Hanoi Rocks' final album set them up for stardom, but fate had other ideas: Instead, it fuelled Axl Rose and inspired Appetite For Destruction

Hanoi Rocks studio portrait
(Image credit: Mike Prior/Redferns via Getty Images)

Would Appetite for Destruction have happened without Two Steps From The Move? Axl Rose became enamoured of Hanoi Rocks in the early 80s while piecing Guns N’ Roses together and he took particular note of this, Hanoi’s fifth album. After all, the chorus of one standout song, Underwater World included the lyric, ‘Welcome to the jungle/Deep inside of me.’ 

Formed five years earlier in their native Finland, Hanoi seemed for a moment to have it all, only for everything to be spirited away from them in the cruellest of circumstances. They, too, were blessed with a magnetic frontman (teetotal Michael Monroe with his cut-glass cheekbones) and a trailblazing lead guitarist (Andy McCoy, the ragged look of Izzy Stradlin married to the chunk of Slash’s playing). 

Their stock in trade was the same potent blend of classic rock shapes and punk-glam insouciance. Each of their four albums prior to Two Steps From The Move faltered, although 1983’s Back To Mystery City – made after they’d migrated to London – flickered with enough promise to land them a deal with major label CBS. 

Monroe, McCoy, fellow guitarist Nasty Suicide, bassist Sam Yaffa and drummer Razzle decamped to New York’s Record Plant to make Two Steps From The Move. The result was Hanoi’s lightning bottled and captured. 

Here, for the first and only time, they were shown off in all their technicolour glory. Scuzzy and stomping on Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, beautifully damned on Don’t You Ever Leave Me, probing deeper, darker depths on Underwater World. They set their sights high in the rock pantheon. 

Besides Ezrin’s presence in the control room, the lyrics to I Can’t Get It were co-written with Ian Hunter and the album was kicked off by a faithful cover of John Fogerty’s Creedence standard, Up Around The Bend. The lead-off single, Fogerty’s song landed them on MTV. Andy Warhol turned up for their New York coming out party. 

As they embarked upon their first American tour in the winter of ’84, Hanoi’s momentum appeared unstoppable. Yet in a flash it was stopped dead. At a gig in Syracuse, New York on November 29, Monroe slipped on stage and fractured his ankle. The rest of the band billeted themselves in LA while Monroe healed. There, on December 8, they fatefully decided to party with Mötley Crüe. Singer Vince Neil was dispatched to the local liquor store in his 1972 Ford Pantera to replenish their stocks. Razzle went along for the ride. 

Neil had been drinking too much to have been at the wheel of a sports car. The Pantera skidded on a wet patch of road, ploughing headlong into another oncoming vehicle. Neil escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Nowhere near so lucky in the passenger seat, Razzle was killed instantly in the collision. The will and spirit of his band died with him.

Paul Rees

Paul Rees been a professional writer and journalist for more than 20 years. He was Editor-in-Chief of the music magazines Q and Kerrang! for a total of 13 years and during that period interviewed everyone from Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen to Noel Gallagher, Adele and Take That. His work has also been published in the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Express, Classic Rock, Outdoor Fitness, When Saturday Comes and a range of international periodicals.