How Guns N’ Roses’ ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’ Got Its Name
Guns N' Roses had long said the title of their 1993 covers album "The Spaghetti Incident?" was a reference to a food fight between singer Axl Rose and drummer Steven Adler. But the reality is that the title dealt with the drummer's drug habit and the lawsuit stemming from his ouster from the band.
In 1989, Adler, Slash and Duff McKagan spent two months in Chicago hoping to write material for the follow-up to GNR's 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction. “The idea was Axl was from over the border in Indiana and he wanted to be close to home," McKagan told Gavin Edwards. However, Rose didn't show up and the part of town they chose to stay was Wrigleyville, a neighborhood near Wrigley Field and famous for its nightlife.
The band booked a studio above the Cabaret Metro, one of the city's best live music clubs, and rented a pair of condos down Clark Street, giving the members plenty of bars within walking distance -- including one in the basement of the club.
"We'd jam at the Metro for most of the afternoon, sometime into the evening and then spend that rest of the night in and out of the bars," Slash wrote in his 2007 autobiography Slash. "It didn't matter how big we were back home or how many records we'd sold or the shows we'd played. In Chicago, we were nobodies. We were just a couple of regular Joes to our fellow patrons, and there is not a bigger haven for regular Joes in America than the sports bars of North Clark Street."
As a result, very little got done, although "Estranged," "Bad Apples" and "Garden of Eden" were written during that time. "My personal consumption at that point was a half-gallon bottle of Stoli per day, plus whatever I consumed when I was out at night," Slash noted. "I'd wake up in the morning and fill a Solo cup 85 percent full with vodka, ice and a bit of cranberry juice. I called it breakfast of champions."
McKagan was in the same boat. "After two weeks in Chicago, Axl was still a no-show," he wrote in his autobiography. "Slash, Steven and I started to get a little resentful. I mean, what the fuck? Here we were in a city in which we had no interest, no friends — and no singer. ... I started to drink harder."
Meanwhile, Adler was in even worse shape. He "was doing a lot of crack cocaine at this point, and he’d keep his blow in the refrigerator," McKagan told Edwards. "So his code word for his stash was ‘spaghetti,'” a nod to the takeout containers from the Italian restaurant on the corner that also populated the fridge. (Luckily no one mistook it for grated parmigiano reggiano.)
A year later, Adler was fired for his drug use, and he later sued the band. McKagan was called to testify. “So then I’m in court, with a jury and the whole thing," he recalled. "And this fuckin’ lawyer gets up, and with a straight face says, ‘Mr. McKagan, tell us about the spaghetti incident.’ And I started laughing.”
Going over the transcripts later, the silliness of the phrase "the spaghetti incident?" -- as a quote and with a question mark -- stood out for McKagan. When it came time to name their covers album, "The Spaghetti Incident?" came to mind and the title stuck.