The most famous feud in America began around the time of the Civil War between the Hatfield and McCoy families. It has gotten a lot of publicity lately as Kevin Costner’s mini-series came out on the History Channel and every other H.C. show was trying to piggyback off of it with their own link to the Hatfields or McCoys. It’s a big deal, this feud.
Probably the second most famous feud in America is Axl Rose vs. Slash. When the band disintegrated in the mid-90s, people immediately began taking sides. Slash said some things. Axl said some things. The people in Slash’s camp hate Axl’s guts and wish death, dismemberment and other horrid things upon him. The people in Axl’s camp revere him as the last Rock God who can do no wrong and declare Slash a sorry poser and hanger-on.
Wait, who was feuding again?
Let’s put the brakes on this thing.
Slash and Axl endured a lot together during the early years of Guns n’ Roses and endured a lot because of each other in the last years of the original lineup (let’s be honest, none of those guys was a peach to work with in the ’90s). In the early years, they used to talk about how their partnership was almost like a marriage. So it would stand to reason that the later fighting and animosity could be likened to a divorce. Divorce is painful. Divorce is ugly. Parting ways with someone you considered a friend hurts, causes a lot of confusion, and sometimes nasty retaliation in an effort to shift blame or hurt the other person. Of course in marriages and in bands, the one thing all the outsiders want to see is reconciliation; it would be healing, it would restore faith in humanity, blah, blah, blah. But without the proper context or guidance, forcing two people back together before they’re ready could be even more damaging.
I think Guns n’ Roses fans have shot themselves in the foot as far as this is concerned. Slash has said on a few occasions that the initial split with Axl was relatively quiet. It might have remained so — and provided a better opportunity for reconciliation down the road except for a few things that blew it entirely out of proportion. First, there were several royalty and license lawsuits brought on Axl by the other members of the band, namely Slash and Duff, or, more accurately, by their lawyers (Duff says in his autobiography that communication during this time “consisted of being CC’d on the same emails about various business and legal affairs. Often vitriolic, caustic, or unpleasant emails. This type of language, I’ve found, keeps the clients angry and the lawyers employed.”). Then, Slash’s autobiography, published in 2007, opened fresh wounds as Axl felt like Slash was trying to perpetrate rumors about him. In an interview two years later, Axl referred to Slash as “a cancer, better removed, avoided.” All of that would have been enough to hurdle, but the fans can’t seem to let it go. There is constant speculation, wishing, dreaming, and ultimately, pressure for Axl and Slash to mend fences and recreate the Guns of yesteryear.
My thoughts on this are:
- The fans are selfish. What are their reasons for wanting Axl and Slash back together? Is it genuine concern for a human friendship, or is it because they want to hear music that reminds them of high school glory days? Message board and YouTube comments seem to indicate the latter.
- Whatever their motivation, if the fans have any hope of seeing reunion, they need to shut the heck up about it. Harping on these guys for years and years doesn’t make it any easier for them and, in fact, makes it less likely to ever happen.
- If a meeting should ever occur, it would have to be an accidental encounter, much like what happened to bring Axl and Duff back together — a coincidental hotel booking that had them staying in adjacent rooms. Duff describes, “After so much time gone and lost, we both seemed eager to mend a personal fence, to bridge a gap between us that had felt wider the longer we had gone without meeting. Time apart had done some damage in the form of the aforementioned legal wrangling, but time had also allowed me to figure out some major **** that had happened in my life… So was I still harboring resentment or anger? To my relief, the answer, I now knew, was a resounding no.” For Slash and Axl to reach that same state, it will have to be a private affair; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was definitely not the forum for it, no matter how loudly the fans clamored for it.
In more recent interviews (post RRHOF), Slash has indicated that so much time has passed since he and Axl last spoke that he doesn’t even think about it that much. Everybody assumes that Axl must be constantly on his mind and vice versa because that is what’s on everybody else’s mind. In a radio interview with Howard Stern on 22 May 2012, Stern continually tried to bait Slash into feeding the negativity, promoting the feud, and Slash continued to reiterate that he isn’t losing sleep over what Axl does or doesn’t do and that he’s tired of talking about it. I would imagine that Axl feels much the same way, but people continue to project their own feelings and assumptions onto the situation. Axl is having a good time with his band and Slash is having a good time with his. Is it realistic to think that they each go home at night stewing over what the other might be doing? Plotting ultimate revenge (for what?) to take the other down once and for all? That’s crazy! And if they really are doing that, then they deserve the ulcer they’re getting as a result of it!
This so-called feud is largely media and fan-induced. The bloated mess it has become is thanks to breathless tabloid-inspired headlines that people take at face value. Is there some bad blood between these two guys? For sure. Is it healthier for them if they were to make amends? Certainly. Are they going to be BFF after that? Probably not. But neither are they sending out hit men after each other, so let’s take the rhetoric down a notch. It’s not a feud. I’m not even sure it can be called a fight anymore at this point. If there is any hope of Slash and Axl meeting again, it’s going to have to happen organically and quietly, out of the public eye. And the best way for that to happen is for everyone to just give it a rest. Otherwise, all you fans are just beating a Dead Horse.
(And before anyone tries to read anything into it: my choice of new last names for Axl and Slash was purely on how they sounded together and is not a secret message based on the real outcome of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. And it’s stupid that I even have to say that, but there ya go.)