It's pretty pathetic but the "Welcome to the Jungle" video is one of my top-three I Remember When (I.R.W.) moments.
I.R.W. No. 1: Seventh-grade English when Ryan Welch came in crying to tell us the space shuttle Challenger had exploded.
I.R.W. No. 2: Driving to work listening to NPR when Bob Edwards told me about the towers coming down.
I.R.W. No. 3: Sitting cross-legged on the floor with Ty Sage drinking Pepsi and eating Pringles when I first saw Axl get off the bus and drown in that oh-so-sublime hell of Sunset Strip.
I don't remember if I said it to Ty or if he said it to me, and I know the words weren't this well-crafted, but someone said to someone: "This is tantamount to witnessing the birth of our Lord. It's indubitably the apex of rock-nay, modern culture. Nay, human history."
Or maybe it was just: "Holy fuck, dude! Did you see that!?!?"
On my deathbed, this moment will likely flash before me; my first listen to Chinese Democracy will not. Hell, I may not even live that long. And this is why I beg you Axl: Please don't ever release Chinese Democracy .
Every generation has its white whale record-the album every fan knows is weeks from being complete when the shit goes down. The singer goes into a rage and torches the masters, the guitarist's halfway through recording the final epic solo when he ODs, the A&R guy doesn't hear a hit and drops the band from the label. The hippies had The Beach Boys' Smile . Their kids had Prince's Black Album . We've got Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy .
If you were born between 1970 and 1980, you probably spent most of you childhood loving or hating Guns N' Roses. Likely your love or hate peaked with Use Your Illusion . The biggest news in rock since, well, Appetite for Destruction , made your RATT records sound like Herman's Hermits. Both volumes of Illusion went platinum half a dozen times over, MTV poured "November Rain" down our horny gullets every 15 minutes and GNR spent two years on the road playing more than 200 shows. Naturally the follow-up has been hotly anticipated, and anticipated, and anticipated.
After spending an estimated $16 million (which would make it the most expensive album ever) and 10 years in the studio, Axl promised that 2006 was the year of Chinese Democracy .
Wait-sorry-as I was typing, things changed. Axl now promises that 2007 is the year of Chinese Democracy (March 7 if you're sucker enough to believe his latest press release).
Three months back, Rose told New York magazine that he won't release the album until he knows it's "a good record."
"It's not about being a control freak," he said. "It's about being maybe smart enough to go, "No, that's a bad idea.' That's all it's about. Keeping the ability to at least have a shot as opposed to something that's just an obvious disaster. I want to make a good record. I don't want to throw a brick. This cannot be Shaq at the free-throw line."
All of this sounds reasonable. But it's totally not. Axl, please don't ever release Chinese Democracy .
Smile and the Black Album have set a precedent. No matter how great these white whales are, once they're harpooned, they are always disappointing. When Brian Wilson finally released Smile , there were just way too many songs about vegetables and barnyard animals. When Prince's authorized version of the Black Album surfaced, the rock-funk hybrid that would have been mind blowing in 1988 was a total let down.
"Welcome to the Jungle" kicked my junior-high ass because it came out of nowhere and sounded like nothing I'd ever heard (OK, it sounded like an adolescent, psychotic, punk-speed-metal Rolling Stones' song-but in the seventh grade I barely knew the Stones, Ramones or Aerosmith, so GNR was a revelation). "Welcome to the Jungle" worked so well because I didn't expect it. But Chinese Democracy is a gigantic, mountainous, steaming pile of expectation.
Really, the best thing Axl could do for his career is die-preferrably in a back-alley knife fight with Slash after a chance meeting backstage at a Hold Steady show. Slash would pull a blade from his top hat and slash Axl through the heart, and as Rose bled to death he would only say, "Don't release Chinese Democracy ; it's not- mmphhhhgggarrrglllecough ." At least then, we GNR fans could endlessly tell doubters: "Axl would have never approved of this. Man, if he had just waited a month to fight Slash behind that burned-out Shoney's, this album would be great."
But no, soon enough Axl will disappoint us with the biggest piece of shit ever. Or will he? He's still canceling shows. He's still a mercurial little bitch ready to fuck his fans at every turn. Maybe-no, he'll release it. If there's one thing he knows, it's how to fuck up his legacy.