When Guns N’ Roses first hit the national scene in 1987, some critics dismissed them as a poor man’s Aerosmith. The similarities were hard to ignore: a mercurial frontman with incredible range, a long-haired guitarist with a love of Les Pauls and hard drugs and a criminally under-appreciated rhythm guitarist and rhythm section. Guns N’ Roses covered Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin” at many of their early shows and featured a version of it on their 1986 debut EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide.
The constant comparisons didn’t bother Guns N’ Roses, and in 1988 they jumped a the chance to open for Aerosmith on the Permanent Vacation tour. Joe Perry and Slash formed a lifelong friendship on the tour, and the Guns N’ Roses guitarist was thrilled in 1992 when Axl Rose invited Perry and Steven Tyler to perform with them at a Paris gig that was filmed for Pay-Per-View. Jeff Beck and Lenny Kravitz also agreed to participate.
“Everyone came out to soundcheck — except Axl,” Slash wrote in his 2007 memoir. “I remember Steven Tyler coming up to me and asking — again — ‘Where’s your singer, man?’ It’s the way he’s greeted me ever since our first tour together. This time the joke was too true to laugh at. . .I never wanted to say anything bad about Axl, but it was pretty hard not to look stressed with Steven Tyler standing in front of me speaking the truth.”
The tension around the gig grew when Jeff Beck severely damaged his hearing during soundcheck when he stood too close to drummer Matt Sorum during a particularly loud cymbal crash. He immediately flew home, barely able to hear anything. The show went on, though Axl pulled his usual move and started it an hour late. “Joe and Steven’s part was at the end of a two-hour set, which was already an hour late going on,” Slash wrote. “So they had to wait backstage all night.” Despite all the problems, Tyler and Perry joined Guns N’ Roses for killer renditions of “Mama Kin” and “Train Kept-Rollin.'”
This summer, Slash and his band are opening for Aerosmith on an American tour. It’s extremely likely they’ll bust out “Mama Kin” together a few times, and virtually impossible that Axl Rose will even be within a 50-mile radius of any of the shows.