Lonn Friend talks with Metal Sludge Part I
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND
An exclusive Metal Sludge interview with legendary rock writer Lonn Friend
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD – A key figure in the rise of hair metal was Lonn Friend, the former editor of Rip magazine – the bible of rock back when Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica were the biggest bands in the world.
Friend did a little something for Metal Sludge back in the day. That was a almost a dozen years ago to the day back in 2000. You can read Lonn’s 20 Questions right HERE.
But it’s been a while, and a lot of has happened to Friend in the interim – some good, like publishing a couple of books, LIFE ON PLANET ROCK and SWEET DEMOTION, and some bad like getting mugged this past August, which you can read about HERE.
More than anything else, I just wanted to make sure Friend is OK. There are special allies among Rock scribes, and for me, Lonn Friend has lived up to his name since the day we met at his first annual Rip anniversary part at the Country Club. (Did you know Femme Fatale was the headliner? A great trivia question.)
Anway, without further ado, here is the great Lonn Friend, live and direct, Sludge style. This is part one. Part 2 will be even better.
Lonn Friend & Steven Tyler
METAL SLUDGE: My gosh, Lonn. How are doing since the mugging? I was just so shocked about this.
Friend: Well, I learned it’s not safe for a 56-year-old man to wear shorts and a KISS Army hat at a downtown Long Beach bus stop at 11:30 at night. Must have looked like a sitting duck. The bat or pipe or whatever blindsided me on the right side of my face – yeah, there’s some nerve damage still, kinda numb, but I’m just about back to my almost homely state of middle-aged good looks.
The identity theft shit has been a bit of a mind fuck but I’ve handled that, too.
METAL SLUDGE: That’s crazy.
Friend: I’d never been victim of crime, ever. Never even got bruised in those few Metallica/Anthra/Slayer mosh pits I braved back in the day. What really touched me was the outpouring of friends and fans that reacted to news of the mugging. When you guys and blabbermouth and knac.com picked up the (Facebook) status I wrote, it blew me away. I didn’t intend for my personal recollection to become such widespread a public posting. Wish I had that kind of viral traffic when I was trying to sell my second book (laughs). But seriously, it could have turned out much worse. I’m luckier than a glam metal groupie with a clean bill of health.
METAL SLUDGE: Oh, I see you are in the Sludge vibe. I like it. Let’s get right into the hair-metal stuff, because indeed you are a connoisseur. You were good friends with Bon Jovi and Gregg Giuffria back in the day, golfing buddies with Giuffria. Let’s start with him – did all that beautiful hair get in the way with his golf swing?
Friend: Probing question, Gerry. Well, golfers with long hair usually tie it back and tuck it under a cap.
METAL SLUDGE: Yeah, I guess.
Friend: Gregg and I had some good times on the links. It was Greg who introduced me to Gene Simmons. 1987 House of Lords, the first release on Gene’s short-lived Simmons’ Records label. Gregg once quipped about Gene, “He’s mad aat a nickel ‘cause it isn’t a dime,” but I think he might have a been a tad jealous. Gregg had a Mississippi gambler’s soul. When he stopped rocking stages, I heard he made some coin in southern casinos. I saw Angel open for Be Bop Deluxe and Blue Oyster Cult at the Forum in the late 70s. Successful players learn to reinvent themselves. I’m fucked. I can’t do anything but write anymore. Sure miss my old radio shows. But I’m not here to complain.
Lonn with some kid from New Jersey.
METAL SLUDGE: What about Bon Jovi. That was a great chapter in your latest book, Sweet Demotion, about hangin’ with Jon in Paris that night?
Friend: I was very close with Jon and the band for 20 years. Seen shows and written about them on three continents including RIP’s exclusive “Bon Jovi: Dead or Alive?” Japan and Keep the Faith Canada cover stories and the last, least known of my BJ transcontinental adventures, the 10 days in Europe, summer of 2001, when I produced the Rock A Mile with Lonn Friend TV pilot for VH1. I wrote about it Life on Planet Rock, as well as the 2003 sojourn to San Jose to guest host the band’s QVC DVD experiment, otherwise known as the “Thousand dollar chapter” of my first memoir. Despite their growing and my dwindling fortunes over the past decade, I still hold all the band members near to heart.
I visited Richie in the studio last spring while he was tracking his new solo LP. Met his and Heather’s daughter for the first time. (keyboardist) Dave Bryan set me and my daughter up to see his award winning Broadway show, “Memphis,” It’s a fantastic, spirited production. He told me the story of the play’s protagonist – the first rock n’ roll DJ in the south – on that Rock A Mile trip 11 years ago. Me, him and Richie were drinking wine on their balcony of the Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich. Dave had the vision. He’s a remarkably talented musician. All the guys in Bon Jovi are.
METAL SLUDGE: Do you still get out and about much?
Friend: Cinderella just performed at the Pacific Amphitheater. I’ve stayed good friends with Fred Coury and handed Tom Kiefer a copy of “Sweet Demotion” at the House of Blues last year. He looked at the cover and said, “Is this your Long Cold Winter, Lonn?” I shook my head yes. They still kick serious ass live.
Sebastian Bach opened. He came off stage, soaking wet and blazing on youth gone wild adrenaline, came right over and threw his arms around me. RIP ran the first feature anywhere on Skid Row, thanks to a staffer named Shari Sloane, who had the inside track. Never lost touch with Bas. “I’m living like its 1989 dude!” he laughed. Bas always possessed an aura and attitude of indestructibility. I also remain close with Snake and understand why that reunion has the same chance of occurring as peace in the Middle East. “I heard your house flooded in NJ,” I said. “I remember your street. Swimming River.” He starts roaring. “Dude, my house is gone! It turned into swimming river I don’t live anywhere, I’m fucking homeless. I live on the road where I play rock with Cinderella and where life is beautiful.”
METAL SLUDGE: I remember when there was honor in rock journalism, entertainment journalism. In this TMZ-style world, it’s disappointing now. What are your thoughts?
Friend: The devotion to tabloid is a symptom of our sick society. We don’t idolize heroes, we canonize failures, falls from grace, human weakness, Our priorities are warped and insensitive. When RIP was, for the most part, the GN’R sanctioned newsletter, I’d get regular calls from shows like “A Current Affair,” desperately seeking dirt on Axl or Slash, their addictions or predilections. I told them nothing. Ever.
METAL SLUDGE: Yeah.
Friend: When Richie Sambora and Heather Locklear broke up, I was genuinely sad. As I was when she and Tommy Lee split. People magazine called me for a quote. “Did you know Richie and Heather’s marriage was in trouble?” they asked. “No,” responded, and articulated how much I liked them both and how difficult it is for famous couples to stay together, being under the microscope of public pressure. I’ve always heard rumors and most of the time, they emanate very close to the source. But it’s never been my place to throw salt on someone else’s wound no matter how famous or almost famous they are.
Baz, Lonn & Axl
METAL SLUDGE: Speaking of Guns N’ Roses, tell us the story about the RIP party at the Park Plaza Hotel, the last club gig ever performed by the original GNR.
Friend; It was sometime after midnight and we were way over capacity. So the fire department unilaterally cleared 1,000 guests from the building’s downstairs area.
METAL SLUDGE: I know, I was heading in the bathroom until they left.
FRIEND: I believe that. Anyway, I soon came to to discover that Alice Cooper and Steve Vai were among the guests herded out. Meanwhile, I’m upstairs in the performance room where the other 1,000 fans are anxiously awaiting GN’R to hit the stage. It’s now well after 1 in the morning, and I am way fucking nervous. This is a bad situation if the band doesn’t play and it’s my fault because it’s my party.
I’ll never forget sitting down on the stairs leading to the stage, cowering like a monk with my head in hands, a dozen men in yellow jackets and yellow hats hovering about me. When all of a sudden, a finger taps me on shoulder. I look up, and it’s Axl. “Relax, man,” he says. “ We’re going on.” It was like he magically appeared from the rafters like the phantom of the opera. Moments later, GN’R tore the place apart — Mike Monroe doing “Heartbreak Hotel” and stage diving with Axl and Duff. Their set ended around 3:15 or something. And a couple days later, GN’R opened four epic dates for the Rolling Stones at the Coliseum.
METAL SLUDGE: The buzz was so huge for Guns …
Friend: To put it mildly. Think about this, the greatest band in rock history, the Rolling Stones, being upstaged by an opening act. But that’s how unreal it was. GN’R was handed the rulebook and they, forgive the expression, ripped it to shreds.
The following year, we moved the party to a bigger venue, the Hollywood Palladium, and I helped put together the jam of the decade. It was really the guys who did it. It’s always the community of musicians that make the real magic happen. GN’R, Metallica and Sebastian – the GAAK jam, as it was known. Now this came after Ozzy did “War Pigs” with Faith No More, and James Hetfield joining Jim Martin on guitars. Motorhead was on the bill, and out of nowhere, Megadeth shows up at the back door with their manager, Ron Laffitte. “We just got off stage at the Santa Monica Civic, heard you were throwing a party,” says Mustaine. “Mind if we do three or four songs?” I grabbed stage manager, Kevin Lyman (the creator of the Warped Tour years later) and said, “Well, Kev?” and he shoots back, “Let’s do it!” Gaak did Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog,” with Axl and Bas sharing vocals. Lars was on the kit. Duff on bass, Slash on guitar. Hetfield and Hammett get on stage and they performed “Whiplash” for the second time because when Bas sang it first time around, as James put it in his classic intro, “We’re gonna do it now ‘cause that other guy fucked it up.”
Yeah we had some parties. The very next year was the Seattle blowout, where Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chairs and the only full Temple of the Dog jam ever took place. There’s footage of it in Cameron Crowe’s documentary, Pearl Jam 20, respectfully captioned RIP Anniversary Oct. 5 1991. I didn’t even know they were filming. But I almost cried when I saw the footage on the Arc Light screen, bigger than life. Bigger than life, that was RIP and our parties. And the amazing rockers, writers, photographers and staffers and fans that helped create this singular, special, sonic moment in time and space.
Part 2 coming soon….