Friday, February 3, 2012

Flowers and Firearms in Cleveland

This is my second entry about Guns N Roses. Love them or hate them, GNR is one of those bands you can't help but talk about. This particular rant of mine was originally written in-flight while traveling back from England this past Christmas, and I'm finally transcribing it.

Anyway, Guns N Roses is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and there is talk some of the members of the classic lineup might reunite to perform at the induction ceremony. Most notably, singer Axl Rose, the only original member still in the band, and former lead guitarist Slash, whose feud with his former front man is well documented, have both indicated separately they might be willing to reconcile their longstanding differences.

I guess there are two questions: do they do deserve induction, and should anyone care if they reunite? In a word, yes. My criticism of the Rock and Hall of Fame not withstanding (the number rock legends I believe should already be in), Guns N Roses was on top of the music world for a time, and the members collectively contributed a number of iconic songs: "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Paradise City," and "November Rain" to name a few. They even had a number of other songs that might not have reached classic status but are pretty good in their own right.

The band emerged from the hair metal scene in Los Angeles at the time, distinguishing themselves as a raw, authentic voice in period when people considered music kind of phony. They could rock and be mean, funny, vulgar, and surprisingly tender at times. These guys have been called modern-day outlaws, and while that's an exaggeration due to the group's notorious drug use and rowdy behavior, they established themselves as a group to pay attention to. They played music that couldn't be tamed.

While I can think of other groups and acts I'd prefer inducted before GNR (Deep Purple, Kiss, Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Ronnie James Dio) and though the band became a bloated, indulgent shell by the time the class lineup called it quits (some would argue it remains so), Guns N Roses put out great music, and I believe they deserve their induction.

Still, after all these years and all the toxic words the members have hurled at each other, is it worth to see the classic lineup back together, even if it's only one show? Seeing the gang back together would have an element of melancholy. These guys went their separate ways more or less 20 years ago (depending on which member left), and I cannot help but think about all the music and shows they could have created together during that time. Would it have been any good? Who's to say, but it certainly would have been worth checking it out and being able to decide. The fans never got that choice, and ultimately, the fans were the ones who missed out the most.

When people watch something they love fall apart, it's painful, and seeing the group together again would remind people of that. It would be nice to see the old group one more time, but I'd understand if they didn't reunite. It would bring up old wounds. Plus, from what I've read, there are no plans for a long-term reformation; Axl's not getting rid of his current group, and the others - notably Slash and Duff McKagan - have other projects. Even if they did all get back together, I don't believe it'd the same. Somethings are best left in the past and remembered.

I was born in 1987, the year Appetite for Destruction, the group's breakthrough album, debuted. Likewise, I was 12 when Axl unveiled the new lineup, and I was 21 when "Chinese Democracy," the would-be magnum opus 14 years-in-the-making, was released. It would be inaccurate to say I grew up with the band; I was too young to be there for their peak, and I wasn't into music as much as I am to pay attention to the hype surrounding their newer material. My observations only comes from looking back at the period and listening to their music.

I do know that for a brief period, Guns N Roses was the greatest rock bank in the world, which few bands can lay claim to. The downfall of the group, the perils of the music industry and the dangers of drugs and egos are part of their story, and for their music and their story, they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The shame is the group itself did not stay together long enough to make their case more obvious.

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