I begged my mom to buy me the controversial cassette tape Appetite for Destruction; the one my best friend’s parents refused to buy for her. I didn’t know what the big deal was when I was a mere fifth grader, but I wanted in! I remember LOVING the song “Mr. Brownstone” and singing it on the blacktop during recess. Years later I discovered its meaning – the spiral of heroin addiction. Guns N’ Roses solidified in my personality my love for heavy, button-pushing music. I enjoyed a wee bit of the hair metal by bands like Poison and even excited myself with a love affair with Warrant’s Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.
I liked the thrill of listening to edgy themes of sex drugs and rock ‘n roll. The ideas played out like a fantasy, and only in adulthood while watching bands like Buckcherry whose singer, Josh Todd, announced to the Philips Arena crowd in Atlanta on November 2,
“A crazy bitch is the kind of girl you’re fucking for 2 weeks and hallucinating thinking
you’re in love when your friends say ‘you’re just fucked up on GHB and she fucks good – have some fun’. But you decide to bring her to meet your parents for Thanksgiving dinner and she shows up in a sundress with no bra and no panties. You say, ‘these are my fucking parents; it’s the holidays’ and she says ‘don’t be so uptight.’ Then, after dinner you take her to a local bar to blow off steam and your 16-year-old brother texts in repeatedly saying he needs to talk. When you ask him what’s up he says, ‘your girlfriend blew me in the bathroom before you left.’ And the crazy bitch says, ‘yeah, don’t be so uptight; he looked like he needed it.’”
Sex, drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll still have their place with fun-loving bands like Buckcherry, but no one should take away the deep sentiments and emotional connections in some of the solos and heart-ripping lyrics put out by Guns N’ Roses.
Looking over the discography for Guns N’ Roses, it pales in comparison to Megadeth – a band that just released its 13th full-length. Axl Rose fought to stay controversial; whether or not his work suffered for it I won’t say, but I will acknowledge my love for Guns that began with my very first tape and continued through every single release. I went through my formative years with the Use Your Illusion releases. I screamed along with “14 Years” thinking the song was written for my 14th birthday! Again, only years later did I learn the song told the story of the relationship between friends and band mates Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose. But in examining the songs on each album from Appetite for Destrustion to Chinese Democracy one can’t help but give Rose his due –even if it took more than 20 years to get a chance to see them live.
Rose seemed in an uncharacteristic good mood at Philips Arena in Atlanta. He poked fun at being arrested last time he played Atlanta – when he jumped off stage and landed in a local holding cell too arrogant to say anything but “Fuck You” to those who would release him. The band walked onstage to the theme song for “Dexter,” and opened with “Chinese Democracy.” Toying with the opening riff, “Welcome to the Jungle” came next; appropriate for Rose’s return to Atlanta.
Each member took a solo break as Rose introduced those who believe in the passion of the project though none of them were there for that first release. If you missed the Philips Arena show Nov. 2, you missed a rare opportunity to see Guns N’ Roses play some of its timeless tunes including “Estranged,” “Don’t Cry,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Better,” “Sorry,” and “This I Love” off Chinese Democracy. You missed Rose’s piano tribute to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” that moved into a beautifully haunting rendition of “November Rain.” You missed Bumblefoot toying with the “Pink Panther Theme” for his solo and Tommy Stinson’s performance of “My Generation” where he sang. If you didn’t make your way out on Wednesday, you missed the constantly burning cigarette on DJ Ashba’s guitar. These are images you can find in pictures and recollections you can extract from low-quality YouTube bootlegs, but I’m glad I finally got to see the fun holding on to the guns brought to make life roses (I’m loosely quoting “Breakdown” here).
Guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal took the time to speak with me after the Atlanta show. He opened up about the extent of his recent injuries, and showed me that his May 31 car accident took a much larger toll than he originally thought. Thal also commented on his work producing Poc, an artist who opened for Guns in Mexico. The fact that Bumblefoot has overcome an earthquake, heat wave, the flooding of his studio from Hurricane Irene, and a potentially fatal car crash before embarking on a worldwide tour with Guns N’ Roses testifies to his honor and passion as an artist.
Those who are not familiar with the solo projects of Bumblefoot should check out his recent releases – he even includes “player” and “producer” packs for his fans. He says, “I know my fans. I included the things I often wished I could get with a CD or song.” (Listen to full interview below).
Take a listen to our interview below and catch up with the guitarist who steps up for the solos and never backs down from chaos surrounding the life of a touring musician. Ron Thal came from a background many musicians can identify with – he taught guitar, recorded and produced with friends over at Bald Freak, and kept pushing for his goals until he became part of an international band.