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Guns N' Roses
6 months in the life of a troubled band

by Joy Williams
published in Mir Zvezd (Russia)

Axl Rose/Guns N' Roses © Rich Likong/Artist Publications

Axl Rose
Photo © Rich Likong/Artist Publications



Guns N’ Roses became the biggest thing in the industry before you could blink your eyes—and suddenly metal was “in” again.

When Guns N' Roses was signed by young, up-and-coming A&R man Tom Zutaut, later vice president at Geffen Records, reward for his brilliant foresight, the conventional wisdom in the music business was that "metal/hard rock is dead."

Well, surprise, surprise. Guns N' Roses became the biggest thing in the industry before you could blink your eyes, and suddenly metal was "in" again. Their debut LP sold and sold and sold, fueled by MTV hits "Welcome To The Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine" (about his then-girlfriend, now ex-wife, Erin Everly, whom he met when she was just 13) and "Patience."

You would think that Axl, Slash and company would believe that Guns N' Roses is the future of rock'n'roll, but no. Axl was quoted in 1989 as saying, "I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it is Faith No More."

Axl Rose/Guns N' Roses c Jay Janini/Artist Publications

Axl Rose
photo © Jay Janini/Artist Publications

Judging from his behavior on the Illusion tour, which on May 24, 1993 passed the two-years-on-the-road mark, perhaps Axl feels he (that is, Guns N' Roses) has no future. A certified manic-depressive psychotic who should (but doesn't) take medication to balance his brain chemistry, his behavior has become more and more unstable as the trouble-plagued tour has ground on. Band members have quit and been replaced while out on the road, and news reports have mounted steadily of the bizarre and often violent behavior of the big star (but small, pale, very skinny young man).

To wit: Axl Rose was found guilty November 10, 1992 of property damage and assault during an aborted Guns N' Roses concert in 1991 that led to a riot. Rose, who was not required to be present for the proceeding was given two years' probation and ordered to donate $50,000 to five local social service organizations. St Louis County, Missouri, associate circuit judge Ellis Gregory accepted an agreement reached by attorneys from both sides of the case in issuing his order. The attorney had agreed to let the judge rule on the evidence—police reports and videotape from the riot—and avoid a jury trial and what prosecutors termed a "media circus." Had Rose gone to trial, he could have faced up to 4-1/2 years in prison (but fines of only up to $4,500).

Rose had pleaded innocent to four misdemeanor counts of assault and one count of property damage stemming from the riot that broke out during his July 2, 1991, concert at the Riverport Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, just outside St. Louis. Videotape showed Rose diving into the concert crowd when he spotted someone with a camera, then punching a man. He then smashed his microphone on the stage and stormed off, ending the show early. Several thousand dollars' worth of property damage was reported by the outdoor theater from the ensuing riot. Gregory said he found that Rose was guilty of the charges "beyond a reasonable doubt."

The judge said the two years' probation would be monitored by officials in California and would be subject to special conditions. The conditions allow Rose to travel in connection with his work or as permitted by his probation officer. Gregory also amended the probation regulations to allow Rose to associate with known felons within his band. Prosecutors have said two members of the band have been convicted of felonies. The judge noted, however, that he wanted such associations confined to that narrow circle. He also warned Rose's attorney to impress upon the singer that he could face jail or additional fines if he runs into trouble with the law any time in the next two years. In addition, Rose still faces a dozen or more civil lawsuits relating to the riot.

Izzy Stradlin/Guns N' Roses c Rich Likong/Artist Publications

Izzy Stradlin
photo © Rich Likong/Artist Publications

July 25, 1992

Something happened to Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose during a recent show in Paris, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. While on stage, Rose felt someone push him, but when he looked at a videotape of the performance there was no one there. So, Rose believes some force or spirit pushed him, possibly into a new era in his life, and he has hired a channeler (psychic) to get in touch.

August 1, 1992

The South African Directorate of Publications said the lyrics of 15 songs on the Gunners' Use Your Illusion albums were considered "undesirable."

August 29, 1992

Only a week before Montreal, it was Guns N' Roses that were having a riot, finishing their New York stint with a flourish. First the group held court at the Old Homestead Restaurant, where it treated friends to a gluttonous feast. Topping that, the band held a final-night casino-style bash backstage, complete with ice sculptures, craps tables, Carole King and members of Metallica and Faith No More.

October 16, 1992

At the MTV Awards: After Kurt Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, yelled to Axl Rose that she and her husband planned to make him the godfather of their child, Cobain and Rose exchanged heated words. That in turn, set off a night-long chain of petty skirmishes that culminated with Rose's laying siege to the Nirvana trailer with bodyguards and a film crew.

November 14, 1992

Slash married model Renee Surran. Axl Rose played the role of best man.

November 28, 1992

Guns N' Roses was forced to cancel the first of two shows it was to perform in Bogota, Columbia, because the failed military coup in neighboring Venezuela delayed shipment of some of its equipment. They were able to play the second schedule show on November 29, however.

Slash & Izzy Stradlin/Guns N' Roses c Rich Likong/Artist Publications

Slash & Izzy Stradlin
photo © Rich Likong/Artist Publications

December 4, 1992

Axl Rose bared all in a hotel lobby early on the morning of December 4 shortly after the group arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the third leg of its troubled tour of South America. The official news agency Telam reported that Rose, wearing only a sheet around his waist, appeared in the lobby of the local Hyatt, laughing and joking with two other members of the group. Rose then took off the sheet and, completely naked, hugged a security guard, prompting raucous applause from his companions. The band was detained on Thursday while police searched their plane for drugs after detectives found traces of cocaine in the clothes of one of the band members. At the band's concert in Chile 178 fans were arrested. Audience members, angered by the late start of the concert (a Guns N' Roses staple—they're often several hours late), threw bottles and other objects, and Rose walked off stage twice and threatened to cancel the concert.

December 12, 1992

Police in Sao Paulo, Brazil, charged Axl Rose with "endangering human lives" for hurling a swivel chair off a mezzanine at a group of people on December 8. No one was hurt in the incident, which occurred less than 24 hours after GNR arrived in South America's largest city for two performances. Axl appears to be remarkably unstable these days, even for him. Incidents are being reported daily from South America as the trouble-plagued GNR tour grinds on. Conviction on the charges could mean a sentence of up to one year in prison, said Inspector Antonio Carlos Menezes Barbosa. Police have 30 days to present their case to a judge. Police officer Regina Neves Guerra said by phone that Rose's target was a small group of journalists, fans and guests of the hotel where he is staying. "While he was playing pool in the hotel's game room, William Bailey, alias Axl Rose, spotted the crowd in a lobby. He then picked up the chair and hurled it at the group" from a 33-foot-high mezzanine, she said, "and then walked away.

Slash/Guns N' Roses & Michael Monroe/Hanoi Rocks c Ruby Michael/Artist Publications

Slash & Michael Monroe/Hanoi Rocks
photo © Ruby Michael/Artist Publications

Luckily, the chair fell to the ground before it reached the crowd. No one was hurt," she added. She said the complaint against Rose was filed by journalists from the Jornal do Brasil, O Globo, Folha da Trade and Folha de Sao Paulo newspapers. Barbosa said police questioned and formally charged Rose in the hotel, after which the hotel refused to place calls through to Rose and his spokeswoman. But perhaps we received a clue as to why nothing is being done to control Axl's behavior. Guns N' Roses was scheduled to play Moscow on May 26 and 27, but the concerts had to be cancelled when their manager was arrested on drug charges.

Sooner or later, as ex-Gunner Izzy Stradlin has been quoted as saying, "Axl will go too far."

  

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