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14. NOVEMBER 1991-APRIL 1992: THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD

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14. NOVEMBER 1991-APRIL 1992: THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD - Page 2 Empty Re: 14. NOVEMBER 1991-APRIL 1992: THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD

Post by Soulmonster on Sat Jun 13, 2020 6:51 pm

APRIL 20, 1992
THE FREDDIE MERCURY BENEFIT CONCERT


FANS OF QUEEN


The English band Queen was one of Axl's [Interview with Steve Harris, December 26, 1987], Slash's [Countdown, May 1992] and Gilby's [MTV, July 17, 1992] favorite bands, and also inspirational to Axl and his vision for Guns N' Roses.

One night I discovered Queen. They had what rock 'n' roll wasn’t supposed to have: technique. They were a perfect combination of technique and rock 'n' roll. I read about them, and their tours, and their great success in Japan. I got piano sheet music of their songs, and, since my parents were clueless, when they forced me to practice, I could play what I wanted, like Queen, the Beatles and the Stones. They thought I was practicing my daily lesson and had a satisfied smile on their face.
Popular 1, April 1988; interview from October 19878, translated from Spanish


Steven would also mention Queen's drummer, Roger Taylor, as one of the drummers he had learnt from [Superstar Facts & Pics No. 16, 1988]. Axl also considered Queen's Freddy Mercury [Rockline, November 27, 1991; The Interview Magazine, May 1992] and Brian May [Rock Scene, April 1988] huge influences and had hosted a 20th anniversary special of Queen [Rockline, November 27, 1991].

But if I didn’t have Freddie Mercury’s words and lyrics to hold on to as a kid, I don’t know where I would be. And that was, you know, probably... I don’t necessarily know what form of influence it is, but it taught me about all forms of music. You know, I’d get a Queen record and hate half of the songs and then... But [I’d] force myself to listen to them, to learn about that type of music, and it would open my mind more and more. And I really never had a bigger teacher, you know, in my whole life. […] instead of going to school to learn about music, I listened to Queen.


Already in 1987 before 'Appetite' was released, Axl would draw comparisons in their music to Queen and how Queen had not limited themselves "into one frame" but instead "found a way to bring it all out" [Kerrang! June 1987]. Axl would reiterate this to Rolling Stone in 1989 [Rolling Stone, August 10, 1989]. Later in 1987 Axl would say that the album 'Queen II' is among the best recorded albums in the world and one of his favorite records [Interview with Steve Harris, December 26, 1987; Rock Scene Magazine, June 1988; Rolling Stone, August 10, 1989].

Then, on November 24, 1991, Freddy Mercury died of AIDS-related illness.

Axl would be asked about the death:

Freddie Mercury’s death was just something I’d actually been preparing for since I’d heard about the AIDS thing. My impression of Freddie was that he wanted this world to be a place where, you know, it was kind of a heaven on earth and you could do what you wanted as long as you weren’t hurting anybody, and that was like a great dream. So about drugs and promiscuity, I guess that’s up to each individual, and if you’re not hurting yourself or hurting someone else in however you’ve got to get through things - you know, whatever you need to survive - I’m not the one to make judgement calls on that.


What Axl didn't say was that he been trying to help Mercury as he struggled with AIDS, as revealed by Brian May later:

I mean, Axl was very involved towards the end of Freddie’s life. You know, Axl was trying very hard to find a way to cure Freddie. I had talked to him a lot.

I’ve known them for a while, particularly Axl, who was a great fan of Freddie’s. He was very concerned and wanted to help — he knew Freddie was ill long before most people. Axl and I were in touch quite a lot before the end. I have a very high regard for him and I don’t think people should believe too much of what they read.
The Vancouver Sun, March 25, 1993



TROUBLE WITH ACT UP


For the April 20, 1992, tribute concert to fight AIDS and remember Mercury, Guns N' Roses was invited to play [Santa Ana County Register, March 2, 1992]. Due to assumed verses in 'One in a Million' and quotes from band members, the inclusion of GN'R in the tribute concert was controversial. The London branch of ACT UP said they would try to get the 70,000 large audience to boo Guns N' Roses unless Axl publicly apologized [Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1992]:

John Campell from ACT UP:

We will accept Guns N' Roses (on the bill) when they have a press conference and publicly denounce everything they've said about AIDS and homophobia. […] We want the words, 'We were wrong. We're sorry. They've been responsible for misinformation about AIDS. Their homophobic attitude creates an atmosphere of ignorance and intolerance.


And if they didn't apologize:

We will ask artists to put pressure on the show's management to remove (Guns N' Roses) from the billing. If management refuses we won't ask anyone not to appear, but for Guns to be snubbed by the other artists, and we'll ask for people to boo the band off the stage.


GN'R's management issued the following statement in reply: "We're disgusted by ACT UP's lack of sensitivity in trying to politicize this tribute. Perhaps they should read Axl Rose's comments in the new issue of Rolling Stone for a more enlightened perspective. We refuse to be their pawn" [Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1992].

When asked in March whether GN'R would perform at the tribute concert, Slash would say they would [Rockline, March 1992] and would comment on the criticism:

I never would have thought that we were gonna get that kind of flak. […] They’re trying to get us off the bill or basically sabotage the gig. I don’t know exactly what they want to do, you know, or what they’re really shooting for it, cuz it sounds so screwy in the first place. I don’t think they really know what they wanna do, themselves. […] I know they’ll go to press with it and keep it up all the way until show day, but I don’t want to get into the whole subject. I mean, we’re doing it for – the reasons that we’re doing it was, you know, for Freddie Mercury and not... I don’t know how to explain it. We just wanted to play the gig and we were asked to do it, you know, by the Queen people, and we’ve been supported by all the other bands that are playing. So we’re gonna play it, yeah - if that answers the question. […]. It’s just screwy stuff to have to deal with. It’s like, every single day it’s like, “Oh yeah, right, okay. We’re gonna deal with this now.


Slash rehearsed before the tribute concert:

Well, I went down and rehearsed, because I was playing "Tie Your Mother Down" with Queen. So I went down. I mean, I was already in London for a little while anyway, and I went down to rehearsal, and we played it a few times. But as far as the rest of it goes, it was just a typical Guns N’ Roses thing, where no one is rehearsing (laughs).


Backstage before the tribute concert Slash would talk more about the event:

But things come up and we were like, well, yeah, we’d like to get involved and try and do something to help it out. But then it turns around on us, right? And they got, like, all these gay activist groups and jumped on our case for being involved with this, to the point where there was a question as to whether or not was even safe for us to do this gig. And finally we just said, screw it, let’s just do it, you know. Whatever. I hope we don’t get shot or anything. […] I don’t know what they’re so uptight about. They were saying they were gonna do whatever they could to sabotage our part of the show and they totally attacked the whole Queen Organization for allowing us on the bill and all this stuff. And I’m like... It is never ending, you know? It’s always something, it’s, like, so ridiculous.


Slash would also mention being a fan of Queen:

Well, yeah. I mean, it was one of the bands that I was definitely leaned on. And at rehearsal for this thing the other day, it was great. I mean, I was like a little kid when we got up and played Tie Your Mother Down with Brian May.



THE TRIBUTE CONCERT


At the tribute concert Guns N' Roses would play 'Paradise City' and 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door'. In addition, Axl would perform 'Bohemian Rhapsody' with Elton John and Queen, and 'We Will Rock You' with Queen, and Slash would perform 'Tie Your Mother Down' with Queen and Joe Elliott.


Slash
April 20, 1992


After the tribute show the band members would talk more about Queen and the concert:

Well, Queen was just one of those bands that we were really into. I mean, it’s one of a handful of bands when I was my teens coming up and getting into this whole thing. You know, they were a, sort of like, model, that this is the model band. And Freddie was, like, an awesome talent as the rest of them all. And the fact that he’s not here is a real drag, you know, and I’m not into it. […] Everybody that bought tickets and all the bands involved, it’s a celebration of Freddie, the fact that he has ever existed. And it’s also because the AIDS thing is really heavy, you know? Especially for us musicians. It’s even different for us, because it’s really screwing up our whole... (laughs). I mean, you know how rock guys are. But it’s something that people really need to be aware of and, like, at least have a certain kind of etiquette of how they handle themselves, because it’s different now than it was a few years [ago].

They asked us.  And we jumped at the chance, because - I mean, at first we really wanted to do it and then there was a period of not being sure. There was this whole, you know, gay activist thing that was going against us. And we just decided to do it anyway. But we grew up with Queen, and as far as - you know, that’s one of the main bands that we were influenced by. So of course we were excited about it. […] I’d never met [Mercury] before, actually. I’d met Brian May before though, that’s about it.

To play with [Queen] and with the whole thing, it was just awesome. Something that I’ve never, ever dreamed that we would do.

The idea behind the whole concert, the fact that it was completely sold out before they knew who was on the bill – talking about the public – and it sold out in the way to give a sort of certain kind of energy to the AIDS awareness thing, especially in the rock ‘n’ roll circle. And losing Freddie to it was, you know, like a catastrophe. And it turned everybody’s heads around. Having everybody show up at the concert for that cause was great. And then all the bands that were there. There was none of that sort of rock star – you know, who’s who of rock vibe going on. So we all had a basically good time and it was really well organized.

It was an honor just being asked to do it . . . sort of like being put on the map by people we had admired for years. But the experience was even much deeper than that.

Being the type of band that we are, the last thing we wanted to know about a few years ago was AIDS. Like most people, we thought it was only a problem for needle pushers and homosexuals, which meant we didn't have to worry about it. I was still as promiscuous as hell.

But then it started getting closer to home and everybody had to start being aware of the dangers . . . homosexuals, heterosexuals; people were even starting to get it from their dentists or whatever. That slowed my trip down a lot, but it didn't really hit home until Freddie died of AIDS because he was this huge icon in our minds.

To walk out on that stage in front of 75,000 or 80,000 people was a very emotional experience. It was like all of us in rock 'n' roll, the artists and the audience, were saying we did care and we are responsible for each other. It was a great sense of community that day and it touched something in me.

The Queen thing was something! It was really special to just be a part of that. To just come down and pay your tribute to Freddy, and to help AIDS awareness, was just an incredible thing. Getting to meet everybody was great too — there was so much pressure on those three guys (remaining members of Queen) and I couldn't believe they handled it the way they did, which was with class and style. They were unbelievable — it was a very emotional day. When we came back just to play the place ourselves we asked Brian to come up and play with us.

The Queen gig was the most humbling experience of my life. It was f?!king intense. When we first met Brian May last summer, it was wild. None of us would let him out of the room. He's one of the nicest people I've met. When we did "Bohemian Rhapsody," that was unrehearsed. Brian asked me to do it that day, and it felt right. I spoke to Elton before the show, and he was kind of uneasy about meeting me - you know, I'm supposed to be the most homophobic guy on Earth. When we talked, I was excited, but serious, telling him how much his music meant to me. By the end he was like "Whoa." Onstage I was trying to be as respectful to him as I could. I was purposely vibing out, and if you look close, you can see it at times, how much I love and respect I have for Elton. There was some heavy eye contact going down. It was amazing. MTV's John Norris kept saying, "This could be the last time you'll ever see Elton John and Axl Rose together onstage." Not if I have anything to do with it. […]

I want to learn more [about AIDS] and start helping people. Freddie Mercury's death is a marker in my life that says there's no turning back, and I'm going to do whatever I can to inform the public about certain things. We can't sit idly and hope someone will change things and hope things will be alright. There are alternative forms of medicine that are having high success rates in treating AIDS victims. There's things like vibrational medicine, oxygen-ozone therapy, there's homeopathic medicines, there are Chinese medicines and different forms of vitamins. The government is denying the public this information. That's because the government, the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars off of people dying. The FDA invests money in companies they've supposed to be regulating - that makes no sense. Over the last 50 years there have been different cures for different illnesses that have been kept from us. Freddie Mercury's death made me want to fight for people to have the right to know about these alternative treatments. Everyone has got a God-given right to health, and it's being denied by power-hungry, greedy people who want control.


Brian May would also talk about the impact of Guns N' Roses being part of the show:

It was the first time, for instance, that a band like Guns N’ Roses, (which is) regarded as the very macho end of the spectrum, (got involved). . .the fact that they were involved made people realize it was not just the gay sector of the community that needed to worry. That was a very important turning point in England. It achieved a lot. […] We got flak for having them a bit, but to me the fact that they’re there says it all. It shows their hearts are in the right place, and both Axl and Slash did a lot of TV here to emphasize how they felt.
The Vancouver Sun, March 25, 1993


And Slash would talk about whether the public opinion about the band had shifted as a result of them participating at the Mercury tribute show:

I think there was a general realization about the AIDS situation for everybody involved, you know. Especially the crowd. To see - I don’t know what you’d call it - currently popular musicians in the music business getting up there making a statement, especially in demise of Freddie Mercury, and seeing that happening and finally admitting to the fact that AIDS does exist. Because of all the sort of - oh, I don’t know what the word for it is - you know, the gays had to deal with it, and then it started to be a heterosexual thing, but all the bands just did not want to even know about it, because, if you think about it, that’s, like, one of the things that goes with the territory that we really enjoy, sex (laughs). Anyway, so we finally all came to terms with it and everybody in the crowd realized that it’s not something you can ignore, you know? And it was a cool feeling to see everybody - I mean, I hate to say that something positive came out of somebody dying, but it’s something positive to come out of it, and, to everybody there seeing it, it was seeing how everybody felt. It was really cool, it’s a good vibe.


In July 1992, Duff would say the Freddie Mercury tribute concert had been one of his most memorable shows [MTV, July 17, 1992]. Gilby would concur:

That was probably, singly, probably the best experience that I ever had being in the band. Because, number one, I mean, it's like a tragic thing happened that we were there, you know, but it was a positive cause? And I thought it was very, very heart-moving. You know, I couldn't believe the response of a stadium filled with people. It almost didn't matter what band was up there, as long as you were playing a Queen song ŸŸ or, you know, you were there for Freddie Mercury. It was just incredible.



Guns N' Roses
April 20, 1992



MORE OUTRAGE


Despite the show being a success, the gay pressure group Outrage would continue to protest after the event, and in particular claim that Axl during a show in Houston [January 9, 1992] had told fans, "to go out and massacre the queers in the gay ghettoes of cities around the world" [Kerrang! April 25, 1992]. Unfortunately we don't have access to audio recording from this Houston show, but it does seem extremely unlikely that Axl would ever have uttered anything like that. Outrage would also cite a Rolling Stone interview where Axl supposedly had said he liked to "beat up faggots after a concert, to relieve stress". We have not been able to find this Rolling Stone interview, nor any other interview with Axl where he has expressed anything close to it. The rumor that Axl had said this likely originates with a Houston Chronicle review from January 10, 1992.
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Post by Soulmonster on Sat Jun 13, 2020 6:57 pm

BECOMING GOOD FRIENDS WITH BRIAN MAY


One Queen member that Guns N' Roses became tight friends with was the guitarist Brian May. Slash had met May after their August 1991 show at Wembley [The Guardian, September 12, 1991]. May had made a singularly positive impression on both Slash and Axl:

I’m trying to get to the point where I can get known as a good guitar player as opposed to the drunken drug guy. I met Brian May after Wembley and he gave me a lot of compliments. He was really sweet.

And [May]’s, like, one of the sweetest guys. Really easy to get along with and really gracious, you know. There’s no pop star attitude and no errors going around. This whole gig is gonna be really cool.

When we first met Brian May last summer, it was wild. None of us would let him out of the room. He's one of the nicest people I've met.

Oh, [May]’s awesome, yeah. I mean, that goes without saying. I didn’t think that could be a question (laughs).



Slash and Brian May
April 20, 1992


The band's friendship with Brian May would lead to him being invited to open up for the band on shows at the Skin N' Bones tour of 1993. For the very last show, though, the band would end up using Suicidal Tendencies as the opener, and when an interviewer suggested this was a much better choice of opener than "worthless" May, Duff would respond:

Shhh ... Shhh ... Be quiet, be quiet. Axl is around here. (laughs).


In addition, Axl would invite May to play on at least one song for the album 'Chinese Democracy' that would eventually be released in 2008, although by then May's contribution had been replaced [see later chapters].

In early 1993 May would talk about Axl:

I’ve had a lot of long conversations with Axl. I have a great admiration for them all as a band and as individuals. But I have this fatherly feeling, particularly for Axl. Axl is hard to handle for a lot of people. That makes him vulnerable. He’s a very honest person. I feel a great love for the guy.
Des Moines Register, March 23, 1993
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Post by Soulmonster on Sat Jun 13, 2020 7:00 pm

AXL AND ELTON JOHN


In addition to honoring the late Freddie Mercury, the tribute concert allowed Axl to share the stage with one of his childhood idols, Elton John [Concert Shots, May 1986; Audio interview with Axl and Slash, June 1987; Rolling Stone, August 10, 1989; MTV 1989; Kerrang! April 1990; Musician, June 1992]:

Elton John is it. It’s like, yeah, his...  especially the first seven albums.  Bernie Taupin to me is the  best lyric writer that’s ever lived on the face of the earth. And Elton John was just amazing in the studio and the recording of everything. Some of it is so art. I mean, to me, that's my classical music, because some of his stuff is classical, you know, and I listen to Elton John all the time. […] I'm always supposed to meet them. I think they're the only two people I'm, like, nervous to meet.  (Chuckles) You know, and it's like, something always comes up, I don't feel (?), I just can't meet them.

I was way influenced by Elton John. I got all his sheet music as a kid and everything, and figured, “Wow, this stuff is pretty technical. I can't play it, but I'll learn how to fake it real good” (laughs). So, it's like, instead of doing, like, you know, five finger things on the left hand and then how to do octaves killer. That's a lot easier (laughs).

I mean, Freddie Mercury and Elton John are, like, two of the biggest Influences in my whole life. And probably always will be. If someone asked me if I could have anything in the world, what would l want? If l could own anything, like owning a piece of art, l think it would be Elton John's publishing, on his first seven albums. I don't want the money. Being able to own those songs is like owning a painting of someone you admire.


Axl and Elton John had tried to do something together before:

Well, we’ve been asked to do a pay-per-view show with him. But with the Izzy thing, it kind of messed up rehearsals, so I don’t know if we will do that or not. But if we can, we’ve been asked to do some things. And, you know, fitting it into our schedule, we’re trying to do it. So, hopefully, something will happen at one point with Elton.


And when it happened it was great:

I spoke to Elton before the show, and he was kind of uneasy about meeting me - you know, I'm supposed to be the most homophobic guy on Earth. When we talked, I was excited, but serious, telling him how much his music meant to me. By the end he was like "Whoa." Onstage I was trying to be as respectful to him as I could. I was purposely vibing out, and if you look close, you can see it at times, how much I love and respect I have for Elton. There was some heavy eye contact going down. It was amazing. MTV's John Norris kept saying, "This could be the last time you'll ever see Elton John and Axl Rose together onstage." Not if I have anything to do with it.



Elton John and Axl
April 20, 1992


Elton John would also comment on meeting Axl:

I heard that he had problems with the people in ACT UP, but I thought if he was willing to come on the show that we should make him feel at home, which is why I put my arm around him. We all say and do things we regret. I met him before the show and he seemed quite gentle, and I very much like some of his music.

In this business, I don't care who you are. There are Jekyll and Hyde characters in us all. There's not one performer who can't be an absolute animal at times. You have to be pretty strange to want to be a performer.

There must be a need to want to be loved. I'm not a psychiatrist, but there is something very vulnerable in most performers. Just listen to Axl's songs. I understand the nightmare of being a performer. There are fantastic moments, and there are dangerous, life-consuming ones. The art is to find a balance. And I'm glad I got a second chance.
Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1992


Elton John would also at one point talk about the accusations against Eminem being homophobic, and state:

I don’t think [The Marshall Mathers LP is] homophobic in the least. Axl [Rose] went through this thing as well, and every time I’ve met Axl he couldn’t have been nicer to me. He inducted me into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. . . . I just think Eminem has made a really fantastic album. Rock ‘n’ roll has always supposed to have been about pushing the buttons, hasn’t it?


Elton would also talk about Axl in his biography:

I had got in touch with [Axl] when he was being ripped apart in the press: I know how lonely it can feel when the papers are giving you a kicking, and I just wanted to offer some support. We got on great and ended up performing "Bohemian Rhapsody" together at the Freddie Mercury Tribute gig. I got a lot of flak for that, because a Guns N' Roses song called "One In A Million" had homophobic lyrics. If I'd thought it reflected his personal views, I wouldn't have touched him. But I didn't – I thought it was pretty obvious the song was written from the point of view of a character who wasn't Axl Rose. It was the same with Eminem: when I performed with him at the Grammys, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation gave me a really hard time, but it was obvious that his lyrics were about adopting a persona – a deliberately repugnant persona at that. I didn't think either of them were actually homophobes any more than I thought Sting was actually going out with a prostitute called Roxanne, or Johnny Cash actually shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Elton John's biography, 2019
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