Canter, Marc-Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses And The Making Of Appetite For Destruction (Book Review)

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Reviewed: July 2021
Released: 2007, Shoot Hip Press
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

I am not photographer. I’ve never felt the need to own a camera or take a lot of pictures.  However, I do admire people who are the proverbial shutterbugs. I feel that while the importance of the photographer has diminished in importance over the past 20 years with the advent of inexpensive digital photography, they once played a very important role. Marc Canter is one of those people.  His role as informal documentarian of the world’s most dangerous band at the height of their notoriety have captured a time and place that have been described so very often, but rarely shown. Why because not everyone carried a camera back in the 80’s, they were heavy and expensive, but Canter did.

RECKLESS ROAD is a fairly large, soft-bound, coffee-table style book.  It is full colour and is very decent 348 pages long.   In a nice little bit of rock symmetry, I started reading this book on June 6th, 2021,  the 36th anniversary of the first show of the appetite line up of GNR at the Troubador in L.A. back in 1985.

What is perhaps interesting is the Guns ‘n’ Roses story belongs to no one. There are no intellectual property rights attached to it. Anyone can tell the story of the band and many have.  Authors who live overseas, who have never met the band more than once have written entire unauthorized biographies. Why?  Because it sells.  Canter however DOES own an intellectual property. His photos. He is friends with the band. He took the photos, they belong to him and we are very lucky that he decided to share them with us in the form of this book. His photographic effort work at the time really gives him a competitive edge when it comes to the authenticity of the Guns ‘n’ Roses story; what happened, who was there and so on.   I get the same idea from Harold Oimoen and his excellent book, MURDER IN THE FRONT ROW.  The same concept applies in that book except for the L.A. glam scene it was the San Francisco thrash scene.  Both collections of photos are equally important historical documents for Rock and Metal historians.

The book itself is big and bright and glossy and it is autographed as well. Back at the time it actually came with a digital code where you could register your book with the publisher, you know in case someone stole it or something. This thing is packed with hundreds and hundreds of photos and quotes from the guys in the band and dozens more.  It has reproductions interviews, flyers, ticket stubs, backstage passes and other miscellaneous stuff. There is a very use ‘cast of characters’ with a brief bio of all the people who were instrumental in the early days of the band. There is a helpful Table Of Contents and Duff, Adler and Slash all contribute to the Foreword.  I don’t think you get more endorsed or official than that!

The book proper starts with a chronological visual journey throughout the early life of the band.  Sex, drugs, rock and roll, Canter heard and saw  and photographed it all.  It is pretty impressive that he kept and preserved what must have been hundreds of rolls of films, archived safely away for a couple of decades.   The book finishes up the formal section in July of 1987 , just before they exploded, and has a bit of an epilogue when Canter flew out to the gig with Aerosmith & Deep Purple  at Giant’s stadium in New Jersey on August 16th, 1988. If you have ever seen the video for ‘Paradise city’ you have seen a glimpse of the scale of this gig. From sleazy bars to the stadiums, the band packed in a lot of living and it is all here.

As trite as it sounds, RECKLESS ROAD really captures that special moment in time.  There are very few books that have had this level of deep documentation of the early days or a single album.  There are many books and documentaries about Guns ‘N Roses but you should consider going to the source and having a copy of this in your library.