This weekend, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will be holding its annual induction ceremony, and the honorees include Donovan, The Crickets, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Guns N’ Roses. Well, sort of Guns N’ Roses. In a letter released yesterday, lead singer Axl Rose has declared that he will not be attending the ceremony. Not only that, he’s made it clear that no one else is to act on his behalf during the ceremony, and no one is to represent him in any way as accepting induction. No one is to mention his name, his face is to be digitally removed from any pictures or videos showing the band in its heyday, and no reference is to be made of large metal pieces of automobiles used to hold the wheels in place. Elton John is not to perform the abysmal version of “Candle in the Wind” that begins, “Goodbye, England’s Rose.” That last part might be hyperbole. It certainly seems to be more douche-like behavior from a performer known for it. Remember, this is the same guy who’s infamous for starting concerts late, ending them early, and inciting fans to violence. In 1992, he left a concert in Montreal early, complaining of a sore throat. This was after opening band Metallica’s James Hetfield accidentally set himself on fire during the opening of “Fade to Black”. While being carried of the stage, still smoldering, Hetfield promised to return to Montreal at a later date to atone for his insolence. He’s a class act; Axl, not so much. It would be easy to say he’s just a prima donna, using a largely-ignored tribute to aging rockers to further the agenda of the one person he cares most about, himself. It’s not, though.
Guns N’ Roses, and Axl in particular, have never been known for stability. In fact, the band’s lineup has changed for nearly every album, much like their fellow inductees, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Axl is the only original member still in the band, and he appears to have surrounded himself with a collection of very competent but uninspired session musicians and cast-offs from other second-tier bands. The final straw for many fans, and I include myself in that camp, was when guitarist Slash left in 1996. The problem was, as is always the case, creative differences. Most great bands will have, at their core, two incredible musicians from which the awesome flows (Page and Plant, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Wilson and Wilson, etc.), and Guns N’ Roses was no different. Slash’s screaming Gibson was the perfect complement to Axl’s jet-turbine impersonation, and it’s a combination neither of them have been able to reproduce with their subsequent projects. Guns N’ Roses’ newest recordings are essentially Axl Rose solo releases, and like those of Robert Plant, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger, they might be good, but they’re never quite good enough. Which leads us to the real reason Axl Rose doesn’t want to attend the RaRHoF induction ceremony and accompanying jam session.
Axl doesn’t want to go because doing so would mean performing with Slash again, and that would be fucking AWESOME. It would give lie to the idea that present-day Guns N’ Roses is anywhere near as good as the original. In other words, 1987 GN’R would kick 2012 GN’R’s ASS, and that is something that Axl’s ego simply will not abide.