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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Get in the Ring!

While watching the 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on HBO, seeing the bulk of the original Guns N' Roses lineup (minus Axl Rose) accept and perform I was reminded of Van Halen's induction because ironically it was the members who were no longer in the band on both occasions who were present to accept the honor and perform.  However, I have far more disdain for Axl's absence than Eddie and Alex Van Halen, or David Lee Roth, for theirs.

Guns N' Roses were inducted by Green Day, and during singer Billie Joe's speech, after commenting on each band member's contributions, he came to Axl and the audience knew it and made their disapproval well-known.  Billie quickly quieted the crowd, "No, shut the f**k up, shut up, shut up! This man’s a bad ass f**king singer. He’s one of the best frontmen to ever touch a microphone. Your lyrics are heartfelt, passionate, angry and you tell the truth, no matter what the cost."  Later, bassist Duff McKagan further commented on Axl's absence by saying that it wasn't about who was there that night but that it was about the music that band made, and their fans.

I was 11 years old when Guns N' Roses arrived with 'Appetite For Destruction' or, as Billie Joe calls it,  "the best debut album in the history of rock and roll".  I disagree but that's not to say it doesn't belong among the very best.  At that age, I was just getting familiar with Rock music since most of my collection up to that point was more like what you'd hear at an 80's-themed party.  I had the LP of Van Halen's '1984' and Def Leppard's 'Pyromania', and the cassette of Van Halen's '5150', and I remember taking blank cassettes to my uncle Paul's house to raid his massive collection; a trip to his house was like a music lover's shopping spree.  I got the cassette of 'Appetite', and loved the drum intro to "Paradise City" and the opening riff and solo on "Sweet Child O' Mine", and loved "Welcome to the Jungle".  I was constantly trying to imitate the "sha-na-na-na-na-na, knees" line from Axl.  When 'G N' R Lies' came out, I was a bit confused as the first video for the album was "Patience", an acoustic ballad featuring a very subdued Axl, minus the screech heard on 'Appetite'.  I really enjoyed the change in his vocal style, although I knew better than to assume it was permanent.  A few years went by and other releases stole my attention, mainly Aerosmith's 'Pump' which is among my top 5 favorite Rock albums of all time.  However, my ears perked up when the video for a new song from the Terminator 2 film arrived on MTV.  The song was "You Could Be Mine", written by Elton John, with a ridiculously Punk bass line from Duff and some soaring opening riffs from Slash.  It instantly became my favorite G N' R song, until they released not one but two new albums, titled 'Use Your Illusion I' and 'Use Your Illusion II'.  MTV was flooded with videos from both albums, but the one song from both albums that became my favorite piece of music from the entire G N' R catalog is "Civil War" from 'Illusion II'.  It was the last song that original drummer Steven Adler performed on before being replaced by Matt Sorum from The Cult, and brought back Axl's 'Patience' voice.

As with many bands at the peak of their popularity, and the peak of my interest, things began to fall apart.  They released an album of covers called 'The Spaghetti Incident?', and later recorded a cover of "Sympathy for the Devil' by the Rolling Stones for the soundtrack to "The Vampire Diaries".  It was the last recording to feature Slash, McKagan and Sorum, as Slash and McKagan left and Sorum was fired.  Rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke, who replaced original member Izzy Stradlin, had been fired by Axl at the end of the 'Illusion' tour, with Axl calling him "a hired hand" while Slash credits him for saving the band when he came on.  Axl moved on with an 8-piece touring band that carries the G N' R name, which has only released one album, 15 years after the 'Spaghetti' album, the once mythical "Chinese Democracy".  Not much has changed though, as Axl continues to have issues with tardiness, which comedian Chris Rock touched on during his induction speech for the Red Hot Chili Peppers by saying “A lot of people are disappointed that Axl Rose isn’t here, but let’s face it, even if he was going to be here, he still wouldn’t be here yet.”  While Axl is out capitalizing on past success with his self-tribute act, Slash, Duff and Matt have released two albums with their band Velvet Revolver, with STP frontman Scott Weiland, and Slash is soon to release his second solo album, this one exclusively featuring vocals by Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge (Creed's off-spin).

Axl has been very vocal over the years regarding his dislike for Slash, going as far as calling him a "Cancer", which proved to be a poor choice of words as Slash's mother died from Cancer just a few months later.  Axl released an open letter to his fans explaining his position on not attending the Hall of Fame induction with the other members, to which he said he received an overwhelmingly positive response.  Apparently, those were not the fans in the crowd booing the mention of his name during Billie Joe's speech.  After seeing Slash, Duff, Gilby and Steven Adler play "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise City" at the induction with singer Myles Kennedy, it's obvious they could go out and perform as Guns N' Roses and do a far better job with the music than Axl's act.  I'd feel much better spending my money to see the band that played at the Induction who showed up and who care about their fans and honor the music they made, despite any problems that came up later, over Axl who constantly disrespects his fans.  As the post title says, taken from the song of the same name from the 'Illusion II' album, GET IN THE RING!

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