Monday, April 25, 2005

Last week’s karaoke tale prompted this two-part story, called...

Why I Like -- and Hate -- Guns N’ Roses

(Part 1)

It all started in the ‘80s -- the best decade in the history of history. That was the era that brought us countless Steven Bochco shows, three Indiana Jones movies and two versions of “Der Kommissar”.

Times were a-changin’ and so was I. That period also brought scrawny Mikey-boy a deeper voice, shoulders, facial hair, and a relentless fascination with the opposite sex. Yeah, I was becoming a man, and needed to chisel out a new identity for my manly self.

What sort of rugged ruffians should I emulate in order to impress the girls? Well, shouldn’t be difficult to figure that out. Technology brought us a research tool that wasn’t available in previous generations: MTV. Let’s see what the videos offered in male pop icons...

Michael Jackson... Prince... Boy George...


I couldn’t do it. Sorry. Maybe others could moonwalk their way through adolescence, wear a Raspberry Beret or Karma their Chameleon. Not me. I spent enough years with a soprano voice. And don’t tell me to Relax. I didn’t give a shit what Frankie says.

I turned to heavy metal. Yeah, sometimes those dudes wore silly outfits, but their music seemed tough enough. It was loud and dark and appealed to angry hormonal teenage boys like me. The songs were all about Breaking the Law, Rocking Like a Hurricane, Barking at the Moon and Girls, Girls, Girls.

For a while, it seemed just right. I grew my hair long, went to Motörhead and Metallica concerts, and if you thought I was gonna get tired banging my head, You Got Another Thing Coming.

But then somewhere, somehow, it got away from me. I blinked and the whole thing changed. People said to me, “Oh, you're into heavy metal? Like... Poison and Warrant and Nelson and Cinderella?”

No... No. NO. NO!

How did this happen? Do we blame Bon Jovi and Def Leppard? Good rock bands who attracted the chicks ‘cause they were almost as pretty as ‘em? Where was the scary imagery? The raw rebelliousness? The Satan worship?

It was a disappointing time in my life. I felt betrayed.

I still watched music television, but without much enthusiasm. “Yo! MTV Raps” was cool. Otherwise it seemed to be nothing but that fucking “Remote Control” or Bono trying to look like Jesus... Ho-hum...

Oh, look, there’s yet another pretty-boy group. “Guns N’ Roses”. Their band name is weapons and flowers. See? They’re tough... but touching... Yeah, right. It’s all Money for Nothing. Check out the ugly dude with his eye-liner and teased-up hair...

Wait a minute... This “Welcome to the Jungle” song... it’s good. In fact, it rocks.

And when they released their power ballad, it wasn’t some insipid “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. No, “Sweet Child Of Mine” actually had quality guitar work by Slash, decent lyrics, and a hard edge from beginning to end. I really enjoyed when they broke down into that “where do we go now?” part.

I went out and bought Appetite for Destruction. I still say that it’s one of the best albums of the decade. And at the time, I thought maybe Axl Rose and his crazy crab-dance (stolen liberally from the Monkees and Aerosmith) may have saved rock n’ roll...

A year later, they released an EP. I bought it right away. Then I listened to it. The songs were okay... but what was with those lyrics? “One in a Million” -- bitching about gays, blacks, immigrants...

In an interview, Axl tried to defend himself, which only made it worse. Classic demonstration of prejudice. He had one bad encounter with someone of each of these groups, so he condemned them entirely. Something about arriving in LA at the bus station and immediately getting hassled by street hustlers, many of whom were black. As if that justifies calling them “niggers”. What an asshole.

I never had a big politically correct chip on my shoulder, and I don’t expect rock stars to be the most enlightened people on the planet, but the whole incident was still repugnant. And Axl continued to get in trouble. Run-ins with the law, violence against women, acting like a primadonna and refusing to perform at concerts people paid big money for...

I came to hate Guns N’ Roses. People seemed to forgive and forget, chalking it up to the fact that half the band was fucked up on drugs and their lead singer was clearly chemically imbalanced. I might have been able to get past it all, too.

Until Axl Rose made it personal...

(to be continued)


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