I recently celebrated my birthday. I am sad to report that nobody gave me any of the three gifts which I really wanted.
For those who don’t know, the three gifts are:
1. Have Pluto reinstated as a planet.
2. A reunion of the Appetite for Destruction lineup of Guns N’ Roses. I am even willing to make a slight concession and allow Matt Sorum on drums instead of Steve Adler.
3. The Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl.
Obviously, the third one can’t happen until February, although I am cautiously optimistic about this year’s team’s chances. My biggest concern is that their fate largely hinges on Michael Vick. While Vick has proven to be one of the most exciting players to watch, there is not much evidence showing that he can be the quarterback of a championship team.
As far as Pluto goes, NASA seems to be pretty adamant about not re-classifying it any time soon. They seem to be preoccupied with the whole Mars probe thing.
So then…was there any chance that GNR would get back together?
It doesn’t appear that way. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame couldn’t reunite them, then I don’t think that my birthday will do it either.
Since the Appetite for Destruction album is 25 years old this year, I figured I’d take a look at perhaps the greatest band of all time. Maybe we’ll even figure out if Slash is relevant anymore.
Like many things in my life, my love of GNR started out at summer camp. Some days, my campmates would bring in various cassette tapes and we’d listen to them.
I don’t remember all of the tapes that we listened to, but I definitely remember Appetite for Destruction. That was some bad ass music. I may not have understood exactly who Mr. Brownstone was, but I knew that the song rocked.
Every year, the camp would have an MTV Day in which the various age groups would come up with live “music videos” to popular songs. In 1989, my group did “Guns N Roses vs. Tone Loc.” Yes, that’s right, Tone Loc.
Naturally, there was a big fight over who got to be Axl and Slash. I wasn’t that familiar with the band members, so I didn’t care that much. Hence, I was cast as Steve Adler – the drummer. I was just happy to be a part of the group.
That August for my birthday, I was given two copies of the Batman soundtrack. For those who don’t remember, Batman was HUGE that year. Everyone wore Batman clothes and bought lots of merchandise, and for some reason, we thought Prince’s Batman-related music was cool. It wasn’t.
In case you don’t believe me:
As much as I liked Batman, I certainly didn’t need two copies of the soundtrack. I needed to exchange one of the Batman tapes, and when I picked out something to replace it with, I went with Appetite.
This proved to be a wise choice, as it quickly became my favorite album. I can say that I like just about every song on it. Oddly enough, the song I like the least is the one that is the most popular: Sweet Child of Mine.
Soon after, I obtained the band’s follow-up album Lies, which mostly consisted of songs that they had written during their pre-Appetite days. It didn’t quite match the awesomeness of Appetite, but it was still solid.
When the announcement was made that they would be releasing not one, but two albums in 1991, I was thrilled. I practically counted down the days until they were released.
That summer, we got an early peek at one of the songs from the album when You Could Be Mine was featured in the movie Terminator 2. It did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the albums.
Unfortunately, when Use Your Illusion I and II were released, I was not exactly flush with cash, so I was forced to make a decision. The reviews indicated that UYI II was the better of the two albums, and since that album contained You Could Be Mine, I purchased a tape of that one.
I’ll be honest: I was a bit disappointed at first. I guess I was expecting a repeat of the hair-metalish sound from AFD. While there were still some hard rocking songs, the band was trying new things too. There were lengthy power ballads and songs that bordered on rock opera.
I purchased Use Your Illusion I a few weeks later, and I enjoyed that album more than I did the other.
Despite not quite living up to my admittedly high expectations, I certainly played both tapes plenty of times. Over time, they began to grow on me, and they soon joined the ranks of my favorite albums.
Around this time, GNR was arguably the biggest band in the world. Whether you loved them or hated them, you certainly couldn’t say that they weren’t newsworthy.
They got an immense amount of airplay on MTV thanks to their elaborate music videos. They were frequently in the news thanks to feuds with other bands (Nirvana and Metallica), riots at their concerts (the band is not fond of St. Louis), and Axl Rose’s generally rock star-like behavior.
It seemed like the band might have gotten so caught up with being rock stars that they stopped making music. Sure, there was an unmemorable all-covers album, but after that came nothing.
There were constant rumors that a new album would soon be coming out, but those turned out to only be rumors. Years went by, and the next GNR album never came.
Instead of a new album, all we ever got was news that yet another member had left the group. Eventually, Axl Rose was the only member from the Appetite for Destruction days left. Apparently, he can be quite difficult to work with.
It says a lot when people consider Scott Weiland to be a more stable alternative as a lead singer. I mean, when I first heard about Velvet Revolver, my first reaction was: Scott Weiland is still alive?
Meanwhile, GNR brought in a variety of new musicians to replace the old crew, including a guitar player known for wearing a bucket on his head. Seriously.
Finally, after years of speculation and resignation that it would never actually arrive, in Fall of 2008, Chinese Democracy was released. Was it good? I don’t know if good is the right word to describe it.
The biggest positive the album has going for it is that it sounds like a Guns N’ Roses album, mostly because Axl’s voice has not changed much over the years. As long as Axl is wailing away, you can at least accept that “Yes, this is Guns N’ Roses I’m listening to.”
There are a few highlights. The title track is enjoyable enough, Better is pretty badass, and I would put I.R.S. on my list of best GNR songs. But the album is way too heavy on long, rambling ballads. It seems like they wanted most of the songs to sound like November Rain or Estranged.
Of course what myself and the rest of the fans really want is for Slash and Duff to rejoin the band, but Axl seems determined to promote the current lineup as the “real Guns N’ Roses” and has no interest in a reunion of the Appetite for Destruction lineup.
Then again, as the saying goes: Money talks and bulls*** walks. If the right offer is presented, I’m sure we could one day see Axl, Slash, and the rest happily performing together on stage.
Sadly, that day has not yet come. So it looks like my birthday wish will once again go unfulfilled. Sigh.
Anyway, here are my Top Five Guns N’ Roses Songs That Do Not Have Music Videos:
5. My Michelle – Great guitar riff on this one.
4. Bad Apples – I think if they had made a video and promoted this song it could have been a hit.
3. I.R.S. – Easily the best song on Chinese Democracy. It shows you that Axl is still capable of kicking ass.
2. Coma – This is GNR’s longest song, and back in the day, I actually thought up my own video for it, featuring Axl being chased around by the angel of death. That would have been pretty awesome.
1. Mr. Brownstone – Just do yourself a favor and don’t listen to the current lineup’s version of this song. Go listen to the version on Appetite for Destruction and you’ll be much happier for it.
By the way, in case you were wondering, my birthday present from Mrs. Cutter was a personalized cape, and it is awesome. Hooray for Mrs. Cutter!