By James Montgomery (@positivnegativ)
To: W. Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses Fans and Whom It May Concern,
Greetings from New York City, which is approximately 490 miles from Cleveland, site of this weekend's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and roughly 50 bazillion miles from whatever Bedouin caravan Mr. Rose is currently encamped with — though, to be honest, it feels much farther removed from both. Especially given the reaction most GN'R fans have had to Rose's open letter to the Hall of Fame, which he published Wednesday and which has subsequently turned him into the most hated man on the Internet.
Here's the thing (and, really, the reason I'm writing this letter): Despite the thousands of comments his letter has generated — which largely run the gamut from "YOU SUCK" to "Axl Rose is a freaking whiny-ass bitch" — I'm happy to be in the minority of people who seemingly have no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, I think it's pretty awesome.
Because I support Axl Rose. And yes, I am aware that, in the past, I have called him "the creepy old guy with the Raiders jersey who lives on top of the hill" and compared him to Lil Wayne. And sure, I realize his recent, uh, output might not be on par with Guns' previous efforts (anyone can have a bad 20 years). But after reading his letter, none of those things matter. Or, if anything, they actually made it better for me. Because Axl Rose is a rock star. Maybe the last one standing. He is an anachronism and an enigma. There will never be another like him, and really, his missive to the Rock Hall is just further proof of all those points.
To wit: There are a lot of words in Rose's letter (more than 1,000 of them), none of which are "apology." This is because Axl never apologizes. Because he doesn't have to, and he doesn't care if that offends you. He also never allows himself to be backed into a corner — and everything from his unrelenting blood feud with Slash to the 15-year wait for Chinese Democracy is basically proof of this — and he intimates at several points in his letter that everyone from the HOF committee to his former bandmates was basically attempting to do just that. So rather than be intimidated, Rose just decided to walk away from the whole thing. As he writes, "No one's taking the ball and going home. ... From my perspective ... the ball's never been in our court."
It's easy to call Rose a jerk for doing this, but, really, he is a jerk. It's what makes him who he is and why he's still able to sell out arenas around the world. We've come to expect nothing less, and yet we're willing to vilify him for acting the way he always has.
In some bizarre way, by skipping the induction (and asking his name not be mentioned in absentia), Rose displays a supreme level of actual integrity. Unlike, say, Ozzy Osbourne, who previously asked that his band Black Sabbath no longer be considered for the Hall only to show up at the 2006 induction and call it an "achievement," Axl won't come crawling back. And unlike fellow 2006 inductees Blondie, he spared anyone the ugly onstage feud that surely would've erupted by simply saying, "No thanks." He does what he wants and only what he wants. And the same goes for that much-discussed GN'R reunion, which he shuts down in the letter because, really, it's "time to move on."
And that last quote should be taken to heart by all the Guns fans out there raging against Rose today. Because, really, it is time to move on. Move on from your misguided beliefs that Rose is ever going to change or suddenly have a moment of clarity. It's been, like, 20 years now, and he's never wavered from his original point: No reunion, not ever. Guns N' Roses are still a band and they still tour, and if you don't like it, then don't come out to the shows. Even though you probably still will.
So, sure, be angry with Axl today. Make claims of never listening to his music again (which would suppose he's ever going to make music again) and accuse him of putting himself before his fans. But don't take him to task for being the same person he's been for 25 years now, because, really, you wouldn't want him to change. Not for a reunion tour, not for an induction ceremony, not for anything. He will continue to blaze his own path whether you follow him or not. And I applaud him for doing so. He is Axl Rose, after all. He is rock and roll in an era where that phrase has increasingly less clout. We want him on that wall. We need him on that wall. It's about the only way we can sleep at night, knowing somewhere, Axl is watching over us all. And writing open letters to let us know he still cares.
- Tour plane captain
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