The Thorny Rose
After recently becoming the newest lead singer of AC/DC, Rose may be in the midst of a late-career renaissance.
By John Miles, Santa Fe College
If you tried to tell a young Axl Rose that the biggest year of his career would come when he was 54-years old and sitting in a wheelchair, he would have scoffed at you and continued snorting his coke.
Still, after being called upon by AC/DC to fill in as their lead singer on May 7th, Rose is undeniably enjoying a late-career blip of relevance. For the first time in decades, “The Rolling Stone” has endorsed a Rose-led performance, dubbing it a potential “touring hit of the summer.”
It’s heartening to see Rose still alive, let alone composing one half of a power-rock merger. The man has been on an unhinged rollercoaster for an unbelievably long time, and you have to wonder how the Axl Rose Ride still hasn’t come to a fatal stop.
Rose’s life has been full of extreme highs and lows, but not a whole lot in between. There have been touching moments and terrifying experiences, insightful and inflaming moments, rapid rises and swift plummets. The difficulty lies in finding out where the Guns n’ Roses front man really stands in regards to sanity. After one of the most quintessentially rock n’ roll careers of all time, the question stands: Is Axl Rose good or evil?
For the sake of argument, we are going to temporarily disregard the fact that Rose is among the most successful vocalists to ever pass through the industry. We’re going to talk about psychology, personality, temperament—you know, things Axl would likely disregard.
Back in ‘87, when Guns n’ Roses got their first taste of success with “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” the sour songwriter quickly bit back with the controversial song “One in a Million,” in which Axl comfortably utilizes the words “nigger” and “faggot” in the same song. It’s a song that supposedly (according to another bandmate) reflects “poor inner-city race relations,” but according to Axl, he was just “pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob [him].”
Writers say that one of the most interesting sources to pull from for material is your early childhood, so this kind of song would almost make sense if you consider his family’s relentless Pentecostal background. (This is a massive generalization, but it’s in response to his generalizations, so that makes it all OK.)
However, in 1988, Rosie made friends with the press when he attempted to calm a violent crowd at the Monsters of Rock festival. People were being trampled (two were killed), though the press made note of his courageous efforts to encourage people not to keep trampling each other. Looking back on the event a few years later, Rose had this to say: “Most performers would go to a security person in their organization, and it would just be done very quietly. I’ll confront the person, stop the song. ‘Guess what: You wasted your money, you get to leave.’”
What an incredibly compassionate, gentle action.
Jokes aside, he is effective in this front. So how can we be sure if the man is good or evil? Let’s keep digging.
In the early 90s, Axl became something of a Jesus figure for riot-starters. In the middle of one concert in 1991, Rose noticed a fan recording the concert on a video camera. After stopping the song, he ordered a security guard to take the camera back. The security guard was unsuccessful. At this kind of life junction, we have to ask ourselves: What Would Axl Rose Do? You guessed it! He took matters into his own hands.
Officer Rose flung himself into the crowd, retrieved the contraband and headed back to stage, only to proclaim that “Thanks to lame-ass security, I’m going home!” As you might have guessed, a riot ensued shortly after, causing a total of $200,000 in damage.
But wait! There is still a whole lot more. In 1992, they were playing with Metallica, and after Metallica’s guitarist was injured on stage, Guns n’ Roses was called on to play. However, Sleeping Beauty was late to arrive to his little gig at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Once they finally got the set going, he told the crowd his voice was hurting and walked off stage. Another riot! This time, double the damage: $400,000. Answer, Daily Double.
On a positive note Axl got sober in the 90s, but unfortunately that’s really the only argument for him having a good side during this period of his life.
Fast forward through the Seven Years’ Hibernation and head into “Chinese Democracy” years, where in 2001, he missed another concert and caused another riot. This time around, it was only $100,000 in damage. Not counting the plentiful amount of lawsuits, the bail and other miscellaneous legal fees, Axl Rose and Co. (but mostly Axl Rose) have paid multiple governments of the world more than $700,000 solely in Post-Riot Money-To-Fix-Things.
It’s easy to look at $700,000 and go, “Hey, that’s a lot of things that he caused people to break. Maybe he’s not a good person.” But take it easy on the man.
He became famous quickly, which almost never ends well, plus he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
And, from a glass half full perspective, at least he never hit the million milestone for Post-Riot Money-To-Fix-Things fees.
Though in his defense, he’s just begun touring with AC/DC and is one of the few people I would never bet against when it comes to inciting riots.
Also, he has a loooooong list of girls he’s dated, so he must be doing something right. Who cares if a large chunk of them happened to be coke addicts? If girls like him, then he must be a good dude!
Of course this is completely unsound logic. Of course if you take a scroll through his Wiki page, you will notice more bad deeds than good ones. On the surface level, his bad deeds appear to strongly outweigh the good. However, there are two game-changing factors remaining.
First, he is absolutely killing it as AC/DC’s new lead singer. After Brian Johnson was told to hang up the gloves due to hearing problems, Axl has come in and by all accounts succeeded wildly. Though it originally seemed out of left field, upon inspection it’s really hard to imagine a better replacement for Johnson. Plus, he’s performing shows on a wheelchair. Talk about rock n’ roll.
Second and lastly, he likely dated Lana Del Ray. It doesn’t matter if it’s only “might” because it’s Lana Del Ray, the fantasy woman of every man (and some women) who are fans of music.
Thus, we can conclude that Axl Rose is an excellent dude. All we have to do to reach this conclusion is this: forgive his innumerable transgressions, and remember that he sings in AC/DC and probably dated Lana Del Ray. Few things in life are more impressive.