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My Michelle

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My Michelle

Post by Soulmonster on Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:27 am

Appetite for Destruction, 1987, track no. 7.

Written by:
Lyrics: Axl Rose.
Music: Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin.

Vocals: Axl Rose; lead Guitar: Slash; rhythm guitar: Izzy Stradlin; bass: Duff McKagan; drums: Steven Adler.

Live performances:
The song was played live for the first time on January 4, 1986, at The Troubadour, USA. In total it has, as of {UPDATEDATE}, at least been played {MYMICHELLESONGS} times.
Your daddy works in porno
       Now that mommy's not around
       She used to love her heroine
       But now she's underground
       So you stay out late at night
       And you do your coke for free
       Drivin' your friends crazy
       With your life's insanity

Well, well, well you just can't tell
       Well, well, well my Michelle

Sowin' all your wild oats
       In another's luxuries
       Yesterday was Tuesday
       Maybe Thursday you can sleep
       But school starts much too early
       And this hotel wasn't free
       So party till your connection calls
       Honey I'll return the keys

     Well, well, well you just can't tell
       Well, well, well my Michelle
       Well, well, well you never can tell
       Well, well, well my Michelle
       Everyone needs love
       You know that it's true
       Someday you'll find someone
       That'll fall in love with you
       But oh the time it takes
       When you're all alone
       Someday you'll find someone
       That you can call your own
       But till then ya better...
     Now you're clean
       And so discreet
       I won't say a word
       But most of all this song is true
       Case you haven't heard
       So c'mon and stop your cryin'
       'Cause we both now money burns
       Honey don't stop tryin';
       An' you'll get what you deserve

We have a song about a girl I met called Michelle, and when I’d written it all nice I thought, That’s not how it really is. So I wrote the real story down, kind of as a joke. The first lines go: ‘Your mommy works in porno/Now that daddy’s not around/She used to love her heroin/But now she’s underground.’ She and her dad ended up loving it. It’s a true story, and that’s what works, I think [Sounds Magazine, April 1987].
I knew a girl named Michelle and she became a really good friend of the band and I was going out with her for a while. It's a true story. Slash and some other members of the band said that it was too heavy to say to poor, sweet Michelle; she'll freak out. I'd written this nice sweet song about her, and then I looked at it and thought that really doesn't touch any basis of reality. So I put down an honest thing. It describes her life. This girl leads such a crazy life with doing drugs, or whatever she's doing at the time, you don't know is she's going be there tomorrow. Every time I see Michelle, I am really relieved and glad. O showed her the lyrics after about three weeks of debating, ans she was so happy that someone didn't paint just a pretty picture. She loves it. It was a real song to her, not something hokey [Geffen Press Kit, 1987]
I remember 'My Michelle' coming together. Slash had a great riff, a typical Slash riff. It was a slinky, spidery thing, but he was playing it really fast at first. (His initial riff shows up, slowed down, in the intro to the recorded version - that brooding, eerie horror movie bit at the beginning.) While working on it together with the whole band - collaboration was the magic ingredient for almost all our songs - we hit on that bomp, bad-a-dam, bad-a-bad that kick-starts the song in its final version [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 97]
[Slash] used to out with her when he was about 13 and I went out with her, then later on. And we got into a little hassle or whatever, and then I wrote this song. But... And it was basically the truth, and it says some nice stuff, by, you know, how...[...]No, in the middle of it, you know, "Everybody needs love" and "you know that is true" and stuff. I like to destroy... Sometimes like, you won't touch the subject because you don't wanna expose it. It might hurt someone. But then, if the subject's really that interesting you just rip it apart and expose it. And that's what we did and basically it work ed out good for everybody. In the long run, she's happy about the song and her dad even liked the fact that it was very accurate. So...[Interview with Axl and Slash, 1988]
For 'Michelle' Axl called up and said he had this melody. I had a riff and it was a slow smooth melody. When we were playing with it, Slash turned his amp up and went into this bashing thing and we said wow. It turned into a hard rock song, but it started as an acoustic song [In The Classic Way, Guitar - September 1988]
Being asked about his favourite Guns N' Roses song to play: I don't know, there's a load of songs I like. For many a year "My Michelle" was the song I loved to play the most, but towards the end of the Illusions tour my favorite was "Pretty Tied Up" [Popular 1, July 2000]
There was one more classic that we wrote back there in the garage: 'My Michelle.' The music originated there, I think over the course of a few afternoons. I believe Izzy and I came up with the basic structure, and then, as usual, Duff came through with exactly what the song needed to evolve ["Slash", 2007]
Basically, [the writing of My Michelle] started with the heavy riff. I remember doing the riff first, then making up the intro to it. I am really into good intros. The Stones, the Beatles, the Who, and Aerosmith often had great intros, and those were some of my favorite songs of all time - something that started off quiet and crescendoed into this big crash. If I ever came up with a good riff, I'd always have to think of a great intro to support it [Back to the Jungle, Guitar Edge Magazine, March 2007]
'My Michelle', for example, went through so many different phases as a song. It was all half-time for a while [Reckless Road, 2010]
“My Michelle” got written electric—you can kind of tell [The Onion A.V. Club, May 2011]
Being asked how you can tell My Michelle was written electric: Ah, shit. You know what, that’s a very good question. You’re right, I don’t know. Why would that be obvious to a listener? It wouldn’t. I retract that sentence. I’m not able to back it up. But I kind of found out through that process that if a song doesn’t sound good on acoustic, you’re not going to make it any better by it being electric, in most cases [The Onion A.V. Club, May 2011]
'My Michelle' performed live at The Ritz, February 2, 1988:

Last edited by Soulmonster on Sun Apr 24, 2016 12:46 am; edited 4 times in total
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Re: My Michelle

Post by Soulmonster on Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:35 pm

Michelle Young: I'm the subject of the song 'My Michelle'. I was driving Axl to a gig and "Your Song" by Elton John came on the radio. I said that I wished somebody would write a beautiful song about me. But, you know the song. At the time, I didn't care because I was so fucked up, but what it says is all true: My dad does distribute porno films and my mom did die ["Appetite for Self-Destruction". Spin (SPIN Media LLC) 15 (7): 87. July 1999. ISSN 0886-3032].

Michelle Young: The song isn't so flattering, but that whole process at that time in my life was awesome. I though, "Oh my God, this is great", but then there are ramifications of having a song written about you. I know in my heart I'm part of the history. I lived with them and I'm glad I did. I'm here and I survived it along with many others. I would prefer if people didn't know that song was about me. especially since I have a pretty high-powered job and I'm a mom. I meet the occasional person who knows that I'm that person, and they'll introduce me and say, "Guess who this is" [Marc Canter, "Reckless Road", 2007].
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Re: My Michelle

Post by Soulmonster on Tue Nov 18, 2014 10:48 pm

From a long interview with Michelle Young in Legendary Rock Interviews:

LRI: So, the long standing story was that you were in a car with Axl and Elton John, “Your Song” came on and you told him you always wanted someone to write a song for you. Careful what you wish for but is that fairly accurate, is that how you remember that going down?

Michelle: (laughs) Yeah, that’s pretty much how that played out. We were driving to a show I think it was and that song came on and I was like “Oh, that’s such a beautiful song; I wish someone would write a song like that about me”. And then, lo and behold came “My song” (laughs).

LRI: Axl had written an earlier version of the song and it was felt that it most of it was too sappy and sweet so it was scrapped and the lyrics we all know were written and the song was re-arranged. As everyone knows, there is still that whole sweet and gentle part at the end that remains. Did you ever hear the softer, kinder, earlier version of “My Michelle” before the re-write?

Michelle: (laughs) No, I never heard the 99% sweet version of the song.

LRI: Did you ever even see the original lyrics?

Michelle: No, no, no, I was never given the opportunity to see that version of the song whatsoever.

LRI: Was your first time hearing the song when they debuted it live?

Michelle: No, I heard it when I was at my dad’s house. I was in my bedroom. I remember it was the daytime and the phone rang and the first call was from Slash. He called and said something to the effect of “Axl wants to talk to you” or “Axl’s going to call you Michelle”. I don’t remember if they were together but I remember that Slash called first and said something like “Please be honest about this, I’m really scared” or something like that. Then I remember, Axl called. He would always call me and sing me new songs. He would play this drumbeat on his knee and sing and snap to me on the phone whenever he had a new song, he would call me and sing a little and ask my opinion of it. So, when he called again with that I was just like “Okay, go ahead” so then he sang it and was just like “What do you think?” and you know….I hate saying this around my son, just a moment….

LRI: No worries….

Michelle: I had to walk away a little because I hate saying this around my son but I was so out of it at the time, I was always high back then so when I heard it and heard the lyrics I was like “Oh, it’s fine, it’s cool (laughs)…do whatever you want”. To be honest, I didn’t really care. I was like “Okay, whatever, you wrote a song about me”. I didn’t really honestly think that the album was going to be THAT huge or even that that song was gonna be on their album for that matter.

LRI: It’s a legendary track on one of the biggest selling albums of all time but who knew then??

Michelle: Exactly. I figured it wouldn’t even be recorded, I had no idea. I also didn’t know it was going to influence my life the way it did. As much as I love watching people love the song when I would go see them in concert, it was a strange thing to have influence my life. It was amazing seeing them play it in a big coliseum and seeing people bust out their lighters for the intro and then rocking out when the verse starts and I’m looking around thinking it’s amazing because I’m watching it and I’m anonymous and no one knows it’s me because I can watch it from a distance. That part of it is really special and cool, seeing people react to it but at the time when the song came out I can say it was never a blessing, it was always a curse, let’s just say.

LRI: On Wikipedia, which we know is always accurate (laughs) it states that a source said that at the time it was written you were pleased with the honesty of the new lyrics and how it came across, is that accurate?

Michelle: (laughs) I might have been (laughs). Like I said, I honestly don’t remember everything from those days and it was a long time ago. Maybe I was, okay, I probably was…I could see me being pleased with it at the time because like I said, I was under the influence so I was probably like “Yeah, this is cool!!” but at some point it became clear that it had a lot of repercussions in my life, for lack of a better word.

LRI: I was just talking to my wife Michelle about how brutal that first verse lyric is. It might be one of the most unflinching lyrics ever, Mr. Rose….

Michelle: Uhh, yeah. You know, and it’s also true that the wording sounds really a little harsher than it should be in the sense that it’s true but also not true at the same time. My dad did, in fact, distribute adult films so he wasn’t like “John Holmes” or “in porno” in that sense, my mom did die of drugs but she died of an accidental overdose of pills, not heroin, even though she was also a heroin addict. So, while there’s definitely truth there, it’s exaggerated or suggested at times. You know what though, it is what it is, can’t take it back and it’s great that people still to this day love it, that makes me happy. I also had to realize that it didn’t have to be a bad influence in my life; I allowed it to be a bad influence in my life.

LRI: People can talk smack but I can totally understand how it could be a bad influence or easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy for just about anyone, particularly because of just how big that album became. Was it just the way the song portrayed you or was it also how people treated you as a result?

Michelle: It was both. It suddenly became that everyone wanted to be my friend because they wanted to get closer or get to know the band. They thought that by getting tight with me or giving me free drugs that they would get to know the band, because in the song it says I got my drugs for free which again, wasn’t entirely true. I never did my drugs for free; nobody really does anything for free. Then you just get the people that think that since that’s “my song” I should just be that way or act that way that I’m portrayed. People will meet me and I don’t necessarily fit their idea of who they thought I would be in real life. They’ll say “I thought you would have like jet black hair and black lipstick and be all dark or be like tan and blond and wearing pink like Barbie but you’re not”. They’d all be really surprised that I’m just a regular person or that I just looked like an average girl.

LRI: You said you were using when you first heard the song but the later verse says “Now you’re clean and so discrete, I won’t say a word”. What did you attribute that particular line to?

Michelle: Uh yeah, yeah, I know exactly why he wrote that line. I had went to a program and gotten sober and was still in the program but it was New Year’s Eve and Axl was at a party at (late co-writer/collaborator) Wes Arkeen’s house. I went over there and I started using again and I told Axl, “Please don’t tell anyone” and that’s where the “I won’t say a word” part came from. My favorite part of the song is the very beginning because it’s so reflective of how it was when people met me back in those days, like it’s not clear where it it’s going, it’s a little dark and scary and that’s pretty indicative of how I had no idea I would go from where I was to this totally wild kid just going crazy in Hollywood.

LRI: They used an SG guitar to create an ominous tone in that song and that intro kind of sets the tone.

Michelle: I really like that and it’s very indicative and reflective of how I was. It’s kind of mysterious and then it just kind of explodes, which is pretty easily relatable to how I was as a person.

LRI: What about the romantic or sweet parts of the song where he speaks to falling in love and finding someone and all of that part of “My Michelle”?? Were you and he or any of the other guys in the band involved at that point or at any point romantically?

Michelle: Yeah, we had a ummm….love affair, I mean I’m trying to make it sound better than what it was (laughs). We had “romantic involvings” (laughs) for many years. It was on and off for many years and it was a tumultuous relationship for sure.

LRI: Wow, for years you said?

Michelle: At least four or five years, possibly six or seven years yeah. Even after “November Rain” and the second and third album came out we were having encounters yeah. It was mostly because we really were such good friends but when I would see him it would be once or twice a year and we would have (laughs) sexual relations (laughs).

LRI: “My Michelle” is one of many songs on Appetite that has almost a high/low, sweet/sour dynamic to it; there are quite a few that are like that and others. Everyone has heard rumors of Axl supposedly being bipolar or at least having some kind of childhood post traumatic stress disorder. Do you think that a lot of Appetite’s up and down nature is just a byproduct of Axl’s personality?

Michelle: Uh yes….very much so reflective of Axl himself, very much so. I do indeed think that but you know that’s true of a lot of artists, not just Axl.

LRI: The GNR “Live Era” version of “My Michelle” somehow manages to crank up the rage even more than the studio version with Axl changing “Party til your connection calls” to “FUCK til your connection calls” and even calling you a “little bitch” during the chorus. What did you think when you heard that version, which I’m thinking was recorded during the Illusion tour?

Michelle: That’s because he was mad at me at the time, again it was always tumultuous even though we really didn’t see each other that much it was always on and off and always tumultuous. He was mad at me at that point, for what I don’t even remember because he would get mad at me all the time for various different things. One minute it would be “Oh, Michelle is such a good friend of mine, I love her so much, the song’s about her” and the next time it would be “Oh that fucking bitch didn’t show up for my concert because she’s doing acid with her friends, I fucking hate her”. That actually happened once. He was getting tickets for my little cousins and I to go to the concert and I was supposed to be there to meet him, I believe it was in Anaheim or something. My younger cousins went and were just shocked and came back and said “Oh my god Michelle, he talked sooo much shit about you” and that was all because I didn’t show up. I told him “I can’t Axl, I’m on acid” which I was (laughs) but I was like “Wow, he didn’t have to tell everybody” (laughs). He would stay with me at my dad’s house a lot, he would sleep over a lot and I would take him all over, to shows and stuff, because he didn’t drive so I would take him to concerts and gigs all around. I would wait for him when he’d get ready to go and put up with his tantrums and hissy fits and all of that shit so no the live version of that song doesn’t surprise me to answer your question.
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