Guns N’ Roses (G’n’F’n’R) aren’t the worst band of all time (Wings hold that title), but they managed to accomplish such horrible music in such a short period of time that they must be close to the top of the list. What makes them so bad?
Never was there a band whose members had such dumb names, and U2 exists. Bone Thugs exist. The Police even had Sting. G’n’F’n’R, however, win: they have Axl Rose (made up), Izzy Stradlin (made up), Duff McKagan (made up) AND Slash. They even had a guy named Gilby for a while in the 90s, when everybody was listening to the Spin Doctors. It’s like having your name made up by an 11 year old girl who writes diary entries about how cool and mature smoking is was a requirement for being in the band.
Did you know that G’n’F’n’R’s lead guitarist right now is Buckethead? A guy named Buckethead is in G’n’F’n’R. Wouldn’t it be great to have a supergroup made up of the dumbest fake-named guitarists? You could have Slash, The Edge, Buckethead and John Mayer (made up). Buckethead. He had a column in Guitar Player in the 90’s. Buckethead. Buckethead looks like a low-budget, serial killer, serious computer nerd version of Slash. Sorry, not “computer nerd”, “hacker”.
What streetwise thugs were wearing leather pants at any point in history? G’n’F’n’R come off like they aren’t a hair metal band, but sue me for not being able to catch the difference between them and Poison. I guess Poison never told homosexuals to go back where they came from. Am I saying Bret Michaels is smarter than Axl Rose?
Maybe that’s the thing about Guns N’ Roses: they capture a different kind of stupid that hadn’t been captured before. They’re not stupid like AC/DC are stupid. You know, good times stupid. Guns are “I did 20 lines of cocaine. I’m not bragging. I’m just telling you the truth” stupid.
The group’s main attraction was obviously Slash. He looks cooler, his guitar solos are better to listen to than Axl’s bald-eagle-with-emphysema singing voice, and his name is marginally better (say it out loud “Slash. Axl Rose. Slash.”). Somehow it makes perfect sense that his name is Slash, and I think it’s the top hat.
It’s weird to imagine some club in LA in 1985 where these guys are doing lines of coke, drinking Jack out of the bottle, watching Tracii Guns and saying to each other, “Man, I wish more bands were doing more of a Meatloaf thing.” From what rock critics and various Guns N’ Roses biographies tell me, Guns “brought rock back” in the late eighties. That’s like saying The Who got back to basics with Tommy because rock is all about epic narratives with no cohesive plot or character development.
Guns took their first album, Appetite For Destruction, to the top of the charts with Paradise City, a song about wanting to go back to Paradise City “where the grass is green, and the girls are pretty”. I get the “girls are pretty” part, but why does it matter if the grass is gr– just figured it out. Nevermind. Appetite also boasted the cocaine classic Welcome To The Jungle in which Axl Rose screeches “Welcome to the jungle, baby! You’re gonna die!” before saying something about “sha na na na na na knees, knees”. Yeah, it’s like T.S. Eliot was describing the Sunset Strip, right? He’s really capturing something. Those lyrics are straight from the heart. It’s like the music equivalent of what movies in the ’80s made living in the city look like: full of rap-listening punk muggers who are just sitting around waiting to do bad things to basically anybody.
Side notes: I like how Jason’s always wet. Also, those guys would never have been listening to that music in the 1980s. They’d be listening to S.O.D. or Metallica. They certainly wouldn’t have been listening to Guns N’ Roses, who – let’s face it – are Bon Jovi dressed as a gang from an 80’s movie. They’re only in the movie so there can be a scene proving Crocodile Dundee is brave and has a big knife.
If Welcome To The Jungle introduced the world to G’n’F’n’R, what introduced them to the top of the charts was Sweet Child O’ Mine… everybody’s favourite song. I’ll admit it: the guitar part at the beginning is top notch. But the 6 minutes of the song (SIX GODDAMN MINUTES) that happen after it are like getting a root canal in the park from your friend who owns a swiss army knife.
Oh, I love it: “Where do we go? Where do we go now? Where do we go?” That’s how Guns build an epic: song, guitar solo, funky breakdown with a mantra-like chant. And man, Axl holds the “ine” in “mine” for a long time at the end there.
People have loved Guns N’ Roses for decades on the basis of the three singles from their first album. Nobody can name any songs off of Lies, and with good reason. For fun, try to name more than 3 songs G’n’F’n’R actually wrote that appear on Use Your Illusion. Don’t Cry, November Rain, and… the one from Terminator 2? I definitely haven’t done enough cocaine to know what “With your bitch-slap rappin’ and your cocaine tongue” means. Of course, the centrepiece of Use Your Illusion is the video for November Rain.
Yeah, “reverybody” does need some time on their own. I’m going to leave Axl taking an aspirin in the opening alone and Stephanie Seymour’s ghost of a blowup doll wedding dress to wonder aloud why he’s playing piano in so many places in the first minute.
The initial great moment in the video is when Slash searches his jacket for the ring, and then the priest makes this “Yuh-oh!” face, and then an apparently 600 year old Duff McKagan taps him on the shoulder like, “Bud! I got this.” And why is Axl dressed like a 17th century Spanish prince visiting Prussia? And where did he get that claw ring? I’m getting off track here. So they’re married, and Slash just leaves. His buddy just got married and he couldn’t even handle the wedding ring (he apparently gave it to Duff for, I don’t know, a cigarette). Now he’s got things to do. Like, I don’t know: PUT ON LEATHER CHAPS AND PLAY A GUITAR SOLO.
Oh, but it doesn’t end there. Slash has to play another guitar solo while Axl walks past a gun store on a movie lot. Then the reception! Everybody’s there! Rikki Rachtman is there! But then disastrous rain strikes and people have to knock over tables as they dive out of the way or they’ll die.
Just when you think things (in the song and in the video) can’t get any heavier, the shit hits the fan. That’s right: it’s time for the funky breakdown with a mantra-like chant. Stephanie Seymour is dead, and Axl makes some sound like they figured out his real name is Rumpelstiltskin (not made up) and then the memory of Stephanie Seymour throws roses into her own grave where Axl is fighting a nicotine craving in the rain. Finally, just like anybody who just had a dream about wanting a cigarette so badly their entire body is shaking uncontrollably, Axl bolts awake in cold sweats from the Aspirin he took at the beginning of the video.
And that’s their career. That is G’n’F’n’R’s career. That and the video for Don’t Cry, which is even more insane (stay tuned). After Use Your Illusion II came out, Guns n’ Roses were no longer needed or wanted by the world. We had better horrible bands to be into. Bands like Nine Inch Nails and an Eagles reunion. So Guns took a relaxer and recorded an album of covers called The Spaghetti Incident. The name comes from a lawsuit their former drummer and spectacular over-partier, Steven Adler, brought against the band in which a food fight between Adler and Axl was referred to by Adler’s lawyer as “the spaghetti incident” Even with that riveting backstory, The Spaghetti Incident is second only to Chinese Democracy in the all-time list of awful album titles that aren’t Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess Age. And Public Enemy can wait: I’m talking about G’n’F’n’R.
At this point, Axl fired everybody and replaced them with… well, nobody good, and Tommy Stinson from the Replacements. It’s funny to think that that’s how bad Paul Westerberg is: Tommy Stinson would rather play with Axl Rose. Who looks like this now, by the way:
I guess he finally managed to go “Full Meatloaf”.