This is an absolutely self-indulgent post of the worst stripe. Utterly.
So, I periodically see people wondering what would have happened if GNR’s Use Your Illusion had not been a double album. If, indeed, they had had an editor of sorts. Because, frankly, the albums are ideal metaphors for the excess that eventually collapsed the AFD and UYI period GNR (that was a fun little sentence to write). I’m a bit saddened by the albums now; here are the remains of incredibly talented (yes, I am perfectly serious) guys who just didn’t know when to quit.
Slash and heroin. Duff and alcohol. Axl and egoism/”artistry.” Seems that only Izzy managed to gain a clue–and he left not far into the UYI tour. Almost feel sorry for Matt and Dizzy.
Anyway, ideally, one could parse this sucker down to one album. If I could have edited the damn thing, I’d have kept it to a single album with the following credo: Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you have to record and/or release it. Really. Not every song needs to see the light of day, and digging into the AFD (and prior) catalog? Not really a show of growth there.
Rules: Maximum: 75 minutes (arbitrary as hell, I know)
Not Making the Cut
- The songs marked with * are those I could be persuaded to keep for a lovely, very long album.
- “Don’t Damn Me” (Rose, Slash, Dave Lank) – 5:18 : Actually, I like this song and it’s Judas Preistliness. Axl does a fine impression of Halford here. But, this is a band that once upon a time was so committed to the relationship between the audience and the songs that they tested every freaking song live. They obsessed over the bridge of each song. They wrote and rewrote and cut and extended (see all comments on “Anything Goes”). This song was never, to my knowledge, played live by GNR.
- “Double Talkin’ Jive” (Stradlin) – 3:23 : I like this song, but it feels out of place….and off, somehow.
- “Perfect Crime” (Rose, Slash, Stradlin) – 2:23: An AFD era song. It was performed live for the first time on Halloween 1986. This would be in addition to “Back Off Bitch,” which Preceded AFD and GNR–as did parts, at least, of “November Rain,” and “Don’t Cry.” A bit heavy on digging into the old catalog, yes?
- *”You Ain’t the First” (Stradlin) – 2:36: I really like this song, so I’m sort of inclined to put it back, but then I’m partial to Stradlin’s writing anyway.
- “The Garden” (features Alice Cooper) (Rose, Arkeen, Del James) – 5:22: There is something inherently wrong with having two “Garden” songs on a single album (and back to back, no less). Also, this is one of THREE songs on UYI that seem to complain about the bad behavior of several members of the band in comparison to Axl’s clean living ways (“only smart boys do without”). This is not the best of the three.
- “Bad Apples” (Rose, Slash, Stradlin, McKagan) – 4:28 This would be the second of the aforementioned addiction/bad behavior songs. And look, I managed to strike a McKagan song.
- “Back Off Bitch” (Rose, Paul Tobias) – 5:03: I hate this song with a deep and abiding passion. It’s not the theme; “It’s So Easy” has similar themes, and it’s one of my favorite songs ever. This one is just roundly irritating.
- “Dead Horse” (Rose) – 4:17 : Struck for redundancy because, really, beating a dead horse is what these albums were all about.
- “Shotgun Blues” (Rose) – 3:23: Struck for being a monumentally annoying song
- “Live and Let Die” (Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney) – 3:04 : Eh, fine as it goes, but never totally did it for me. Could live without it.
- “Don’t Cry (Alternate Lyrics)” (Rose, Stradlin) – 4:44: More redundancy. I like the lyrics here. They would have made for a swell B-side. An additional album track? Not so much.
- “My World” (Rose) – 1:24: Struck for pathetic, egocentric stupidity. Now, I have no real issue with egocentric musicians; I suspect it is largely a required trait. However, this little unfortunate rant doesn’t possess the requisite humor or, well, interesting musical accompaniment.
- “Breakdown” (Rose) – 7:04: Like “Shotgun Blues,” I just don’t like this song. Does nothing for me.
- *”Get in the Ring” (Rose, Slash, McKagan) – 5:41: I have some hang ups with this one. It’s a good old fashioned irritated rockstar who doesn’t want to be called rockstar song, which makes it fun, but the rant is…well, if nothing else it is vintage Axl. And, McKagan can be heard warbling behind Axl. Also fun. They did name a tour after it…so maybe it should stay after all.
- “Yesterdays” (Rose, West Arkeen, Del James, Billy McCloud) – 3:16: Eh, not a song that’s ever done anything one way or the other for me. It’s fine, just not especially exciting.
- “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan) – 5:36: I rather like their cover, but if I had to pick a cover or an original, I’d go with the original. Though, I could probably be talked into trading “Right Next Door” for this one. But, this would have been a great B-side or a FAR better addition to “Spaghetti Incident” than the utterly bizarre “Since I Don’t Have You.”
I tried to organize them into an album order. I failed. So, in no particular order:
- “Right Next Door to Hell” (Rose, Stradlin, Caltia) – 3:02: Could substitute one of the * songs for it. It does give Axl a chance to whine, though.
- “Bad Obsession” (Stradlin, Arkeen) – 5:28: The third of the addiction trilogy and the only really good one. That it doesn’t involve Axl in the writing may have a great deal to do with that assessment. Good bluesy tune. And a harmonica. Who could leave that behind?
- “Civil War” (Rose, Slash, McKagan) – 7:42: An attempt to be political. I like this song–even if it does mention “human grocery stores.”
- “Dust N’ Bones” (Slash, Stradlin, McKagan) – 4:58 : Fabulous song. A definite keeper
- “Don’t Cry (Original)” (Rose, Stradlin) – 4:44
- “14 Years” (Rose, Stradlin) – 4:21
- “Locomotive” (Rose, Slash) – 8:42
- “You Could Be Mine” (Rose, Stradlin) – 5:43: Best part of video: Duff blowing out the cigarette smoke at the mic, apparently in an “oops, I’m supposed to be singing right now” moment. Well, that an Arnie as Terminator deeming GNR as unworthy of death. Oy.
- “November Rain” (Rose) – 8:57: A song in need of an editor. As Slash put it, “that’s the sound of a band falling apart.”
- “Garden of Eden” (Rose, Slash) – 2:41: Short, punky goodness. And, an acid-trip of a video
- “Pretty Tied Up” (Stradlin) – 4:47: Fun. Needs “You Ain’t the First” as a B-side. Release this instead of the trilogy from hell.
- “So Fine” (McKagan) – 4:06 : As Mick Wall puts it: “..the most inconguously moving, inescapably sultry tune Guns N’Roses has ever recorded…it is a moment of pure sex…and probably the best song Keith Richards never wrote” (154).
- “Estranged” (Rose) – 9:23: Tempted to strike just because of the damn video. But, a musically interesting, if ridiculously long, song.
- “Coma” (Rose, Slash) – 10:13: The “Rocket Queen” of UYI. Instead of Axl and Adriana’s, uh, “lovin’ noises,” we have a defibrillator. Make of that what you will. Me? The sounds of a band dying under its own weight.
Wall, Mick. Guns N’ Roses: The Most Dangerous Band in the World.
New York: Hyperion, 1992.