Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

W. Axl Rose

Guns ‘N’ Roses is a rock and roll band of quite some repute - but not all of it is on the good side of the ledger. This book, the unauthorized biography of W. Axl Rose (ISBN 978-0-330-44856-7, Pan Books, 2008) was written by Mick Wall, an author of many books covering the lifestyles and personalities of many pop world groups and stars.

That Guns ‘N’ Roses should rise to the surface, there is no doubt. 30 million people bought the ‘Appetite for Destruction’ album, more than the Beatles Sgt Pepper album, or any album from U2, or even the revered Rolling Stones. Guns ‘N’ Roses were a force to be reckoned with.

W. Axl Rose was indeed a troubled soul and had been from childhood. His use of regression therapy to unearth and explain his thoughts and moods show how ‘facts’ can be used as an excuse.

Wall goes into much detail in this unauthorized biography, including the steps by which “Bill Bailey” eventually became Axl Rose. He exhibited mood swings that would go with his two personalities “Bill” and “Axl” to the point of being pathological.

I found the slow genesis of the band Hollywood Rose and then LA Guns with the obvious fusion to Guns ‘N’ Roses quite fascinating, and author Wall is encyclopedic with his histories.

The drug culture of rock bands in those days is frightening to read, as they plunged into LSD, cocaine and heroin. This had such a hold upon the band members in the early stages, that all they could do was dream about “doing heroin”. At one stage, they even advertised themselves as “fresh from detox”.

Axl’s guitarist Slash described ‘success’ in their first tour as Guns ‘N’ Roses as, “No one died, no one fainted, we all survived.” However, as the band became more coherent and ‘fame’ was starting to catch up with them, or them with it, Axl’s ability to mentally handle the situation was well beyond his ability. Walk-outs and no-shows became his way to try and stay in charge of himself. A very difficult task with the psychological strengths and weaknesses of his character.

Despite all their burgeoning fame, the backgrounds of the band members sees them totally freaked out by appearing on a set with Clint Eastwood saying, “…and then this nine foot character comes over and says ‘Uh, nice record,’ and walked away. But he was more Clint in person than he is on the screen.” Fame, or rather notoriety, was with them, but for all of them in Guns ‘N’ Roses, they were still social misfits. But Axl Rose begins to believe in his own omnipotence, as a method of overcoming his self doubts. In many ways, very sad.

This is an authoritative work, and anyone who enjoys the Guns ‘N’ Roses performances should add this book to their collection. It explains much of the tortured soul that Axl Rose has, which in the end killed the enormous talent he once possessed.

Plenty of photo pages of Axl Rose and his band and at B. 485 an enjoyable, if somewhat disturbing read at times.