The strange story behind Axl Rose allegedly getting into a fight with David Bowie after the 'Devil from Bromley' tried to steal Axl's girlfriend

Axl Rose and David Bowie
(Image credit: innie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Before the millennium, David Bowie could be something of a nuisance to his contemporaries, earning himself the nickname 'The Devil From Bromley' from his old friend Mick Jagger for his many drunken shenanigans and er, habit of girlfriend-stealing.

One example of such mischief saw the iconic English singer land himself in hot water with Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose, for allegedly trying it on with Rose's then-girlfriend, Erin Everly, the daughter of The Everly Brothers' Don Everly.

The spat between the two musicians spilled over into the public domain on October 10, 1989 when the fast-rising LA hard rock quintet headlined their favourite venue, the Cathouse, owned by glam metal frontman of Faster Pussycat Taime Downe and Headbangers Ball host Riki Rachtman, as a warm-up for four scheduled shows with The Rolling Stones at the Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum.

In attendance that night were Bowie and Slash's mother Ola Hudson, who not only dated the Starman in the past, but also designed some of his most iconic stage outfits.

To the confusion of Slash's mother, Axl Rose apparently started firing insults in Bowie's direction from the stage, causing Bowie to walk out of the concert early. She was later informed by her son that the two singers had got themselves into a scrap earlier in the day.

On the afternoon of the show, Axl, Slash and co. had filmed a music video for It's So Easy, lifted from 1987's Appetite For Destruction, with its star, Miss Everly, kitted up in an ensemble of leather bondage gear and handcuffs.

Erin Everly

(Image credit: Guns N' Roses YouTube)

According to Rachtman, trouble ensued after Rose was alerted to Bowie flirting with Everly after turning up to the venue drunk. Recalling the moment during a 2015 interview in honour of The Cathouse's 30th anniversary, he said: "My best memories are the stories about what happens when you don’t know how to deal with running a club. It was basically the home away from home for Guns N’ Roses. They knew they could do whatever they wanted in that club. Now, when your security guard comes up to you and says, 'Riki, Axl Rose is chasing David Bowie down the street saying he’s gonna kill him, what should I do?’ Well, how do you answer something like that? You’ve got one of your better friends, chasing one of your idols down the street?"

Adding detail to the incident, he continued: "I guess what happened is Bowie tried to pick up Axl’s girlfriend Erin [Everly], and that pissed off Axl. That was when David Bowie was in the band Tin Machine. So Axl was running, yelling, 'I’m gonna kill you, Tin Man!’”.

During a conversation with Kerrang! in 1990, Rose revisited the moment, and revealed that he was even pushed to discuss it backstage during a soundcheck at the LA Coliseum later that week with Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.

Axl recalled: "I was out doing a soundcheck one day when we were opening for the Rolling Stones, and Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton cornered me. I’m sittin’ on this amp and all of a sudden they’re both right there in front of me. And Jagger doesn’t really talk a lot, right? He’s just real serious about everything, and all of a sudden he’s like (adopts exaggerated Dick Van Dyke-style Cockney accent), 'So you got in a fight with Bowie, didja?' So I told him the story real quick, and he and Clapton are going off about Bowie in their own little world, talking about things from years ago."

He continued: "They were saying things like when Bowie gets drunk, he turns into the 'Devil from Bromley' (Bowie’s family moved to the London Borough of Bromley when he was a teenager). I mean, I’m not even in this conversation. I’m just sittin’ there. Listening to ‘em bitch like crazy about Bowie. It was funny.”

Fortunately, Bowie and Rose made up relatively quickly. Asked by Kerrang! journalist Mick Wall if he and The Thin White Duke had become best friends, the frontman replied: "Well, I don’t know about ‘best of buddies’. But I like him a lot, yeah. We had a long talk about the business and stuff and I never met anybody so cool and so into it and so whacked out and so sick in my life...I remember lookin’ over at Slash and going, 'Man, we’re in fucking deep trouble' and he goes 'Why?' and I go 'Because I got a lot in common with this guy. I mean, I’m pretty sick but this guy’s just fuckin’ ill!'.

Explaining how he buried the hatchet with the music icon, Rose explained: "Bowie and I had our differences. And then we talked and went out to dinner and then went down the China Club and stuff. And when we left, I was like, 'I wanna thank you for being the first person that’s ever come up to me in person and said how sorry they were about the situation and stuff.' It was cool, you know?"

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.