Tom Morello – exotic dancer
It’s easy to forget that Slash was not born in boots and a top hat, nor did Keith Richards appear as a fully-formed rock ‘n’ roll pirate. Rock’s biggest names once held down all sorts of day jobs to make ends meet, here we give you a window into the pre-fame worlds of 10 guitar heroes…
Newly arrived in LA and “literally starving”, Morello squandered his Harvard politics degree by earning a living stripping down to his boxer shorts and making his pecs dance for gaggles of cackling harpies to the tune of The Commodores’ Brick House. “All I can say is ‘Thank God it was in the days before YouTube,’” the Rage guitarist reflects.
Keith Richards – sugar loader
Keef humped the sweet stuff from lorry to supermarket during school holidays. Not the sweetest gig, he recalls in Life: “It came in great bags, and sugar cuts you up like a motherf***er… You’re humping it on your shoulder and you’re bleeding.” Keef got his revenge by writing Brown Sugar and pocketing several great bags (of cash).
Noodles – janitor
A life of mops, clogged urinals and jock morons was averted when pop-punk world domination came knocking. “It was weird,” Noodles recalls. “High school kids would go: ‘Aren’t you that guy from The Offspring?’ and I was sweeping up leaves and emptying the trash.”
Eric Clapton – labourer
Back in 1962, Slowhand supplemented chumpchange on the pub blues circuit with stints on a building site, where those era-defining hands were presumably used to flick through The Sun, smoke cigarettes and wolf-whistle at passing ‘skirt’.
Johnny Cash – cotton picker
Cash literally slaved in the cotton fields of Arkansas during the Great Depression. Bet you feel guilty for complaining about your overflowing in-tray now, don’t you?
Elvis Costello – data entry clerk
Nothing warms up an angry young man’s resentment quite like computer-based box ticking, and after a few months at cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden, Costello had enough venom to fuel his entire career. He would later refer to the business as ‘the vanity factory’ on I’m Not Angry.
Jack White – furniture upholsterer
As rock’s chief luddite, perhaps it was inevitable that White fell into this earthiest of old-school trades, launching his own Third Man Upholstery company. “My whole shop was only three colours: yellow, white and black,” he says. “I had this yellow van, and I dressed in yellow and black when I picked up the furniture. It was pretty cool.”
Slash – shop assistant
Slash set new lows for customer service at Tower Video on Sunset Boulevard, slurping screwdrivers and playing porn on the big screen. “I’m sure the customers knew what we were up to the moment we breathed on them,” he writes in Slash.
Zakk Wylde – pump attendant
If you’d pulled up at a New Jersey gas station circa 1987, and had a hairy man enquire if you “want some motherf***in’ petrol”, you may have been filled up by Zakk Wylde. “I had nothing to lose,” he recalls, “but I ended up getting my demo tape to Ozzy…”
Joe Perry – ice cream man
There’s something fundamentally depressing about a future Toxic Twin serving up flakes, chopped nuts and sprinkles in a New Hampshire ice cream parlour while the wholesome laughter of excited children rings out all around him. Luckily, The Anchorage was also where Perry met Steven Tyler; and after that things got seedier, fast.