Thursday, May 20, 2010
As the lead singer for Guns N' Roses, Rose enjoyed tremendous success, recognition, record and concert ticket sales in the late 1980s and early 1990s before dropping out of the public eye for several years. In 2001, he resurfaced with a new line-up of Guns N' Roses, and has since played periodic concert tours, finally releasing the long delayed album Chinese Democracy in 2008. This album was actually recorded over many years before finally being released.
The only original member still part of the band's line-up, Rose still places high in numerous polls as one of hard rock's all-time greatest frontmen, but is also infamous for his on stage antics and high-profile disputes with former band mates and others in the entertainment business.
He was ranked 11 in the Hit Parader's Top Metal Vocalist of All Time and 64 in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Early years (1962-1982)
Born as William Bailey Rose, Jr. in Lafayette, Indiana, as the only child to Sharon E. Lintner, then 16 years old, and William Bruce Rose, then 20 years old. Rose is predominantly of Scottish and German ancestry. In addition, one of his grandmothers was Polish.When Rose was two years old, his father abandoned his family. In 1965, Rose's mother met Stephen L. Bailey at a singles night at her church, and married him shortly after. She changed her son's name to William Bruce Bailey, using the surname of her new husband. He has two younger half-siblings – sister Amy and brother Stuart. Rose has stated that he and his siblings were often physically abused by Bailey. As a child, Rose believed that Bailey was his biological father. Rose stated in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in April 1992, that during his childhood, he was made to believe that women and sexuality were evil and that due to the violent treatment of his mother by his stepfather he witnessed as an impressionable child, he had been led to think that domestic violence was normal in families.
The Bailey household was deeply religious, and Rose and his family having attended a Pentecostal church, where he was required to attend services three to eight times per week. He sang in church from the age of five, and also performed at services with his brother and sister in the "Bailey Trio". Rose was so involved with the church that he even taught Sunday School. In addition to singing in church, he also participated in his high school chorus and studied piano.
Rose speaks in the baritone register. He originally sang in the low baritone range in his choir, however his normal singing voice is tenor range. He can sing parts ranging from bass, to baritone, and to a high falsetto/soprano, and has several different recognized "voices" used in his songs. He has stated that he originally started to develop his range to confuse his chorus teacher in school.
He attended Jefferson High School in Lafayette. He dropped out of high school. At age 17, while going through papers in his parents' home, Rose learned of his biological father's existence and his own origins, and readopted his birth name, William Rose (although he was still legally William Bailey). He referred to himself as W. Rose only, however, as he did not wish to share a name with his biological father.
After discovering the truth of his background, Rose began "acting out" in earnest. He was in trouble numerous times with the police, and was arrested over twenty times on charges such as public drunkenness and assault. At age 16, he was kicked out of his house for not cutting his hair. At this age, Rose also met future Guns guitarist Izzy Stradlin in a driver's education class. The two bonded over their love of rock music and eventually started playing in bands together. Stradlin eventually left Rose, and Indiana, to go to Los Angeles and focus on music.
Lafayette authorities threatened to charge Rose as a habitual criminal in his late teenage years. When he was 17, on the advice of his lawyer, he left Indiana and began hitchhiking and taking buses across the country.Although he returned to Indiana to visit family from time to time, he left for good in December 1982 and moved to Los Angeles, accompanied by a girlfriend.
Rose eventually adopted the name W. Axl Rose ("Axl" after a band in which he once played ), and set out to re-unite with Stradlin. Rose legally changed his name to "W. Axl Rose" in 1986, and had the moniker tattooed on his arm., on the eve of Guns N' Roses signing with Geffen Records. According to author Stephen Davis, Rose tried to sign the contract "W. Axl Rose", but was legally unable to do so, since his legal name was still William Bailey. Rose then changed his name legally.
Pre-Guns N' Roses years (1983–1984)
Once in Los Angeles, Rose began performing with various local bands, including Rapidfire, Rose, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. While struggling to make an impact on the Hollywood music scene, Rose held down a variety of jobs, including the position of night manager at the Tower Records location on Sunset Boulevard. In an attempt to earn money, Rose and Stradlin even smoked cigarettes for a scientific study at UCLA for the reported wages of $8/hour.
Success with Guns N' Roses (1985–1994)
Rose and his L.A. Guns bandmate Tracii Guns formed Guns N' Roses in March 1985. The band was a merger of L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, and featured musicians who had played for one or both groups, including Ole Beich and Duff McKagan. The band debuted at the Troubadour in Hollywood and proceeded to play the L.A. circuit, eventually building a fan following and attracting the attention of several record companies. Following a dispute with Tracii Guns, and his departure from the band, Axl then called Slash (having met him from the time Slash spent in Hollywood Rose.) So with Rose on vocals, Slash on lead guitar, Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar. Guns N' Roses was signed to Geffen Records in 1986 and released a four-song EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, on their own label, UZI Suicide, in December of that year.
The band's major label debut album, entitled Appetite for Destruction, was released in the United States on July 21, 1987. The record had a slow start, selling only 500,000 copies in the first year of its release. However, fueled by relentless touring, constant MTV video rotation of "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle," and the mainstream success of "Sweet Child o' Mine", Appetite for Destruction rose to the #1 position on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States in the fall of 1988. To date, Appetite for Destruction ranks as the best-selling debut album in the United States, has been certified 18x platinum by the RIAA, and has sold over 28 million copies worldwide.
With the success of Appetite for Destruction and its follow-up EP, GN'R Lies, Rose found himself lauded as one of rock's most prominent frontmen. In a 1990 interview with MTV, journalist Kurt Loder referred to Rose as "maybe the finest hard rock singer currently on the scene, and certainly the most charismatic." He was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in August 1989 and again in April 1992.
Rose performing with Guns N' Roses on the Use Your Illusion Tour in Tel Aviv, Israel, 1993
In 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording the full-length follow-up to Appetite for Destruction. Recording sessions were temporarily scuttled when Steven Adler, battling drug and alcohol addiction, was fired in July 1990 and replaced by former Cult drummer Matt Sorum. The band fired their manager, Alan Niven, in May 1991, replacing him with Doug Goldstein. According to a 1991 cover story by Rolling Stone magazine, Rose forced the dismissal of Niven, against the wishes of some of his bandmates, by refusing to complete the albums until he was replaced. It is said that the reason for it was an attempt by Niven to pick-up on his then-girlfirend, future wife, and eventual divorcee, Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly, of the Everly Brothers.
With enough music for two albums, the band released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II on September 17, 1991. The tactic paid off when the albums debuted at #2 and #1 respectively on the Billboard chart, setting a record as Guns N' Roses became the only group to date to achieve this feat. The albums spent 108 weeks on the chart.
In the late spring of 1991, before the Illusion albums were released, Guns N' Roses embarked on the 28-month-long Use Your Illusion World Tour. It became famous for both its financial success and the many controversial incidents that occurred at the shows.
During the tour it was alleged, and long accepted, that Rose demanded and received sole ownership of the Guns N' Roses name from bandmates Slash and McKagan. However, this story was recently disputed by Rose, who claimed it would have been legally impossible for him to do such a thing His relationships with his bandmates became increasingly strained: Izzy Stradlin left the group voluntarily on November 7, 1991, and was replaced by former Kill For Thrills guitarist Gilby Clarke for the remainder of the two-year tour. Clarke himself left in 1994, and was replaced by Rose's childhood friend Paul Tobias. When Rose replaced Slash's guitar parts with those of Tobias on the band's cover version of the Rolling Stones' song "Sympathy for the Devil" for the soundtrack of the film Interview with the Vampire, tension increased further. Slash, McKagan and Sorum all left Guns N' Roses at various points between 1996 and 1997, leaving Rose and keyboardist Dizzy Reed as the only remaining Illusion-era members of the band.
While the Guns N' Roses name is owned solely by Rose, the band's back catalog is controlled jointly by Rose, Slash and McKagan. In 2004, the three presented a united front in a joint lawsuit against Universal and Geffen, in which they unsuccessfully attempted to block the release of the Greatest Hits compilation album.
Slash and McKagan have also filed several lawsuits against Rose for matters related to control and administration of the songs in the Guns N' Roses catalog. One of the cases, in which McKagan and Slash stated that they had been denied royalty checks for Guns N' Roses's sales in 2005, was determined to be the result of a clerical error by ASCAP and was resolved.
Hiatus, touring and Chinese Democracy (1995–present)
As the stability of Guns N' Roses collapsed, Rose withdrew from public view. The band never actually broke up, although it did not tour or perform for several years and no new material was released. Rose continued to recruit new musicians to replace the charter members as they gradually defected. The last charter member of the band to go (aside from Rose himself) was Duff McKagan.
By the late 1990s, he was considered to be a recluse, rarely making public appearances and spending most of his time holed up in his mansion in Malibu. In various reports in the press, he was referred to as the "Howard Hughes of rock" and "rock's greatest recluse".Rose was said to spend his nights rehearsing and writing with the various new lineups of Guns N' Roses, working on the band's next album, Chinese Democracy.
In a rare interview with Rolling Stone in 2006, Rose shed more light on his long awaited Chinese Democracy album. "We're working on 32 songs, and 26 are nearly done," he said in the interview. "People will hear music this year," he said. "It's a very complex record, I'm trying to do something different. Some of the arrangements are kind of like Queen. Some people are going to say, 'It doesn't sound like Axl Rose, it doesn't sound like Guns N' Roses.' But you'll like at least a few songs on there."
Rose (center) on the Chinese Democracy Tour in 2006
Guns N' Roses resurfaced with concert tours in 2002 and again in 2006. The band, now consisting of Rose, Dizzy Reed, Robin Finck, Tommy Stinson, Chris Pitman, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (replacing Buckethead), performed their first live concerts in the United States in over three years on May 12, May 14, May 15, and May 17, 2006 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. They also performed in Madrid on May 25 and in Lisbon (Rock in Rio) on May 27 to an audience of over 50,000.
On May 6, 2006, Rose appeared on the Eddie Trunk radio show and promised that the album would be released sometime in the fall or late fall 2006.
On April 5, 2006, Rose presented The Killers at the MTV Video Music Awards by coming out onto the stage and screaming his trademark, "Do you know where the fuck you are?!" In an interview backstage, Rose revealed that the official Chinese Democracy tour would begin "around October 24th", and that the album would be out that year.
On December 15, 2006, Rose issued an open letter to Guns N' Roses fans, discussing, among other things, the reasons why Chinese Democracy had not been released yet. In it, Axl stated that he hoped the album would appear in 2007, and named March 6 as a tentative release date.However, the album's release date was pushed back once again.
In 2007, Rose collaborated with longtime friend Sebastian Bach on his solo album Angel Down, doing a duet with Bach on a cover of the Aerosmith song "Back in the Saddle". Rose also performed backing vocals on "(Love is) a Bitchslap" and "Stuck Inside", for which he was credited as a co-writer.
On October 22, 2008, a new release date was officially announced for Chinese Democracy: November 23, 2008 (the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day). The album was exclusively released via Best Buy.
On December 11, 2009, Guns N' Roses kicked off their 2009/2010 Chinese Democracy tour in Taipei, Taiwan.
After Guns N' Roses became successful, Rose noted that he had stopped using any sort of hard drugs. He did not disavow the use of illicit substances, stating in a 1989 interview "I have a different physical constitution and different mindset about drugs than anybody I've known in Hollywood, because I don't abstain from doing drugs, but I won't allow myself to have a fuckin' habit. I won't allow it".
Although Rose has not been known for alcohol abuse, on June 26, 2006, he was arrested in Stockholm, Sweden, after an early morning altercation in his hotel lobby with hotel security. Rose is alleged to have bitten a security guard's leg and shattered an antique lobby mirror while in a drunken rage. Rose later commented in a press release: "We had a great gig in Stockholm and I am not going to let this incident spoil that. My assistant Beta and I were talking in the lobby of the hotel when security started to give us a hard time. My only concern was to make sure she was okay". After spending the next several hours in a Stockholm drunk tank, Rose pled guilty to all charges and paid roughly $6,000 in fines and was released. The Summer European tour continued as scheduled.
One in a Million (Guns N' Roses song)
In 1988, Guns N' Roses released the EP G N' R Lies. Although the album had strong sales, there was outrage among some members of the public over the lyrics of the song "One in a Million", which included the words "niggers" and "faggots". As Rose was the lyricist of the piece and the song was composed about his personal experiences, he was labeled racist and homophobic, charges he strenuously denied.The lyrics led to Guns N' Roses being removed from the schedule at a 1989 concert benefiting the Gay Men's Health Crisis at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Rose claimed that he'd had bad experiences with homosexuals and was "confused" by gay men's sexual preferences. He also pointed out that many of his musical idols, including Elton John and Freddie Mercury, as well as the head of his record company, were gay or bisexual. Following this, in a surprising move, Rose performed "November Rain" with Elton John at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. John (along with Bernie Taupin) was a big influence on his musical and lyrical outlook. He also paid tribute to Freddie Mercury, another huge influence, at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, where he again performed with John, this time singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Rose has maintained his friendship with John to the current day and inducted him into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In addressing the accusations of racism, Rose gave several explanations. In one 1989 interview, he stated that he had used the word to signify "somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black", and referenced the rap group Niggaz Wit Attitudes (NWA) as using the word in a positive context. Rose was occasionally photographed wearing an NWA hat from then on. By 1992, however, Rose seemed to have gained new perspective on the song and its lyrics. In one interview, he conceded that the word had been used as an insult, but added: "I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism".
Rose was consistent in strongly denying accusations that he was racist. He also expressed concern and disapproval at those who used "One in a Million" to promote their own racist views, noting: "There's a lot of people who have chosen to use that song. However that song makes them feel, they think that must be what the song means. If they hate blacks, and they hear my lines and hate blacks even more, I'm sorry, but that's not how I meant it".
Riots, rants, and legal troubles
Throughout Guns N' Roses' career, Rose has been notorious for personally addressing disruptive fans and giving instructions to security guards from the stage, at times stopping concerts to deal with issues in the crowd. In his 1992 Rolling Stone interview Rose explained, "Most performers would go to a security person in their organization, and it would just be done very quietly. I'll confront the person, stop the song: "Guess what: You wasted your money, you get to leave."He has also been noted for his late appearances at concerts, sometimes taking the stage hours after the opening acts.
In many instances Rose's actions have seemed to be based in concern for the safety of the band and audience members. At the 1988 Monsters of Rock concert at Castle Donington, England during which two fans were crushed, Rose stopped the show several times when asked by security, as the audience rushed the stage. The fans had begun edging forward when the band appeared onstage. The final report into the Donington tragedy noted that Rose had immediately cooperated with venue security when advised of the dangerous crowd conditions, and had attempted to calm the crowd. In a more recent incident, during a concert in 2006 in Birmingham, Rose stopped the show and had a security guard ejected for assaulting a fan in the audience.
In July 1991, during the early stages of the 28-month-long Use Your Illusion Tour, Rose jumped off stage during a concert in St. Louis to take a video camera away from a fan. The concert was aborted as Rose threw his microphone down and stormed off stage saying "Thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!" The other band members followed and the house lights came on, sparking an intense riot that caused significant damage to both the newly-constructed arena and Guns N' Roses' equipment and instruments. Rose was blamed for the melee, and was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault and one charge of property damage, for which he was arrested in 1992. Guns N' Roses were also banned from St. Louis for life. The case eventually went to trial in late 1992, and resulted in a conviction, two years' probation and a US $50,000 fine for Rose.
Another riot occurred on August 8, 1992 at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, during Guns N' Roses' summer concert co-headlining tour with Metallica. During the performance, Metallica's set was cut short when the band's lead singer, James Hetfield, was burned in a pyrotechnics accident. Guns N' Roses was unable to take the stage early to make up for Metallica's abbreviated performance, as Rose was once again late arriving at the venue. Further compounding the situation, Rose walked off stage and left the stadium after playing nine songs (only about 50 minutes), claiming he had problems with his voice. Before "Double Talkin' Jive", Rose said this will be "our last show for a long time", and at the end of "Civil War", their last song, Rose said "Thank you, your money will be refunded" and walked offstage. A riot ensued, which spilled out into the streets. Authorities were barely able to bring the chaos under control.
On November 7, 2002 at Vancouver's General Motors Place, Rose did not show up for a scheduled show. The crowd became upset resulting in a riot causing thousands of dollars of damage to General Motors Place. Allegations of police brutality would follow the incident.
Problems have also occurred at several of Guns N' Roses's more recent concert events. On June 11, 2006, Guns N' Roses headlined the Download Festival in Donington Park, England. Within the first half hour of the show, Rose had become annoyed with the quality of the sound and had also lost his footing, nearly causing him to fall due to the "slippery stage". After briefly leaving and returning to the set mid song, throwing the microphone on the floor and exiting the stage citing technical difficulties while leaving Bumblefoot to play an instrumental of the song "Don't Cry", he returned to the stage with tennis shoes on (he was previously wearing boots), announced that he had some old friends to bring out, and was joined by Izzy Stradlin to play "Used to Love Her". Stradlin left and returned to the stage multiple times, for "Patience", and the final number "Paradise City". During the night, Rose was also joined by Sebastian Bach and together they sang "My Michelle".
On July 19, 2006, at a show in Newcastle, England, Rose walked off-stage during the performance of "Nightrain" after what was alleged to be a £1 coin was thrown on to the stage directly at him. Rose addressed the crowd off-stage and informed them that any person caught throwing objects at him or any other members of the band must be ejected from the auditorium. The band returned to the stage to finish the song after which Rose declared "The show is over", the band departed and the house lights were resumed. They did not play the usual "Paradise City" encore.
On December 11, 2009, at the Los Angeles International Airport, as he was leaving for Guns N' Roses' tour opener in Taipei, Rose got into a minor scuffle with a photographer. He ended up punching him in the face and then being carried off by his entourage. It started when the photographer got into a minor altercation with a member of Rose's entourage, which angered Rose, leading him to threaten him and attack him. The photographer has stated he will not press charges.
Events surrounding Chinese Democracy
Record executives at Geffen were reported to be furious with Rose for not doing any promotion or publicity for Chinese Democracy. AOL Canada Entertainment reported that, as of December 2, 2008, he had been missing for at least two months and had not returned any phone calls or other requests.
On December 11, 2008, Rose finally broke his silence, answering questions in person on three Guns N' Roses discussion boards and mentioning an upcoming music video for "Better". A far more comprehensive view of Axl Rose's interpretation of the controversy regarding the release of Chinese Democracy was published on February 6, 2009, Rose's 47th birthday, in both Billboard and on Reuters. In the interview, Rose speaks with disdain towards Interscope Records and in particular the chief of Interscope, Jimmy Iovine. He states that he never really received the support from them that he expected. The interview, technical in nature, reveals Rose's substantial knowledge of the inside workings of the music business, and how the rapid transformation of the music industry has worked against Guns N' Roses' release of Chinese Democracy. Axl was coy about the internet legend that two more albums of material are ready to be rolled out, only saying that he is focusing now on Chinese Democracy.
On December 16, 2008 Axl Rose made public an open letter posted on the official Guns N' Roses' website.
Work outside of music
Axl provided the voice of Tommy "The Nightmare" Smith, former lead singer of the fictional 1970s rock band Crystal Ship (a reference to the song by The Doors) and radio DJ of Classic rock radio K-DST, in the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
In addition, Rose appeared as an uncredited background performer in a funeral scene in Clint Eastwood's 1988 film The Dead Pool, along with the rest of the then-current lineup of Guns N' Roses.
In 2009, it was confirmed that Rose will be producing the film adaptation of the novel Almost Home.
With Hollywood Rose
Title Release Date Label
The Roots of Guns N' Roses 2004 (Recorded in 1983) Cleopatra
With Guns N' Roses
Main article: Guns N' Roses discography
Title Release Date Label
Appetite for Destruction 1987 Geffen
G N' R Lies 1988 Geffen
Use Your Illusion I 1991 Geffen
Use Your Illusion II 1991 Geffen
"The Spaghetti Incident?" 1993 Geffen
Live Era: '87–'93 1999 Geffen
Greatest Hits 2004 Geffen
Chinese Democracy 2008 Geffen
Title Artist Release Date Label
The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (Soundtrack) Various 1988 Capitol/I.R.S Records
The End of the Innocence Don Henley 1989 Geffen
Fire and Gasoline Steve Jones 1989 Gold Mountain
Not Fakin' It Michael Monroe 1989 Mercury
Pawnshop Guitars Gilby Clarke 1994 Virgin
Actual Miles: Henley's Greatest Hits Don Henley 1995 Geffen
Anxious Disease The Outpatience 1996 Musikitchen
The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper Alice Cooper 1999 Rhino
Angel Down Sebastian Bach 2007 EMI
Throughout the mid eighties and into the early nineties, Rose was involved in a turbulent relationship with Erin Everly, the daughter of singer Don Everly. Rose wrote the lyrics of "Sweet Child o' Mine" about her, and she appeared in the video for the song. Rose and Everly were wed on April 28, 1990 in Las Vegas, albeit under duress: according to Everly, Rose showed up at her home, told her he had a gun in his car, and that he would kill himself if she did not marry him. Rose wanted one of his heroes, Dan McCafferty frontman of Nazareth, to perform at his wedding. McCafferty commenting in 2004 said "I laughed when Axl asked me to sing "Love Hurts" at his wedding, because the song seemed to last for longer than the marriage! Around 18 people from their management kept phoning me to ask – 18 people! – but I eventually told them I was busy, which I probably was."
The couple separated after less than a month of marriage, but later reconciled for several months, during which time Everly became pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage in October 1990. This deeply affected Rose, who had wanted to have children of his own. The day after Everly's miscarriage, Rose was arrested after allegedly assaulting a neighbor with a wine bottle after the neighbor threatened to call the police because of Rose's loud music. The marriage between Everly and Rose was annulled in January 1991. Rose has never re-married and has no children.
After the breakup, Rose allegedly continued to try to contact Everly for more than a year, sending her flowers, letters, and even caged birds. In 1994, Everly filed a civil lawsuit against Rose, alleging various incidents of physical and emotional domestic violence had occurred before and during the marriage; the suit was eventually settled out of court.
By mid 1991, Rose had become involved with model Stephanie Seymour. While they were together, Seymour appeared in two Guns N' Roses videos, "November Rain" and "Don't Cry". Rose became deeply attached to Seymour's son, Dylan, and tried to be a good father figure for the child, as there had been none in his own life. Seymour and Rose parted ways in early 1993, Rose and Seymour then filed lawsuits against each other, each claiming that the other was physically abusive. In support of her case, Seymour subpoenaed Erin Everly, Rose's ex-wife, so Everly would testify that she was also abused by Rose. The lawsuits were settled out of court.