Guns N' Roses returns to Oklahoma

Frontman Axl Rose last man standing in what was once called “most dangerous band in the world”
MATTHEW PRICE Features Editor mprice@opubco.com Modified: November 9, 2011 at 11:19 am •  Published: November 4, 2011
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Nearly 20 years after making a stop at the Myriad as part of the "Use Your Illusion" tour, Guns N' Roses returns to Oklahoma for a show at Norman's Lloyd Noble Center.


But little about GN'R is the same as it was 20 years ago; and even the "Illusions" line-up had changed significantly from the so-called "most dangerous band in the world" who had taken the charts by storm with their debut studio LP, "Appetite for Destruction."

Part of the appeal of the impossibly named band, featuring members W. Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler, was the feeling that the entire enterprise could go off the rails at any moment.

"They are a musical sawn-off shotgun, with great power but erratic aim — they veer from terrible to brilliant in a typical set, often within a single song," wrote Q magazine in March 1989.

Kerrang! dubbed the five-piece band "the most dangerous band in the world" in an article by Mick Wall, who would later pen books about Axl and the band — and, less pleasantly, once he was on Axl's bad side, would be called out in the song "Get in the Ring."

The mercurial (and Mercurial) Axl Rose was born in Lafayette, Indiana to teenager Sharon E. Lintner and William Bruce Rose, on Feb. 6, 1962. He was born William Bruce Rose, Jr. The elder Rose abandoned the family when his son was 2 years old.

Rose's mother married Stephen Bailey, and Rose's name was changed to William Bruce Bailey. He grew up being called Bill Bailey, and believed Stephen Bailey was his real father until age 17.

The very religious Bailey household required Rose to attend services up to eight times each week. Rose at times taught Sunday school, sang in the church choir, and performed with his brother and sister as "The Bailey Trio."

As a teenager, Rose began to get into trouble with local law enforcement, and eventually followed his friend Jeff Isbell to Los Angeles with the idea of becoming a rock and roll singer. Isbell, later known as Izzy Stradlin, was one of the founding members of Guns N' Roses. Rose was now calling himself "W. Axl Rose," after a band he'd been in called Axl.

The group was formed in early 1985, when the members of L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose (which included Rose and Stradlin) merged into one band, Guns N' Roses. Tracii Guns, who provided half of the band name, and drummer Rob Gardner weren't long for the band, however. Duff McKagan, a bassist and ex-punk rocker who had moved to Los Angeles from Seattle, set up a tour for Guns N' Roses stretching from L.A. to Seattle. (McKagan replaced L.A. Guns' Ole Beich, who played one show with Guns N' Roses.) With no interest in the travel, Guns and Gardner left; they were replaced in the lineup by Slash and Steven Adler, who had previously performed with Hollywood Rose.

The tour was a disaster in some ways; the car broke down before they got out of California, and the band members were left hitchhiking to Seattle with questionable characters, Slash writes in his autobiography.

But by the time the five made it to Seattle for their lightly attended show, the group had bonded. The "Appetite"-era GN'R kicked into gear from there. With little money, at times members of the band lived in their rented storage space, where they also practiced. It became a haven of partying that allowed several members to increase their addictions.

The band began playing frequent Los Angeles shows, including at the Whisky A Go-Go and the Cathouse.

The ever-more-popular Los Angeles shows, particularly at the Troubadour, led to a bidding war for the band's services on a major label. Tom Zutaut, who had signed Motley Crue, eventually secured the band's services.

Steven Adler writes in his book "My Appetite for Destruction: Sex, Drugs and Guns N' Roses," that even the occasion of getting signed to a major label couldn't rouse Axl's schedule.

"It was a sunny day, and everyone was together walking toward the Geffen building except Axl, who was nowhere to be found. We looked for him for over an hour and finally someone ... spotted Axl. He was on the roof of the Whisky! He was sitting in the lotus position, as if he was meditating," Adler writes.

Wall writes that seeing Rose in daylight at all became unusual.

"Like some Anne Rice vampire, it was always late at night when he called, always dark out there whenever you ran into him," Wall writes in his book "W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose."

"You got the feeling he hardly ever saw daylight, didn't approve of it. On a completely different schedule to everyone else, always sleeping until four or five in the afternoon, these late-night rendezvous had the incongruous effect of making you feel as though he was always a little bit more awake than you, or indeed anyone else around him. Not that it made him smarter or more fun to be with—just that it ensured things tended to be done on his terms, whether they be long, complicated meetings or simple phone conversations. Even an accidental collision on the street didn't seem to catch him off guard. It was as though he just expected strange things to happen to him—all the time."

Strange things did continue to happen to the band, whose debut record would go on to sell more than 100 million copies.



Guns N' Roses

• When: 8 p.m. Nov. 9.

• Where: Lloyd Noble Center, 2900 Jenkins Ave., Norman.

• Information: 325-4666 or www.lloydnoblecenter.com

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