Thursday 14 December 2017

It's not been all wine and roses for Axl

Yes, Axl Rose may be a prat with a paranoid disorder - but he created one of the best albums of the 1980s

Axl Rose is known for his angry, paranoid lyrics and piercing screams
Axl Rose is known for his angry, paranoid lyrics and piercing screams
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Welcome to the jungle. Welcome to the palace of the paranoid. Maybe best to retrace your steps and not come in. Back in the day, Guns N' Roses were dissolute anti-establishment multi-millionaires surfing the Zeitgeist as much as chasing the dragon.

And their lead singer Axl Rose was the Antichrist of anger mismanagement - a grumpy Veruca Salt of rock star tantrums.

Born Bill Bailey on February 6, 1962, in Lafayette, Indiana, Axl grew up in a strict Pentecostal home. He was a law unto himself, especially when he was on tour with his notorious band. Take their Get In The Ring Motherfucker 1991 European tour.

The opening night in Helsinki was an inauspicious but not untypical beginning for the biggest band in the world at that time (their 1987 debut album, one of the most exciting and incendiary albums of that era, Appetite for Destruction, had shifted over 40m copies worldwide). Their Helsinki show was only an hour old when, as guitarist Slash launched into Welcome To The Jungle, Axl stormed off in a huff.

This left the rest of the band in the unenviable position of having to play an instrumental version of the aforesaid song before switching to another song, 14 Years, for the next 25 minutes, before Axl finally returned.

A few nights later in Stockholm, Axl's mood hadn't improved. He left his hotel at 9pm and was due to take the elevator to his limo that would take him to the stage for that night's sold out show. Instead, he played roulette for 90 minutes.

He then got in the limo and told the driver to take him to a local festival instead because, said Axl, he wanted to see the fireworks. Fireworks seen, Axl went to his own show, which began that night somewhat after 11 o'clock. "Now on this one," he announced during Knockin' On Heaven's Door, "maybe you people that have been falling asleep the whole fuckin' show on your feet up here could sing along too... If you're bored, you should've saved your money and gone and seen the fireworks tonight".

A few nights later in Olso the show had to be cancelled. Not because Axl was too late to the stage. No, Axl was in Paris.

This was all hugely entertaining fare from the completely bonkers lead singer who warred with his band and would eventually sack all of them, before recruiting some terrible musicians, spend 100 years recording an atrocious album, Chinese Democracy, before finally deciding to put the original band together again.

To many of us, once upon a time Axl went completely insane - but at the same time he will always be the flawed genius who wrote Sweet Child O' Mine, Paradise City and Welcome To The Jungle - the brilliant mad man representing the dispossessed underclass who sang like a white-trash cackling hyena.

As Damien Cave wrote on the website Salon.com: "Rose's personal problems, legal travails and general immaturity can never overshadow his talent. Axl Rose kicks ass.

He descended on the 1980s like acid, burning holes in a country that had become culturally complacent. For anyone with angst, anyone who grew up under Reagan-Bush, hating suspender suits, hairspray rock and synthesisers, Axl Rose was a saviour.

"His angry, paranoid lyrics, piercing screams and stomping stage presence all acted as antidotes for the made-up go-go conservatism of the time.

"He was the anti-Culture Club hero, the flat-haired, bandanna-clad bad boy who never played by the rules, never tried to look pretty - the one guy who repeatedly made people listen, then told them to f*** off..."

Remember this when you go to see Axl and his long-suffering chums at Slane Castle on May 27 - a quarter of a century since their concert in Henry Mountcharles's back garden on May 16, 1992.

Sunday Independent

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