Thursday, November 20, 2008

broken axl

Back in May of 1992 I spent a long Saturday standing on the field at (the old) Wembley Stadium for the Guns n’ Roses show. The openers that day were Skid Row and Nine Inch Nails – nothing like some Seb Bach and Trent Reznor to put someone to sleep whilst trying to remain standing. I think this must have been Reznor’s early days and his portion of the show was horrid. Of course, even when NIN hit their heyday I didn’t much care for the music. That weekend was a few short days before the release of Use Your Illusion I and II – two albums that would have been a better single issue.

What brings this all up today is Chuck Klosterman’s review of Chinese Democracy in this week’s Onion. Chinese Democracy? Really? Let’s see if I can put together a short history of how we got here. After Use Your Illusion was released the band ran a long World Tour and then basically imploded. It’s hard not to completely blame lead singer / songwriter Axl Rose for the dissolution of the band; he’s a huge pain-in-the-ass, always has been, always will be. The rumor of the great Chinese Democracy album must have started sometime in 1993 and its ‘sightings’ floated in and out of the media over the next five or six years as Rose tried to corral band members, songs, mixing, labels, his screwed-up personality, and anything else you could possibly imagine. The hushed rumors continued until the early 2000’s as Rose occasionally showed up in public and sang a few songs; a mix of old and new. His lead guitarist is/was a guy named Buckethead who’s allegedly a damn good player even if he chooses to wear a KFC-like chicken bucket on his head. (I had thoughts of thrashing him for the bucket-on-head wardrobe when I suddenly realized that Slash pretty much wore a bucket on his head all those years…even it was actually a hat.) The last I thought about Chinese Democracy or Axl Rose was sometime back in 2003 when he showed up on TV looking like a cross between Bo Derek, George Hamilton, and Joe Piscapo (in the muscle days). And yet, I open up the Onion today and find Klosterman reviewing Democracy? (He gives it an A-.) It can’t be. What the hell is this thing going to sound like if Rose has finally mastered the perfection he was chasing when he started the project 15 years ago? Maybe I’ll go home tonight and crank up some G n’ R and see if those albums from so long ago still hold up today. I suspect they will. I’ll also presume that even though we’ve heard nothing like them over the airwaves in 15 years there will be a number of strong cuts. Will I buy it? Nope. Do I want to hear it? Sure.

Back in ’92 we waited an extra two-plus hours for Axl to get his shit together and start the show. We knew his personality quite well by then and the delay was expected – I’m sure he must have been doing one part spiritual stuff and two parts drinking and/or irritating me. But when they did finally crank it up, they were incredible. Aside from the original drummer who’d been gone for quite awhile, this was the greatest line-up they ever had. If I put together a 15-song compilation of the best the band had to offer it’d be a screamer. Do we think I can get away with blasting some G n’R from the Merc as I drive around suburban Virginia? I’ll let you know.

Man, I was still in my late-20s when this all started…just a kid. I’m in my early 40s, I’ve been married and divorced (again), I’ve retired from the military (I still had 13 years to go when I saw that show), I’m living in Virginia (what?), and we have a black man as President. That’s some change. And all Mr. Rose has given us is one album?


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