Music Over 40 : Guns N Roses and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Guns N Roses
This is a topic that I have thought about again in the wake of Rush finally getting their due. Though I think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is at the very least a suspect vehicle for what great rock and roll is, especially when it comes to hard rock, it is a touchstone for a lot of music fans.
Does GNR's body of work warrant inclusion in the Hall, especially on the first try? Obviously Appetite For Destruction was one of the best and most influential albums of the 80's.
The Use Your Illusion set, while overblown, contains some very powerful material as well. A very strong argument could be made this would have made one absolute killer of an album as opposed to two above average, but uneven albums. Another point of view is that had many of the songs been stripped down a bit, they would have carried far more weight.
The holdover EP, Lies, which included the previously released Live Like a Suicide EP does nothing to either help or hinder the bands case. Much the same can be said for the album of punk covers, The Spaghetti Incident.
That is one classic album and two top above average albums in a 6-7 year span (1986-1993).
They had the reputation of being an explosive live band. I saw them (Giants Stadium, 1988, at the concert where the first half of the "Paradise City" video was filmed), and while they were good, they did not blow me away. The band was good buy slightly loose and Axl's voice was uneven for much of the show.
As headliners on the Use Your Illusion touring cycle, all reports indicated that when they were on, there was no greater band with a frontman who was unparalleled. When they were off, or Axl did not feel like staying the whole time or showing up within 3 hours of their scheduled start time, disaster could strike (see Montreal and St. Louis)
They have a reputation for changing the landscape of hard rock and being a catalyst for the demise of hair metal. Personally, I think the hair metal expiration date was already visible on the horizon in 1988 and the rise of fresh Seattle sound had just as much to do with it as GNR did.
There are only nine hard rock/heavy rock/heavy metal bands in the hall right now (that includes Cream, which is a stretch, the others being Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Van Halen and 2012 inductees Rush).
The list of heavy bands that is not in the hall reads like a who's who of hard rock: Deep Purple, Kiss, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Motorhead et. al. Does Guns deserve a place at the head of the line ahead of these folks? I don't think so.
I think they were a great band, with a great vibe and a mystique. Axl Rose would have gone down in history with Freddie Mercury as one of the all time great front men. Unfortunately, his ego, his lack of respect for his band mates, his peers and his audience led to his undoing. The man has owned the Guns name for over 15 years and has one mediocre album, Chinese Democracy, to his credit. Posted You Tube videos of live performances over the last five years have made a mockery of everything from his voice to his rather rotund appearance to the freaky cornrow thing going on with his hair.
Deep Purple is regarded as one of the pioneers of hard rock and one the first to fuse classical influences with hard rock. Along with Zeppelin and Sabbath they helped invent the heavy metal riff (see Smoke on the Water, Highway Star or Woman From Tokyo) Kiss took spectacle to a new level. Judas Priest have been a staple of the twin guitar metal sound and Maiden releases relevant albums and fills stadiums around the globe even today. Megadeth is one of 3 of the big 4 of thrash (who revolutionized, and some would say saved, metal in the 1980's) who have not even gotten within sniffing distance of the hall. Motorhead is cited as a major influence by almost everyone who followed them. Lemmy is a mythic figure that people will talk about long after he dies, if he ever does.
Guns was dirty and grimy when the pop metal scene was pretty and polished. For that they deserve some credit, but Aerosmith was grimier and dirtier for longer and they needed a soul sacrificing 80's comeback to get their spot at the table.
Granted, if you think the Hall is a bunch of clueless old men anyway, the above means nothing. And you might have a point. My gut feeling is that Guns got in as much for the buzz about who might actually show up to accept the honor as they did for the musical legacy.