|TEN REASONS WHY GUNS N’ ROSES STILL ROCK
Their new ‘Greatest Hits’ shows why the music matters but every band can learn something from LA’s down’n’dirtiest punk metallers
Words: Stephen Dalton in Paradise City
1 THEY LIVED THE GREATEST ROCK’N’ROLL SOAP OPERA EVER
When William Axl Bailey – later to become Axl Rose – followed his former school friend Jeff Isbell, aka Izzy Stradlin, from Indiana to LA in 1982, Hollywood’s post-punk glam metal scene was barely a blip on the rock map. Hooking up with guitarist Saul ‘Slash’ Hudson, drummer Steven Adler and bassist Duff McKagan, Guns N’ Roses were formed in 1985. By the end of the ‘80s they were American Rock’s officially sanctioned Public Enemy Number One, as loved and loathed as Eminem and Limp Bizkit combined.
They were drug-fucked, model-shagging, parent-scaring, liberal-baiting, riot-causing, tantrum-throwing, lowlife scumlords of pigshit-thick scuzz-punk genius. Half Spinal Tap and half Sex Pistols, put simply, they rocked.
2 THEY WERE THE ULTIMATE SCUM-SUCKING LA STREET PUNKS
“It’s not like we’re the most intelligent bunch,” admitted Axl, “but as fas as street sense – hanging out, doing drugs, partying, girls and shit like that – we know and understand a lot.”
Exploding like a dirty bomb of lowlife sleaze, for a good two or three years, GN’R gave heavy rock back the outlaw-punk attitood it had lacked for over a decade.
3 THEY BECAME BAD TASTE ICONS OF WHITE TRASH FASHION
Rose’s eccentric sartorial sense – bandanna, big hair, motorcycle leathers, white denim, mirror shades, dinky cycling shorts – brought glam rock style back for the power-dressing ‘80s. The Gunners dressed like Sunset Strip whores and, from Middlesbrough to Melbourne, so did their millions of followers. Axl’s name is an anagram of ‘oral sex’. Go figure.
4 THEY OFFENDED EVERYBODY
The Gunners were politically incorrect jerk-offs on a scale that Eminem and Liam Gallagher could never equal. Rose’s most notorious song, ‘One In A Million’, took a swipe at lowlife criminal “niggers” as well as disease-ridden “immigrants and faggots”. He claimed to have suffered bad experiences with gay and black people, but denied being racist or homophobic. Given that the head of their record label was gay, and that Axl later played AIDS benefits and duetted with Elton John, his sentiments were confused at best.
Their treatment of women was equally disgusting. During the 1990s, Axl, Slash and Steven Adler all faced charges of violence against wives and girlfriends. Not cool, not funny, but at least it roved the Gunners were knucklehead scum and proud of it.
5 THEY MADE SOME CLASSIC RECORDS THAT YOU SHOULD OWN
Well, one at least. GN’R’s 1987 debut album ‘Appetite For Destruction’ sold a staggering 20 million copies and contains all their best songs – the urban battle cry ‘Welcome To The Jungle,’ the shimmering dirty-love serenade ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine,’ and the supercharged scuzz anthem ‘Paradise City.’
6 THEIR PUBLIC FEUDS WERE HIGHLY ENTERTAINING
At LA’s MTV Music Video Awards in 1989, Axl threatened to kill Motley Crue singer Vince Neil after he “sucker punched” Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin for hitting on his wife, then attacking her, at a Hollywood rock club. Axl promised a bare-knuckle showdown with the “plastic faced, pussy assed” Crue frontman though no fight occurred.
In 1992, backstage at another MTV Video Awards, Axl exploded at Courtney Love and told Kurt Cobain: “Shut your bitch up or I’m taking you to the pavement!” Which he didn’t, of course.
7 THEY WERE SO BIG AND MEAN THAT ONLY KURT COULD KILL THEM
Symbolically, at least, the feud with Kurt Cobain called time on Guns N’ Roses. Kurt had declined two invitations for Nirvana to tour with the Gunners. “I can’t even waste my time on that band, because they’re so obviously pathetic and untalented,” Kurt told US gay magazine The Advocate. “They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now.” But not for long. When ‘Nevermind’ eclipsed GN’Rs bloated ‘Use Your Illusion,’ the new grunge elite wiped out glam-metal almost overnlight.
8 THEY REMAIN ONE OF ROCK’S GREAT UNFINISHED MYSTERIES
Since Axl fell out with Slash a decade ago, he’s barely been seen in public. Retreating to his Malibu mansion, he kept the band name alive with interminable recording sessions for a long-delayed new album, ‘Chinese Democracy,’ whose studio costs have reportedly topped $10 million already. Yet when the new-look Gunners mounted a surprise world tour in 2002 and 2003, they still managed to sell out arenas, incite riots and rock like muthas. Axl for all his Howard Hughes weirdness, has still got something.
9 THEIR EVER-CHANGING LINE-UP IS BEYOND A JOKE
Since Axl legally seized control of the Guns N’ Roses name in the mid-‘90s, he’s operated a revolving door policy towards new members. All the original Gunners left citing his “power crazy asshole” antics. Since then half a dozen have come and gone. Current guitarist ‘Buckethead’ performs with a KFC container on his head. Hence the name.
10 THEIR INFLUENCE IS ALL AROUND US
The Gunners may be dormant and their musical era discredited, but somehow the spirit of Axl endures. For retro-glam guitar action, we have The Darkness. For bad-ass white-trash machismo, Limp Bizkit. For offensive lyrics and outlaw cool, Eminem. For no-show appearances and public fisticuffs, Liam Gallagher. And for endless drugg;y drama, Courtney Love – ironically enough. The enduring allure of GN’R simply proves that, no matter how tasteful and intelligent rock gets, people will always crave the taste of scum.
Thanks to Gypsy