On Saturday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, and Guns N’ Roses, among many others (Donovan!). If you think that sounds like one concert not to miss, it will air on HBO May 5. The show, however, was missing a bit from each band: John Frusciante, the former Chili Peppers’ guitarist who left the band a few years ago and opted to not attend; Adam Yauch, a founding member of the Beastie Boys who is fighting cancer (the other two Boys did not perform without him, but showed up to accept the honor — the Roots, Kid Rock and Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes performed a tribute medley); Izzy Stradlin, original GNR guitarist who was thankful for the award but generally stays out of the limelight and opted not to attend; and Axl Rose, who was off whining and pouting like Axl always has (“no offense meant to anyone but the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn’t appear to be somewhere I’m actually wanted or respected,” he wrote in a letter declining the induction). Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy filled in for Rose during GNR’s three-song set and fans screamed “f*@k Axl” through much of the night, according to Rolling Stone.
But does the sheer mention of Guns N’ Roses bring some great rock memories or what? I read the autobiography of Slash, the guy to work a top hat like no one since Abe Lincoln, while recovering from wisdom teeth surgery years back — and GNR put the roil into the rock n’ roll lifestyle. In the short time that unbridled talent tore up the rock scene (yes, I’m talking pre-pre-pre “Chinese Democracy”), we were left with some incredible classics.
So sit back and rock out a bit on a Tuesday…
1. “Welcome to the Jungle” – I consider this the best hard rock song of modern times. (The best of all time — and no one ever fully agrees with me on this — is the Rolling Stones’ — no! not “Satisfaction” — “Paint it Black.”) And many GNR lists will put ballad above the power rock. But I consider this THE Guns N’ Roses song that showcases every big, bad, rip-roaring thing we loved about them. The “Jungle” was L.A. — where they got their start on the club scene.
2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Yep, we’ve all heard the stories about how the guys were just goofing around with opening notes that sounded almost like a circus, and now those are some of the most famous opening notes in music. But this song has withstood the test of time for conveying a sense of innocence one wouldn’t expect from the hard-living, hard-partying GNR crew in their early years — and yet, not being too sappy like many of the hair-band ballads. It rocks. Another track from “Appetite for Destruction” that proves the album was one of the best debuts in history.
3. “November Rain” – If “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is the puppy love of youth, this song is waking up to the reality of love and loss. One of GNR’s longest songs and famous for the orchestral accompaniment (which I love – check out Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra on “Enter Sandman”), it was on the “Use Your Illusion I” album. The video highlights how cool it would be to have Slash as best man at one’s wedding; then he’d climb atop the grand piano for a guitar solo.
4. “Paradise City” – Ah, yet another GNR song you know at first lick. Raw with a bit of country twang at the beginning and then diving headlong into full-fledged hard rock, it has a rock purity to it. And what hard rock group didn’t have their “coming home” song after months on the road playing gigs and partying hard — Ozzy (“Mama, I’m Coming Home”), Motley Crue (“Home Sweet Home”), etc. Pat Boone even covered it on his 1997 “No More Mr. Nice Guy” album.
5. “Don’t Cry” – A hauntingly beautiful rock ballad that’s, again, about loss and leaving. I just prefer it over the other troubled-relationship ballad that occupies this spot on many other GNR lists, “Patience.”
6. “Mr. Brownstone” – Yep, this usually doesn’t make an appearance on top GNR lists, even though it makes it onto every set list. But like its “Appetite” companions, what a great rock song. It’s vintage early GNR — the lyrics were originally written on the back of a paper grocery bag, the song was the first they penned after the band was signed in 1986. It’s basically a first-person song about their early days as heroin addicts.