Guns N' Roses: Oils N' Vinegar: An Axl Rose Defense?
By Eric Kaplan
Axl Rose declined his invite and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and so the saga of the biggest asshole in rock added a new chapter to his reclusive bitterness, setting off a legion of angry fans feeling betrayed and shattering Steven Adler's long-time dream of the group reforming so he can earn a decent paycheck again.
The actual ceremony aired in May on HBO for the first time, instead of basic cable's VH1, no doubt due to the spectacle that would occur with all five original members of the group reuniting on stage for the first time in twenty odd years.
But none of that happened. And that's a good thing.
Here's a little secret about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: it is the antithesis of rock and roll. Old-timers in stuffy suits celebrating themselves and the ones they choose to be in their little garden party is not rock and roll. While many resent the Hall for not letting the likes of Rush and Kiss into the Cleveland attraction, they should ask themselves if it makes any difference. For a band that hails integrity, ala Rush, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can't feel to badass when you're three memorabilia exhibits away from ABBA and Madonna. However, for a band with credit card swiping machines attached to their guitars, say a group like Kiss, the Hall might not be such a bad place to be.
So where do Guns N' Roses land on the barometer of bullshit?
They are an outlier. Something far off the map. Anyone who knows anything is aware that they were never merely the kings of the Sunset Strip. Guns N' Roses were rock that had all the anger of metal without losing the vibe of Jagger and Richards, Tyler and Perry, etc. Like the Sex Pistols with Jimmy Page on guitar and Janis Joplin on vocals, Guns N' Roses captured and catapulted their influences into the dustbowl of decadence that was the 1980's. If Creedence Clearwater had watched Terminator, Mean Streets and Clockwork Orange, it might sound like Guns N' Roses B-sides.
Summing up their well-established history is pointless at the moment. We all now who the band is, the factions that the group split into and how the venom that they once saved for society they now spew at each other.
Well, not all of them. It seems that Duff, Steven, Slash and hired guns Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke can be in the same room with only guitar strings getting broke.
But that leaves one: The redhead.
Axl Rose is fucking crazy. He's fucking brilliant. He is shrewd and vindictive. He is sweet and caring. He's human. And did I mention fucked up?
Yes we know the drill: Late concerts, temper tantrums, lawsuits, bar fights, guns at airports, domestic battery, etc.
That just so also happens to be the second line of text when looking up the definition of a rock star.
So Axl didn't want to play nice. He cites not truly knowing who is behind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to feel positive about the whole debacle. Fair enough, although the Hall is not the new kid on the block and can be easily researched. The true question is whether Axl could be in the same room as Slash and admit that yesterdays having nothing to do with me when dealing with his ex-bandmate.
It seems he can't. And how could be? You don't go the lengths reported over the last decade and a half to avoid having the iconic guitarist in your peripheral vision, only to live and let die at a self-masturbatory gala.
Axl, whose initials spell out W.A.R., understand one thing beyond all else: When you go to war, you go all in. No prisoners. Right or wrong, he is sticking to his guns not matter how many roses are flung his way.
However, if he did show up, there is the obligatory reunion jam that is often like going on a date with a jilted past flame. Leading up to it there is nothing but anticipation and possibility. Then you get there and quickly realize why things went south of heaven in the first place. Axl and Slash are not so much rock n' roll's Guns N' Roses as they are its Oils N' Vinegar.
So Guns N Roses won't be performing. Millions of fans of the notorious band are disillusioned, yet they should realize that no matter how much you use your illusions, the reality is never as sweet as the dream. As Bob Dylan sang, "You can go back, but you can't go back all the way."
And isn't there something very rock and roll about Axl dissing the whole ceremony? Instead of being reminded for the thousandth time how great Guns used to be, Axl has decided to say fuck it and carry on in the present tense. Granted he releases new music with the same enthusiasm a shylock hands out money, but that's his choice. The last track on the original lineups double album is "My World" in which Axl taunts that "you ain't been mindfucked yet." One wonders if the singer was telling us or talking to himself.
Is Axl a nutjob? Probably. Is he a jerk? Certainly. But he does exactly what he wants without regard for anyone else and that, when all the smoke clears and the last bottle of whisky smashes through the window, is more rock and roll than a reunion show.
What would all those years of hatred mean if Axl was to come together with the others? It would undermine everything. If you're going to start a war of words, a feud between friends, then an honor in the name of what was once shouldn't make all these volatile quotes over the years simply disappear. It would be forced for the group to get together and give it the old junkie try. Let David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen act like they get along on stage while privately loathing each other. They don't rock; they roll to the bank and bow down to the almighty dollar. Most bands do.
But not Guns N' Roses. And not Axl Rose.
They were always too real. They weren't kids from the burbs who dreamt of becoming rock stars and made it. They were scumbags from the gutters and dead-end towns. The band forced their crazed blend of rock, punk, metal and sleaze down the throats of the universe. And they won. Of course, then they blew it all, but hey, that's fucking rock and roll.
One thing you have to give Axl: He's not doing it for the money.
In the end, is it all stupid? Yes. But even though Axl didn't show up (and neither did Izzy Stradlin, but that was no shocker), he showed up big time for something that has been lost for a very long time in rock n' roll: Not giving a fuck.