Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer School of Rock - Guns and Roses

There are several albums in the world of music that belong firmly in my personal soundtrack, the running background music of my life thus far.

Appetite for Destruction is one of them, without doubt.

Oh, hi. We're doing the Summer School of Rock today and Guns and Roses are up.

I have a special place in my heart for them because they hit the scene at the exact time that music started to speak to me as more than just notes and words, but as stories told, heartbreak lived, angst documented. Axl was edgy, he was raw, he was the consummate bad boy.

He was pissed. He was angry. He was passionate. He was sexy as hell. And it all worked. The guy was clearly meant to be a front man for a rock band. Having Slash beside him only helped.

That man, a single spotlight, a guitar. Magic.

The band originally formed in 1985 in L.A. with Duff McKagan on bass, Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar and Steven Adler on drums. Slash, of course, rocked the lead guitar and delivered some of the most easily recognized solos in music history.

They've gone through a great many lineup changes, and as of today the only remaining original member is Axl.

That first album, Appetite of Destruction, contained their biggest single song ever, Sweet Child O'Mine. They arrived on the scene at a time when rock music had been dominated by hair bands, when pop music was all the rage, and are credited with helping to reestablish a pure rock sound again.

The album, the whole damn album, was just so good. Here. Get sucked into the vortex with me.

They followed up with G N' R Lies in 1988, which went to 2 on the Billboard charts.  That album didn't churn out as many singles, but did contain one of my personal favorites of theirs, Patience. You know, one of those songs that I still find myself coming back to at times when I need to hear it again.

Use Your Illusion I and II came out in 1991, immediately hitting the top of the charts. We all had these albums, right??? I think Metallica's Black Album and this duo were the first CDs I ever purchased.

The biggest hits from those albums were Live and Let Die and November Rain, the video for which became a piece of our culture on its own merits. And yeah, you have to watch the entire thing. The whole video. The shortened radio edit version just doesn't count.

The last album recorded with Slash and Duff was The Spaghetti Incident in 1993. It was not a wild commercial success, filled with covers and signaled the end of the band's greatest days. Chinese Democracy was released since then. They'd never again see the raging hits of their first years.

In their prime, they were controversial and made news all the time. They wrote songs about topics that pushed boundaries. They managed to piss off just about everyone at one point or another, which comes with the territory when you have loud, opinionated and outspoken members. They've been accused of being racist, of being homophobic and more. They've had serious struggles with drug abuse, with violence at shows, with showing up late, with rants and more. Axl is well known for carrying on about critics on stage.

Slash's departure was a volatile one, and Axl still refuses to deal with him at all. The tension is so bad that when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in the first year of eligibility) in 2012, Axl refused to attend. Slash, Duff, Adler and later members Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum were there for the ceremony.

They've never been short on passion or drama, that's for sure.

I suppose that we can always hope that Axl and Slash will at some point agree to be in the same vicinity of each other in the future, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Lightning doesn't strike the same spot twice, so they say.


The other bands and artists profiled already, in no particular order.

1 comment:

  1. Every word you wrote felt like you took it from my soul. I love GNR, I love Slash, I remember where I was when I first heard Sweet Child of Mine and every step to the skit my friends and I did to Paradise City when we were in the 6th grade. Patience still makes me cry and takes me back to a love long lost but not forgotten, never forgotten. There is not a memory of my life (1986 to current) that I can not tie to a GNR song. Some of my favorite memories ever are directly connected to a GNR song. I still own a vinyl copy of Appetite for Destruction and the t-shirt I wore the first time I saw the band in concert with Metallica at Mile High Stadium (it was 1992... I totally date myself). Thank You for sharing this piece with the masses and helping to share great music and great bands with the world.


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