T he late eighties saw the rise of one of Rock's most electrifying acts. From the shores of America, another music sensation was set to unleash their larger than life and powerful sound on an ever-appreciating audience. Guns N' Roses had arrived and for the next five years they were all set to rule the music charts of the world. As their name suggests, their music was a mixture of the sweet and wicked and their colorful lifestyles and adventurous music making would leave their fans and the press gasping for more. Now if only this rare talent could have sustained itself through the pressures of success, money and fame!
Back in the early eighties, the band went through numerous band members and name changes (Rose, Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns) before they finally settled on Guns N' Roses. Their strongest asset was their fiery live shows and they were stars long before they got their big break with Geffen Records in 1986. Their debut album "Appetite For Destruction" went on to sell 20 million copies worldwide and reached number 1, would you believe, a good year after its release date. Their decadent lifestyle had become the fodder on which the yellow press fed itself and the numerous outlandish adventures and rampant heroin abuse of its members was to grace the headlines of many a newspaper. The fragile relationships between the band members, vocalist Axl Rose (born Bill Bailey), guitarists Slash (Saul Hudson), Izzy Stradlin (Jeff Isabelle), bassist Michael "Duff" McKagan and drummer Steven Adler were always touch and go! The self-indulgent stories the band related in their debut album, and the subsequent "Use Your Illusion I and II", were frighteningly real. So were the occasional bursts of pain and sensitivity illustrated in many of their songs.
Axl has always been a source of amazement to me as he has an incredibly powerful voice coupled with an amazing range. As Axl said about his singing "I sing in about five or six different voices, that are all a part of me, It's not contrived". He also has a charming charismatic presence that was to make him the poster boy for millions and his bandana and cowboy boots, which were ridiculed earlier, became a high fashion statement. (Almost like Jackson's white socks and single glove!) His incredible energy at live shows has to be seen to be believed! Guns N' Roses actually opened for the Stones on one tour and that must have been an awesome experience.
Axl poured out the anger and torment of his abused youth through some incredible songs that he wrote for the band and he has to his credit compositions like "Welcome to the Jungle", "Sweet Child O'Mine", "Paradise City" etc. that have become rock anthems of today. Axl was not scared to bare his heart and "Sweet Child O'Mine" was written for his girlfriend and later wife Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly (Everly Brothers). This is what he had to say about the song. "A lot of rock bands are too wimpy to have any sentiment or any emotion in any of their stuff unless they are in pain. It's the first positive love song I've ever written, but I never had anyone to write anything about before, I guess".
Axl's stormy relationship with Slash, the powerful guitar player was the cause of many a fight within the band. Nicknamed Slash by a family friend for always being in a hurry, the top hatted, curly haired son of a Black American and a white Englishman was a strong part of the driving "Guns N' Roses" sound. Slash was soon recognized as a strong musical force and Dylan and Michael Jackson asked him to guest on their albums. He also contributed to tribute albums to Muddy Waters and Les Paul, and subsequently established his own spin-off band, Slash's Snakepit. This dedicated guitar dynamo was Axl's rival for attention within the band and they had major disagreements regarding the band's future musical direction. Slash favored the Rock route while Axl was pushing towards an Industrial Techno sound. Their love hate relationship was to unfortunately result in Slash's exit from the band in 1996 and Axl now became the owner of the rights to the Guns N' Roses name.
It has been rumored that Robin Finck, formerly of Nine Inch Nails, has replaced Slash in the reformed band but Guns N' Roses hasn't put out an album of new songs since 1991. With the turmoil facing the health of the music industry all over the world, this task may seem difficult, even for the dynamic talent of Axl and the boys. I'm sure they have it in them to surmount any difficulties that cross their path. There is a lot of music left in this dynamic Rock band that had changed the face of hard rock in the late '80s..