How Alice Cooper ended up singing on a forgotten Guns N’ Roses classic: “Axl called me at two in the morning!”

Guns N’ Roses with Alice Cooper
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Classic Rock 315 - Guns N' Roses cover

(Image credit: Future)

The brand new issue of Classic Rock features a rundown of the 50 greatest Guns N’ Roses songs ever and the stories behind them, from deep cuts to stadium-sized hits.

We spoke to various people who have collaborated with the band over the years, among them Alice Cooper. The shock rock icon first crossed paths with the band when they supported him early in their career, going on to team up with Axl and co in 1988 for a cover of The Coop’s early 70s classic Under My Wheels.

But the pair’s greatest collaboration came three years later on Use Your Illusion I deep cut The Garden, a slice of psychedelia-tinged sleaze that features a sneering Cooper vocal. While it’s not as famous as some of the other tracks on the UYI albums, it remains a lost treasure for many GN’R fans.

Here, Alice tells Classic Rock how he got involved in this overlooked classic…

Metal Hammer line break

Alice Cooper: “We took Guns N’ Roses on their first tour, and the very first night, after they played, I told my band: “We’d better be very good tonight.” They had the attitude, the sound, the swagger. I had to send somebody out for bail money on that tour because one or two of them were in jail. So we were kinda like their big brothers and they knew they could call me any time.

“With The Garden, Axl called me at two in the morning: ‘Can you come over to the studio?’ I said: ‘Sure, I’ll be over, but I can’t spend three days doing it.’ When I came in, the scene in the studio was very clean. Axl was there, and maybe Slash or Duff, and everything was ready to go. The lyrics were there. I listened to the song three times and said: ‘No problem’. Axl didn’t have to describe what The Garden was about. Being a lyricist, I saw where they were going with it. I got the imagery. To me, ‘the garden’ was where you go to pick the drugs you want.

“To give Guns N’ Roses credit, as dysfunctional as they were at points, they really had clever ideas. Like any hard rock band, they were blues-based, and The Garden starts out like a more modernistic take on that, with the psychedelia coming through in the lyrics. But it was still a very ‘street’ sound. 

“Slash has said Axl had been trying to sing like me and they decided to get the real thing. There’s a certain amount of cynicism and dark humour in what I do. I think that’s why they wanted me on the song – they wanted it a little sinister. They just said: ‘Do it the way you would do it.’  

“Axl might have given me a couple of pointers but we nailed it pretty quickly – in two or three takes – and I was surprised when he went: ‘Yeah, that sounds great.’ I didn’t hang out afterwards. I just said: ‘Guys, I know you’re gonna stay up for three days, so I’m gonna go home’. We could laugh about that, because they understood I’d been there once, too.

“I’ve sung a lot of different bits with a lot of different people, but it’s always great to be on a classic album. Use Your Illusion is not just another album. It’s an album that will go down in history.”

The brand new issue of Classic Rock is out now. Order it online and have it delivered straight to your door

Classic Rock 315, with Guns N' Roses on the cover

(Image credit: Future)
Classic Rock

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