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Welcome to Axl's jungle of despair

WELCOME to the jungle. Or at least the exceedingly strange kingdom of Axl Rose, the mad, bad and dangerous to know flawed genius of US hard rock.

Hidden away in his Hollywood Xanadu for the last decade, Rose is as reclusive as a latterday Howard Hughes. And just as eccentric. He has spent almost 10 years making an album that is alleged to be coming out this year. Some people thought he was dead or at least insane.

From 1988 to 1992, his reprobate group Guns N' Roses were probably the biggest, druggiest and angriest band on planet earth. Mayhem was a given at their shows. In 1992, I flew to Detroit to interview GN'R but a riot at the show the night before I arrived meant that the band were forced to escaped to Canada to avoid arrest. Politicians and parents hated these hedonistic delinquents with equal vigour.

Their debut album Appetite For Destruction, released in 1987, is still the best-selling debut album of all time. GN'R soon became the voice of young, dispossessed trailer trash Americans who had grown up in broken homes under the Reagan-Bush presidencies. Singing about the despair of young America with a primal rage, Axl Rose was their savage messiah.

"Welcome to the jungle," he sang. "We take it day by day/If you want it - you're gonna bleed/But it's the price you pay."

He told rocker Jon Bon Jovi to "suck my d**k"; warned Nirvana's Kurt Cobain at the 1992 MTV Awards to "Tell your bitch to shut up or I'll take you down to the pavement!" - referring to Courtney Love - and compared the residents of his home town Indianapolis to "prisoners in Auschwitz".

In 1989 Axl kept the Rolling Stones waiting for three hours for the rehearsal of a Rose-Jagger duet. But not everyone was angered by them. Bono sent a case of Jameson to Axl when GN'R played Slane in 1992 - arguably one of the best concerts ever played there.

Arrogant and well beyond anger management, Rose fired all the members of the band in the mid-Nineties. He claims that they quit of their own volition, but they maintain they were forced out because he had legal ownership of the GN'R name and their situation became impossible.

"I quit because this guy's a power-crazed asshole!" guitarist Slash said few years ago.

The warped, out-of-kilter brillance at the heart of GN'R's greatest songs - their signature song Welcome To The Jungle, Sweet Child O' Mine and Paradise City among others - emerged from Axl's deeply troubled soul.

The singer was fuelled by an explosive rage that was the result of a dysfunctional childhood where physical abuse at the hands of his father was common. This primal anger intensified when he found out that the man who raised him (Stephen Bailey) wasn't his biological father at all.

Brought up in a strict Pentecostal manner in Lafayette, Indiana, his parents William and Sharon named their son William Bruce Rose, when he was born on February 6, 1962. His father, now presumed dead, disappeared forever when the child was very young - Axl has claimed that he was sexually abused by his father at the age of two.

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When the 17-year-old Bill Bailey found out that the bully who raised him was not his biological father, he changed his name to William Rose after his real birth father. The rebellious youngster then added the Axl part because, so the story goes, 'Axl Rose' is anagram of 'oral sex'. Legend has it that he then hitchhiked to Los Angeles to seek fame and fortune. On June 6, 1985, Guns N' Roses was breach-born with drummer Steven Adler, guitarists Saul 'Slash' Hudson and Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff McKagan.

Heroin also played an uncredited role in the development of the band. In October 1989, opening for the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles, Axl took it into his head to briefly fire the rest of the band onstage for, he alleged, "dancing with Mr Brownstone" - a clear reference to smack.

Despite this, it's undeniable that Axl and his band wrote some of the coolest music of all time. Their stadium rock anthem Sweet Child O' Mine was voted the greatest guitar riff ever in a US music magazine last year ahead of Nirvana's grunge call to arms Smells Like Teen Spirit and Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love.

There is going to be smoke on the Liffey on June 9 when Axl brings Guns N' Roses to the RDS Arena for one of the most anticipated Irish shows of the decade. The only original member of the band has spent almost a decade working on the new hotly anticipated GN'R album. Chinese Democracy. (A music biz friend who heard two tracks recently said it was up there with the best of GN'R.)

Its production is nothing short of bizarre. The New York Times noted recently that "Axl accompanied Buckethead [who has since left the band] on a jaunt to Disneyland when the guitarist was drifting toward quitting; then Buckethead announced he would be more comfortable working inside a chicken coop, so one was built for him in the studio, from wood planks and chicken wire".

I hope Guns N' Roses's Irish concert promoter Peter Aiken won't have to build an Asian Bird Flu-resistant chicken coop backstage at the RDS to placate the lithium lord of heavy metal.

Guns N' Roses play the RDS Arena on Friday, June 9, with Motley Crue as support. Tickets, from ?54.50, are available from Ticketmaster and usual outlets nationwide. Booking line: 0818 719 300.


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