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Monday, 7 October 2013

The Tragedy That is Axl Rose

So when I asked my fans (read Facebook friends) what my next blog should be about, The wussification of Kids or The Tragedy That is Axl Rose, wussification won hands down.  It even seems that poor Axl had a few haters...
This girl hates him so much, she has chosen to wear the shirt ironically.
What a hipster!
I quote...

"Has to be the children, the other doesn't exist."

"The wussification of children causes them to....turn out like Axl Rose! Parents everywhere are looking for a cure!"

"How Axl Rose has contributed to the wussification of children."

Poor Axl doesn't have a lot of fans left...  And while some might argue that he is a spoiled brat that brought a close to rock as we know it.  Let us take a step back, and look at the pure tragedy that is Axl Rose, and while he might not deserve our sympathy, nor certainly very few could empathize with the man, his life is a tragedy that Shakespeare himself might have a hard time envisioning.

The faces and perms of rock n' roll
Let me set the stage for our story...  The year is 1992, the 80's now over, and hair bands are on a steady decline from their hard rocking, makeup wearing heyday.  In the pop world the New Kids on the Block are at their apex, along with Marky Mark and Vanilla Ice.  (That is to say, bands which the average rocker would rather eat a shotgun rather than listen to for more than 3 minutes.)  While there are a few young bands getting their starts in Seattle, they hadn't really made waves to the mainstream.  Their glory days would be still upcoming.  That left very few options for those who enjoyed something a little more powerful on the rock side of the world.  While they certainly weren't the only good band at the time, the genre more or less belonged to the Californian rock band named Guns N' Roses and their eccentric lead singer Axl Rose.

Their albums in the 80's were HUGE!  "Appetite for Destruction" is still the number one debut album in the U.S. of all time, and holds up well.  At the time, their current offerings, the "Use Your Illusion" albums, were at the top of the charts for months, and pretty much everyone had a copy, or at least knew someone who did.  The upcoming concert tour with Metallica/Guns N' Roses was arguably the biggest thing going at the time.  They rocked hard, partied hard, and so did their fans.  They literally caused riots all over North America.  Axl was an international sex symbol, and infamous for his 'bad boy' temper tantrums.  He played by his own rules, and was loved and hated for it.  They were steamrolling their way through the music industry, top of their game and they showed no signs of stopping.

Now, let's take a break for a second...

I need to define something here...

And God said 'Let there be rock', and it was good.
Rock god(s) - The rare musicians whose music, attitude, showmanship define and transcend their generation.  They are held in the highest esteem by critics, the public, and fellow musicians alike, and inspire those that follow to greater heights.  They are beyond reproach, and can put out decades of mediocre music after their masterpieces have been released, and still maintain their respect and 'coolness'.  Their music will never die.

Now, I'm sure you can all think of a few of these folks.  Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, John Bonhom, Janice Joplin, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, Freddie Mercury, Tupac Shakur and of course Kurt Cobain  (who reportedly was listening to New Kids on the Block and the time of his death. (citation needed)).

Now you might notice that all these people are dead.  Most of them died in their prime, were mourned by all and declared geniuses by those who grieved their passing, and wept for the potential music that we would never hear.  When you think about it, it's a pretty exclusive list to be included on, the cream of the crop if you will.  (Also I know, I didn't name them all, don't get pissy if I missed your favourite.)

Rarer than current non-ironic Vanilla Ice fans.
But there is one more group in music, which is even more exclusive than this.  One that is so rare that only a handful of people have ever attained it.  It is the holy grail of every musician.  That is to be the living rock god.

Off the top of my head, I can think of very few...  Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Chuck Berry, Angus Young, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and maybe Ozzy.  We could also include John Lennon and Elvis in this list, although they are gone now, they lived to see they status of rock gods for a time.

Having said that, there are in comparison many rock legends out there, hell we could even say that Axl is amoungst them, but the living rock gods are the rarest of the rare, and practically an unattainable goal.

However, in the summer of 1992 the young band from California was staring the possibility of obtaining the highest plateau of rock in the face, and all signs pointed to that they couldn't miss.  Leading the charge was Axl himself.  This privliged young firecracker, whined and complained, threw temper tantrums, walked off the stage pouting, causing riots, and made his fans love him even more.  His stardom was blowing up faster than anyone could ever imagine, and he rode the wave of rock on a surfboard made from drugs, booze, ego, and loose chicks on his way to rock and roll divination.

Then this happened...

Worst. Album. Ever.
Guns N' Roses put out their follow up to the "Use Your Illusion" albums called "The Spaghetti Incident?" and their seemingly unstoppable momentum stopped.  Just like that it was over.  The album was unimaginably a disc full of covers, which for a band as big as this was inconceivable.  (And yes, it does mean what I think it means.)  What's worse, is that the covers were BAD covers of songs that rock fans loved.  This flop of an album may have been able to be weathered by the band in some circumstances, and possibly even a follow up comeback could have been conceivable, but unfortunately for GN'R, the release coincided with the break-out of a new genre of music which aimed directly at Axl's demographic.  Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Sir-Mix-A-Lot's new grunge sound scooped away all of Axl's fans, and more importantly, what should have been the next generation of Axl fans.

Artist's representation of GN'R in the mid nineties.
The timing of the of this couldn't be worse.  Being on top of the world, and flopping badly is bad enough, but to have never experienced failure as a band, to be told you were the best by everyone, and to have such a huge ego, created what the public could only describe as an epic implosion.  The band publicly ripped each other.  Everyone blamed everyone else.  Temper tantrums were thrown.  The band broke up and what was once a paragon or rock and roll rebellion disintegrated into ongoing joke fuel that was a late night talk show host's wet dream.

It was really that bad.

When all was said and done, Axl took his ball (the rights to the name Guns N' Roses), and went home.  That was the end of one of the biggest bands of the late 80's and early 90's.  Axl of course has tried to recreate it with new band members, as has the rest of the band without Axl; however the results have comeback with a resounding unremarkable.

Images for representation of  tragedy on Google suck.
So back to tragedy...  The resounding opinion about Axl Rose is that he is an whiny ego-maniac asshole, who got exactly what he deserved.  Remember however, I'm not asking you to feel bad for Axl, but to recognize his life as tragic.  To me, one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to come with micrometers of your dreams, and to have them pulled away.  To be able to smell, taste, feel them brush your finger tips as you stretch to grab them, and then to watch them fall away...  That is tragedy.

Think about this, if someone offered you to be able to taste the most amazing flavour in the world once and only once, with the knowledge that you could never taste it again, would you take it?  Consider, after tasting that, you know nothing you taste would ever come close to as good again.  Every flavour you now love would be spoiled by the memory of that one perfect flavour, and it would all pale by comparison.  As the memory of that exquisite taste faded, you would forever be haunted, searching and trying to attain that again and again, knowing that it is impossible.  That is a sad thought indeed, but at least you got to try the flavour....  Now imagine, if you made the agreement and then as you went to taste it, the sensation was pulled away from you as it approached your waiting tongue, and the essence of it's smell touched your taste buds, allowing the knowledge of the flavour without the pleasure of experience.  That, my friend, is tragedy.
Axl Rose then....

I'm not saying that Axl didn't have a fun ride up.  I'm not saying that his life wasn't way more fun and reckless than most of us dare imagine.  I'm also not saying that most musicians wouldn't give everything they had just to taste a fraction of Axl's experience.  What I'm saying is that Axl had the possibility of being a living rock god in his reach and he dropped it.  It brushed his fingertips, he smelt it's perfume, it may even of grabbed his ass, but then it disappeared.  It left only it's trace memory that Axl knows he can never attain, and he has to live the rest of his life in that knowledge.

The sad truth is, if Axl had died in 1992, he WOULD be a rock god right now.  It's unquestionable.  He didn't, and that ship has sailed.  Now the only thing Axl is, and can ever be is a tragic figure, destroyed by a life of excess, only ever wondering what could have been.

Now he takes solace in pie...

If you're interested on why Guns N' Roses crashed so hard, have a listen to this take by Jim Breuer...  It's hilarious, and bang on money with what happened.