And Headbangers Shall Know Thy Names

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

There are certain songs whose lyrics you know without ever owning the album. Then there are some songs that define an album. For me, “It’s So Easy” was one of the songs that defined Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 gritty classic Appetite for Destruction, and I wasn’t even a headbanger.

At LA Weekly, Matt Wake tells the untold stories of the two musicians who co-wrote two songs on GNR’s iconic album: Chris Weber and West Arkeen. Weber and Arkeen are the only two people who earned co-writing credits on the album outside of the core band members, yet only one briefly played in the band, and their faces didn’t appear as skulls on the album cover. One died young. One lives peacefully with his family in LA. Neither got rich or famous. Somehow I knew these musicians’ songs without ever knowing their names, and somehow I missed this story when it came out in summer, 2017. Fortunately, like the album, it’s evergreen.

Arkeen told Gosse he and McKagan had written “It’s So Easy” together. Before reaching its now-familiar brutality, it “was more like a hippie la-la song,” she says. “It had a twang to it, and Axl’s the one that made it more rock & roll.”

In McKagan’s compelling 2011 memoir, also titled It’s So Easy, he writes about meeting Arkeen upon moving to an apartment on El Cerrito Place in Hollywood, where Arkeen was his next-door neighbor. Funk legend Sly Stone lived on the floor above. According to McKagan, “It’s So Easy” was written at the El Cerrito apartments — as were bittersweet ballad “Yesterdays” and trippy rocker “The Garden,” two more Arkeen GNR co-writes eventually released on the Use Your Illusion LPs.

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