Lafayette, Indiana

Mr. Brownstone by Guns N' Roses

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I used to do a little but a little wouldn't do
So the little got more and more
I just keep tryin' to get a little better Read full Lyrics
It's no secret that the frenetic lives of rockstars tend to drive these creative but overwrought individuals into a downward spiral, often to the bottom of a bottle. For former Guns N' Roses guitarist, Izzy Stradlin, his method of escapism and perhaps even coping with the craziness of rockstardom involved heroin, a drug nicknamed Brownstone.

Tippecanoe courthouse in LafayetteTippecanoe courthouse in Lafayette
Born in Lafayette, Indiana, Jeffrey Dean Isbell (stage name Izzy) attended Jefferson High School with Bill Bailey, later known as Axl Rose. "We were long-haired guys in high school. You were either a jock or a stoner. We weren't jocks, so we ended up hanging out together," says Izzy of his friendship with Rose. So began their marijuana soaked days of music making that eventually took them away from the city in Tippecanoe County to the bright lights and sights of Los Angeles.

Lafayette, home to almost 70,000 people, a cosmopolitan mix including Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Latinos, is perhaps better known for those parts on the other side of the Wabash River, the sister city of West Lafayette and Purdue University. "It was cool growing up there. There's a courthouse and a college, a river and railroad tracks. It's a small town, so there wasn't much to do. We rode bikes, smoked pot, got into trouble–it was pretty Beavis and Butthead actually," says Izzy of his childhood. But there's not much else to life in Lafayette, so straight after graduation, Izzy followed Axl out to LA and in 1985 they formed the band Guns N' Roses.

The song "Mr. Brownstone" appears on the band's debut 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction. The album's title reiterates the self-destructive theme evident in "Mr Brownstone," track 5 of 12. The song was written by Izzy and former lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses, Slash, as a complaint about life as heroin addicts. Despite their candid and somewhat flippant attitude towards addiction, the lyrics of "Mr. Brownstone" reveal a deeper more despairing aspect. Lines like "We been dancin' with Mr. Brownstone, He's been knockin,' He won't leave me alone" hint at Izzy's struggle with addiction and his inability to kick the debilitating habit. Despite some widely held beliefs that the song refers to a specific dealer, the more likely scenario is that Izzy himself is the personification of heroin referenced in the song. Izzy is also rumored to have been the drug dealer supplying Aerosmith's Joe Perry.

Jefferson High School coat of armsJefferson High School coat of arms
Although "Mr. Brownstone" wasn't ever released as a worldwide single, the song became a staple at concerts and was even performed by Velvet Revolver – the band formed by Slash and Duff after the dissolution of Guns N' Roses in 1993. "Mr. Brownstone," like so many other Guns N' Roses songs, contains Rose's signature warbling vocals and Slash's driving guitar riffs. Upbeat but not frenetic, this song is a classic example of 1980s heavy metal sure to get an audience stomping their feet and singing along.

Appetite for Destruction, well received by critics and topping the Billboard 200 chart in 1987, has since sold over 28 million copies worldwide and is on the list of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Although Izzy now enjoys a solo career, Slash and Duff head up the supergroup Velvet Revolver and Axl Rose continues to tour with a new band retaining the name of Guns N' Roses. It was the astonishing debut Appetite for Destruction that solidified Guns N' Roses' place in the annals of rock history. And it was the band's propensity for self-destruction and addiction that ultimate tore them apart.

Suzanne van Rooyen
September 19, 2013

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. Although she has a Master's degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me.
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Comments: 1

  • Naseer from GgsvatvgztapsgdliAlso Appetite. Just about everyone that posts here will have this on their list since we all tend to be in the same geranel age range and it was far and away the biggest thing out until Nirvana dropped Nevermind. The critical factor here is that (assuming you listen to a lot of music) it's not actually a reflection of what you like the most so much as it is what were the first 10 cds that you owned? When I was in 8-10th grade I listened to the same albums over and over again because those were the ones I had.Also on the list: Dr. Feelgood by Motley Crue, Dirt by Alice In Chains, Ten by Pearl Jam, Nevermind by Nirvana, Sound of White Noise by Anthrax, and Skid Row's first album (which was my first CD).
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