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SoulMonster

1991.05.DD - Sky - Guns N' Roses

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1991.05.DD - Sky - Guns N' Roses

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:25 am

ONLY DAYS INTO Guns N' Roses' world tour and there was trouble. At a St Louis stadium Axl Rose jumped into the audience to snatch a camera from a fan, sparking off a riot that caused $200,000 worth of damage and injured more than 60 people.
It happened because Axl returned to the stage, slagged off the security staff (cameras were not permitted at the show) and stormed off stage. Although G N' R were 90 minutes into the concert, the set was by no means finished and the crowd erupted.
"I didn't plan on jumping off stage to grab a biker and his camera," Axl said a couple of days later. "I didn't plan on having security turn on me. The security guys knew exactly what was happening and they were doing everything they could to let that guy go – which fueled my fire to make sure that didn't happen."
The tussle is a typical G N' R story, where hype and facts merge into one and their reputation as the world's baddest rock and roll band gains more and more stature.
In early '89, as sales of their first album Appetite For Destruction and the G N' R Lies EP passed the 15 million mark, Guns N' Roses were telling the world to expect a new 37-track double album by September. It's only now, exactly two years late, that Use Your Illusion I and II are upon us – well, nearly. The first of the two albums should be released this September. In the meantime, while actually doing precious little, they have single-handedly resuscitated "rock 'n' roll" and become the most talked about band of the last decade.
Guns N' Roses' responsibility for rock's upswing has far less to do with the $125 million they generated in '88/'89 – though that must have made a lot of radio, retail and record executives happy – than with the havoc caused making it. Guns N' Roses lived the lifestyle to back up every posture they struck. As country rocker Steve Earle put it, "Guns N' Roses are what every band in LA pretends to be."
Guns N' Roses were serious trouble and could be relied upon to make a drama out of every crisis. Like LA's street gangs, they seemed to have no respect for their own lives, so you knew they couldn't respect anybody else's. Their triumph was to make rock 'n' roll look dangerous again – though how long they remain alive to enjoy that triumph remains to be seen.
At first glance it's hard to see how Guns N' Roses could have become the biggest rock band in the world. Physically none of them would merit a second look from all but the most star-struck American groupie, and in Axl Rose they've got a frontman whose body language is so cringingly unsexy it makes David Byrne look like Fred Astaire. If you're looking for the musical dexterity and daring of a Led Zeppelin you won't find it here – by Slash's own admission their sound is nothing new. And if you want lyrics that provide life's big answers, forget this bunch – they aren't even asking interesting questions.
The one thing Guns N' Roses indisputably have is attitude, an asset no amount of money can buy. They leave nobody in any doubt that they really are the destructive, thrill-seeking brain dead yobbos they come across as. They may be thick, apolitical, old-fashioned spoilt rock brats, but somehow that's still more endearing than the posturing corporate yes-men who make up most of the current rock scene.
Axl once said that "rock 'n' roll in general has just sucked a big fucking dick since the Pistols" and, although Gun N'Roses are retro retards compared to The Sex Pistols, it's fair to see them as America's equivalent. Despite its Neanderthal stupidity, Appetite For Destruction bristled with authentic rage, and they certainly share the Pistols' disgust for contemporary pop culture.
Guns N' Roses are the saviours of every kid who still wants their record collection to annoy their parents. But the tag "the world's most dangerous band" is a preposterous overstatement – what's so dangerous about a handful of overpaid, oversexed, overdrugged musicians?
All the rock musicians in the world who've got anything to say for themselves can easily be counted on the fingers of one hand. Here's a group who live by deed, not word – sacking each other onstage, smashing up everything from their instruments to their own homes, going out boar hunting while drunk, offending everybody they meet and trying to give new meaning to the word wasted.
For a band who look so naturally right – or wrong – together, Guns N' Roses had a long and fairly dull birth. Having gone to school together in Lafayette, Indiana, Axl contacted guitarist Izzy Stradin when he arrived in LA, and they played together in LA Guns. Slash and drummer Steve Adler went to school together in LA and played in a band called Road Crew, which Seattle bassist Duff McKagan joined after Slash advertised in an LA paper. Duff had previously been in 31 bands and, in general, they'd all been hanging around the LA rock scene for about 10 years when they got together in '85.
Only two people turned up to their first official LA gig. But the violent behaviour that accompanied their lurching, primeval sound soon made them hated by every club owner and rival band on the scene and their grassroots following swelled with every show until, after a year, Geffen Records snapped them up.
After signing to Geffen, Guns N' Roses pretended to be still wavering so that rival companies would continue to lunch them and, still in need of a manager, they tried to woo Aerosmith's Tim Collins to represent them. But after the show they made such a rumpus at his hotel that he had to hire a second room to get some peace. In the morning, when he discovered that Guns N' Roses had ordered $450 worth of drink and food on his bill, Collins decided not to manage them.
The group's appetite for heroin, cocaine and hard liquor emboldened them to ever wilder feats of excess and, in a city still living in Keith Richards' shadow, boosted their credibility. But it is also made them a pathetic sight. Pissing on your tour manager as he carries you, unconscious, to bed is hardly very big behaviour, and when Slash made free with the F-word at a televised awards ceremony. It wasn't a cunning re-run of the Pistols' notorious behaviour on TV, he was just too off his face to tame his usual vocabulary. Of course, in LA, the world capital of the rock 'n' roll cliché, being a junkie was still seen as glamorous, and club ads for the group's local shows routinely read, FRESH FROM DETOX, or ADDICTED: ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE.
Axl Rose was the perfect focus for a group who'd all been outcasts and troublemakers at school. He had not only been to jail 20 times before coming to LA, but also suffered from a mental disorder, manic depressive schizophrenia, which made him prone to violent mood swings between delirious bliss and aggressive depression. He took the drug Lithium to keep him "balanced", but it didn't work. While the others got drugged-up to escape boredom, Axl had real pain to ease.
Because he can go from being calm and caring to blind rage in minutes, even his closest friends are a bit scared of him. He gives the group their credible, dangerous edge and – unlike Prince – he doesn't have to avoid doing interviews to maintain his perfect rock star mystique. A Geffen A&R man recently commented that, "talking to Axl is currently about as easy as talking to the Dalai Lama", and even his day-to-day companions are never quite sure what's going on in Axl's mind.
Izzy remembers the young Axl as being far more troublesome. "If it wasn't for the band," he says, "I have to think what he might've done." And Axl's own thoughts about his temperament reveal just how extreme it is. "When I get stressed, I get violent and take it out on myself. I've pulled razor blades on myself but then realized that having a scar is more detrimental than not having a stereo. I'd rather kick my stereo in than cut my arm or go punch somebody in the face. Did you ever see that movie – I think it was Frances[about the actress institutionalized for her emotional outbursts]? I always wonder if, like, somebody's gonna slide the knife underneath my eye and give me the lobotomy. I think about that a lot."
Their first two singles, 'Welcome To The Jungle' and 'Sweet Child O' Mine', were enormous worldwide hits and, when sales of Appetite For Destruction began to orbit the planet, the media caught on and started obsessively reporting every increasingly rare fart of activity the group emitted – riots and near-riots at shows, drug-induced tantrums and punch-ups, weddings, divorces and mutual, public ultimatums. Opening for the Rolling Stones in LA, a newly detoxified Axl informed the rest of the band onstage that he was going to quit if they didn't kick their habits. All of them now say they are clean (for the moment), except for Steve Adler, whom they have reluctantly replaced with Cult drummer Matt Sorum because of the former's heroin addiction.
But the most undying controversy surrounding Guns N' Roses has been their song 'One In A Million', with its openly racist and homophobic lyrics. It crops up in every major interview, and got them kicked off their headlining slot at an AIDS benefit in New York (quite rightly). Axl has never satisfactorily explained the song – except as his reaction to things that happened to him when he was new in LA – and he hasn't been so un-rock 'n' roll as to apologise for it.
At the Stones' LA gig, after ranting about the stick he'd got for that song, Axl rushed up to one of Living Colour, the other opening act, and said: "Hey, you know I'm talking about a certain type of person when I use the word nigger. I don't see you guys as niggers at all." Guns N' Roses' tour manager then took the speechless Living Colour aside and said, "Don't mind Axl. He's from Indiana." That may sound a bit glib, but maybe it's the only way to take the song: as the irrelevant views of an ignorant twat.
So far G N' R have smashed their way to the top of the rock world, thanks to their uncanny synthesis of the contradictory elements of adolescence – sexual obsession paranoia, rage, self-doubt, insecurity and arrogance.
They've lived this lifestyle large enough for the whole world to see, without (amazingly) any of them dying. But can Use Your Illusion take them beyond that initial meteoric starburst of energy? The band promise it will display a previously unsuspected musical diversity, and with a lead singer whose favourite bands are Queen. The Sex Pistols and ELO (?!), that could mean anything.
One bizarre aspect of Guns N' Roses' career has been the way they've got so enormous without ever headlining a major tour. They've toured with all their peers, but always as the support. This year's Rock In Rio festival was their first major headlining show, and their forthcoming dates mark the first time they'll be playing a stage set designed and built for themselves.
When Guns N' Roses previewed their new show at a secret gig at LA's Pantages Theatre, they implemented an experimental and convoluted scheme to foil the LA ticket touts they know and despise. The tout scene, used to scoring over $100 a shout at local shows, must have been buzzing about the financial prospects of a G N' R show in the intimacy of a 2,700 seat theatre, but in the event they made nothing.
At 5 am on the morning of the show a queue was already forming at the theatre, thanks to leaked rumours. At noon the gig was officially announced on local radio, fans in the queue were issued with numbered yellow indestructible wristbands (hospital-style). They then had to queue for vouchers, which were given out at 2.30 pm to those with wristbands and photo ID cards. At 6.30pm tickets went on sale to people with wristbands, vouchers bearing the same number as the wristband and photo ID to validate the name on the voucher. Ticket-holders had to enter the auditorium immediately and there was no re-admittance. The wristband (and absence of touts with detachable arms) meant that every seat went to a genuine fan for $20, but this system is far from perfect. Some people would rather pay $100 than queue for 12 hours. And whatever next? Birth Certificate? Three character references? A G N'R trivia test?
This tour is set to last for almost two years, and at Guns N' Roses shows the crowd always returns the group's unfettered, aggressive energy. That means we can look forward to two years of lucrative chaos, disgraceful debauchery and wild stories.
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