After the reasonably successful defence of Menswe@r’s legacy, I thought i’d try another much maligned band that I love: Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Now, G’n’R (as they will henceforth be known) are quite rightly pilloried for being rock’n’roll cliche, washed-up hasbeens with a self-delusional, talentless megalomaniac frontman in Axl Rose. All true, but for me, before the ‘Spill corrupted me with jazz and before the noise and the drone, before the black metal, electronica, indie and the Britpop, even before the Kurt Cobain obsession, there was Guns’N’Roses.
G’n’R burst on to the overcrowded LA scene in scene in 1987 with their debut album “Appetite For Destruction” and immediately distinguished themselves from the pack simply by being ten times as GOOD as everyone else! For me, “Appetite….” is a near flawless album of urban desperation; a hedonistic drug-fuelled journey into the dangerous underbelly of LA, with Slash and Izzy’s massive guitar riffs and Duff McKagan’s basslines creating a mean metal noise that also managed to have melody and pop sensibility. It may not seem like it now, but G’n’R, with their Jack Daniels swiggin’, groupie shaggin’, drug-imbibin’ LA lifestyle were definitely DANGEROUS!! And as a teenager in Southern England , I bloody loved it!!
Back in 1991, they were pretty much the biggest band in the world. They released their highly ambitious and groundbreaking twin album release on a single day of “Use Your Illusion I & II” , which contained political speeches (“Civil War”), angry ripostes to journalists who had dared suggest that G’n’R may be a bit rubbish (“Get In The Ring”) and in “November Rain” a perfectly constructed epic ballad of a relationship gone awry (there was no suspicion yet that “Nevermind” would completely destroy and effectively kill dead the hedonistic LA hair metal scene) They also embarked on a planet-destroying (and band destroying too!) world tour which was boosted by an amazing performance in the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert in 1992, where Axl’s white cycling shorts and “Kill Your Idols” T-Shirt put them firmly in the middle of the mainstream’s consciousness, and they could do no wrong. Their gig at Wembley stadium in June 1992 was my first big concert and they were just incredible!
So, how did these supposed image-over-substance-cocaine-sniffin’-Hollywood-arse-kissin’-fame-hungry-wannabe-rock’n’roll divas follow up the only double album release in history to take the #1 and #2 spot on the Billboard Top 100 at the same time? A duet with Mariah Carey? An album of acoustic ballads?? No way dude!! They released a whole (rather sillily named) album (“The Spaghetti Incident“) of punk, garage and glam rock covers of cool and credible bands like The Misfits, The Stooges, The Damned and U.K.Subs. It was a sprawling, ridiculous mess of an album, with alleged Mr. Ego, Axl Rose, taking a back seat to bassist Duff McKagan for many of the vocal duties – and it was a complete triumph!
We had to wait 15 whole years for a follow-up that was less than impressive with an increasingly self-delusional Axl falling ever deeper into the spiral of mental uncertainty until he was the last original member left. But, I for one, never lost the faith (until they actually released it!) and still believe that they have given us some of the best songs of the latter part of the twentieth century and in their image and commitment to the rock’n’roll lifestyle, created the template for many more to emulate, but none to surpass.
Long live Guns’n’ Fuckin’Roses – and if anyone disagrees with me……….get in the ring motherfucker!!
Here are a scattered selection of some worldwide super-hits to jog your memory: