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Music |ISSUE II

THE GREAT RED ROSE

By Adam Mars

Image Credit: http://nogoodforme.filmstills.org/blog/archives/2009/05/19/style_icon_axl.html

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Image Credit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/click-track/post/guns-n-roses-discography-reconsidered/2012/02/22/gIQA2GafTR_blog.html Photo: Ross Halfin

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Image Credit: http://www.gigwise.com/news/63393/Axl-Rose-P-Diddy-Marilyn-Manson-Music-Stars-Real-Names-Revealed

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Image Credit: http://nogoodforme.filmstills.org/blog/archives/2009/05/19/style_icon_axl.html

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After Axl Rose’s no-show at this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, we explain why the Guns N’ Roses front man is, was, and will always be more than we deserve.

Axl Rose doesn’t owe the world a damn thing. His contribution to Guns N’ Roses’ seminal debut album, Appetite For Destruction, far surpasses the cultural worth of thousands of musicians since its release over twenty years ago. But it’s no surprise when Axl and his most recent incarnation of Guns N’ Roses hit the road that fans and foes alike pose the question,

“Axl, what the hell have you done for me lately?”

People just can’t get past the fact that Slash doesn’t work at G’N’F’N’R anymore. And however shallow or sincere the resentment towards Axl runs, it seems like it’s not going away until God, Satan, or Dr. Drew gets those two on stage again… and not in a cage match.



Back in 2001, I had the privilege of seeing Guns’ first public performance in eight years and rumors about Axl were flying at insane levels, even by today’s Twitter junkie standards. So by the time Axl hit the stage, I was expecting a fat, bald, tone-deaf donkey to appear on stage and the dejected crowd to break for the poison Kool-Aid stand.



But what unfolded over the course of the show was something I’ll never forgetNot just because I chose to stick to legal stimulants and beer at the concert, but because Axl looked and sounded amazing. And for a few fleeting hours it seemed like Limp Bizkit and all the other lame groups that were ruling the airwaves were going to be rendered useless and return to their rightful jobs back at Sizzler.



And then the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards happened.​



Guns N’ Roses’ unannounced, secret performance was primed to be the most anticipated musical return of the new millennium. But for a guy who had mesmerized millions in his career, stole the show at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, and almost made spandex biker shorts cool, Axl just tanked. I mean, like Bill Buckner tanked.



Fast forward to 2006. The looming possibility of Chinese Democracy’s official release, after more than a decade in the studio and millions of dollars spent, came on the heels of Axl’s return to the road. And this time, his voice was back.



I saw two sold-out Guns shows in Los Angeles on that tour and to say Axl sounded kinda good is like saying Charlie Sheen kinda smokes crack. And as soon as Chinese Democracy was available, I was convinced that all would be well in rock n’ roll again.



And then Axl decided not to make a music video.



Axl Rose has never been one to downplay his own insanity. Just watch the video for “Don’t Cry” and you’ll see what I’m getting at. But music videos and Guns N’ Roses go together like Tommy Lee and kooky sex tapes. They are forever linked in the public’s perception of Guns N’ Roses because we simply can’t forget them.



Soon, Axl’s decision to play media recluse helped the album fall off the charts and sink back into obscurity faster than you can say flop. And when Guns N’ Roses eventually wrapped up their tour, many wondered if Axl would quietly disappear for another decade or if that was finally the end of the road for Axl Rose the musician.



Now it’s 2012. And once again Axl has embarked on a world tour with no new videos, no new songs, and still the same old questions arise. Is Slash in the band? Is his voice shot? Is he a fat, bald, tone-deaf donkey?



The latter concern seems to draw the most attention. In our TMZ-ridden state of gossip pettiness we really love to play Captain Obvious. So what if Axl isn’t the chiseled piece of redheaded perfection he once was? Axl is still out drinking booze, nailing supermodels, smoking cigs, nailing more supermodels, and doing what rich, single rock stars are supposed to do. I mean, why waste even a millisecond a day doing sit-ups when you could be eating Doritos and sleeping with a European goddess half your age?



But pipe dreams aside, the dude is 50 years old. Not surprisingly, there’s going to be some natural wear and tear on anyone who has been in Guns N’ Roses from day one. Still, he’s alive, relatively healthy, and still belting out some truly challenging material night in and night out. Hell, we’ve all taken a crack at “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on karaoke and we’re lucky if our friends even talk to us after we botch the living shit out of the song. 



So the next time you have the chance to see Axl perform, I advise you to please drop the Simon Cowell act, toss back a few beers, and enjoy one of God’s greatest gifts to rock music. Or don’t. Axl probably doesn’t care. He really sang “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Have you ever done anything that cool?



Adam Mars is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer. He recently had his first solo show entitled "The New Ex's" in New York City and is currently working on a collection of short stories about sex, drugs, rock n' roll, and shark attacks. Examples of his art can be viewed at www.adammars.net.



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