Tag Archives: Guns n Roses

Mick Wall – UNCENSORED (Part 2)

Apart from being a bona fide rock star, being a rock journalist is possibly one of the coolest jobs imaginable. Mick Wall, ex-Kerrang! writer and founding editor of Classic Rock, is one of the best in the business. And his stories never disappoint.

Part 2:

The biggest rock magazine in the world, dropping bollocks, Axl Rose and and THAT Guns n’ Roses track…

PARENTAL ADVISORY: CONTROVERSIAL VIEWS AND NAUGHTY WORDS THROUGHOUT.

How did Kerrang! come about?

“When I was writing at Sounds it covered the whole spectrum of music. Pop, rock, punk. We did a pullout once and called it Kerrang! Just for a laugh. Little did we know that a few years later it would become a magazine in it’s own right. Whenever anyone rang the office you might go through to any of the Sounds team. We all had our little genres. If the call was for our part of the office guys – me, Geoff Barton and Pete Makowski, when we answered the phone we would go ‘Kerrang!’”

What made it such a huge success?

“It was the eighties, and record companies had never been richer. But in the UK, nothing was more unfashionable than rock and metal. It wasn’t on telly, or the radio, except in special slots. The record companies had these massive budgets and no one to spend it on except us. If, for example, Aerosmith or Van Halen were doing a UK tour, a few weeks before they’d be in New York or LA and we’d get flown out to review the show to drum up some publicity for the UK leg. We’d go off on the road with bands for weeks on end. When they finally came to the UK there would be a guest list, and then a Kerrang! guest list. We’d take the whole office. We’d have special parties and dinners, for a brief period it became this outrageous little club. The publishers had no aspirations for the magazine. They still saw the money going through Sounds, Record Mirror and Music week.”

Were you under any pressure from the publishers to deliver?

“Not at all. We were basically left to our own devices. When you work on a launch you have lots of meetings about content and covers. We didn’t have any of that, because nobody really cared that much! We’d stick the Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the cover. It just got bigger and bigger and bigger. We were speeding some of the time, drunk a lot of the time, and stoned all the time. We’d do coke whenever any passing rock band stopped by and dumped a load of the stuff on the table.”

What has been your biggest faux pas?

“There’s been a few! I interviewed Phil Lynott just a few weeks before he died. I don’t know what the fuck possessed me but I asked him if he regretted not making it in America. He looked at me as if I was the biggest twat in the world and said, ‘Oh yea. But then I always regretted that I never fucked Kate Bush as well, so there ya go!’”

Why do you think tour revenues are now outstripping album sales?

“The business has evolved so much now. We can all get on our smartphones and YouTube whoever you want playing live anywhere. You can get it in a second. But what you can’t get is that authentic, once-in-a-lifetime moment that live gigs often provide. If you can have a ‘I was there!” moment that you can’t experience via the Internet, It’s something that you will take away and keep forever.”

What’s Axl Rose’s problem?

“So many things people accuse him of being – controlling, alienating, they are all symptoms. That man needs help, and I mean it in the most heartfelt way. I chatted to him a lot when I was writing books about him and he talks about being bi-polar and suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autistic spectrum. One of the characteristics is you don’t understand social interaction and you get a lot of anxiety. To a normal person, if someone tells you you are due of stage at nine and it’s already ten o’clock, they would think, “Fuck, that’s bad, I’d better get a move on.” But an autistic person might just shout, ‘fuck off and leave me alone!’”

Why did he call you out in the song Get in the Ring?

“I knew Axl for a long time, before he was famous, and during. We were close. I still have gold discs that he gave me, and his brother Stuart used to sleep on my couch. The whole thing stemmed from a fight Vince Neil and Izzy Stradlin had over a woman. I interviewed him, at his request, and he was in a rage about that incident. I transcribed the interview for Kerrang! I rang him up and ran it past him because it looked very heavy on the page, he agreed to it, and the story ended up on the cover. The next thing I know I got a call from his publicist saying he didn’t believe he said those things and that he wanted my tapes. I was a bit of an arsehole by that time, too. I was 31 and my head was buried up my own arse from years of globe hopping with magazines and at the time I was truly fucking offended. What the fuck? There were stories I could have written about Guns n’ Roses but never did because they were so heinous.”

Did you have any prior warning?

Yes, before the Use Your Illusion albums came out a mutual friend tipped me off. I already knew the track well. It was a Duff McKagan song called, ‘Why Do You Look At Me When You Hate Me.’ Axl hijacked it.”

What did you think when you first heard it?

“By the time the song came out I’d left Kerrang! and moved into management. I had found what I truly believed to be the next Def Leppard called Cat People. We were talking to EMI and Capitol in America about a major deal. Then Nevermind came out and suddenly being the manager of the new Def Leppard was the worst fucking thing I could be in the world. Talk about backing the wrong horse! So when Use Your Illusion came out and somebody played me the track I just pissed myself laughing. It was brilliant. But then it escalated and haunted me for a long time. People still ask me about it to this day. Lawyers were coming up to me and asking me to sue. I was like, ‘No, fuck it. Life’s too short.’”

How do you feel about the episode now?

“I’m over it. So he did the song, so what? He wasn’t the first artist to do that, that dubious honour went to Gary Numan. I’d given his first big album an almighty hiding in Sounds so in the title track of his next album, Replicas, there’s the scathing line, ‘So I turned to the crowd and I said, ‘do you know Mister Wall?’ and the crowd all turned away.’

“That fucking showed me.”

Read Mick Wall: UNCENSORED (Part 1)

Mick Wall’s latest book, Foo Fighters: Learning to Fly, is out now on Orion.

Visit his website


A Musical Odyssey Part 2: The Metal Years

heavy metal

Something every teenager needs in his life is heavy metal. As soon as I hit my teens I started buying Metal Hammer, Kerrang! and other rock magazines. The first that struck me was the imagery. All that leather and make-up, fake blood and bad attitude. There was something alluringly dangerous about it all. And it also fit nicely with my budding horror fascination.

In the mid-late late eighties there was an explosion of cock rock. Acts like Bon Jovi, WASP, Skid Row, Poison, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Whitesnake, and many others became regular fixtures in the UK Top 40. Rock stalwarts like Alice Cooper and Kiss re-emerged, and even the Scorpions and Winger’s of the world were having hits. For a few years it was like living in heavy metal heaven.

Some of my favourite albums of the time were Who Made Who (AC/DC, 1986), Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi, 1986), So Far, So Good, So What (Megadeth, 1988), Appetite for Destruction (Guns n Roses, 1987), Hysteria (Def Leppard, 1987), Girls, Girls, Girls (Motley Crue, 1987), Justice For All (Metallica, 1988), Permanent Vacation (Aerosmith, 1987), and 5150 (Van Halen, 1986).

If you’ve read this far, I’m pretty sure I just named at least two of your all-time favourite albums. Heady days, indeed.

Even if Justice For All sounded like it was produced by an eleven-year old, it mattered little as even that was soon eclipsed by the awesome beast that was Metallica, Black Album, or strictly-speaking, the album that had no name. This was the album that defined the era, though it really shouldn’t have been a hit. It was released in 1991, after metal’s heyday, had no title, limited PR, and no cover art, save for a small barely-visible coiled snake on the front. What it did have, though, was power.

Around this time I developed a penchant for limited edition collectors items. Picture discs, coloured vinyl, poster-sleeves, that kind of thing. Like millions of others, I fell right into the record company’s trap. You see, some of these ‘collectors items’ had extra b-sides or remixes and stuff, making them must-have’s for every self-respecting fan, so often you bought multiple formats just to get the extras. Or even just because they looked pretty. Style beat substance every time.

You didn’t even mind spending the money, safe in the knowledge that your limited collector’s edition Rush Prime Mover 7-inch white vinyl would only increase in value over time. You came to think of your record collection, bloated with all its fancily-packaged collector’s items, as some kind of investment for the future. A kind of nest egg. The big record labels tricked you into believing that you were actually being responsible by going out and spending all your disposable income on records every weekend.

But how many people have actually gone to the trouble of painstakingly valuing their record collection, item by item? I have. And I can tell you it was a truly depressing experience. Because what the record companies didn’t tell you at the time was that they produced these ‘limited collector’s editions’ in such bulk, and distributed them so well, that everybody had them. If you happen to have any of these half-forgotten gems gathering dust in your attic, my advice is to leave them there for another couple of decades. Apart from the odd exception (Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast 7-inch red vinyl, anyone?) they are probably worth less now in monetary terms than what you paid for them all those years ago.

Metal is one of those intriguing musical genres made up of dozens of different sub-genres. Apart from the aforementioned cock rock, there was (or has been) black metal, speed metal, thrash metal, death metal, nu metal, rap metal, funk rock, Christian rock, Adult Oriented Rock, progressive rock, glam rock, and industrial rock, to name but a few. The tragedy is that after a certain amount of time has passed, regardless of previous genre, all these bands get lumped together in the all-encompassing ‘classic rock’ category. There’s a line in a Bowling For Soup song… “When did Motley Crue become classic rock?”

That’s a damn good question.

I remember buying Guns n Roses’ Appetite For Destruction as if it was yesterday. I can’t believe it must have been the summer of 1988, which would make it almost 25 years ago. I bought the vinyl LP, in the sleeve featuring the robot rape scene that was later banned. I got the record on holiday in a Welsh seaside town called Porthcawl. We were staying in a caravan. That meant there was no record player, so all I could do for a solid week was stare at that sleeve, read the lyrics, and lovingly caress the record trying to imagine what it would sound like when I was finally in a position to play it.

Interesting sidenote on collectibles… I was one of the lucky few who got the album in its original sleeve featuring the infamous robot rape scene, just before Sweet Child O’Mine turned G N’ R into global megastars, Axl Rose disappeared up his own ass, and the original sleeve was withdrawn due to a public outcry.

In those days, if you were going to be a metalhead, you had to dress accordingly. My uniform during my teens comprised of a pair of black cowboy boots, ripped jeans, and heavily ‘customized’ t-shirt. One of my favourites was a black Madonna t-shirt, which I ripped down the middle and held together with safety pins. I would like to say it was a statement against the evils of pop music, but I wasn’t that deep back then. I just liked the image. The look was topped off with a black leather jacket complete with tassels on the sleeves (yep, tassels), a string tie featuring a stag’s skull, and a single, black, fingerless leather glove, which I wore everywhere. Oh, and before I started having real tattoos, I used to draw them on with a biro. I must have looked like a complete prick. But I thought I looked cool, and maybe that was all that mattered at the time.

I never had long hair. The furthest I ever got to having long hair was maintaining a mullet for a while. This was the eighties, and mullets were still socially acceptable. Having long, flowing, blonde locks never really appealed to me. It would require a lot of maintenance, and I’d probably wake up most mornings with a mouth full of my own hair. Not something I aspired to!

But then, as the eighties gave way to the nineties, something called grunge happened, having the same effect on hair metal as that massive blazing meteorite had on the dinosaurs. Almost overnight, rock and metal virtually ceased to exist.

Well, that isn’t strictly true. Most bands struggled gamely on for a while. Some even lasted long enough to make comebacks years later. But in the immediate aftermath of grunge, most rock and metal bands just looked confused by it all and walked around in a daze struggling to understand how they had gone from playing football stadiums to grimy rock clubs in the space of a few short months and nobody bought their records any more. It was painful to watch, and it also meant the end of the heavy metal clobber. Kurt Cobain has (had?) a lot to answer for.

Coming soon: A Musical Odyssey Part 3!


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