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1992.07.31 - The Boston Globe - Axl Rose reins in his savage image

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1992.07.31 - The Boston Globe - Axl Rose reins in his savage image Empty 1992.07.31 - The Boston Globe - Axl Rose reins in his savage image

Post by Blackstar on Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:51 am

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AXL ROSE REINS IN HIS SAVAGE IMAGE

By Steve Morse
GLOBE STAFF


W. Axl Rose, lead singer/bad boy for Guns N’ Roses, has spawned many images in his short but meteoric career. For those who don't like him, he’s the rocker from hell - a spoiled brat, a homophobic ’90s Neanderthal whose temper tantrums are as jolting as the band’s high-octane sound. But in other eyes, including Rose’s own these days, he’s a sensitive, child-abused victim of fate who’s learning to control his anger and become a power-of-positive-thinking survivor of life’s darker side.

It adds up to the most fascinating rock figure since the controversial prime of the Doors’ Jim Morrison, the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten and Boston’s own bad boy entries - Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, alias the “Toxic Twins” before they cleaned up their act in the late ’80s.

“Axl Rose is a great singer - and he’s got a rock ’n’ roll heart,” Perry said in praise this week.

The 30-year-old Rose, whose band plays Foxboro Stadium tonight with Metallica and Faith No More, is the first to admit that he’s still working out his personality. Recent interviews in several magazines have contained claims, for the first time, of being raped by his father at age 2, beaten by his stepfather and shunned by his mother, all while growing up in a strict, religious environment in Lafayette, Ind.

It was so strict that once, when Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” came on the radio and Rose sang along to it, he was cuffed in the mouth by his stepfather because the song was “evil,” Rose said in Interview magazine. (Rose has invited the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to set up a booth at tonight’s show.)

Adding fuel to Rose’s anger was the fact that his mother let all the abuse happen, he claims, explaining why such venomous Guns N’ Roses tunes as “Back Off Bitch” and “Bad Obsession” (in which he calls his mother a four-letter word for female genitalia) came to be written.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work and found out I’ve had a lot of hatred for women. Basically, I’ve been rejected by my mother since I was a baby,” Rose told Rolling Stone. “She’s picked my stepfather over me ever since he was around and watched me get beaten by him. She stood back most of the time. Unless it got too bad, and then she’d come and hold you afterward. She wasn’t there for me. My grandmother also had a problem with men. I’ve gone back and done the work and found out I overheard my grandma going off on men when I was 4. And I’ve had problems with my own masculinity because of that. ... So I wrote about my feelings in the songs.”

Rose, born Bill Bailey, latched on to music as a way out. He wanted to become a rock star since hearing the 70s hits of Queen, Aerosmith and Elton John (Rose played at the recent benefit for Queen’s Freddie Mercury in London). He formed a group called Axl, whose name he adopted as his own. Then he and the Los Angeles-based Guns N’ Roses blew onto the scene in 1987 with the music industry’s all-time best-selling debut album in “Appetite for Destruction,” which sold 10 million copies.

The album quickly revealed the dualities in Rose’s personality. There was the searing “Welcome to the Jungle,” a savage tune that would have been perfect for the “Apocalypse Now” soundtrack, offset by some mild-mannered vocals elsewhere. This dichotomy persists in the latest Guns albums, “Use Your Illusion I" and “Use Your Illusion II” Rose veers out of control on “You Ain’t the First” (about taunting an ex-lover) and “Shotgun Blues” (with the line: “I’m wired on indignation”), but again is surprisingly gentle on ballads like “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain."

Rose’s recent attempts to redeem his image are reflected in the new “November Rain” video, a current MTV hit. Looking like a sensitive James Joyce in wire-rim glasses, Rose seems more professorial than maniacal. He plays groom to a white-dressed bride coming down a church aisle, while he tenderly sings, “If you want to love me, then darling don’t refrain.”

This doesn’t seem like the same guy who crudely slammed “immigrants” and “faggots” in a 1988 song, “One in a Million” (he now apologizes for it), and who was accused of inciting a riot during a Guns show in St. Louis last year. Charges of misdemeanor assault and property damage are still pending after Rose dove into the crowd to stop a flashbulbpopping photographer, then stomped off. The crowd went berserk when the show was called off and caused $200,000 in damage. A total of 60 people, including 20 police officers, were hurt.

“I’m behind Axl 100 percent on this one,” Guns guitarist Slash said this week in an interview. “It’s not
like what he did was wrong We’d already played an hour and a half. It was a freak incident, but they destroyed the entire stage. I have a videotape of it. Maybe what we did was not necessarily the smartest thing, but at the same time, the reaction from the audience was overly irresponsible. It was very violent.

“It’s not going to trial until October, but I know in the back of Axl’s mind, it’s a huge pain in the butt,” Slash said.

On the basis of the still-pending charges, Rose was detained and arrested two weeks ago by customs officials in New York upon returning from concert dates in Europe. Authorities in St. Louis asked to have him extradited, but a New York judge turned them down. Rose ended up spending most of the day in a Queens police station and joked with MTV's Kurt Loder that “I basically spent my time writing autographs for cops. And some of them told me how they’d gone to Woodstock. New York cops are the best.”

Stomping offstage, of course, is nothing new for Rose, especially in his pre-therapy, tantrum-prone days. Four years ago, Guns opened for the Australian group INXS at Dallas Stadium. “Axl’s stage monitors weren’t loud enough, so he stormed off the stage,” INXS guitarist Tim Farriss recalled this week. “We were shocked, considering the situations we had been exposed to in our career. We grew up in the toughest live performing circuit in the world - Australian pubs - and never stormed off the stage. Somebody should have a talk with Axl.”

Today’s Axl Rose seems finally to be toning down. Last winter’s Guns arena tour, which played two nights at the Worcester Centrum, still showed Rose’s rough edges, as he raged at classic hits radio station WZLX for playing old music at the expense of new (even though he’d just sung cover versions of tunes by Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones - two staples on the station). And, worse, he was about an hour and a half late getting onstage, claiming he had to be in the right mood.

The new Rose, who says he no longer does any hard drugs, has gone onstage with fewer delays recently. A spokesman for the band’s label, Geffen Records, said that even the “M word” (for maturity) is starting to apply to his overall behavior.

As Rose just told Musician magazine: “I kind of think that we’re on this planet exploring pain and I think I’ve reached a point where I’m trying to explore whatever the opposite of pain is. I’ve found a lot more peace in the last year than I’ve ever known.”

Jim Sullivan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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