The Battle of Axl and Slash
Ok, America, let’s talk about the battle of Axl and Slash. Do we need another article or analysis of this feud? No. We don’t. However, I do.
Backstory on me. I am a very big fan of G&R. I always have been. I have been a fan longer than you. I can prove that. My buddy Tim had their first album, which wasn’t Appetite. It was a live EP called ‘Live like a f’ing Suicide’. You know the songs, it is the bside now of ‘Lies’. However, that EP of the 4 or 5 live songs was their first release. I love the music, and I loved the drama. I argue you can’t name a better rock album than ‘Appetite for Destruction’. It is a masterpiece, on every level. I never got to see them in their heyday, which drives a LOT of my frustration. They didn’t tour much, and Axl canceled all of their Phoenix shows except their last tour with Metallica. In Phoenix, they were known as ‘Guns and no Shows’. Their shows weren’t necessarily canceled in the classic sense of knowing ahead of time not to drive downtown. Axl, on many occasions, wouldn’t leave his room for the gig.
We now know this is par for the course. Back then, we didn’t know that. I think Axl and Slash are one of the great tandems of all time, up there with Jagger/Richards, Page/Plant, Tyler/Perry
I posited that they would be one of the great rock bands of history. They had it all.
So, we know what happened. They broke up, Axl weaseled the name, did nothing for 15 years, and then spent all his time slandering Slash. Axl really really hates Slash. Why? Slash wrote the songs. Slash made Axl famous and rich. Here is why I am on team Slash. Slash doesn’t talk shit about Axl. Axl called Slash a ‘cancer best left removed from the Earth”. Slash called Axl “a great talent, not sure why he is so angry.”
Why is Axl is so upset with Slash? Let’s look at it objectively. Axl got the name, and apparently the music rights to Guns and Roses. Axl wins. Got what we wanted. Slash got the shaft. I have been wondering for 15 years what Axl’s beef with Slash was. Slash and Duff wrote the songs, 90% of them. They did all the heavy lifting. Axl simply drops in, 2 hours late, and sings their songs and gets rich.
Why do I care? Well, because I think Axl has one of the best rock voices of all time. Now, you are thinking ‘he just screeches, that isn’t singing”. No, he has incredible vocal control, and watching him execute it is breathtaking. Listen to this clip from Lies, the acoustic version of ‘You’re Crazy’. Also dig Slash’s work on the acoustic.
So, why does Axl hate Slash so vocally and vehemently? Well, I have read every single piece of journalism written on the subject, including both Slash and Duff’s autobiographies. Twice, and only twice, he has given clues. About 2 years ago, he said there was always an internal struggle in the band. According to Axl, Slash felt G&R was his band. Axl felt it was his band. This is incredibly common in every successful band, and it is what broke up the Beatles.
There is good reason to worry about this, especially when you are as visible as G&R in their heyday. So, whose band was it? Well, Axl was the face. You can certainly argue it was Slash’s band, though. He wrote all the songs, and showed up for every show. On time.
We know Axl won that battle by refusing to go on stage one night until the band signed over the name to him. Even Axl cops to that, but explains his motivation differently.
"Slash either should not have been in Guns to begin with or should have left after Lies. In a nutshell, personally I consider him a cancer and better removed, avoided and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better."
So, that was the first decent explanation from Axl of why Slash is a ‘cancer’. The second game today. Axl explained he couldn’t write songs because Slash and Duff were dicks to him, and criticized his music writing. Maybe that is true. I mean, Slash is a wicked good songwriter. Axl’s instrument of choice is piano. So, I could see America’s biggest hard rock guitar god not being excited about piano ballads. Axl can write, though. He showed us that with November Rain. That song is amazing. Axl always had that song, but the band didn’t want it on Appetite. They were correct, it would not have fit. Axl won, though. He released the song and it was a HUGE hit. So, Axl should have been vindicated. Instead, he uses it as his excuse for why ‘Chinese Democracy’ took 15 years. He doesn’t explain, however, why he refused to tour or do press for the band or his record company.
So, what broke up the band? Simple. Same shit that breaks up every single band. Power struggle and ego. What I don’t get is why that has lingered over 20 years. Here is the most fun part. We all know that ALL the original gunners were invited to the Rock Hall of Fame induction. We know that ALL showed, except Axl. No surprise there. What is surprising is when someone recently asked him about re-uniting, Axl said
‘"The ball's not in my court. I'm surviving this war, not the one who created this war."
Really? I beg to differ. The ball is in your court. Everyone in the band showed up except you to Cleveland. Also, you started the war by firing the band, stealing the name, not doing anything with it for 20 years, and then refusing to play with the original band.