In early January, the worst-kept secret in rock was finally confirmed. The classic Guns N’ Roses line-up is to reunite for two appearances at the Coachella festival in April, preceded by a pair of gigs in Las Vegas. Or at least two-thirds of them are – while Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan have put aside their differences, there’s no news on whether they’ll be joined by guitarist Izzy Stradlin’ or drummer Steven Adler (or even Matt Sorum, for that matter). Still, the presence of Axl and Slash on the same stage for the first time in 20 years is cause for celebration, right? Well, that’s open to debate. While some are already hailing this as the comeback of the century, others are less than convinced. So who’s right? We asked two long-time GN’R fans if this reunion is a return to Paradise City or a case of lose your illusions…
“People are dying to hear them again!”
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I think it’s great that Guns N’ Roses are re-forming with at least some of the original line-up. They’re a band that changed the face of music. When I heard Appetite For Destruction it was one of those moments when nothing else mattered. Time stood still. I must have listened to that album constantly for a year – it was so brilliant.
It’s been a while since Axl and Slash shared the same stage, so there’ll be a buzz there. People seem to be seeing this reunion as all about those two, but there was more to the classic line-up than that. Duff McKagan’s an integral part of it – great image, a wonderful guy, and a very talented musician. Even without Izzy Stradlin’ and Steven Adler, that chemistry between Duff, Slash and Axl will be there.
I remember experiencing that LA scene that Guns came out of back when we first went over there with The Almighty, around 1989 or ’90. Being four lads from rural Scotland, it was quite an eye-opener. There was healthy competition between bands on that scene. But at the end of the day it’s the songs that matter, and that’s why I think Guns came out on top, because every song on Appetite… is a classic rock song.
I had the chance to meet Axl around that time through Del James, GN’R’s road manager, and I always found him great company. More recently I’ve had the chance to hang out with him when Thin Lizzy supported them on some dates in 2012. Obviously I’ve never worked in a band with him, but he’s always been great with me. He’s always been polite, complimentary, funny and very welcoming every time I’ve been around him.
Do I agree with some of the things he’s done professionally, like going on hours late? Of course I don’t. But as regards my experiences one-on-one with him, he’s been a great guy, a great performer and a great entertainer. On those last shows we did with them I thought he was singing fantastically.
Can they bury their hatchets? Well, sometimes time can heal wounds. You’ve got to want it to heal them, and you’ve got to be prepared to pick up the phone and talk to someone and make some common ground. Hopefully they’ve done that, and realised that life is very short, and they’ve got a chance to go out there, play these great songs that people are dying to hear played by them again and thought… “Why the hell not?”
Whatever happens, the original Guns N’ Roses had something that’s lacking a bit in music now – punk edge, attitude, swagger. The fact that they came to LA and were living it – they lived in squats, basically begging for change and what-have-you – and came through all that as a band, made them stronger because they sounded like what they were: the real deal.
I hope that they’re getting back together because those experiences they all went through, and the music they made, was something really special.
“Just say no to corporate cash-grabs.”
Are three-fifths of GN’R about to make a horrific mistake? Classic Rock’s Ken McIntyre thinks so…
This is not easy to say. I mean, I was eighteen in 1987, and I contend that Appetite For Destruction is the greatest rock album of all time. Undisputed. And sure, I’m willing to fight about it. I have. So it’s not like I’m not a fan. That album runs through my veins. It’s in my blood, like a curse. So I have just as much stake in Guns N’ Roses’ legacy as they do. And that’s why I just gotta say no to this Axl/Slash/Duff thing.
First of all, no Izzy, no deal. Slash liked Deep Purple when this band got together. Axl was some Midwestern podunk zero. Duff was a directionless punk rocker. Izzy’s unwavering dedication to rock’n’roll’s slithery underbelly is what shaped GN’R’s sound. He was the chief architect in this psycho circus and when he pulled out, it was over. If he’s not coming back, we shouldn’t even be discussing a reunion. But since we are, let’s be honest about it. There will be no glory in attending one of these shows. It will not make you feel young again. You will not tell your grandchildren you spent a week’s pay to see a megalomaniac thirty years past his prime bicker with his old bandmates for eight million dollars a night. If you do, then all hope is lost. You blew it. 1987 was all for nothing.
Appetite For Destruction resonated so deeply because it was outlaw music made by actual outlaws, and you could smell the stink of authenticity from miles away. That’s why they shrivelled before that tour was even over. Rot set in as soon as money and success came their way. Give a street-punk a mansion and he’s not a punk anymore, he’s just another boring rich asshole. You waited seventeen long years for Chinese Democracy, and what did you get for it? You got fucking Chinese Democracy, man.
And don’t kid yourself, Axl is still in charge. Slash and Duff are just extremely well-paid hired guns. If it goes pear-shaped, he’s still got Buckethead on speed-dial. And what if he insists on keeping the legacy of the ‘new’ Guns alive? Are you prepared to see Slash rip out a solo on Shackler’s Revenge? Imagine that horror. If anything, the very idea of these shows should serve as a billowing red flag that all is not well in the kingdom of rock. The bleeding has to stop somewhere, and perhaps this is it.
Just say no to corporate cash-grabs. Instead, take that $200 or whatever and spend it on your local rock scene. I guarantee you there are young Guns bashing away in garages, basements, and dive-bars in your neighbourhood right now, and they deserve your attention more than this. For one-tenth of a faux-GN’R reunion ticket, they will hang from the ceiling, kick holes in the bass drum, sell you a hand-drawn cassette demo for five dollars, and pass out face-first in an alley. All the things you got into this game for in the first place. Rock’n’roll is alive and well if you look in the right places, but this ain’t one of them. After all, if it’s not good enough for Izzy Stradlin’, why would it be good enough for you?
What do you think about the GN’R reunion? Let us know below…