After all these years, it would appear that the drama surrounding rock band Guns N’ Roses is still three feet deep and three miles wide. In an open letter published on the GNR website, Axl Rose has stated that he will not attend this weekend’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland (which would have likely included a reunion performance with former members of GNR). No real surprise there.
But he went further. Axl Rose also said he doesn’t want to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His looooong open letter starts out rather professionally, and eventually deteriorates into a rant. But here’s the part of the letter that everyone is quoting (including me, it would appear):
“I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N’ Roses to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf.”
Dude…are you crazy? Who wouldn’t want to be inducted into the Hall?
Considering Rose’s grudges with former bandmates (most of all Slash), there has naturally been some awkwardness and lots of speculation as to whether all the former “glory days” GNR members could manage to get into the same room, much less perform at the ceremony. But there seems to be more to this than just “Axl”s to grind (sorry, couldn’t help it).
Not much is being said explicitly about this, but here’s one key thing Axl Rose says in his statement:
“Taking into consideration the history of Guns N’ Roses, those who plan to attend along with those the Hall for reasons of their own, have chosen to include in “our” induction (that for the record are decisions I don’t agree with, support or feel the Hall has any right to make),….”
See it? “Our” induction (in quotes). Axl is taking issue, not with GNR’s induction, but with who GNR actually is. He is in dispute of which bandmates should be “included” in the induction ceremony as members of Guns N’ Roses. And he’s concluded that because the Hall has included members of the GNR that fans initially grew to love, he is (as he puts it) “neither wanted nor respected” by the Hall of Fame.
You see, the band moniker “Guns N’ Roses” is still legally owned by Axl Rose. He’s assembled a new band who is recording and touring under that name. In Axl’s mind, that band, the one he’s touring with, is Guns N’ Roses—not the guys the Rock Hall of Fame invited.
The problem is, that band, the “new” band, is not the band that made rock history, and therefore they are not the people the Hall wishes to honor. Except, of course, for Axl Rose himself.
So that’s the real dispute here. Who, actually, is Guns N’ Roses? What band is actually being inducted here?
Things would have been much easier to weed through if Axl had just let the old GNR die when things fell apart, and maybe started up a new band with a new name. Then, if he didn’t want to attend the ceremony because he hates Slash or whatever, that would be his business. But now there’s this massive confusion because there are essentially two Guns N’ Roses-s. There’s the GNR that Axl Rose now owns and operates and feels is the only legitimate GNR; and there’s the original GNR that fans knew and loved. You know, the Appetite for Destruction version.
Heck, let’s stop walking on eggs here. Axl Rose thinks he is GNR, and that he alone decides who is, and is not, in the band.
From a purely legal standpoint, he’s right. But is this a case of profound denial, or monumental ego? Or both? When most fans think of GNR, they aren’t thinking simply of Axl Rose—and they certainly aren’t thinking of the band Axl Rose has now. They’re thinking about Axl, Slash, Dizzy, Duff, etc. This is the collection of musicians that put GNR on the map, and this is the band the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame plans to honor.
For the record, Axl Rose does not appear to be trying to tell the Hall what to do. “It’s their party, not mine,” he says in his letter. Nor is he trying to deny former GNR members their due. But I get the idea that he’d be more settled with the idea of each of these bandmates being inducted as individuals for their achievements, rather than having them represent GNR as a band. That’s what it looks like, anyhow.
So the drama continues.
Perhaps the saddest part of all this is that this whole fiasco has overshadowed the fact that there are other very deserving Hall of Fame inductees for this year—The Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Donavan among them. Rod Stewart’s old band Faces is also being inducted—and unlike Guns N’ Roses, they have managed to reunite for the show.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued a simple statement in response to Axl’s open letter:
“We are sorry Axl will not be able to accept his induction in person.”
Hm. Sounds like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame plans to ignore Axl’s wishes, and induct him in absentia anyhow.
Good for them.
(Photo credit: Ed Vill/Flickr)