Do you like your name? Hate your name? Ever go through that phase in junior high when you started spelling it with extra letters (or maybe even a number)? Ever wish you could change it completely? Love it or hate it, we’ve all got a name.
It’s no big secret that Axl was born William Bruce Rose, Jr. Neither is it a secret that he was raised as Bill Bailey — his step-father’s surname (it is hard to look at him and picture him as a Bill, though). When Axl accidentally discovered that he was William Rose and not William Bailey, he was understandably upset. Wouldn’t you be? It’s a pretty shocking revelation to find out that you’re not who you thought you were. Given the abuse that he suffered at the hands of both his biological father and step-dad, it’s also understandable that he would want to distance himself from the hurt. He adopted the name of Axl in the early ’80s, after the name of one of his original bands. He kept the W. as a nod to his identity for the first 17 years of his life. He had his name legally changed to W. Axl Rose in 1986.
I especially liked one clueless radio caller on a 1991 Rockline interview (at 52:11) who thought he would score some points by telling Axl, “I like your first name, by the way!” Axl offers a surprised, “Oh…” and then “Bill from Illinois” put his foot in his mouth by stammering, “Your old first name, I mean.” Axl dismisses it with a “Yeah, whatever.” But Bill just forges ahead. “I mean your birth name, whatever.” Axl sighs and then politely explains (yes, politely), “Yeah, that’s W. because my real father was kind of a jerk, so y’know, it’s W legally because I don’t want to claim anything to that… No offense, Bill.” Zing! Axl – 1. Bill- 0.
It’s 2012 now. The man has been known as Axl for twenty six years. It’s not a stage name; it is his name and it’s how he identifies himself. Can we all afford him some dignity and call him by the name he prefers? It’s not cute or clever to insist on calling him William Bruce or Bill Bailey. Dragging up someone’s bad memories and rubbing their nose in it isn’t funny. Unless you’re a family member with old habits or knew him before he ditched Lafayette and split for Hollywood, the rest of us don’t have the right to call him by his former name. It’s history! Nobody insists on calling Alice Cooper “Vincent,” or Freddie Mercury “Farrokh Bulsara” (probably because no one could remember how to spell it). Seriously, would this ever happen in real life?
Who’s the jerk now?