David James Brock

Theatre, Opera, Poetry, Film

David James Brock is a Canadian writer of opera, theatre, poetry, and film.
Author of poetry collections Everyone is CO2 and Ten-Headed Alien.
Co-creator of Breath Cycle, an opera for cystic fibrosis.

The Five Greatest Guns n' Roses songs: Number 1

Five days ago I started this countdown assuming I’d be alive in five days to finish it—and I am. That assumption is something a lot of us have the comfort to live with—not necessarily that we have all the time in the world, but that we have at least enough time to finish our projects.

Then something like what happened yesterday in Nice takes place.

I don’t have the words to comment on yet another fucking mass murder. Though I fear I’ve become numb to the images I see on the news, I did tear up last night watching the coverage of the Nice aftermath, given the idea that more than 80 people lost their lives at what was supposed to be a celebration. It’s those attacks that happen at social events, where the main goal is congregation and celebration that sort of just floor me. I realized this is a privileged statement, one that suggests a life of comfort.

But what happened in Nice last night, or Orlando last month, or Paris last year—where a crowd gathers for the purpose of celebration, only to have those celebrations…stop. I can’t imagine a more incongruous shift in events, in lives. There needs to be a word less overused than tragic but angrier than unfair.

I think about the number of meaningless projects (like this one) cut short in those abrupt endings—not to mention the meaningful pursuits that are cut short. We all have our own adjectives for our reaction to these events, and the adjectives are never enough. Words are ultimately nonsense.

But it reminds me that the Guns n’ Roses reunion has only been partially about the band reuniting.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to a Guns n’ Roses concert in 2016 with my friends. It's a celebration of the band, but also a celebration of us. I have been excited to get messages from friends who I don’t see very often who are also going to the concert, some of whom I have known since the early 90s when Axl-Duff-Slash (and others) were still together. I want to say that there are more important things in the world than a rock concert, but right now, this concert sort of feels like the most important thing in the world.

The number 1 greatest Guns n’ Roses song of all time is…some of you knew I was going to go with this one…Rocket Queen from Appetite for Destruction (1987), another final album track.

Favourite Lyric that I’m thinking about today: No one needs the sorrow….no one needs the pain.

Most Axl’y Line/AKA "1987’s version of Let’s get you outta those wet clothes and into a dry martini":  I'm a sexual innuendo…In this burned out paradise…If you turn me on to anything….You better turn me on tonight. 

Slash Factor: During the bridge between the two main sections of Rocket Queen, Slash sort of solos/noodles in lovely harmony to the sounds of, presumable, female sexual satisfaction. The salacious story of this recording is in almost every Gn’R biography, but the basics are that Axl Rose has sex with original drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend in the studio, and they recorded it for the song (without Adler’s knowledge). It’s not a real feel good story, but the story of it is recounted here starting at 5:24.

Why this song is the greatest Guns n’ Roses song ever:  Rocket Queen sounds like a song written and performed by a first album band that thought it might be together forever. I don't know how to quantify this sonically, but I can hear the friendship in their playing. The first half of the song has a little bit of everything that is Guns n’ Roses: sex, philosophy, tongue imagery, and all five players in the original lineup playing their instruments to perfection as if to say “We might look like Motley Crue, but we know how to use our tools!”

What really elevates Rocket Queen is that chorusless second part, where Axl sings (November Rain be damned) the most romantic lyrics of all the Guns n’ Roses songs. It’s the perfect ending to the song’s (and the album’s) anger, grit, struggle, and danger. It feels clear. Aware. It’s actually…quite sweet.

Lines like if you need a shoulder…or if you need a friend and Don’t ever leave me…say you’ll always be there just seem so sad in light of the fact that the band would be essentially done after two more proper albums—sorry, John Semley, The Spaghetti Incident doesn’t count.

Closing Appetite for Destruction with Rocket Queen is the band asking us to come back next time…see what else we have in store. It could only be the last song on an album. And though it feels like a fade out, the song does not fade out. It ends with Izzy and Slash coming together on guitar for a final single chord, Steven Adler calming the vibration of the drums with his bare hands, and with sweaty, stripped bare Axl, letting us know:

All that I ever wanted
Was for you
To know that I care.

I hope Rocket Queen is the last song they play at the concert on Saturday. Regardless, it’s the last song on my celebration of the five greatest Guns n’ Roses songs ever. Thanks for those that have been following along this week. I realize it's been a lot of words. Some of them, ultimately, nonsense.

See you at the show.