Axl helped me out with the title of today’s post. This is a direct quote from the Oklahoma concert in 1992. Thanks, Axl! I had to bleep ya, though — family friendly and all.
Before I embarked on this (most likely futile) quest to set things straight concerning Axl Rose, I checked out two books from the library to “further my studies,” if you will. At this point, I had already scoured the internet for print articles and interviews and had watched hours of taped interviews and concert footage in short succession. I was looking to these books to provide additional information and insight. Instead they proved to be disappointing at best, and inaccurate at worst.
The first book I read is called The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose by Mick Wall.
Mick was a writer for the British rock magazine Kerrang!. Mick had spent considerable time with Guns n’ Roses, so I (mistakenly) assumed that he would be a good source of information. I also knew that Mick’s history with Axl didn’t end well as Axl calls him out by name in the brash and rollicking song “Get In the Ring.” It’s a complicated back-story involving an altercation between Izzy and Vince Neil of Motley Crue; Axl stood up for his guy and issued a public challenge to Vince through Mick’s magazine. Though Axl said he stood by his words to Vince, something about the article upset him and he cut off communication with Mick Wall. To Mick’s credit, he relates this story in the first pages of his book as a sort of disclaimer, acknowledging that his hurt feelings may affect his viewpoint. But before we even get to that, we need to address the cover.
We’ve always been told not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, it may be warranted. I noticed two mistakes right away and then held up the book for my six year old daughter to see. “What can you tell me about this picture?” I asked her. In a matter of seconds, she replied, “Axl’s tattoos are wrong.” The photograph has been flipped. Now, I understand that cover art doesn’t have a lot of bearing on the content of a book, but it does indicate lackadaisical editing. It’s not like Axl’s arms are covered in an intricate tattoo sleeve — he has five very distinctive and easily identifiable tattoos. It shouldn’t be that difficult to correctly print a picture of him.
The second problem on the cover is in the title. Someone like Mick Wall, who spent time with Axl, should know better than to use “William.” I’ve already discussed Axl’s name here before and the fact that the W. no longer stands for anything. Maybe it was a subtle way for Mick to give Axl the finger, but he does plenty of that between the book covers. Wall’s bias becomes evident as you read — his descriptions of Axl sound bitter and his obvious disdain for certain songs (“November Rain” in particular) is repeated several times. I understand that, in any piece of writing, an author’s viewpoint will come out, but I’d advise reading this book with a grain of salt.
As far as actual content goes, it was more a history of the band than a biography of Axl Rose. I also found that there wasn’t any new or revelatory material. If you have access to the internet (which, obviously, you do), you have access to all the same sources that Wall does. More, in fact, since Wall’s book was published in 2007, pre-Chinese Democracy. A quick scan of his bibliography in the back of the book confirmed why all the stories sounded so familiar — I had just read them the week before. The whole time I was reading the book, I kept thinking, “I could have written this! And without the blatant anti-Axl bias…”
Stay-tuned for Book Review Part 2: “I said, Do you believe all the $%!# you read?!”