Watch Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose covering Led Zeppelin in 1986, before the world knew his name

Axl Rose
(Image credit: Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Before the December 1986 release of Guns N' Roses' Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide EP, few rock fans beyond Los Angeles knew Axl Rose's name, but on the Sunset Strip, the artist formerly known as William Bruce Rose Jr. was already a 'face', having fronted Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns prior to forming Guns N' Roses. And when GN'R signed to Geffen Records in March '86, the smart money was on the Indiana-born vocalist becoming a star on the national stage. 

One fellow musician who would have been watching Rose's rise closely was Richard Black, the frontman of fellow hard rock hopefuls Shark Island, who were the house band at Gazzarri's, the Hollywood club where Van Halen famously cut their teeth. More than one Sunset Strip insider has suggested that Rose borrowed more than a few moves from Black, and Shark Island's singer wasn't blind to this fact, even if he once claimed "He [Axl] wasn't able to do anything nearly as good as what I was doing."

"If you look at it from my perspective, if I say anything at all, it is perceived as sour grapes," the singer admitted in an 2020 interview with the Misplaced Straws website, before revealing that he once went over to visit Rose and saw that his rival had "8 or 10 VHS tapes, all marked with 'Shark Island'" sitting on top of his TV.

"My heart sank when I saw that," Black admitted. "Because I already knew at that time that Guns N' Roses were getting down with David Geffen and that whole thing. And I knew that the person with the biggest mouthpiece is going to be able to claim whatever, so what can I do?"

Anyways, back in 1986, Black and Rose were still pals, and on April 26 that year, Black invited Rose and L.A. Guns leader Tracii Guns to join his band onstage at an LA club show to guest on a cover of Led Zeppelin classic Rock and Roll. Camcorder footage of the collaboration isn't the sharpest, but there's no mistaking Rose's distinctive vocals stealing the show. His name wouldn't be a local secret for much longer.

Watch the footage below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.