Axl Rose, lead singer of Guns n’ Roses, (or Axl Rose n’ the Hired Guns, as the new lineup should probably be known), has long been the epitome of mindless rebellion.
Often imitated but rarely with the same intensity or detrimental bloody-mindedness, Rose seems to be the last in a long line of 80s and 90s rockers who continues to endure, regardless of ridicule and without acquiring the label of ‘corporate sellout’.
With a reputation for being reckless, temperamental and having a penchant for tight shorts, the flame-haired singer has never failed to disappoint on the controversy front.
His checkered and brazen career has provided as much entertainment through feuds and punch-ups as it has with music.
Rose once again struck nitroglycerin in April this year by declining his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the original members of the band.
The tsunami of criticism that followed from fans and peers should have engulfed an individual regarded by many as a spent force, but Rose as usual was unrepentant and continued about his obscure daily business.
Former GnR drummer Steven Adler was less than amused by Rose’s refusal to perform and be inducted along with most of the other members of the original lineup.
Adler’s initial impassioned statement in Rolling Stone in March was somewhat optimistic, given Rose’s relative inability or unwillingness to show up for anything.
“I know there’s love between all five of us,” he said. “I know there is. Not just four of us, five of us. We owe it to the fans. The LEAST we can do is give them one great performance.”
Following Rose’s letter to Rolling Stone that he would not be attending and his perceived indifference to his former band mates and fans alike, Adler dispensed with the prior pleasantries, stating quite simply, “I’m done with him”.
This seems to pretty much be the sentiment of long-term fans who stuck with Rose through the drama of GnR’s mid-80’s to early 90’s reign, yet he still manages to draw a crowd. It could be that he’s simply riding a wave of former glory at the expense of nostalgic fans, but I suspect his notoriety and tendency to spontaneously combust at any given moment is what paves the way for his continuing appeal.
GnR’s most recent show in Liverpool this month saw Rose in his usual unabashed prima donna stance, with the audience reportedly forced to wait nearly two hours for Rose and co to begin their set after the opening act, only taking to the stage at 11pm and finishing at 2am.
Fans disgruntled by Rose’s tardiness received a personal dressing down from the fiery singer after a cup of unidentified liquid was hurled on stage with gusto.
According to reports, Rose stopped mid-song and addressed the audience.
“If you wanna throw shit we’ve got no problem going home. Otherwise we’d all love to have a good time tonight, right? So don’t fuck it up for your friends here tonight. Thank you very much.”
This was certainly a composed response to rowdy fans by comparison with most of Rose’s prior altercations. One such instance was the epic misunderstanding in St Louis in 1991 that involved Rose diving off the stage mid-song to confront and pulverize a fan with a video camera, resulting in one of the most infamous riots in music history.
A year later riots broke out once more, this time in Montreal. GnR were to co-headline with Metallica in the Canadian city, but a pyrotechnic explosion coupled with sound problems incensed Rose to the point of flouncing offstage and cancelling the remainder of the set.
Enraged fans were subsequently left in the incapable hands of local law enforcement and the charge sheets wrote themselves.
Most recently Rose put his dukes up once again for the infamous disagreement with Tommy Hilfiger at an exclusive and celebrity-packed club in trendy Manhattan in 2006. Drawing more from pantomime than his glory days of burning cities to the ground, Rose engaged in a contest with the poncy fashion designer to see whose knuckles would fall off first.
Bystander Kid Rock allegedly got his arse handed to him by security staff rushing over to separate the pair, while Lenny Kravitz panicked and ran away. Pandemonium in its Rosiest form.
It might be the case, as with many of the icons that helped us through our turbulent teens, that we expected something more profound from rock stars, something far bigger than the sum of their sensitive, paranoid, manic depressive and possibly bi-polar parts.
In his heyday, and leaving aside his destructive tendencies, Rose could blow audiences away with solid, uncompromising lyrics via the voice of a maniacal psychopath, who gargled nitric acid and spat out chainsaws.
His reputation as a showman may have been tainted by controversy but he remains one of the greats of his generation.
In an age of hipsters, gummy-Goths and numerous other soulless cliques, I rest easier at night knowing that there may still be an eccentric maniac brooding inside Rose, ready to stick a fork in the eye of passive popular culture. The only question is when?
Many 21st Century mainstream rock figureheads seem to have traded rebellion and discord for a far more sanitised and politically correct image, with contradictory interests that include saving something endangered while playing the ‘pacifist’ card at the same time.
Love him or hate him, Rose was pure entertainment and still seems to be capable of hitting the headlines from time to time.
While the next generation of rock stars is vying for UN ambassadorship or pushing for a Pulitzer Peace Prize nomination, Rose will forever be proof that notoriety is an ample substitute for dignity.
With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.