Yesterday NPR Morning Edition announced to the world that rocker Axl Rose turned 50. Hearing what was likely the only major media mentioning of my former idol’s birthday reminded me of a story I once heard from my half-dentist/half-drummer friend Nicholas Woodward. He in turn heard it from someone we can only presume to be a dental student from the Midwest and probably named Nicole. Here’s the story which you’re getting thirdhand:
This story takes place circa 2006-2007. An attractive gal named Nicole was on spring break out in Los Angeles. One afternoon she and her L.A.-based attractive friend Lindsey stopped at a bar after their trip to the beach. The bar was mostly empty, but a booth in the corner was occupied by several men who were drinking away the early hours following the noontime. While sipping their Mai Tais at the bar, Nicole whispered to Lindsey, “Who are those guys? They look famous.”
Lindsey responded, “This is L.A. Everyone looks famous.”
“No, I’m serious. I think they’re somebody famous.”
“Whatever, girl,” Lindsey said.
Being the plucky girl from Iowa or wherever, Nicole approached the five or so men at the table and said, “Excuse me, my friend and I were just sitting at the bar and we think you’re someone we should know, but we can’t quite place you.”
The man in question turned out to be Axl Rose and his entourage of hired gun musicians and a few hangers-on.
After a mild freaking out which these brushes with fame can bring, Mr. W. Axl Rose said something along the lines of, “You and your friend should come over and hang out with us” probably with an "I’ll get your drinks” for good measure.
Lindsey joined them. Axl was very humble and courteous and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know Nicole, but as the conversation went on, rather than the clichéd “you girls wanna party back at my place”-type moves, Axl began to pour out his soul like so much Night Train Express about how he had so horribly screwed up his career and became morose. As things got progressively awkward, Nicole tried to give him some words of encouragement before leaving. The sense of pathos apparently overpowered the Pheromones of Fame.
Keeping in mind that this was before his “comeback” album Chinese Democracy came out in 2008, whether this story is true or not is entirely beside the point. It seems plausible. It has the stench of truth. It’s a small piece of rock n’ roll apocrypha, an illustrative anecdote about the dangers of rock n’ roll decadence. It certainly seems like something one of the greatest lead singers in the world would do in the middle-aughts of the new century, particularly after having fallen so far from dizzying heights. I mean, two Iraq wars occurred in the span between Use Your Illusion and the subsequent “reunion” tour. That brings us to a brief side-rant:
If Sting, an immensely talented musician who is not well-known for his humility, were to go on tour with a band sans Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland and say, “This is the Police,” fans would tell him to go practice tantric sex on himself. Who are these people who actually believe they’re seeing Guns n’ Roses when they buy tickets to see what is essentially The Axl Rose Experience?
I wonder how Mr. Rose celebrated his half-centennial. Is it possible that somewhere underneath his redhead cornrows he considered his own mortality and, given the upcoming induction of G n’ R into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, thinks there just might be the possibility of burying the hatchet and getting Slash, Duff, and the others back together? Rock n’ roll history is full of bitter feuds, recriminations, and rancor, but there's also a place for reconciliation. If you need further proof, check it out: at the time of this posting, it’s February 7th, 2012. Van Halen just released their first album with David Lee Roth since 1984. I’m just sayin’ it could happen.