APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2005.08.02 - Chrome Media - "Axl Rose: The Prettiest Star" documentary

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2005.08.02 - Chrome Media - "Axl Rose: The Prettiest Star" documentary Empty 2005.08.02 - Chrome Media - "Axl Rose: The Prettiest Star" documentary

Post by Blackstar Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:38 am



Transcript:
----------------

[Caption: This biography contains no music by Axl Rose. It is not authorized by Axl Rose, his management or record label.]
 
[Footage filmed by Robert John: Axl doing ballet in a hotel hallway]
 
Voice-over: 1987: An L.A. rock band called Guns N’ Roses exploded onto the world stage with their debut album Appetite for Destruction. The band’s frontman, Axl Rose, quickly became one of the most enigmatic performers in modern music.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): There is something about him on stage. It combines the little boy lost with the cavalier, in a way that all the great frontmen could.
 
Gizmo Martinez (scenester): He was out there to prove something about himself and he didn’t care what happened, who got in the way... But he knew that if you’re gonna make it on stage, you gotta give your all. 
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): He was a rebel and he spoke the truth.
 
Voice-over: From superstardom, arrests and riots to becoming a virtual recluse. This is the story of how a young man from a small town in Indiana became a rock icon.
 
[Caption: Lafayette]
 
Voice-over: For the boy who would become Axl Rose, life began as William Bruce Bailey on the 6th of February 1962. He was born in the small Indiana town of Lafayette, where he would spend the next 20 years of his life.
 
Barbara Church (school friend): Lafayette is a conservative down-home kind of town. At the time we were children, it was a small town with a park, and an ice-cream parlor, and kids riding their bikes and playing hide-and-seek in the alleys. Also there’s two different towns separated by the Wabash River. On the west side of town, the West Lafayette, would be the university; and on the east side of town would be mostly the factories: Subaru, Wabash National...
 
Voice-over: It was on this side of town, on 24th Street, that the young Bill Bailey lived with his severe religious family and his abusive stepfather, Stephen. He was soon enrolled in Oakland Elementary, a nearby school.
 
Barbara Church: Oakland Elementary School was a very old school. It was where I attended for six years with Bill. I remember Bill walking around on the playground singing a lot, and I remember him being in choir. I remember him having a very low voice and not thinking that it was very remarkable or anything outstanding as far as having a singing voice that was wonderful.
 
Voice-over: Bill soon graduated to Sunnyside Middle School and then on to Jefferson High School, where he first befriended Jeffrey Isbell, who would later become known as Izzy Stradlin. At 17, Bill discovered that his real father’s name was William Rose. It was a discovery that began a complicated relationship between the singer and his pseudonym. Soon after, he dropped out of high school and finally left Lafayette for California in the winter of 1982.
 
[Caption: Hollywood Rose] 
 
Voice-over: At the age of 20, the man who would become Axl Rose arrived in Hollywood, California. Like so many other young musicians, Bill had been drawn to L.A. by the promise of stardom.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): I think what drew him to L.A. was to get out of Indiana; and I think, other than that, the same thing that drew him here and attracted him to L.A. is the same thing that attracts all of the artists to L.A. And that continues until today. This is where your dreams can happen; this is where you can go from dream to reality.
 
Vicky Hamilton: In the ‘80s, Hollywood was the promised land. They saw that all their heroes were making it out of Los Angeles. Van Halen comes to mind, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was one of the bands that I followed and thought, “God, L.A. has got to be the place.” But, you know, you always saw stuff on television and it was always either Los Angeles or New York; and, in my mind, it was better to starve in the sunshine than in the snow.
 
Voice-over: Moving into an apartment on Whitley Avenue, the young frontman soon gravitated towards the burgeoning rock scene, centered around several clubs on Sunset Strip.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): As far as musical trends, there were two of them: one was punk rock that was very popular at that time; and also what people now call hair metal, sort of glam rock – you had those bands playing. In those days, people went to clubs to hang out. It was cool to go to a club. They didn’t just go necessarily to see a specific band like they do now. The clubs had lots and lots of crowds there, no matter who was playing.
 
Chris Weber: It was like Disneyland, you know. There was lots of young musicians, so it was lots of image, at the time. It was a big thing, image, more so than the music. People were exploring different – you know, glam, and heavy metal, and different rock looks; and it was a big thing.
 
Gizmo Martinez (scenester): Everybody was so into how they looked and being just - helping each other. This thing called flyering, you could walk down the Sunset Strip any night and you feel these bands. These are bands who flyered the walls; the people, everything...
 
Vicky Hamilton: The Strip was like a sea of bands with flyers and promoting. Bands were coming here from all over the country, all over the world really, to, like, showcase.
 
Voice-over: Desperate to become part of the scene, Axl quickly reunited with old school friend Izzy Stradlin and it wasn’t long before the pair had their first group underway.
 
Chris Weber: Well, I originally met Izzy first. Izzy was introduced to me by Tracii Guns, who was a friend of mine from high school, Fairfax High School. Tracii and I were hanging out and he said, “I’ve got this guy that I met; his name is Izzy – “his name is Jeff.” I think it was Jeff back then, I don’t remember calling him Izzy until, like, much farther down the line. “His name is Jeff and he’s a guitar player and he’s got a great look.” He didn’t even say if he could play, you know, just “he’s got a great look.” So I say, “Well, cool, I’d like to meet him.” So one night at the Rainbow, Tracii introduced me to Izzy, and I was just talking to Izzy and I said, “I’m looking to play in a band” and he said, “Well, I’m looking to form a band.” I said, “Okay, let’s do it” and that’s when Izzy said, “I’ve got this friend that just came in from Indiana.” Izzy had been in town for, I don’t know, like a year maybe, most part of a year; and he had known Axl - he had known Bill from Indiana, and he said, “I’ve got this guy.” So we went to where Bill’s house was. Bill was living in an apartment, with his girlfriend, around Whitley in Hollywood. It’s, like, in the... not the dirtiest bit, but it’s sort of - you know, it’s not really the newest part of Hollywood. We went up to the top floor, in this old creaky elevator with a pole gate, and I’m like, “Oh, shit – okay.” And we get to the roof, and we’re looking along - we get off the thing, and I’m looking across this roof and I don’t see anything. And there, in the very corner of this roof, and it was a hot summer day, there was this, like, white, iridescent sort of figure. And, as we walked closer to him, it was Axl in some little shorts or something, something stupid, like... I can’t remember, but it wasn’t anything you would wear in Hollywood - you know, something stupid, whatever. Izzy said, “This is Bill;” and, you know, then we had a singer.
 
Voice-over: The core of the band is now established. The three-piece set about forming what would tentatively be titled AXL.
 
Chris Weber: In Hollywood, you needed to have a tape. You needed a tape to get a club date, you needed a tape to get any interest, and you needed to send your tape into the Music Connection for it to get reviewed. Everybody had needed a tape of some sort, which left the problem that we didn’t have a drummer, because we never thought about it. So we quickly had to find a drummer, and through the Recycler we found this guy, Johnny, who lived in Orange County. Johnny came up and, with him – I think we played him the songs that we had, that we were gonna record the day that we were to record them, and he came up with all the beats right then; he did a great job. We later added a bass player, as we needed to. There were, actually, two bass players. There was Rick, who called himself Rick Mars, which was interesting, because there was Mick Mars from Motley Crue. And then there was a friend of mine by the name of Andre; he played bass, too. At that point, Axl had started singing with a very low register, like he did on some songs on Appetite for Destruction. He didn’t used to sing all high, he was singing with this low register. And I remember, on one occasion, he tried – he sang this falsetto, this high thing that he does, that he’s known for, and me and Izzy looked at each other and went, “Jesus Christ, that’s the sound.” You know, “You’ve got to sing like that all the time.” And he was like, “Why? I don’t even sound like that,” because he was a baritone in the choir or something.    
 
Voice-over: With a rhythm section recruited, AXL prepared for their very first live performance at the Orphanage on the 3rd of January 1984. However, the show was not to be a complete success.
 
Chris Weber: I mean, we had some people show up, but it was definitely not what you expected from the beginning stages of a Guns N’ Roses show or whatever, you know. But there we were and we got – I packed my pickup truck full of all of our gear, and we drove down there and did the sound check, and then went off to the other corner of the bar, had a soda and waited for our time to come up. Another band played, then we went up and that was the first show. It was like a professional show for all intents and purposes, except for the fact that nobody showed up. Axl was so... he was developing his image and his persona back then. That was the very beginning of it. I mean, he’s known for a couple of things now; he’s known for that swaying thing that he does. But back then, he was so full of energy that he would shake. He would literally shake, like... it’s hard to describe other than just, like, almost a convulsion happening, but really intense. He would do this and let all this energy out and he would sort of, like, vibrate, like as your pager would do on top of a countertop. It was kind of scary to see somebody that would be evoking all this power, energy and emotion. 
 
Voice-over: Even at this early stage in AXL’s career, the band’s frontman was beginning to show signs of a rather volatile nature.
 
Chris Weber: Our first show that we played at the Orphanage was under the name AXL. But shortly after that, we got in a fight or something. Axl got all pissy about something and we sort of like broke up. It was, like, after the first or second gig for, like, a couple of days. He was like, “Fuck you guys, I don’t wanna play with you;” which was funny because we were all living in my parents’ house. Then he said, “You know what, we need to come back, I wanna come back, let’s play” and Izzy’s the one that said, “You know what, if you’re gonna come back, we gotta change the name of the band. We’ll let you get back and play, but we’re gonna change the name of the band to ‘Rose’.” That was Izzy’s idea. He wanted the name of his band called ‘Rose’. So we played under that; that was the name of the band for the next five, six, seven... you know, whatever shows. Soon after, we found that there was another band called ‘Rose’ somewhere, so we changed. It sounds like Spinal Tap, doesn’t it, but soon we changed the name to ‘Hollywood Rose’ to differentiate ourselves. It was all the same band throughout the whole thing. We just changed the name.
 
Vicky Hamilton: I became aware of Hollywood Rose when Axl called me when I was a booking agent at a place called Silver Lining Entertainment. He said that he was referred to me and he wanted me to, like, get them some gigs. I was like, “Cool, send me a demo tape, I’ll check it out” and he was like, “Well, actually, I’d like to bring you a demo tape and play it now.” I was like, “Well, that would be great except for I don’t have a stereo here” and he’s like, “Well, that’s okay, no problem; I’ll come and bring a ghetto blaster, and play it for you.” I laughed and I was like, well, if the guy’s that persistent, I’m gonna let him come. He and Izzy showed up with a ghetto blaster in hand, and had the demo tape and a few snapshots of the band. I was, like, blown away by the demo. I booked them sight unseen.
 
Voice-over: Throughout the early months of 1984, Hollywood Rose continued to play with increasing success. However, after a show at the Music Machine, the band’s lineup began to change.
 
Chris Weber: We played a show in mid-’84 at a place called the Music Machine – it’s not in Hollywood, but it’s close to Hollywood, in Santa Monica. The show was alright, so it sort of went off without a hitch. The more I think of it the more I recall. What ended up happening is, somewhere during the show I think I hit him in the head with my guitar, the top of my guitar, and he got really embarrassed and upset. We got through the show and then afterward he was just fuming, and he went on this little, um, sulking. I don’t know what I’m thinking of his – he got an attitude and he stormed off, and sort of that was the end. I mean, it wasn’t set up in any way. We weren’t planning on ending it, it was just him walking off.
 
Vicky Hamilton: I came to manage Guns N’ Roses just at the tail end of Hollywood Rose. I booked Hollywood Rose to open for a band called Black Sheep at the Music Machine, and that was the band that Slash was currently in. So that night I introduce Slash to Axl, and who knew that was, like, history in the making. Chris Weber had quit the band and Slash wasn’t very happy in Black Sheep. I suggested to him that he try out.
 
Chris Weber: After that show at the Music Machine, Slash, who was a friend of mine as well – I mean, I knew him from high school as well, both him and Tracii; all of us went to Fairfax High. He took over the guitar playing after I left. I have to wrack my brain a little bit, but he did that for a while until the end of the year. And sort of I wasn’t – I think I was hanging out, because we were still all friends, although I had sort of mixed feelings about not playing guitar in it. But closer to the end of the year, they had booked a show for New Year’s Eve or something, and I don’t think Slash could do it; for some reason he couldn’t do it. He knew ahead of time he couldn’t do it, or he didn’t want to do it, or something. So I’d been talking – because we were friends, I’d be talking to Izzy and he said, “Why don’t we just get together again and we’ll all do it.”
 
[Caption: Guns N’ Roses]    
 
Voice-over: The 1984 New Year’s Eve reunion show was proved to be Hollywood Rose’s swan song. Axl soon began to play with another local band, L.A. Guns. Together with the band’s guitarist, Tracii, the pair formed a spin-off group along with Izzy, Rob Gardner and newly recruited Duff McKagan.                          
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): The way Guns N’ Roses came together is the way a lot of bands come together. The dynamics in the present group wasn’t working. You know, they knew they didn’t have magic, and musicians are always looking for that magic to happen. So they started putting out ads, and reading ads in magazines and publications - two of them being the Recycler and the Music Connection Magazine – and they did start putting members together that way, I believe. I believe that’s the way they found Duff, in fact, because he was with his own band.
 
Chris Weber: The name of the band was a mixture of the two bands, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. And because Axl had played in L.A. Guns for a short period of time, at some point he put the two names together, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose and then they formed them together. And then they started gigging under that name, Guns N’ Roses.     
 
Voice-over: On March the 26th 1985, a flyer for a show at the Troubadour appeared bearing the name Guns N’ Roses. However, almost as soon as the band had formed their lineup began to change. Both Tracii Guns and Rob Gardner left, making way for Slash to return to the lead spot bringing with him Steven Adler on drums, completing the lineup that would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world. Almost immediately, the newly formed unit embarked upon what would become known as the “hell tour”.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): When the band first got together, Duff, who had been in a prior band and he came from Seattle – his earlier band had a gig, a few gigs up north in Seattle. And these were paying gigs; I mean, they were supposed to get about 200 bucks, 250 bucks a gig. So he figured since his old band no longer existed, his new band, they could all hit the road, go up to Seattle, and make a few bucks, and play. You know, sounds cool and they all go. On the way there, of course, they have this old – I don’t know if it was a car or a van, but it was old, it was rotten, it was breaking down... And, indeed, it broke down before they ever got to where they were supposed to be. They managed to get into town, either hitchhiking or grabbing rides – I think they even abandoned the vehicle – and started doing these shows. What they discovered are two things that every artist knows nowadays: you’re not going to have any people in the house if you don’t promote it. Well, none of the venues promoted the shows. They didn’t even know Guns N’ Roses was coming; they thought it was the other band. So when Guns N’ Roses started playing, they were lucky if there were ten people watching them. Of course, that just made the venue owners and managers very angry. I think they might have made 50 bucks, maybe 100 bucks off that whole tour, because many of them refused to pay them at all, and they managed to scrape enough to get back to L.A. Slash said, you know, “That tour almost killed us.” Well, what it did is that it made them more of a unit, because they suffered through it. That tour was real grief for them; it really was.
 
Voice-over: Returning to L.A., the band moved in with Vicky Hamilton, who was now their manager.
 
Vicky Hamilton: When I lived with Guns N’ Roses, we lived on Clark Street, which is kind of caddy corner to the Whiskey A Go-Go. You know, it was me and Jennifer Perry shared the bedroom, and all the guys lived in the living room, and it was just always a mess. It was, like, beer cans, and they lived on McDonald’s and French fries all over the floor, and sleeping bags, and amps and... Just hideous, really (laughs).   
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): Even when they lived with Vicky, one of the first articles that was ever written about Guns N’ Roses, and in fact the first cover they ever had, was in Music Connection. In that article the writer describes the place - and it’s not their place, it’s Vicky’s apartment – and how trashed it was. I mean, these are young rock ‘n’ roll guys and the last thing they’re thinking about is picking up after themselves, so hygiene left a lot to be desired.
 
Voice-over: During the remainder of 1985, Axl and Guns N’ Roses became regulars on the L.A. club scene. As their audience began to grow, so did the interest from record companies.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): Guns N’ Roses became popular in the old-fashioned way. They didn’t manufacture anything. It was all word of mouth. People couldn’t stop talking about them. If someone had seen the show, they’d tell a friend, they’d bring another friend to the next show, that friend brought another friend. It almost seemed overnight - although I’m sure it took a little while, but, you know, during those days it seemed “God, this is happening fast,” because in the first shows when you saw them you were lucky to have 20 or 30 or 40 there. But, within a very short period of time, this band started bringing hundreds of people until there were lines of hundreds outside who couldn’t get in the venue.
 
Robert John: Their crowd just started building, and building, and building. I just looked at it as a rock band, you know, that had a lot of fans. I mean the music scene back then, there was a lot of bands out there. They were drawing the most.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): When you went to a live performance, Axl was one of those lead men who was not only charismatic; he was also volatile and the whole band felt dangerous. That danger is part of rock ‘n’ roll.
 
Gizmo Martinez (scenester): The way he acted on stage was the way he was feeling. Like, there was shows where he would be running around in your face trying to piss you off, wearing something that was like, “What the hell is that?” But then there was days that he would just stand, shows where he would just stand there and just be more, like, mellow. It was, like, either the drugs he did or if he got worn out that week... If he was sad, if he was happy, you could see that on stage. Then with this band backing him up it was always just this incredible - just the sound you would hear. I can recall sometimes where his vocal wasn’t high enough, so it’s blurred out; but didn’t matter, because his movement said it all. It’s like he wanted to piss you off, but in a good way. He knew that you would go home and talk about him and his band.
 
Voice-over: It soon became impossible for the labels to ignore Guns N’ Roses. Before long, several majors were interested.   
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): Well, they were being seen by quite a few labels. I know Vicky initially had Electra out to see them and I’m sure she had a slew of others – I don’t know how many others saw them. But Geffen had hired the A&R guy who found Guns N’ Roses, by the name of Tom Zutaut from Electra, because he had signed Motley Crue. Geffen wanted another Motley Crue, so they hired the A&R dude, right? So he’s there and he gets to the show.
 
Vicky Hamilton: They all came to this Troubadour show. I remember that there was, like, 20 A&R people out on the sidewalk in front of the Troubadour before they signed with Geffen. Tom Zutaut said to me out on the curb bump - because it was so loud inside, they were all outside – and he said to me, “If that guy can really sing, I’ll sign them.” I handed him the demo and he’s like, “Get them in my office tomorrow.” So I brought them in. The next night they went over to Tom’s house and played Aerosmith records all night long; and the next day they were just like, “We’ll sign in with Geffen.”
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): According to them, they liked him the best, because the first thing he said to them is that they were the loudest band he’s ever heard, and that impressed them. They sort of liked that, because they felt they were the loudest band that anyone’s ever heard.
 
Vicky Hamilton: It was funny though, the day that we were supposed to sign the contract, we were, like, two hours late. Axl couldn’t find his contact lenses, and he was flipped out and just left the house, and I was like, “Oh my God.” Me and Slash looked at each other and we were like, “We gotta find the contact lenses.” So we went through his pants pockets and we found them in a pair of pants that he’d had on, like, a couple of days prior. And then we couldn’t find him and we’re like, “Oh my God.” You know, Eddie Rosenblatt, David Geffen, Tom Zutaut, they’re all waiting at Geffen. Then Slash goes, “Come here. Look at this!” I look outside and Axl is sitting on top of the Whiskey A Go-Go, kind of like in a meditative stance, and we were like, “Oh my God” (laughs). So we coached him down, went down and signed the contract, and the rest is history (laughs).   
 
[Caption: Appetite for Destruction]   
 
Voice-over: Having signed to Geffen in August 1986, Guns N’ Roses went into the studio to record what would become Appetite for Destruction. However, it proved difficult to find a suitable producer for the album until they met Mike Clink.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): They had gone through a couple of producers who just couldn’t handle the guys. Guns N’ Roses had a very, very definite vision. They knew what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it, they knew how they wanted to sound. All too often you will find with new bands that season producers will come in and try to imprint their style, their sound and their voice into the recording rather than allowing the artists to do it, especially when they’re new, because these season producers think they know better. Well, when you’re dealing with a band like Guns N’ Roses, they’re not gonna put up with that. Mike Clink obviously gave them enough leeway that they could work together. But one of the funny stories he had is that one of the first times he met with them and started recording, he said their equipment was so old he doesn’t think Slash had ever changed the strings on his guitar. He had to go out and buy new strings and buy some new equipment, because their stuff was all beat up and he didn’t know how Slash ever stayed in tune.
 
Robert John: When they were in the studio, they were extremely professional, okay? It wasn’t like a big party like everybody probably thinks and everything. Slash would go there and lay down his tracks. You know, it was just them going in and recording. 
 
Voice-over: By December 1986, the band had begun to mix Appetite for Destruction. But with the album not slated for release until July the following year, Geffen were eager to introduce their new band ahead of schedule. It was decided that Guns N’ Roses debut release was to be the EP Live Like a Suicide.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): It really was a demo. The only reason that I believe Geffen Records released it at all is because it took so long for them to do the first album; I mean they went through several producers before ending up with Mike Clink. The record label likes to take advantage of a buzz and heat when it’s happening, and when Guns N’ Roses were signed they were very hot – at least on the local scene and in the surrounding regions. So Geffen obviously wanted to take advantage of that and released their demo.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): It was a very low-rent type of release - no budget, no stylistics around it. It just punched the music out with a cover that really just represents a gun and a rose as it were. And because it was powerful, in-your-face and very live, the performances did knock your socks off and it really captured immediately what this band were about, which was “We don’t care, we’re not interested in vibe, we’re not interested in trend, we’re not interested in image or fashion. This is us, this is real, this is in-your-face. You like it or you don’t.”
 
Voice-over: Appetite for Destruction was finally released on the 21st of July 1987. However, it was not an immediate commercial success.
 
Robert John: We went out on tour before Appetite actually was released; we went out with the Cult. So they were touring without an album. We were up in Canada, I think, when the album was released – I’m not sure about that – but nobody knew who the band was. I’m pretty sure that at the time it was going nowhere (laughs).
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): It didn’t exactly take off immediately. The first single that they had chosen was Welcome to the Jungle. That didn’t do so well. You know, it didn’t get much radio play, it didn’t happen much. Then they did what every label does: they have their ace in the hole. What you’ll notice with a lot of new acts is that if the first single doesn’t hit, the ace in the hole in the label is generally a ballad, because ballads are historically popular. So they released Sweet Child O’ Mine.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): What broke the band was Sweet Child O’ Mine. I think there are two things about Sweet Child O’ Mine: its immediacy as a song because of the melody line, especially Slash’s wonderful performance at the beginning; and, secondly, it’s a love song. I think that combination crossed them over to a bigger audience. It made them accessible to Bon Jovi fans, for instance, who were a bit put off by Welcome to the Jungle and the fact that this was talking about how dangerous the streets were; they didn’t want to know about that. But Sweet Child O’ Mine struck a chord, because it was really a love song, which also had a certain sense of longing and losing, and that wonderful line “Where do we go now,” which I think a lot of people could identify with. But I think it’s that combination which made people realise, “This is a really special band. The do have an ability to write a song that’s an anthem; it’s immediate but it lasts a long time.” Out of the back of that, Appetite just propelled.
 
Voice-over: When Appetite for Destruction finally reached number 1 in 1988, it propelled Axl to superstardom and has since gone down in history as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): In 2005 that stands one of the all-time great albums, because of its combination of timeless rock ‘n’ roll attitude, very cleverly written lyrics, pure heartfelt emotion, wonderful performance, raw but sensible production, and anthems. It’s a youth anthem album.
 
Voice-over: As their success grew, so did their reputation as the world’s most dangerous band. On August the 20th 1988, an event would take place that would further fuel this image and ignite a tumultuous relationship between Axl and the press.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): So they started to get this reputation of being edgy, dangerous, unpredictable, and unreliable. When Monsters of Rock at Donington happened in 1988, two things have to be borne in mind. Firstly, it was the biggest event of its type ever. Officially, I think, the attendance was 98,000 in August 1988; unofficially, people have put the attendance at something around 130,000. Secondly, it rained, and it’s in a field and it became very muddy; and there’s a slope, an incline, leading down to the stage. Now Guns N’ Roses are really starting to take off big time at that point. They were very low down on the bill, but such was the vibe about them that everyone pushed towards the front of the stage when they came on. Axl, on more than one occasion, asked the crowd to calm down and move back: “Take a step or two back because you’re crushing people at the front.” Inevitably people don’t listen and, sadly, two people died as a result. The band weren’t to blame whatsoever; the conditions underfoot were to blame. But because of Guns N’ Roses’ reputation, people started to blame them and even claimed they incited a riot, which is absolute nonsense. Now you can imagine a situation where you’ve got five guys who’ve come off stage just to be told, “Two fans have just died during the performance, though no fault of yours;” and then having parts of the press, certainly the most sensationalist part of the press, blowing it up as if it was their fault. How are they going to feel? They’re going to feel rather upset, angry and bitter - and I can’t blame them. As a result, they started to see the press as being something to avoid, something to resent - and, to be honest, when you’re given that sort of treatment unfairly, who can say it’s wrong - and Axl certainly started to become a little more tetchy about dealing with people and talking to people, a little more wary about his vulnerability being put into the public domain. Up until that point they were quite happy to talk to people, be honest and be open; and they suddenly saw that by doing so and the reputation they got, they were being blamed for something that was totally beyond their control.
 
Voice-over: The increasing controversy would be further fueled by the band’s third release, GN’R Lies.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): Guns N’ Roses, when they first hit big with Appetite, was seen as a raw, raucous and loud rock ‘n’ roll band. There was another side to them: they could play acoustically. And what Lies was, was an opportunity to showcase their acoustic presentation of songs and to prove the songs are great however you played them, because when you strip down to an acoustic situation, the songs and the performers have to stand up in their own right - there’s no hiding. And what they proved in that EP is that they didn’t need to hide.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): I really liked the acoustic songs on it. I mean Patience was huge. I liked all the songs on that side. My favorite was the most controversial one, One in a Million, that everyone jumped on his head for being, you know, prejudiced, and misogynist, and homophobic, and everything – before Eminem. He hit those subject areas before Eminem ever did. The biggest difference appears to be that initially although Axl resisted it, he did apologize for the lyrics - which I thought was way out of character, but he did it.      
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): One in a Million was very much an actual biographical song about growing up in the Midwest, in a situation where you become very entrenched and narrow-minded, where racism is endemic and almost taken as part of life. What Axl was doing in that song was putting forward his own viewpoint at the time saying, “Faggots? Pfft, don’t mean a thing to me. I’m not really interested in them; I don’t understand them and I don’t want to understand them.” But, of course, people immediately picked up on it and said, “Oh! My God! He’s being racist, he’s being homophobic,” etc, etc. Yes, he was, in terms of explaining his upbringing. Again, it fueled the fire about their reputation. “Here they come, the world’s most dangerous band again living on the edge.”
 
[Caption: Use Your Illusion]
 
Voice-over: By 1989, Axl had become one of the most famous rock stars in the world. However, it was to be a difficult year for him and the band. His marriage to Erin Everly had lasted only a matter of months and Steven Adler left Guns N’ Roses to be replaced by Matt Sorum. During this turbulent time, he also recorded Use Your Illusion I and II. With the albums cuts, the band began a protracted mixing process.
 
Skip Saylor (Studio Owner on ‘Use Your Illusion’): Well, I don’t think it’s new news that there was a lot of push and pull within Guns N’ Roses. With everybody having very defined ideas of what they wanted – you know, from the record and from the band – not necessarily always agreeing with each other, but certainly everybody had an idea of what they wanted it to be. There was a certain amount of Axl coming in and being happy with the mix and then Slash coming in and going, “No, that’s not what I’m looking for” and making a few changes, and then Axl would come in and say, “Well, this is better but this isn’t,” and going back and forth. Anytime you’re working with a band that big, it’s gonna take some time to mix a record, no matter what the circumstances are. I mean in this case, you know, Axl had to approve it, Slash had to approve it, Tom had to approve it and the manager had to approve it – and probably David Geffen had to approve it. So you get five different opinions and it’s gonna take five times longer than if one person is approving it. And it was such a huge important record that they wanted it to be perfect.    
 
Voice-over: It took six months to mix the two albums. But finally, in September 1991, Use Your Illusion I and II were released simultaneously.
 
Skip Saylor (Studio Owner on ‘Use Your Illusion’): Well, first of all, it’s the only band in history that had ever put out two albums simultaneously, two separate albums simultaneously. First time I’d ever seen a record be sold starting at midnight throughout the country. There were lines of people out in front of Tower Records. We watched it on the news - you know, we were part of a record that was on the news upon its release. And these records went gold simultaneously within something like five hours of the time that it was released. I mean, who sells a million records in five hours? Guns N’ Roses. That’s it. 
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): Guns N’ Roses are the only band I can think of following up one of the biggest albums of all time, one of the most talked about albums of all time, by saying to their record label, “We want to put out a double album – no, actually we want to put out two double albums. We want to put out effectively four albums at the same time.” No one else would have done it. No one else would have got away with it. Geffen must have looked back in astonishment. What Guns N’ Roses wanted to do was to say, “Look, we’re not going to go into the studio and record fourteen songs, and have nine appear on an album and five dumped in the vault. We want everything we record put out.”
 
Voice-over: Use Your Illusion also began to illustrate another side of Axl’s songwriting.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): I think as a ballad writer Axl does have an awful lot to offer. He understands why ballads work. He understands the dynamics of a song. So does Slash. And that’s the thing that people came to realise, I think, with the Use Your Illusion albums: that here was this rock ‘n’ roll band who could also step back a little bit, allow a song to breath and give it the momentum and temper that brings out the best in the lyrics and the best in the melodies.   
 
Voice-over: During the tour to promote Use Your Illusion, Izzy Stradlin left Guns N’ Roses severing the alliance formed back in Jefferson High School.
 
Robert John: I always thought that Izzy and Axl were like Lennon and McCartney. And when Izzy left the band, it was a big deal – at least as far as I was concerned. But he didn’t tour with us anyway. We took a jet and he had his own tour bus. And it’s like, he would tow a trailer with his motorcycles and everything so that he could go riding and have fun. He loves to travel - Izzy’s a big map guy, too. So, you know, wherever we were, he would just meet up with us. We’d fly in and he’d drive in. So I started seeing the split then. I don’t think Izzy ever wanted the band to get that big. Izzy is the type of guy that he would have been very happy to stay in the clubs.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): When Izzy left the band, I felt that was the beginning of the end, because I felt he was one of the cornerstones of that band. I mean, he did a lot of the writing with Axl.  He was Axl’s closest friend. He was the guy who got Axl out of Indiana and coming to Hollywood, because Izzy was here first, he left first and he hated Indiana. So Axl came to join Izzy. And when he left - you know, think of it: it’s like Lennon leaving McCartney, like Paul Stanley leaving Gene Simmons... I mean when you have a duo like that, a dynamic duo who forms a colossal band, when one of them leaves, a significant dynamic is going to be missing.    
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): Izzy, to me, actually was the soul of Guns N’ Roses. Axl and Slash were the public face and very much the pumping heart. Izzy was the soul. Izzy just had enough of a lot of the nonsense that went around. You’ve got to remember, this is a band who went from nothing street urchins, if we are to put it in that phrase, to being the most recognizable faces in the world; and I think Izzy got fed up, not necessarily with the fame, but with those trappings and what happened to the band. Axl became more and more reclusive, more and more demanding, more and more insistent, more and more of a control freak; and I think Izzy just reached a point of saying, “I don’t need this, I don’t want it, goodbye.”
 
Voice-over: Gilby Glarke was brought in to replace Stradlin on guitar and Guns N’ Roses continued on what would become a 28-month tour.      
 
Robert John: I remember when we started the tour, you know, that was Rock in Rio. That was the first time, I think, they’d ever played in front of a crowd of that size – it was, like, 115,000 people – and we started going on from there. Then the band started building and building, the shows were sold out... Yeah, I mean that’s one of the reasons why we had the plane; we could just fly in a place, so we could base in, like, one area and then fly in to – you know, take helicopters or whatever. But yeah, it was mainly getting Axl on stage; you know, that was... he had a lot of assistance going on then. I mean, it became a very big group of people. It went from something that was small and friends to, you know, chiropractors, massage therapists, assistants for assistants, managers’ assistants... I mean it just started growing and growing. It just got very, very big.       
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): Axl was becoming more and more of a control freak, more and more paranoid. He had a bigger and bigger entourage around him who was there to fuel his paranoia and to suck up to his ego. And the worse it got with Axl, the more the rest of the band pandered to it. I remember in Dallas, just before the Use Your Illusion albums came out, they were staying – obviously – at a very nice hotel. However, Axl was on a different floor to the rest of them. Not only that, but none of the band could actually go up and say, “Hey Axl, shall we hang out and have a drink?” They’d have to actually go through his personal assistant and his bodyguard to get to talk to their own singer. I remember talking to Slash: “What’s going on?!” Slash said, “It’s what Axl needs to deal with the situation. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.” They were seeding more and more ground to Axl, to the point where eventually Axl could threaten them as he did: “I’m not going to go on stage tonight, unless you sign this piece of paper giving me control of Guns N’ Roses;” which they duly did - which was a daft move. So yes, Axl was becoming more and more of a recluse, more and more of a control freak, more and more distant from the rest of the band. But the rest of the band allowed that to happen, and everyone around Axl and the band allowed it to happen, to the point where the band were disintegrating. They were no longer a band. It was a bunch of guys who turned up when on stage – maybe.   
 
Voice-over: During a show in St. Louis, the volatile nature of Axl and some of Guns N’ Roses’ fans would be brought sharply into focus.
 
Robert John: The St. Louis riot... that was a real bummer, okay? Some guy was bluntly taking pictures. You know, he was a biker guy, and he was, like, really pushing it with the security guys and just kind of showing everybody, “Look what I can do”, right? So Axl just had it and he jumped into the audience after the guy. The band actually tried to go back out on stage. And, you know, the kids just started pulling up the chairs, they started carrying them down to the front and then throwing them up onto the stage. So, to me, you know, they just got into it. It just got way out of hand. The band left. They sent the band off in a van, and me and a few other people stayed back. But that thing... they tore apart the stage. I think they probably lost about half their gear in that riot. And the cops, too, I remember that they were shooting people with fire hoses on the stage, and then, when it got too hectic, they would leave (laughs). So, you know, that’s one reason why I feel that stage got torn apart, because the cops didn’t stay up there.
 
Voice-over: Axl was eventually arrested on charges stemming from the St. Louis riot. But his lawyers were quickly able to acquit him with only minor fines to pay. During this period he was also accused of battery by his ex-fiancée, Stephanie Seymour. With Axl’s life seemingly spiraling out of control, Guns N’ Roses came off the road and went back into the studio to record what would become their last project together.     
 
Skip Saylor (Studio Owner on ‘Use Your Illusion’): We also mixed the Spaghetti Incident, and also the one song for Interview with a Vampire, the Rolling Stones cover. But when those records – the Spaghetti Incident and the one single for the Tom Cruise movie – were being done, it was a whole lot less of a group effort by then. You know, things were coming apart, shall we say. I don’t think the focus was the same and certainly people were not working together on those projects like they were working. There was, actually, an amazing effort on everybody’s part during Use Your Illusion I and II to work together. I don’t think that same working together ethic was involved with the Spaghetti Incident or the Interview with a Vampire. It definitely at that point was... it seemed over to us from the outside. In my mind, that record came out after it was over. You know, the energy reached its peak during Use Your Illusion I and II.    
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): It was a band going into the studio almost for the sake of it. “Uh, what should we do? A bunch of covers? Why not. Okay.” There was no heart, no passion in it. It was just churned out, “Let’s get it out.” They didn’t seem to believe in it themselves, and if they didn’t, why should anybody else. I’ve got to say it was a real nadir in their career. It was the end of Guns N’ Roses as it were.
 
Voice-over: Guns N’ Roses continued attempting to record another album. But by the summer of 1995, it had become obvious that the band was falling apart.
 
Robert John: There’s a few versions of this out there. Everybody seems to have selective memories of this. I was talking to Axl pretty much daily on the phone during the time when the whole band just – it just seemed like the whole thing was starting to go away. They were arguing over the type of direction they should be going in. I seem to remember that Slash wanted to keep it rock ‘n’ roll and Axl wanted to go in a different direction. Now I’ve heard Axl’s version and I just know what I remember, okay? But he wanted to bring in another guitarist, and I think that would have alienated Slash quite a bit, considering he was the lead guitarist of the band; and if you’re gonna bring in another lead guitar, shouldn’t he be the one who picks him?   
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): Unfortunately, by that point Axl had gained complete control. So they were reliant on what Axl did or didn’t do, and he started to make strange decisions. He brought in an old pal of his, Paul Huge, on guitar to play on their version of Sympathy for the Devil. I remember talking to Slash at the time. I said, “Who is Paul Huge?” and Slash said, “No clue. Never met him, I don’t know who he is. He’s a mate of Axl’s.” The band went through a period when no one seemed to know quite was going on. Slash and Duff, I think, were getting increasingly fed up with the nonsense that was happening; and, eventually, they reached the stage that I think everybody would have done, saying, “We can’t deal with this anymore. We don’t know when we’re recording, we can’t even make a decision as a band because we’re reliant on Axl, we can’t talk to Axl because he won’t let us, so what are we doing? We go into the studio, we sit there and then go home.” It was a waste of time and nonsense. And that’s been going on ever since.
 
Robert John: I think it hurt Axl when people started leaving, because, as much crap people say about Axl, deep down inside he’s got a really, really great heart. Okay? He’s hard to deal with at times – in fact, extremely hard to deal with at times – but he’s a very good person deep down inside. You know, he wants things his way and when the guys started leaving, I think it really affected him, because I know certain key band members that he would talk about constantly; and when he talks about somebody constantly, that’s because they hurt him.
 
[Caption: Chinese Democracy]
 
Voice-over: By 1997, there were no original members of Guns N’ Roses left in the band. Axl had decided to continue under the GN’R banner and, although various replacement band members were announced, no new releases or performances emerged. Axl Rose simply disappeared from public life. For years there was no word from the Guns N’ Roses camp, only constant rumour and conjecture about possible recordings and the nature of Axl’s relationship with an Arizona-based psychic named Yoda. Only occasionally was the silence punctured by a live album or a song on a soundtrack, until, finally, a new album was announced under the name “Chinese Democracy.”
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): The problem with Guns N’ Roses has always been that if there’s no fact to pick up on people will make it up. People pick up a half truth, people peak up vague whispers and blow it up out of all proportion. Now GN’R did announce that the new album was going to be called Chinese Democracy and they announced it about three years ago. My betting is that there will be a new album and it won’t be called Chinese Democracy; it will called something else completely. No one quite knows exactly where the whole album stands. We’ve heard members of Guns N’ Roses saying “Yes, the album exists, yes it’s nearly done, yes it’s nearly mixed.” I think they are jumping on hope more than anything else. They probably know as much as everybody else. They contributed their parts, now let’s see.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): This album lives entirely through a rumor. I don’t even know if it really exists. It may have been glorified rehearsals in recording studios for all I know, because I’ve heard the same thing everybody else has heard. I’ve also heard the stories and rumors from engineers and producers who worked on it. But the fact of the matter is, the final decision is going to be made by Axl. He is still committed to his record deal and so the label is waiting for the album – not too patiently anymore, with the industry being in the state it is – and, you know, it’ll come out when it comes – if it comes.      
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): What it’s going to sound like, who knows, because we’ve had GN’R play one or two tracks live before over the last seven or eight years, which may or may not be there. We’ve heard stories of going in an industrial direction, going in a rock ‘n’ roll direction. There are so many different stories about the way the album may or may not sound. But my feeling is there will be an album and it’ll get a huge amount of attention, because GN’R always do. It’ll sell a lot of copies, but whether it’ll sell enough to claw back the enormous fortune that’s been poured into it over the years remains to be seen.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): I realize and I think we all realize that this is Axl’s vision at this point, and he’s gonna rise and fall on that vision. Whether he’s gonna let anyone else in on it is anybody’s guess.
 
Robert John: I think the reason why Chinese Democracy has taken so long is because Axl is a perfectionist and he keeps working on things; and, as people have quit, he’s brought new people in and they’ve had to redo their parts. I just think it’s an ongoing process with him. I know he’s never satisfied, but you know what? Most true artists aren’t. They’re never satisfied with what they do.
 
Voice-over: Chinese Democracy never appears, although rumours continue to circulate about possible release dates. Throughout 2000, the new lineup of Guns N’ Roses did play several shows and this was the first time that Axl had appeared on stage in eight years. Finally, they announced a tour for 2001 opening on New Year’s Day at the House of Blues.  
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): I was at the House of Blues in Vegas, at one of their shows anyway, and it seemed as if Guns N’ Roses was back. I mean, even without all the other members, Axl was right in form, he was great, you know, he was singing great and he was moving great. They did mostly the old songs though. They did a few of the new songs from the Chinese Democracy album, but mostly it was the old Guns N’ Roses stuff. It was just like Guns N’ Roses in the old days, except it was a bit more polished. In the old days there was nothing polished about these guys. You know, they were rough, gritty and dirty. It’s a bit, bit more polished, but I mean the music sounded good, the production was good and the show was great.
 
Robert John: Yeah, actually that was a really, really amazing show. They played to, like – I think it was 6:00 in the morning (laughs). I just remember when we walked out it was bright daylight. Yeah, that show was insane, you know. The thing that got me, though, was looking at them on stage, you know, with Robin dressed the way he is, then you had a guy with a chicken bucket on his head, and you had Dizzy – the rocker –, Axl was wearing whatever Axl wears, and then he had another keyboardist up above him... It just, the chemistry to me, wasn’t there. But the show was great.
 
Voice-over: However, the following tour did not go according to plan. Axl once again began turning up late to shows or canceling them at the last minute, resulting in riots in both Vancouver and Philadelphia. The tour eventually collapsed and, once again, Axl Rose retreated from the public eye.     
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): It was a weird time at the beginning of the 21st century and Guns N’ Roses suddenly went back on the road. I think everyone believed, “Well, that’s obviously the prelude to the new album.” The gigs happened and they packed the places out. Most people loved them and thought they were great. It was Axl and a bunch of hired hands, but it didn’t matter to the people; Axl was there, the band sounded really good and everybody felt that the vibe was back with GN’R, that it was going to build up to this huge release, etc. Never happened, of course. Suddenly the gigs in America started to get canceled, because Axl was not turning up or turning up very late. The whole problem reared its ugly head once again.
 
Bernard Baur (Music Connection): I think the pressure got to Axl. Obviously the rest of the band members were there. I mean they were showing up, things were happening and that tour was very popular. It sold tickets. People were ready to see them. But what happens is, you know, Axl is back to the old behavior to the extreme. He not only shows up late; at some gigs he never shows up at all. I don’t know what he’s thinking. You know, you’d have to be a shrink and probably have him on a couch for twenty years to figure out what the guy is thinking. I have no idea what he really wants or what he’s thinking to do that sort of thing, because the consequences are so obvious. It’s foreseeable that if you don’t show up at a gig there’s going to be trouble and there’s gonna be problems. What kind of problems? Well, they’ll have riots.
 
Robert John: He was really, really excited at that time. You know, he was telling me “I’ve got the band together. Everything’s gonna be happening.” I was really amped about it because I was looking forward to going out on tour. And then, all of a sudden, it was gone.
 
Voice-over: To this day, Chinese Democracy has failed to appear. But despite the lack of new material and Axl’s reclusive nature, he still remains one of the most intriguing and vital artists in the rock world.
 
Malcolm Dome (Kerrang!): He’s antagonistic, he’s aggressive, he’s streetwise, he’s charismatic, he’s charming, he’s got an individual voice, a great insight lyrically and an appreciation of melody. If you put all those factors together, you may get somewhere close to the Axl Rose whom people adore on stage.
 
Robert John: Axl is probably one of the most generous, nicest people I’ve ever known; and he’s also probably one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever known, too. But that’s the way the guy is. I mean that’s the reason why you get the lyrics in the songs out of him that you do. It’s because his personality is just all over the place.
 
Chris Weber: One of the reasons that he was so interesting to people is because he was essentially just kind of nuts. Right?
 
Voice-over: From a small town in Indiana to the frontman in the biggest rock band in the world, Axl Rose is truly one of the most enigmatic characters in modern music.
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