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1988.12.22 - Altoona Mirror - Guns N' Roses Take Their Songs From the Street (Axl)

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Post by Soulmonster on Tue Aug 13, 2019 8:27 am

1988.12.22 - Altoona Mirror - Guns N' Roses Take Their Songs From the Street (Axl) Altoon10
1988.12.22 - Altoona Mirror - Guns N' Roses Take Their Songs From the Street (Axl) Altoon11

Guns 'N Roses take their songs from the street

By Robert Hilburn

LOS ANGELES — James Dean has been an anti-hero model for legions of rock 'n' roll singers, so it's not surprising that Axl Rose, lead singer of the hugely successful Guns N' Roses, cites a biography of Dean when asked about books that have meant something to him.

What is surprising is that Rose says it's not Dean's celebrated live-fast, die-young saga that interested him about David Dalton's "The Mutant King," but the way the book went into such detail about Dean's dedication to his craft.

"I always thought James Dean was kind of cool, but I don't like having idols or anything," Rose, 26, says. "I got into Dean more on the level of how he thought and directed himself rather than the fact, 'Hey, I'm going to go out and get a red jacket and a white T-shirt and be him.'

"I was (intrigued) by a lot of the ways Dean went about his acting ... his seriousness about his career. I took a lot of those things to heart. I thought it was one of the best teach-ing books I've ever read."

If it's unusual to hear the leader of rock's latest "bad boy" brigade talk about dedication to craft, it's just one tip-off that there is something quite special about this band and this singer.

Most hard rock-heavy metal groups deal in a corrupt brand of rock that panders to rather than challenges or inspires its audiences. They are heavy on rebellious rhetoric and maverick posturing, but often void on imagination or genuine emotion.

However, Guns N' Roses — whose debut album has sold more than 6 million copies — is a band that stands apart from the loud, but faceless herd. After building such an intimidating reputation for rude and rowdy behavior that some record company scouts branded them simply incorrigible, they were signed by Geffen Records in 1986.

The debut album, "Appetite for Destruction" was filled with songs about the usual hard-rock topics: sex and drugs and wildness. Instead of simply celebrating hedonism, the group's songs speak of temptations and consequences — and there is a sharp eye for social hypocrisy.

On stage, Rose — an Indiana native who moved here around 1980 and quickly got caught up in the volatile and often decadent Los Angeles hard-rock scene — comes across as an individual rather than a macho caricature despite all the normal hard-rock trimmings: tat-toos on his arms, black leather pants, long blond hair and a motor-cycle cap on stage. To some, he is the most interesting and charisma-tic figure on the local scene since Jim Morrison.

Asked where the band gets ideas for the songs, Rose says flatly, "Our life. ... This band (grew up) on the streets of this town and that's where these songs are (rooted)."

He points to "Welcome to the Jungle," a track from "Appetite for Destruction" that was used in the latest "Dirty Harry" film. The song includes the lines:

"We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey
We got your disease."

About the song, Rose says, "We were living in Hollywood and we were starving, yet we were able to do our hair up or whatever, put on the right (rock 'n' roll) clothes and go to the Rainbow (bar in West Hollywood).

"The next thing you know, you've got a rich person standing next to you, wanting to know where the girls are or where the drugs are. ... Whatever they needed, we could lead them to it ... though we often didn't have money to get it ourselves."

If life on the street provided much of the themes for the "Appetite" album, Rose — who writes most of the band's lyrics — said his writing style has been shaped by reading novelists like Stephen King or the late Philip K. Dick, whose "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was the basis for the film "Blade Runner."

"I was really into early Stephen King." Rose recalls. "He was writing science fiction or horror stories, but he made everything seem so realistic that you felt it could really happen. The stories were up-to-date and sometimes very brutal in their frankness.

"That's what you need if you are going to write about the street. You have to tell it the way it actually happened, including the language." Guns N' Roses has been criticized for its blunt language, especially a song in the new "GN'R Lies" album that is punctuated with graphic epithets about blacks, gays and others. A sticker on the front of the album warns of potentially offensive material.

"We were aware of what kind of flak we were going to get, which is why I put an apology right on the cover of the record." he says. "Living on the streets you go through a lot of hard times and a lot of my hard times were with people of different races or different beliefs. I haven't anything against those people. I'm not a racist. The songs are just Ian account) of what happened to us. If you change the words or soften them, you change the truth "
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