25 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses Release ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’
It’s somehow appropriate that the last Guns N’ Roses album to feature guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan was a rowdy record full of chaotic punk rock songs and a tune written by infamous serial killer Charles Manson. The Spaghetti Incident?, which came out November 23, 1993, was recorded when the band was in a state of turmoil and turned out to be the only album by Guns N’ Roses that the band didn’t tour to support.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Original Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin recorded many tracks for the record before he was left the band in 1991. The guitar parts were later re-tracked in on-the-fly studio sessions with Gilby Clarke and stand as the band’s only release to feature Clarke. Also, The Spaghetti Incident? wasn’t originally going to be an album. The covers were intended for inclusion on a three-or-four-disc version of Use Your Illusion, before the band decided to divide all of the new originals between two separate albums.
Even then, plans were firmly cemented. Guns N’ Roses wanted to release the covers as an EP, then at the last minute they decided to add more cuts and turn it into a complete record. Additional covers of Hanoi Rocks' "A Beer and a Cigarette” and the Stooges’ “Down on the Street” were recorded but never released.
Guns N’ Roses tracked The Spaghetti Incident? between 1992 and 1993 with producer Mike Clink. In addition to nine punk rock songs – by the Damned, U.K. Subs, New York Dolls, the Stooges, the Dead Boys, Misfits, the Professionals, Johnny Thunders and Fear – The Spaghetti Incident? opened in surprise fashion with “Since I Don’t Have You,” a number by the doo-wop group the Skyliners and also included a medley of T. Rex’s “Buick Makane” and Soundgarden’s “Big Dumb Sex,” Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” and the aforementioned Manson song, “Look at Your Game, Girl,” which was a bonus song.
The inclusion of the track was met with outrage by the public and even label owner David Geffen expressed dismay that Manson would receive royalties from the song. The band and label tried to downplay the controversy by acting nonchalant and promising the song would have humanitarian benefits.
Slash told the L.A. Times that the song was “done with naïve and innocent black humor on our part” and added the band planned to remove it from future copies of the record before they found out royalties would be donated to Bartek Frykowski, the son of Manson’s victim, Wojciech Frykowski. Axl Rose told Q Magazine that performance royalties would be donated to a nonprofit environmental organization and Geffen issued a statement that the label would donate their share of royalties from the song to The Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau. To date, “Look at Your Game, Girl” has never been removed from any copies of The Spaghetti Incident?
The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard album chart when it was released, selling approximately 190,000 copies. On Jan. 26, 1994 The Spaghetti Incident? was certified Platinum by the RIAA.
After the record came out Rose, Slash and McKagan united in the studio one more time to record a cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil” for the soundtrack of the film Interview with the Vampire (the song ran during the end credits). It wasn’t quite the send-off Slash would have wanted. "If you've ever wondered what the sound of a band breaking up sounds like, listen to Guns N' Roses' cover of 'Sympathy for the Devil,’” he wrote in his memoir Slash. “If there is one Guns track I'd like to never hear again, it's that one."
As punchy and old-school as it sounds, The Spaghetti Incident? leaves the listener wanting more. It’s a nice reminder that Guns N’ Roses weren’t always a stadium rock powerhouse, but it feels somewhat thrown together and lacks cohesion. Had the band known it would be the swan-song of the majority of their powerhouse lineup, it’s debatable that they would even have issued it as a stand-alone release.
Regardless, it was the last official release to feature Slash and McKagan until the 1990 concert album Live Era '87–'93, which came out Nov. 23, 1999.
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.
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