by Chris McGinty
Our society likes to count anniversaries by ones, then by fives, then tens, and eventually by counts as high as fifties or hundreds. We celebrate the Fourth of July [and The Twenty Fifth of May (sic)] on Independence Day, but I bet you didn’t know this year that it was the 245th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I just had to math that out. Yet, there was a big sesquicentennial celebration back in 1976 that included changing the back of the quarters from the eagle to the drummer boy (the quarters are the reason I was aware of this. [I’m 39 years old (sic)]). I bet early on they celebrated bigly on the first and second anniversary and then maybe calmed until the fifth or tenth and so on.
I have a pretty sizable collection of these. I had $20+ worth back in 1992 when Guns ‘n’ Roses was still a real band, but a former friend of mine stole those quarters and a few other things from me to buy drugs. I didn’t get back into collecting them until about a decade or so later… like maybe thirteen years
Then why am I so focused on the 13th anniversary of “Chinese Democracy” by Guns ‘n’ Roses? Right around the same time there were two “highly anticipated” (sic again, yo (sic)) releases that were maybe finally coming out after thirteen year delays. One was the video game “Duke Nuke ‘Em: Forever” which, as I understood it was really supposed to be out sometime around 1998 and took thirteen years to finally release in 2011. The joke had become that it was called “Duke Nuke ‘Em” forever because it took ‘em forever to make. My joke was that it was officially called “Duke Nuke ‘Em: Chinese Democracy” because three years before that, there was another such delayed release by the band Guns ‘n’ Roses.
There’s a tale that Jimmy Page figured that his new band would fly as well as a Lead Zeppelin, and that’s where the name came from. The Eagles had their “Hell Freezes Over Tour” because they had allegedly said they would tour again at that time. This seems like one of those titles. There will be a new G ‘n’ R album when there is Chinese democracy. Clever… except that the album took so long to make that it was getting dangerously close to being true.
“Chinese Democracy” is probably harder to track on the thirteen year delay thing, because various release dates were announced, but as I understand it Axl Rose announced the name of the album (which was to feature Rose on vocals and no one else from the popular line up on any other instrument ever) sometime in 1995. Given where I was working when I heard the news, that sounds right and when the album came out the releases were saying that it took thirteen years to make.
There are times that I make declarations of my own and I end up following through. I still have not gone back to Church’s Chicken, except to pick up someone else’s order while delivering for Uber Eats. I made a pact with some girl on AOL who I never chatted with again to never see “Titanic.” It’s possible she’s now 50 years old and watches the adventures of Jack and Rose once a month, but I have still never seen the movie.
Jack: I think there’s room on the plank for me.
Rose: But there’s not enough room for you, Chris, and his TV/VCR so he can finally watch his copy of “Titanic” while we wait to be rescued.
Jack: Why does he own a copy of a movie he will never watch?
Rose: I don’t know, Jack. Why does Chris do anything?
The new Jacks ‘n’ Roses album “Led Titanic” is due November 2034.
When “Chinese Democracy” came out, I declared to the world (the world didn’t care one way or the other, by the way) that I would not listen to “Chinese Democracy” until it had been out for thirteen years. My take on it was that if Axl couldn’t be bothered to go in the studio and write some songs for thirteen years, I couldn’t be bothered to listen to it. This is exclusive to G ‘n’ R, by the way. I was chomping at the bit when Tool’s “Fear Inoculum” came out after thirteen years.
Tool – Fear Inoculum
If I haven’t shown my age by now [which is for sure 39 (sic)] I used to write my blog posts on My Space. My Space was semi-famous for what were known as surveys. They were little questionnaires of seemingly innocuous questions like, “What’s your favourite colour?” (sic) or “Apples or oranges?” It was real “get to know you” kind of stuff, although sometimes it seemed like there were questions on there that could be used to get access to bank accounts, like “Name of your first pet?” and “Mother’s maiden name?” What I would do is go through each survey that popped up on my bulletin board and find one question I wanted to answer and after I had twenty questions I would write a blog post.
One survey (that maybe was on Facebook now I think about it) was a thirty day post a song to your feed thing that I did for most of the month. “Post a song you loved when it came out, but hate now” was one such request. There is not a single song in existence that fits that description for me. There were songs that were ok that I grew to not think much about, but nothing I once loved but now hated. I posted “November Rain” by Guns ‘n’ Roses, because (without the pun intended but fully embraced nonetheless) it was a song that I’d become disillusioned with, along with Guns ‘n’ Roses themselves.
They could have been the greatest band [for]ever. “Appetite for Destruction” was genuinely that good of an album. It was so big that they re-released two early EPs as “Lies” and it sold well. [EDIT: It was an early EP and four acoustic recordings.] Then they released “Use Your Illusion 1 & 2,” which was a double album that they released as two different albums, probably for price tag purposes. I became quickly aware that they could have released one solid album with a couple of amazing b-sides, but there was no justification for two albums. I thought “November Rain” was pretty good, but tired of it quickly to the point that I don’t listen to it when it comes on the radio anymore. After a shitty cover album, “The Spaghetti Incident,” G ‘n’ R basically disbanded and I was suspicious when Axl said he was going to continue on with new band mates.
This is why in 2008 when he finally got around to releasing “Chinese Democracy” I just didn’t care anymore. As a band, they had so little compelling material since 1987 that I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about. I mentioned Tool earlier. They had released consistently great material the whole time and stayed together as a band and their delay was partially because of legal disputes outside of the band. Guns ‘n’ Roses was just this band that I’d become checked out on and “Chinese Democracy” was really Axl’s new band. It was a glorified solo album.
I’ve been telling people that I have to listen to “Chinese Democracy” this year and most of them have responded with, “You don’t have to, you know.” When I say that I’ve never seen “Lord of the Rings,” people want to remedy that immediately, and the same could be said for “Titanic” for the longest time. No one has said, “Oh, you never listened to ‘Chinese Democracy?’ You totally need to listen to it.” I’ve heard only one good review of the album from a friend and that was back in 2008 and it was “It’s actually pretty good.” What it wasn’t was, “omg everybody gotta listen to dis now fuck its great!!!! =) !!! (sic)” And the radio wasn’t exactly excited about the album either. If it had even one amazing song they would have played it until everyone was sick of it.
It took me thirteen years to get to the Cracks of Doom. I’m keeping this damn ring!
I’m going to feel like I fool tomorrow if I finally listen to it and it turns out to be Axl Rose’s best songwriting ever, but I don’t think it will be. I think it’ll be mostly good, but on the level of a solo album. I’ve learned during my delay that former bassist for The Replacements, Tommy Stinson, is the bassist on all tracks except for track 5. I’m a fan of The Replacements, even though I won’t listen to Chris Mars’s solo album “Horseshoes & Hand Grenades” while driving because I was in two car accidents, about a year apart, while listening to that album. Also, I never really got into Paul Westerberg’s solo stuff. I’m not sure Tommy Stinson will save “Chinese Democracy,” but I’m at least interested in hearing his playing.
That’s really all I’ve got until I listen to the album tomorrow. I’m going to be genuine with my review. It’s possible that hearing it now might even be better for all involved. There was so much good music coming out around that time that I might have been underwhelmed (sic) by an Axl Rose solo album. Here are a few things from 2008 and 2009 that I was listening to, not including some 2006 and 2007 albums I was still jamming:
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Dig, Lazarus, Dig”
In Flames “A Sense of Purpose”
Mindless Self Indulgence “If”
The Bronx (third self-titled)
a-ha “Foot of the Mountain”
Brand New “Daisy”
Juliette Lewis “Terra Incognita”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs “It’s Blitz”
Good stuff I was hearing on the radio and playlists:
Scars on Broadway
Florence + the Machines “Rabbit Heart”
And arguably Coldplay put out “Viva la Vida,” but I have an odd relationship with Coldplay where I feel like I should like them, but I just don’t really listen to them.
I’m not saying that there isn’t good music coming out right now, but this year I’ve been buying some older albums and singles I missed out on before, so I’m possibly in the right mindset. What I’m saying is that I think I wouldn’t have viewed “Chinese Democracy favourably back then even if it’s a reasonably good album. I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ll have a link hub here. I’ll probably do an overall review and then some song by song thoughts.
Chris McGinty (not pictured here) is a blogger and former Guns ‘n’ Roses enthusiast. Maybe he will be again. Maybe “Chinese Democracy” was actually good. Maybe he was just way out of line. Maybe nobody ever told him, baby, how it was going to be. Maybe he should go on look at your game, girl (sic).