In the mid to late ’80s Kerrang!, the self-styled ‘Bible Of Hard Rock’, was manned by a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs counting their blessings to be working on such a great mag while trying – often struggling – to learn how to be journalists. I was one of those guys getting caught up in the thrill of being at the centre of the British rock scene, attempting to sort out rock wheat from rock chaff. And 21 years later I’m proud, and not a little relieved, to say that I didn’t always screw it up when it came to predicting which bands would go stellar.
In Kerrang! dated July 23-August 5, 1987 I reviewed ‘Appetite For Destruction’ by Guns N’ Roses. The Reviews Editor didn’t even see fit to make it the lead review, preferring to sandwich it between ads for the Sammy Hagar single ‘Give To Live’ and Tormé’s album ‘Die Pretty Die Young’. I, however, was way more enthusiastic about this new LA five piece ‘sleaze rock’ band, as I remember Guns had been clumsily dubbed. Indeed I’m duty bound to report that unfortunately I did use the term ‘sleaze pleazers’ in the review. No matter. At least I had no hesitation in awarding ‘Appetite…’ the much-coveted Five K award for an “essential album”. “With their high profile penchant for excess and indulgence of the strictly illegal variety,” I explained, “I’d hardly credit the band with having taken the time to sit down and learn to play this good, write songs so infuriatingly catchy and yet as hard as railroad steel.” And even now I remember the sense of excitement that Guns were reclaiming rock and roll from all the MTV-friendly hair metallers of the day. And so it proved…
Now, after what has to be the longest gestation period in rock and roll history – 17 years – William Bailey is finally satisfied that the time is right to bring us his new Guns N’ Roses. The already-legendary ‘Chinese Democracy’ will be released on November 23, 2008. It marks the first original Guns N’ Roses recordings since 1991’s ‘Use Your Illusions I and II’. And once more I’ve got the feeling that Guns are about to re-signpost the rock road map.
W. Axl Rose secured the rights to the Guns N’ Roses banner a long while back after a bit of a dogfight with his erstwhile band sparring partner Slash. Then he headed off to the barber’s to get his hair braided, and went underground to plot a return – and most likely a revenge. But surely not even crazy, perfectionist, temperamental Axl could have believed it’d be so long before new material would officially see the light of day. He appears to have had the title since forever. It was merely the songs that proved tricky.
Information and disinformation about ‘Chinese Democracy’ has been the name of the game for years. Song titles and band members have come and gone along with rumours about people playing guitar with Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets on their heads. And that was the bit that turned out to be true! And for a long time there was, perhaps, a part of all of us that didn’t want the music to be released for fear that it would turn out to be a tremendous piece of shit.
So it was with trepidation that I approached the CD burn – from an unnamed ‘source’, of course! – of seven songs from ‘Chinese Democracy’ when I got my hands on it a few months back. Could the game well and truly be up? Would the Lines N’ Noses legacy be tarnished forever?
Amazingly, incredibly, overwhelmingly, the answer was no. It took 6210 days, but it sounds like not one of them was wasted. The likes of ‘Madagascar’, ‘Better’, Catcher N’ The Rye’ and the barnstorming ‘Chinese Democracy’ itself uphold the Guns legacy brilliantly. The new songs sound every bit as mighty as the numbers on ‘Appetite For Destruction’, the debut album that I rightly raved about in that Kerrang! review back in ’87! The sound’s evolved, enlarged, modernised. But at its core it’s still the same Guns – raw and petulant, yet sensitive and (dare we say) beautiful at one and the same time.
If these works in progress are anything to go by we here at Saltyrockz are more than right to be celebrating the release of ‘Chinese Democracy’ with not just one, but a whole raft of shirts. Not only can you choose to Vote For Chinese Democracy (a worthy cause, remember!), but you can also show your support for the album – or the individual tracks you love – with our authentic Mandarin ‘Chinese Democracy’ tees. So hats off Axl. It looks like you’ve created a true rock masterpiece. Now get those bleedin’ braids out of your hair!
HoJo rocked as a top journalist on legendary UK metal magazine
Kerrang! and now runs a way-cool rock T-shirt site at www.saltyrockz.com.