An Alternative to Guns N’ Roses: Part 6 – Gilby Clarke: Pawnshop Guitars

Ladies and Gentlemen!  Welcome back to another edition of, eh, An Alternative to Guns N’ Roses, where we continue to explore the many GN’R related albums that time has forgotten.  This week it’s Gilby Clarke’s debut, Pawnshop Guitars.
Gilby Clarke – Pawnshop Guitars
Virgin, 1994

Gilby Clarke’s debut is one of the strongest releases from the ex-Gunners.  Much like Izzy Stradlin’s releases, Pawnshop Guitars is a rootsy rock album that channels some of those Rolling Stones influences.  Unlike Izzy, Gilby rolls those influences with some T. Rex and his pop-punk influences and sensibilities – even taking on a cover of Jail Guitar Doors with Frank Black (yes, that Frank Black).  In fact, the supporting cast is pretty impressive, with his then GN’R buddies appearing, as well as Rob Affuso, Eric Skodis and Gilby’s Candy pals, Jonathan Daniel, John Schubert, and Ryan Roxie.  There’s also an appearance by Ex-Pensive Wino Waddy Watchel, who also happens to handle production duties.

So, what’s the album like, then?  Well, for starters, there’s a whole lot of personality that wasn’t really expected given there wasn’t much known about Gilby’s songwriting.  But Gilby had form and it wasn’t all roots, sleaze, and bluesly sleaze (yeah, I’m looking at you, Slash!).  Opener, Cure Me… Or Kill Me… does rock big time, though.  It’s seriously terrific.  That’s that Slash guy’s guitar you can hear shivering under Clarke’s riffage before it kicks in at double heavy.  At this point, you reckon this would make a pretty spiffy GN’R track, but the verse riff is typical Clarke and the chorus (not to mention the verse stutter) throw this one right into Kill For Thrills territory.  Hurrah!

Black and Johanna’s Chopper have that whole Beatles-esque thing going on and there are some really beautiful rolling guitar moments in there as well as Gilby’s phrasing and melody when he sings that third line of each verse on the former.  The smokin’ Tijuana Jail is, alongside the opener, a highlight; a rocked up Peckinpah jaunt through a dusty landscape littered with broken bottles, drunks, and a dull, flickering, neon light off in the distance.  Skin & Bones, meanwhile, is a roots rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place on either of Izzy’s first two albums.

In fact, the first four tracks (Cure Me… Or Kill Me… Black, Tijuana Jail and Skin & Bones) ensure that Pawnshop Guitars gets off to a perfect start, before things mellow out a tad for the Beatles inspired pop noodles and majestic hooks of Johanna’s Chopper and the spacey Let’s Get Lost.  The second half of the album does tail off a bit, but the title track and Hunting Dogs are really great.  In fact, the only misstep here, in my opinion, is the take of Dead Flowers (which Axl suffocates).  We just don’t need that.  Get lost, Rose.

Anyhoo, this is one that can often be found real cheap.  Which is a shame, cause it’s a great slice of rock n’ roll (and don’t just take my word for it). That said, it’s also a real good thing, cause surely you’ll now be looking for a copy.  Hurrah!


Next we’ll explore Duff’s insane debut, Believe In Me.

Part 1 – 10 Minute Warning (1998)
Part 2 – Izzy Stradlin & The Ju Ju Hounds (1992)
Part 3 – Izzy Stradlin -117° (1998)
Part 4 – Neurotic Outsiders (1996)
Part 5 – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995)



  1. Great album dude! I finally can comment! This album was a welcome listen upon it’s release as it was pretty solid! Gilby should be doing the Guns tour in place of Izzy not that dude with the beak….


    1. Yas! Glad that’s all worked out, Deke – good to see you here!

      If I was a scoring man, I reckon this album would be a 3.9 out of 5. Loads of good tracks. Like I say, the Stones cover is the only misstep and that’s only cause of that Axl guy!

      And yeah, if we cant have Izzy it would have been good to see Gilby; though I imagine Axl & Roses would have been paying a pittance given the rumours about the lack of cash offered to Izzy.


  2. Never heard this either! I was just so done with GnR that I never bothered with any of the solo stuff. I heard the first Izzy album and that was about it! Always heard good things about this though so it’s one for me to check out.


  3. I have always said, Izzy’s solo debut was obviously Stones influenced, but Gilby let some Beatles fly in there too. Let’s Get Lost is an example…Johanna’s Chopper…etc.

    I love the album. Every track. I have a best of Gilby here with a remake of Black, and I have never played the album!


    1. Oh! A Best Of? I wasn’t aware of this! Do you have the live album, Live 99? It’s pretty splendid, even if the Tijuana Jail isn’t a patch on the version that appeared on Blooze.


  4. Took me a minute to be able to get here – extra clicks in odd places. But I did it!

    Anyway, I have this CD. It’s awesome! Full agreement from me on everything here.

    Could’ve sworn I wrote it up for the KMA, but apparently not. Huh.

    Also this: “We just don’t need that. Get lost, Rose.” Amen, brother.


    1. Yeah! Welcome!

      This is a great album, eh? I’ll be honest, though, Axl really puts me off listening to it more often!


  5. I love this album. I just met Gilby after a show and told him this was way better than the Spaghetti Incident. (Gunners would have been better to scrap the Spaghetti Incident and make Gilby’s solo into a Gunners album. Although they would have wanted way more Axl singing, so maybe not)
    I may have a concert review of his show soon.


    1. Awesome! I would love to see Gilby live – he played over here a few years ago (maybe last?), but I didn’t manage to get along. I was gutted about that. He seems like a pretty good chap – would that be right?

      Definitely interested in reading a review of that show, though!

      … and thanks for stopping by, fella.


    1. There are some, Bruce – a whole lot of good vibes pulled from Exile, some from The Clash, and even from T. Rex’s Electric Warrior and Slider. Some excellent stuff.


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