Guns n Roses
f course, by the time (William Bruce) Axl Rose was galloping stage left to stage right in a pair of hot pants, hollering like the lunatic asylum’s most weird, pathetic and scary resident, replete with beard and lumberjack shirt, we knew it was all over. In truth it was all over the moment Appetite For Destruction had its original cover pulled back to the safety of the inner sleeve (the infamous robot-rape illustration), though the crucifix-&-skulls that remained, as decidedly camp as it may have been (though still nothing on Poison or any other of a dozen hair-metal stooges), still managed to upset the people it was meant to upset (even if that was only really your gran).
Guns ‘n’ Roses existed at such high-octane velocity that burn out was never merely an option; it was always an inevitability. Quite how they therefore managed to fade away, promises of Chinese Democracy (Smile for the Reagan generation, to the power of ten) still reverberating around those ears desperate enough to want to hear it, a decade and a half of diminishing returns after that debut album struck home like a dozen Molotov cocktails drunk by a stage girl who’s pants are fated to be pulled down in the green room within 30 seconds of them off staging, is a mystery. Or a myth. You choose.
It’s in the way that fag dangled from Duff’s mouth, that needle from Izzy’s arm, that guitar from Slash’s shoulder, that JD bottle from Adler’s hand, that girl/immigrant/cop/parent from Axl’s clenched and hateful and impotent and childlike fist. We all know the stories, pissing on people during first-class flights, drummer’s dying (nearly) or being poached from consistently successful and safe (by comparison) English rock bands, tempted by a whiff of infamy and danger and ludicrous, bathetic, terrible, fatal excess, the best songwriter leaving and the ego-driven frontman turning into Elton John and being unable to cope with the pressure and expectation and fame and money and drugs and girls. The stunning, iconic, masterful, legendary lead guitarist being named after a euphemism for taking a piss, and coming from Stoke-on-Trent.
So now that Interscope have dumped millions of dollars into an album that will never appear by a band that doesn’t exist lead by a frontman who refuses to perform, Geffen finally put together a Greatest Hits package. It is, of course, in the tradition of all half-assed and pointless Greatest Hits, chronological and stupid almost beyond belief. The opening four songs may be the greatest opening four songs of such a collection ever, but by the time the Dylan cover, the anti-war song, the one from the sci-fi soundtrack, the power-balled and the power-balled with three guitar solos (Slash, best man at the wedding, topless, strides out of the church and lets rip to the clear blue skies and swirling whorls of epic dust) are over and done with there are only the woeful punk covers and the inevitable Rolling Stones trudge (“Sympathy For The Devil”) left to see us out of the rock n roll door, it’s hard to remember why we came here in the first place.
And we came for “Paradise City”, still the only truly great stadium rock song ever written. We came for “Sweet Child O Mine”, still the only truly great power-ballad ever written. We came for “Welcome To The Jungle”, savage and stupid and honest and nasty, and we came for “Patience”, sensitive and sweet and honest and vulnerable. We would have come for “Rocket Queen” or either version of “You’re Crazy”, but they’re not here. We would have come for “Mr Brownstone” (goddamn yes we would) or “Nightrain” too, but they’re not here either. Hell, we might even have come for “One In A Million”, a tune so sweet with words so vile and putrid that- actually, no, we wouldn’t have come for that.
Sod it. Go back and buy Appetite… Buy the two Use Your Illusions as well, if you must, they’re cheap enough if you scour the bargain bins. Download “Patience”, the acoustic “You’re Crazy”, and skip past The Spaghetti Incident altogether. Guns ‘n’ Roses’ greatest hit was their first album.