The Five Greatest Guns n' Roses Songs: Number 2
Me Me Me
This whole little Guns n’ Roses exercise has been about ramping myself up for a concert that for the few months I’ve had tickets, I still wasn’t sure would happen given Axl’s propensity to not show up.
It’s also been somewhat solipsistic with these entries as I try to get in on the action of people writing about things they like while finding a way to write about themselves. Personally, I love reading about music/sports/lifestyle when I know the writer gives a shit and will put their personal stories on the line. Give me Carl Wilson’s journey to the heart of darkness (Las Vegas) in Let’s Talk About Love: a Journey to the end of Taste, or Stacey May Fowles baseball feelings in Baseball Life Advice, or Leigh Nash’s Yoga inspired newsletter Sadhana, all writing that doesn’t shy away from including the writer's personal story in the passion.
Maybe it’s okay to, once in a while, use yourself as the inspiration. A little bit of me me me...
And me me me is exactly what Axl does in today’s #2 pick, which is probably my #1 pick. Today I’m talking about….Coma from Use Your Illusion I (1991), the final track on the more satisfying of the Use Your Illusions, in my opinion...and my opinion has been what this entire countdown has been about. Me me me...
Me Me Me
I once wrote a poem inspired by Coma. It was in my chapbook of poems called Black Metal Melody (Ferno House) about a Toronto kid who is discovering black metal for the first time. He meets Melissa (Mercyful Fate reference in full view) who goes through her guitar gods with him, none of them who seem to be black metal (which confuses our burgeoning black metal head). Among the guitar gods, she talks about are some of my guitar gods, Tony Iommi, Jerry Reed, Randy Rhoads, Larry Lalonde and of course….Slash.
Some of you who have read Black Metal Melody thought Coma would be #1 simply because I once attempted an homage to it; maybe it should be #1 as it does have the shortest reach to the type of metal and prog that dominate what I listen to now. And Coma is GnFn'R's most proggy song, with at least six different movements in the 10 minutes of the song, and the most Pink Floyd-y lyrics of their catalogue including…
Listening to this song still excites me. There are no properly terrible lyrics. If every Guns n’ Roses song was like Coma, they would’ve been Dream Theater, and I think the song itself has a popular music partner in Metallica’s One (1988) in terms of the musical shifts, the epic exhaustion, and the near-death/post-death lyrical content, though One is likely the more popular of the two given the video release with Jason Robards' voiceover on film clips from Johnny Got His Gun.
Favourite Lyric that would be a good mantra (signup to Leigh Nash’s Sadhana newsletter!) : No one's gonna bother me anymore…No one's gonna mess with my head no more…I can't understand what all the fightin's for…But it's so nice here down off the shore.
Most Axl’y Line/AKA "Huh?": And "It's so easy" to be social…"It's so easy" to be cool… Axl references the third greatest Guns n’ Roses song! His own song! This is like referencing your own poem in your blog...me me me.
Slash Factor: At just after 6 minutes, when an ominous voice interrupts Axl “ZAP HIM AGAIN, ZAP THE SON OF A BITCH AGAIN,” my favourite Slash guitar solo flies in. If you told me I could only ever listen to one Slash solo again for the rest of my life (and some of you might need to after this week), it’s Slash’s full minute after Axl has been zapped in an attempt to revive him, the moment just before the voices return and Axl's life flashes before his eyes. It’s almost as if Slash’s music is the soundtrack to Axl’s final breath. Whoa. Whoa.
Why this song is greater than all other songs on the Illusions albums: Of all the self-centred Axl songs, this one has the Axl character at his most vulnerable. He's unsure. He's angry. He's scared. He's at peace. He's dead. It's opera. These wild shifts in emotions, this drama, are exactly what draws out the complexity in Coma's music, and is exactly what I attempt to do when writing libretto for opera composers to set. Big emotions force big music!
I'm not saying Coma has directly influenced any new music or opera I've written to this point, though rock and metal have, but maybe now that I think about it, my libretti need a bit more Coma...
Me me me.
Tomorrow...it's #1! Vegas is buzzing.