I don’t know who you are – but thanks.
I saw Gn’R in England – at Donnington – the Monsters of Rock festival back in 1988. I had been listening to Appetite for Destruction since early 1987.
Before Gn’R – I just couldn’t listen to any band’s whole album. The occasional artist, here and there, now and then – would come up with something – often just one or two tracks at most, that I’d like. And I used to have tons and tons of compilation tapes that I’d made – to avoid listening to filler crap, and to avoid having to switch tapes 15 times an hour.
Appetite changed all that. Unbelievably.
Nobody got it. People looked at Gn’R – and looked at Axl – and unless they were fans, they just saw the hype. The clothes, the leather, the attitude, the ‘fuck this and fuck that’ image, and somehow, blasphemously – assumed them to belong in the same category of monstrosities as … say…Skid Row or Poison.
Worse than the enemies were the ‘friends’ – people who could somehow go from listening to ‘Paradise City’ to playing a Poison track, for instance – and they couldn’t understand what I found so strange about that. As far as they were concerned it was all ‘heavy metal’ or ‘hard rock’ or whatever Virgin decided was a good enough ‘category’ in which to dump both genius and banality. What these people never understood – is that it was never about the ‘form’. There was an energy, a vitality, a soul present in these recordings that went far beyond anything as intellecutally dysfunctional as ‘genre’ – and it was THAT that I had been listening to, it had been THAT that I had gone to Donnington to watch, and it was THAT that had made Gn’R great…
For a long time – between Appetite & UYI – I was actually concerned. I wasn’t sure the band would survive – what I knew I was hearing in the music seemed to be something that they might not survive. And, incredible as this may sound, I feared for Axl – as I would never ever fear for people who, to put it bluntly, at least knew I existed.
Time went on, the band split up. Axl fought with Slash, Izzy took off on his bike….
It was only after I heard the … utter crap – that Slash had been involved in – that I decided my hopes for ever hearing that ‘thing’ again – lay with Axl. I knew beyond doubt, after hearing Snakepit and the incredibly mediocre Velvet Revolver material – that it was not Slash who had been the architect, nor Duff, and I won’t even mention…
So I counted on Axl.
And now. Years later, and you’re right – nobody would consider us sane. Years of waiting have passed – and we have waited for Axl. Meanwhile, the mockers have portrayed him as the Howard Hughes of Rock. They already laugh at his reclusion, they laugh at how he looks, and they will complain about what they consider his shrill voice and self-indulgent lyrics.
I was speaking to a friend about this – a while back – since I had been expecting this.
I know, as I’m certain Axl does – that there are people out there just waiting to cut him up. People hoping he produces something…bad. Something mundane. Something they could all look at and feel bigger than. In this sense, Axl is a bit like Johnny Rotton.
I asked my friend how many people would be willing to publicly defend, say….Bono – and he laughed, and said “millions!” – and then I asked – making my point – how many people would publicly stand up for Axl? And we both laughed. I knew I would, and he knew he would too, but we both knew were were a minority.
And now – I can already see the splits happening. I am most amazed by the people who trash “Better” – on the grounds that ‘it doesn’t sound like old Gn’R‘ – and I laugh. I laugh because since the very first listen – the moment I heard those first two lines “no one ever told me when I was alone / they just thought I’d know better” at the begining of ‘Better’ – I knew that Axl was back. That I had been right. That it had been him carrying the proverbial torch all this time.
Our wait has not been in vain 😉
And you’re right – you’ve summed up one thing brilliantly – Axl’s music is ‘painfully beautiful’ – to which I can only add that – his lyrics continue to be an urgent examination and a purging forge of both conscience and consciousness.
So – thanks for waiting alongside the rest of us, and thanks for getting it.
The time we have waited for is come, he is alive.