Friday, December 7, 2007
Guns N' Roses N' Promises
There's something missing this holiday season, and it's not just the lack of inclement weather.
For the first time in years, nobody is spreading rumors about the imminent arrival of a new Guns N' Roses album. "Chinese Democracy," which has been on the verge of coming out for the better part of a decade, currently has no pre-release buzz, a fact that makes us want to start a rumor right now. Things are a little bit too quiet ...
At this point, though, it might be better if the album didn't come out. A release of "Chinese Democracy" would be like O.J. Simpson suddenly finding the real killer. Aging metal-heads' hearts would give out. Stock markets would crash. MTV newsman Kurt Loder would probably have to stop working, and so would Larry King. (At this point, does anyone doubt that they're the same person?)
When Peanuts creator Charles Schulz announced his retirement in the late 1990s, there was much talk about his final strip. One popular prediction was that Charlie Brown would finally get to kick the football - advice that Schulz very wisely didn't take. If Charlie Brown kicked the football, it would undo 50 years of good comics with one bad one.
That's exactly how I feel about "Chinese Democracy." We, the remaining Guns N' Roses fan base, are Charlie Brown. The album is the football. And Axl Rose is Lucy, repeatedly setting deadlines he knows he'll never make, because the public is gullible enough to believe him. (I think Slash is Schroeder in this analogy, and Stephanie Seymour is the Little Red-Haired Girl, although I haven't totally thought that part out.)
The last time Rose announced a "tentative" release date of March 2007, no less than three dozen different news agencies reported it, including the Chicago Tribune, Hollywood Reporter and Agence France-Presse. March 2007 has come and gone, and here we are, still clutching worn-out copies of "Lose Your Illusion II" to our chests, waiting anxiously for the next rumor. There's something that's so sweet and human about the whole charade.
Below is a brief timeline, culled from a three-hour-long LexisNexis search, which contains just a fraction of the "Chinese Democracy" fake-outs that fans have endured. A new GNR album has been rumored to be in the works since 1994, but purists consider the "Chinese Democracy" AD mark to be late 1999, when the name of the new album was announced.
Nov. 7, 1999: Guns N' Roses manager Doug Goldstein says "Chinese Democracy" is nearly complete, and should be out in early 2000. "It's not entirely indicative of what the album's going to be," he says of "Oh My God," a Guns track that appears on the soundtrack to "End of Days," a 1999 action picture starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It's a song that seemed to fit the movie."
January 2000: Rolling Stone magazine interviews Rose and reports that the new album is penciled in for a summer 2000 release. "I'd like to take some of the old Guns fans along with me into the 21st Century," Rose tells the magazine.
May 11, 2001: The New York Daily News quotes an "insider," who says the album is basically done. "The album has been finished to everybody else's satisfaction for over a year now," the source says. "But Axl keeps going back to remix it and add vocals."
November 2002: Guns N' Roses keyboard player Dizzy Reed tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the album should be out by summer 2003. "There are just a few odds and ends left to do - a couple of finishing touches, a couple of vocals - and we need to mix it," Reed says.
Aug. 21, 2003: Guns N' Roses bass player Tommy Stinson tells the Albany Times-Union that work on the album has "been going great." "It's closer to the end of the record being completed than the beginning," he says. "... I'm not drinking the company Kool-Aid on all that. That's all straight info. I guarantee that the album's coming out. Hopefully it'll be out sometime before the end of the year."
April 5, 2004: After new Guns N' Roses guitarist Buckethead quits, Rose says in a release, "We hope to announce a release date within the next few months."
January 2006: On a Philadelphia radio show, former Guns guitarist Slash says of "Chinese Democracy," "It's coming out in March ... I've been told a lot of things over the years, but it definitely sounds like it's coming out in March."
January 2006: Rose tells Rolling Stone that the band is working on 32 songs, with 13 expected to make the final cut. "People will hear the music this year," he says.
November 2006: Several publications report that the album will be released by the end of the year, with the band's Web site strongly suggesting it will be released on a Tuesday in November or December.
Dec. 15, 2006: Rose puts a statement on the official Guns N' Roses Web site, announcing a tentative March 6, 2007, release date. "To say the making of this album has been an unbearably long and incomprehensible journey would be an understatement," Rose says.
March 2007 passed, and we haven't heard another definitive word about the album, which reportedly has accumulated more than $10 million in recording costs. Meanwhile, the band continued on a short world tour in June and July.
Whatever minor inconvenience Guns N' Roses fans are enduring, I feel much more sympathy for W. Axl Rose, whose life at this point must be like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." (Axl's Journal: Clock radio wakes me up at noon. That f- Velvet Revolver song is on again ... Come to the slow realization that for the 3,126th day, "Chinese Democracy" isn't done ... Have breakfast with Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliot ...)
The delay of the album, which was frustrating at first, has become a more entertaining spectacle than anything that could possibly be on the album. Every generation has its crazy musicians, and for the children of the 1980s, Axl Rose is definitely our heaviest hitter. Although the unreleased GNR album hasn't yet approached the madness surrounding Brian Wilson's 37-years-in-the-making "Smile," I'm definitely rooting for it to break the record. If "Chinese Democracy" comes out a year before 2031, it will be too soon.
It's also hard to feel like I'm missing out on new Guns N' Roses, because I've already heard most of the content. Between the songs that have already commercial airplay, the tracks I've heard in concert (Axl has been playing "Chinese Democracy" content since a 2001 Guns tour) and a mysterious Internet download that arrived on my desk in CD form last year, I feel like I've listened to the entire album three or four times. I've certainly listened to more of the new album than "The Spaghetti Incident," the last GNR album, which came out in 1993.
The "Chinese Democracy" tracks that have surfaced offer no clues as to why the album has been delayed so long. The songs are actually not that bad. And other than a slight industrial edge (and an exodus of nearly every band member other than Rose), it barely differs from the last two original Guns N' Roses albums. "Chinese Democracy" could be "Use Your Illusion III."
Even if it's another "Appetite for Destruction," it can't possibly eclipse the fun journalists have had writing about the album. My search revealed at least a dozen different writers who used the same punch line, speculating whether there will be a democracy in China before we see "Chinese Democracy."
Axl Rose may get wrinkly and gray before his next album drops, but that joke will never, ever grow old.
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle
posted 8:09 PM