gave up the drums, switched to the bass and joined the band Kerry Doll. Six months later, just as Hollywood Rose was breaking up (for the fourth or fifth time), Izzy and Axl recruited Steve to play bass in a new version of Hollywood Rose.
At the same time, Slash and Steven auditioned for the new band and Axl wanted them in. The New Hollywood Rose was formed and included Axl, Izzy, Slash, Steve Darrow and Steven Adler. But Izzy wasn’t down for a two-guitar band and soon left, once again spinning the revolving door of bands and players. And when it stopped, Izzy landed in London and the New Hollywood Rose solidified and included Axl, Slash, Steve Darrow and Steven Adler.
Steve Darrow would be the only member of the original New Hollywood Rose not to reunite as the Appetite lineup of Guns N’ Roses. He shares his story with us.
1:17 - Steve Darrow enters our story and talks about how he met Izzy Stradlin
4:14 - Hear more about the bands that influenced not just Izzy and Axl’s sound, but also their appearance and style as well.
8:10 - Steve playing bass with Kerry Doll makes Izzy and Axl reconsider their previous pass on him.
11:11 - Listen to Marc and Steve discuss how the revolving door of musicians led to Steve momentarily in Duff’s place in the AFD lineup.
15:25 - Steve dives into what he recalls about playing live with Axl, Slash, and Steven Adler.
21:40 - Learn more about the pay-to-play situation that existed in the Hollywood clubs during the ’80s.
26:48 - Hollywood Rose was tumultuous at best, hear about the ending of one band and the beginning of another.
29:06 - Steve shares his feelings about how close he came to being in the AFD lineup.
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Jason Porath, Steve Darrow, Marc Canter
Jason Porath 00:01
Did you and Izzy officially meet through a classified ad in the Recycler?
Steve Darrow 00:06
Yeah. He was like, "Let me tell you about what we're looking for. Do you have long hair, do you have some black pants? How long have you been playing?
Jason Porath 00:19
Welcome back to the First 50 Gigs, Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction. As with all of our guests in season one, Steve Darrow was there. He was there at the beginning. And met Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose through an ad in the Recycler in the early 1980s, and eventually became one of the founding members of the New Hollywood Rose, a version of Hollywood Rose, and a precursor to L.A. Guns. Like so many musicians at the time, Steve cycled in and out of bands in what Slash called, "an incestuous revolving door of players and bands." Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve Darrow 00:57
Hello, nice to meet you.
Jason Porath 00:59
Good to have you. And Marc, good to have you back, as always.
Marc Canter 01:04
Love to be here.
Jason Porath 01:05
Awesome. Steve, let's talk about when you entered into this GNR origin story and maybe talk about meeting Izzy.
Steve Darrow 01:13
Izzy was the first person I met out of those guys. We had been in the same clubs and I'd seen this guy and he stood out; just the way he looked. Fast forward a couple of years from then; '84, '85, '86, and there were like a thousand Izzy's in L.A. But at that point, there was only him.
Jason Porath 01:37
Did you and Izzy officially meet through a classified ad that he had placed in the Recycler?
Steve Darrow 01:43
Before Craigslist and the internet, there were silly little local newspapers where you placed a free ad. The recycler just happened to be the L.A. version. It sold everything. I was always looking for instruments and whatnot. Looking the "musicians wanted." It turns out that if you look at other people's backstories, like Motley Crue, [they] met Nick Mars through the Recycler. It was a paper and it came out every Thursday and it was really cheap. This one really popped out. I could tell the way it was worded, it was like he used all of the adjectives. It was all super glam and hair, makeup, Vogue magazine, Hanoi Rocks and Motley Crue. No one was really saying that, so I thought, "I gotta call these guys." I call the number in the Recycler. It was not directly like, "Hello, Hi. This is Jeff." I left a message and then I waited a few days and I didn't hear anything. I was still living with my mom at that point. By the time whoever returned my call from the week or so before that, she'd probably answered it, wrote it down on a piece of paper for me and said, "Oh, call this number." There's a bit of old-fashioned phone tag tucked in. Once I finally got on the phone with this person, who said their name is Jeff, I still didn't know that it was this black-haired guy with a leather jacket. He was very like, "Okay, let me tell you about what we're looking for. Do you have long hair? Do you have some black pants? How long have you been playing? Do you like this band? Do you like that band? Do you like Aerosmith? Do you like Hanoi Rocks? Do you like New York Dolls?" It took a good number of phone calls before he actually said, "come on over to our apartment. and we'll hang out."
Jason Porath 03:49
You guys finally connected. You and Izzy obviously found common ground with style and sound. You talked about the New York Dolls, you talked about Aerosmith. What were some other specific examples of the bands and the sounds that you both gravitated to, that began to deepen your friendship and collaboration at that time.
Steve Darrow 04:14
Motley Crue and WASP and Ratt; bands like that were a big thing at the time. This was like a second generation of those types of Strip bands, just starting to get on MTV. I kind of wanted to do something like that, but not quite the same. Because everyone wants to do that now, but I want to take elements of what Crue and WASP was was doing, namely, The [New York] Dolls and old Alice Cooper. Even some punk
Jason Porath 04:50
And what about Hanoi Rocks?
Steve Darrow 04:52
Hanoi Rocks was definitely like the password or the code word that got you into that inner circle because, at that point, they were really, really new. You only really knew about them if you'd read the import magazines from Europe.
Jason Porath 05:13
What was it about Hanoi Rocks that resonated with everyone?
Steve Darrow 05:17
For Izzy especially, they were just sort of like the ultimate next big thing that hadn't been exploited yet and they were a little bit of everything that we had talked about before. They were a little more extreme and less heavy metal, musically, but more Dolls, more trashy. Less Van Halen -- party, tan, California -- and more, cowboy boots, black hair and lots of bandanas and lots of makeup.
Jason Porath 05:57
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Jason Porath 06:16
When you were first hooked up with Izzy, let's just try to establish a timeline here. The early bands that he was in ranged from the Naughty Women to The Adams to The Babysitters to Voodoo Church. Can you tell us anything about those? Were you around at that time?
Steve Darrow 06:34
My history before this was I had been playing drums, mainly in bands that were more in that scene, to be honest. It wasn't the metal Sunset Strip scene at all. It was the more punk, post-punk into death rock. That was what we called it before. They called it goth, which was the Voodoo Church and Naughty Women. When I'd seen Izzy around, the people that looked like that -- sort of hybrid Johnny Thunders meets Nicky Six meets Susie Sue or something like that -- Voodoo church was a band that I'd seen and even played gigs with. I didn't know that Izzy was hooked up with these people at that time. Because the funny thing is, he never mentioned that.
Jason Porath 07:24
You started out playing drums and you started jamming with these guys. It sounds like there wasn't a match with you playing drums with them. Or, they were looking for another style of drummer.
Steve Darrow 07:26
Jason Porath 07:37
You guys never really got together in a band and then you joined Kerrie Doll. You played with Kerrie Doll for a while, but then you switched to the bass. And you got great at bass. I think you were sharing a bill at a venue with Rose or Hollywood Rose at the time.
Steve Darrow 07:59
Opening for Kerrie Doll.
Jason Porath 08:00
And they saw you playing and they recruited you into Hollywood Rose. So can you tell us about that sequence of events?
Steve Darrow 08:10
There's one particular show with Kerri [Doll] and it was crazy. [It was a] crazy shock rock show with high energy. I was hanging around afterward and just before I had to carry my gear down the stairs -- Izzy and Axl were there for most of the night. It was towards the end of the night and I bumped into them. [I said] "Hey, what's going on with you guys? "What's going on with the band? Did you guys find your ultimate setup yet? Did you find a bass player ever? Because I know that was like an issue last time." He goes, "No, you're our new bass player." It was as simple as that. I was kind of cocky like, [and I said,] "Well, okay, what do you have in mind?" Literally, the opening of the revolving doors of all this success of this band started happening.
Jason Porath 09:04
But you never actually played with Izzy and Axl because at that time, Hollywood Rose broke up and the New Hollywood Rose began and the New Hollywood Rose and you, Axl, Slash and Steven Adler. So what happened during that transition?
Steve Darrow 09:23
This was one of those many times when there were these gray areas of the band when it wasn't just a straight, "Okay, this is this is Rose, this is Hollywood Rose, this is different people." There was a time when it was going to be the same as Hollywood Rose.
Jason Porath 09:41
So what you're saying is that the Hollywood Rose at that time should have been Axl, Izzy, you, and Chris Weber?
Steve Darrow 09:51
Basically, and the drummers were always sort of, "Well, we'll use this guy for a while but we got another guy in mind." It was always somewhat blurry. By the time that gig came around, someone had quit or someone had been fired.
Jason Porath 10:09
When that fell apart, how did Steven and Slash come into the picture? And what was that like for you now jamming with this new lead guitarist that wasn't Izzy, and Steven Adler.
Steve Darrow 10:25
It was it was great. It was different, at first, and there was -- Marc, I don't know if you remember -- but there was a time at Fortress Programmer gig that did have Izzy and Slash.
Marc Canter 10:44
I remember seeing Rose or Hollywood Rose because at Gazzarri's. Chris Webber and Andre Troxx were in the band. Slash met Axel that night and Izzy. They had a little meeting. It seemed like within a week Slash and Steven were in the band, and you were in the band, but Andre Troxx was out. Izzy was there for like five seconds.
Steve Darrow 11:09
Yeah, it wasn't five seconds, there was a couple of jams, where it was all of us.
Marc Canter 11:15
I remember Fortress studio, and I remember you were there. I vaguely remember whether or not Izzy was there or maybe he was there one day and not the next. I can't remember.
Steve Darrow 11:29
I'm pretty sure it was something like that. Izzy, he was fine with the Slash idea. He wasn't 100% sold on it. But he was like "This guy's cool." I think that night, obviously, something happened between those guys.
Jason Porath 11:49
At that point, you were saying "Just tell me where to show up and I'll be there." Was that the New Hollywood Rose?
Steve Darrow 11:56
It wasn't anything yet, but looking back on it, it's what you would call Hollywood Rose. Again, Izzy was there and Slash was there and me. It was basically the Appetite lineup with me instead of Duff, for that one day at least. We jammed and then -- like Marc said -- I think we had another jam a few days later and Izzy seemed to have just not shown up.
Jason Porath 12:28
I don't want to skip over this point that you just mentioned which was, it was the Appetite lineup with you instead of Duff.
Marc Canter 12:37
Let me say something. It was the Appetite lineup it with you instead of Duff. The only difference is Steven was playing double bass drums. So, it was a completely different dynamic. It was like a speed metal band, but not really a speed metal band. It was double bass drums and it was loud and it was in your face.
Jason Porath 12:58
So the Guns N' Roses that Steve Darrow was in was not the Appetite lineup that played a year later.
Marc Canter 13:08
Everything slowed down. A year later, everything was at half time. The Hollywood Rose with the Appetite lineup -- except for Duff -- it didn't sound anything like the Guns N' Roses at their first gig at the Troubadour. Because everything was slowed down. They stole one of Steven's bass drums, so it was it was a different dynamic. Same guys, but a different dynamic.
Steve Darrow 13:34
Marc's, right. Musically, even with Slash and Steve, the Izzy tunes were all pretty fast. It was like if you took Motorhead and had Nazareth vocals or Steven Tyler vocals on top of that, like speed glam, which was probably too hard for a lot of Guns N' Roses people to wrap their heads around.
Jason Porath 14:05
I just want to riff on what you're saying really quickly because I think there's this common belief that somehow these five guys met and their music was immediately great together and they dominated the Sunset Strip and they got signed and went off. What you're basically telling us is that there was a lot of experimentation going on. There were a lot of versions of these different bands, there were a lot of musical styles that they were trying on and taking off. It wasn't like there was some magic that just came together all of a sudden. There was a lot of iteration. To preview the full experience of the First 50 Figs video podcast that includes exclusive photos and videos from Mark's archive, check out the First 50 Gigs YouTube channel. You'll find the link right here in our episode show notes. So Steven at this point, you were rehearsing with all the guys, Izzy leaves and joins London and then you and the New Hollywood Rose play about five gigs together, most of them Marc documented starting with June 16 And Madame Wong's West. What do you remember about the four or five gigs that you played together with Axl, Steven and Slash?
Steve Darrow 15:24
What I remember about the first gig the most at Madam Wongs was that, oddly enough, I think it was Steve Adler's first live show and he was all amped up, more amped up than usual and a little bit nervous. The soundman had to say, "No, dude, we need to put a microphone in your bass drums, both of them. You need to cut a hole." Like you see everybody out there in pictures and they have holes cut in the bass drum and you got to do that. He had to run around the block to let off some steam. Again, Marc was probably there and there weren't a whole lot of other people in the audience, besides our girlfriends and Marc.
Jason Porath 16:11
So this is the June 16 show. So what comes to mind?
Steve Darrow 16:15
Probably the first thing people are going to notice is you can see Slash's face, through his hair, which was the case back then. No top hat yet. No Les Paul yet. His Marshals, he had traded in for Rison, which was a local amp company made in Orange County, which were kind of new at the time and a lot of people were switching over, Motley Crue included. The next thing probably people will notice is Axl's sort of Duran Duran style type of suit, which I don't know what the vibe was he was going for then. It could have been anywhere from Hanoi Rocks to Duran Duran to Mick Jagger, David Bowie that he was going for. The next one I see coming up is definitely a drumset that didn't get seen much in later years; Steve's Tama double bass, lots of symbols, two China symbols, large drums. He played all of them all the time. The first jam that me, Izzy and Axl had with no bass player, me playing drums, that's pretty much exactly the same thing that Izzy was trying to reiterate by saying, "Well, you're not the right stylistic drummer for this." Steve, when he came in, was blazing. He did fine and being that kind of drummer. Cream magazine t-shirt, that was cool. And that was an original one there was before there was fucking reissues of any of this stuff made. This was almost old-fashioned at the time, like the early 80s. This would have been kind of like "Oh, Cream Magazine. Wasn't that was so five years ago?" Very cool boy-howdy t-shirt.
Jason Porath 18:12
And what was Cream Magazine?
Steve Darrow 18:14
Cream Magazine was like the coolest American rock magazine of all time. It wasn't Rolling Stone and it wasn't Circus and it wasn't any of these later magazines that people might remember from the 80s.
Jason Porath 18:32
Let's talk about what Slash was playing on and what kind of sound was coming out.
Steve Darrow 18:42
This was like the newest coolest custom B.C. Rich Warlock at the time. Not cheap at all.
Marc Canter 18:51
I believe he got that at Hollywood Music which is where Ghengis Kahn is now, just north of Melrose and Fairfax and he worked there, so he must have taken a little bit out of his paycheck or put down lay away or whatever. I do remember it being like $2,500 bucks or something like that. It was a lot of money.
Steve Darrow 19:12
Someone in our financial situation should not have been able to afford his guitars. And he did. He had a B.C. Rich previous to that too. As you look at the pictures, from Roadcrew, Tidus Sloan and whatnot, he was playing another nice old B.C. Rich, which was more of what Joe Perry played in the live bootleg days. Another thing about the transition between the different Roses and the Hollywood Rose I remember even once Axl sort of took charge of this lineup -- you know, it wasn't Izzy calling the shots and coming up with direction -- it was Axl's idea. He's like, "I want to do the same stuff we were always doing, but a little bit more street."
Jason Porath 19:59
He said something very interesting. You said that Axl was beginning to call the shots here. Because Izzy wasn't around.
Steve Darrow 20:07
He always was Axl, even if he was just doing what someone else came up with. He was always Axl. And he always had his ideas and his persona and stuff like that. I think it became more and more upfront. The same with Slash. Once Izzy was temporarily out, Slash had a lot more to do with coming up with different sound. Axl had more to do with where to take the sound visually and on stage. It wasn't all that much different than the early days. But, you could tell it was just looking at pictures.
Jason Porath 20:45
The next good gig was at The Troubadour on July 10 . Did you feel like there was a following that was growing for Hollywood Rose at that time?
Steve Darrow 20:54
Not necessarily. We were going through every band in L.A., especially at times, like back then, when there was thousands and thousands of bands, or hundreds at that point. You had to sort of work your way up, no matter what; no matter how good you sounded, or how good you looked. You had to pay your dues at these opening weeknights and play into small crowds. And once you got into the Troubadour and Whiskey and Gazzarri's, you had to get into the pay-to-play situation. If you were an unknown band, you either had to come up with $700 to $800 cash and give that to them in advance.
Jason Porath 21:39
Tell me about what this is? It looks like some kind of signed contract from Doug Weston's Troubadour. And it says that Sunday through Thursday, there's a two-drink minimum, $4 enforced at the box office. You need to include your client list, but do not include any band or crew. And it tells you what order of appearance you're coming on. And that any violation of the above rules may result in disqualification of payment and or further bookings. So what is this contract?
Steve Darrow 22:17
These tickets that you had to sell in advance before the show generated cash for the club in case no one showed up. If you were a band that had no followers, or if five people showed up and paid five bucks to get in, you would still owe the club money. You had to pay for everything. If you wanted to dressing room, that was an extra $30. If you wanted the guy at the Troubadour to run your lights, that was an extra $20. If you want anything, it was like all these add-ons back then. And same with the Whiskey and Gazzarri's. After a certain point, unless you were a well-established band that had your own contracts, then they knew it was going to be a full house. Then you had your own set of rules. We were working up the ladder like all the bands had to do. They had to work up [the ladder], especially at The Troubadour. They had to play crappy nights, opening. Then you play a crappy night, but play a higher up on the bill, maybe the middle of the bill. Then you'd play another crappy night a month later headlining and then you'd dropped down to a weekend, but you'd drop down to the opening band again. And then you have to work up that ladder, which was this constant struggle for local bands.
Marc Canter 23:34
Steve Darrow was saying there was the first time Steven Adler played a real gig. Actually, it was the first time Slash played a real gig too, Before that neither one of them had played at a real club. They only played at parties, at rehearsals and a rehearsal party, but not an actual venue. I had been shooting concerts for about two years before that, whoever came through town. So for me, it was like, now I get to finally shoot them on a stage rather than at rehearsal or at a party. So it was more like shooting a real band on stage.
Steve Darrow 24:21
Marc did a really good job -- anyone being there with a camera would have been fine for documentation -- but, he did a really good job of making these photos look awesome.
Marc Canter 24:32
Whatever was happening on stage, that's what I was grabbing. I was shooting the whole band.
Steve Darrow 24:39
It was like as if you were shooting AC/DC or UFO or one of the bigger shows and paid a bunch of money and went to like a big place. It didn't look like a little crappy snapshot from the back of an empty room.
Marc Canter 24:54
It's funny you say that. At Madam Wong's East June 28th  gig, there were literally five people in the audience and it was their girlfriends. I believe Tracii Guns was at that gig, too. It was like trying to shoot and make it look like it really was a concert. The band was playing like it was a full stadium. That was the fun of it.
Steve Darrow 25:26
And you could tell, like this shot right here. This is a classic example. If you didn't see a low ceiling on this little, dingy club... I mean, this is a punk rock club for all practical purposes. I played here with punk fans not too far before this. Sometimes there was a hundred people in that room and it was a Chinese restaurant by day. They turned it into a rock club at night to make some extra money. [Marc] did a good job. Everyone was assuming the position and doing what they should have been doing. They didn't look like a scared young novice band that was like, "What do we do?" Everyone was going through the motions like they'd been doing it forever. And it's funny that it was [Slash and Steven's] first gigs too.
Jason Porath 26:18
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Steve Darrow 26:47
It wouldn't have been the first time that the band fell apart. It seemed to happen about every six weeks to two months. The band would fall apart and would get back together and sometimes it was fatal. Even once [Guns N' Roses] solidified their lineup, there were times when it seemed like they weren't going to make it to the next week. I was never really fired and I didn't quit. I figured it would be one of those things where maybe they'll get back together again in a couple of months and I'll be playing with them and maybe they'll have somebody else. And it didn't happen that way because everyone was all over the place. Slash and Axl were still doing different things and trying to do different things. I think Slash was commiserating with other people like Duff and at that point, you know. So, there was the beginning of all this second wave of cross-pollination. I think Izzy's idea was to get Slash and Axl and myself to play bass. We knew about Raz [Cue] coming in and as we got closer to Tracii, things were rolling along. Each time I bumped into him, there was something new that they had planned; there was an EP, and there were ads, and there were videos, then we got a van and we got new gear. Things were really rapidly jumping up with them. Other things are happening too, in these parallel times when I sort of disappeared, and Izzy came back into the fold, and Tracii came into the fold. I actually ended up playing in a band with Tracii in New York, which was a very weird thing because he actually quit his own band, L.A. Guns to go play with me in New York with this girl who was a penthouse pet, who had the same type of a Hanoi Rocks/New York Dolls band with her fronting it.
Jason Porath 28:36
Is there a part of you that goes, "I was the bass player in Guns N' Roses at one time. It was the Appetite lineup, except I was in it instead of Duff." And does that have any meaning for you or any sting? Or were you just moving through the motions as a young musician and you were on your own trajectory and probably would not have ended up in Guns N' Roses anyways?
Steve Darrow 29:06
Both. A little of both. We all knew that they were going to be big and they deserved it. Once [we got past] that post-Geffen/post-1986 era, then all of a sudden, looking back a few years, I was like "Wow, that went quickly. That escalated quickly and how long is this going to last. That could have been me and I'm still struggling. I'm still living in a shity apartment and trying to get band together out of the Recycler." Even some of us are waiting for, "It's gonna be huge for one record or one year and then it's going to bottom out," like a lot of these bands did. It just kept climbing. It became this whole other stratosphere level of AC/DC and the Stones and bands that they looked up. They became on that same level. And then, that was an odd thing for me. Knowing those guys from before and just hanging out, going to shows, shootin' the shit and throwing ice cubes at them on stage and them doing the same thing when I was playing in bands. They'd be in the audience messing with you like friends do. It's kind of the way Hollywood is. You can either let it get to you or you can just go, "Wow, this is crazy. This is really happening." It does bug me, but it doesn't bug me to the point that I'm losing sleep over it. Tnere was this weird time when no matter who came to town, Slash or Axl or Izzy would jump up on stage with them. Remember that? Like Cheap Trick would play and Slash would be up there instead of Cheap Trick. If Iggy Pop would play, they'd be up there with Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, or Aerosmith. It was like, "When did that happen?" That was the part that got to me more than anything because those were all people that I wanted to be up on stage with and jam with. Once Appetite came out, they almost surpassed a lot of those bands that they were jumping up on stage with. So [Guns N' Roses] became their own band that people wanted to jump up with. That was a whole other thing to deal with. That's what was on my mind in those days more than anything.
Jason Porath 31:37
Steven, we appreciate your time and loved having you on and loved that kind of you were there and have your genetic fingerprints on this Appetite lineup, as well. You were absolutely a part of this whole journey. Thanks for helping us to get related to that and to understand that time with you.
Steve Darrow 31:58
Jason Porath 32:03
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