Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Izzy Stradlin: The Epitome of Cool

Bring Back Izzy for Guns N' Roses Tour
Tim Brouk, Lafayette Journal & Courier

Of all the four letter words Axl Rose has used in his life, there is one that can easily boost his uncertain rock star status: Izzy.

With Chinese Democracy set to hit Best Buy stores November 23, how pop culture will be affected by what was once one of the most anticipated rock 'n' roll records in history is a mystery.

Of course, a full-scale Guns N' Roses reunion would dispel any question that Rose could not reclaim his thrown atop rock 'n' roll. But bridges are burned and those bridge ashes have been buried and then blown up with dynamite between Rose and most former Guns members -- whether the original or the Use Your Illusion era.

However, fellow Lafayette native Izzy Stradlin (Jeff Isbell when he lived in Lafayette) has always seemed to handle Rose the best. Their relationship is dissected at length in the 2008 biographies W.A.R. -- The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose by Mick Wall and Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses by Stephen Davis.

I interviewed both authors and they found Izzy to be the epitome of cool.

Izzy was always my favorite since I first saw GNR on videos, TV shows and in the pages of Circus and Rip magazines when I was in middle school. Izzy always hung in the back with his cigarette dangling from his lips, effortlessly strumming his guitar. His look was inspired by New York Doll Johnny Thunders, who influenced Izzy and a jillion other guitar players' styles in the 1980s. Izzy dressed differently and acted the most together of all the Guns, despite his battles with drugs and the occasional arrest (darn those long lines for an airplane bathroom).

Izzy has rejoined Axl for live shows since he left the band in 1991, right before the Rose circus reached its height. He filled in for Gilby Clarke in 1993 and then played numerous shows in 2006 with the 21st century Guns who barely resembled anything that crawled out of the Sunset Strip in 1986.

Living in Lafayette for the past eight-plus years, I sometimes forget that GNR's most rabid fans are not just in Lafayette. Guns' is somehow still a global phenomenon. If the band wasn't still thought of, Chinese Democracy would have been scrapped 10 years ago.

Even if Chinese Democracy is run through the mud by critics, a tour with Izzy in tow would be enough to satisfy fans. While not having Slash start those familiar chords to "Welcome to the Jungle" is tragic, having Izzy lead his classic "Mr. Brownstone" would be just as amazing to many fans.

Just like he did more than 20 years ago, Rose needs Izzy to get him to the rock god status again. He needs him now, perhaps, more than ever.
Lafayette Journal & Courier

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