BLINK, and you’ll miss a band being compared to the Rolling Stones. Everyone from the Monkees to Crowded House to your local pub group have probably been likened so the Beatles on different occasions. But it’s a tough job being compared to the Rolling Stones. The Stones don’t just represent a musical watershed. The Stones were not so much a reflection of modern rock’n’roll music as of modern rock’n’roll, full stop. Of sleaze, of self abuse, of arrogance, of cockiness, and, consequently, of genius.
And that’s why Guns N’Roses have attracted the hallowed comparison. They personify decadence with their attitude and look, and institutionalise it with their music. So far, they’ve inherited the kingdom so many wanted — W Axl Rose and his band of street kids not only purport to be bad guys, they are.
They admit to having sold drugs to the “second Stones”, Aerosmith. The five Gunners lived in a small studio for months, burning drumsticks as firewood and holding parties fur pimps and drug pushers in a parking lot next door. They courted record companies just for the free meals.
And like classically inconsiderate rock’n’roll bands, they have stories to back up their boasts. Chicago: Axl punches a businessman in a bar who calls him a Jon Bon Jovi lookalike; Philadelphia; Axl gets in a fight with a parking lot attendant and is jailed but is released in time to sing; Hamburg: the guitarist Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan beat up Faster Pussycat’s drummer, wrap him in tape and leave him in an elevator; Saratoga Springs: a riot is narrowly avoided when 25,000 fans threaten to invade the stage.
According to one wag: “Guns N’Roses are what every other LA band pretends to be”.
The songs on Appetite For Destruction, which at last count had sold six million copies in the US alone, were written by juvenile delinquents with plenty of anger and not much time for airs and graces. It’s effacing, rude, piercing and, to many, unlistenable. But it’s not pretentious
The vinyl insolence has only been magnified, or rather immortalised, by the album’s fearless escapades through wimp-infested charts. It hung around like a literal bad smell until a sobering ballad called “Sweet Child O’Mine” started to surface and propelled the long-player to number one in the US. The single followed suit. The fortune was made, the immediate future assured, the bandwagon jumped.
Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy, Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan and Steven Adler now face a new battle just as tough as those they faced when they were penniless on the streets of LA: how to be millionaires and still sound angry and damn mad.
They will get drunk on cheap wine and get in trouble. And the time-honoured American fascination with young kids who go from the basement to the penthouse only keeps pushing them to a higher penthouse.
“I don’t care if people think we’ve got a bad attitude,” says guitarist Stradlin. “We’re the only band to come out of LA that’s real. And the kids know it.”
Led by unkempt, defiant and certified manic depressive Axl Rose, Guns N’Roses have entranced a generation looking for heroes who don’t have their photos taken in Mercedes. A Guns N’Roses t-shirt is almost as common in the western suburbs of Australian cities as a CD player in the affluent areas.
They sold out two shows in Melbourne and 5500 tickets in the first hour in Sydney.