Are they still Guns n' Roses?: Axl Rose's Hall of Fame diss raises an interesting question

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Frontman Axl Rose composes a surprisingly cogent — though, nevertheless, staggeringly wrongheaded — letter declining to participate in Guns n’ Roses’ upcoming 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Our Fred Phillips responds

I refuse to refer to the current lineup as Guns n’ Roses. It’s Axl Rose and Four or Five Other Guys. Dizzy Reed is the only member of the band other than Axl that has any relation at all to the band’s history. For the record, I also refer to most of the Black Sabbath albums of the late 1980s and early 1990s as Tony Iommi and Three Other Guys, too.

I don’t have a problem with bands moving on with a core and some new members. I understand, as Axl said in his letter, that people “get divorced.” I understand that when you’re in a van or on a bus with someone constantly you get sick of them. I understand that people just can’t get along sometimes. Lots of bands have moved on and done it well.

But I can’t stand it when one original member — or even worse, one replacement member — puts together a band and performs under the original name. Regardless of what Axl would have us believe, Slash and Duff McKagan were an integral part of the GnR sound. Hell, Velvet Revolver had more right to call themselves Guns n’ Roses than the current version of the band does. At least they had a core of legacy members.

And you can’t even compare the music between the two versions of the band. I bought Chinese Democracy for 99 cents at Best Buy, and felt like I paid about 98 cents too much.

That said, there are times when a band member is so key that I don’t think the band should continue without them. I don’t consider Rock in a Hard Place an Aerosmith album. Aside from the fact that it’s not a very good record, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler are the heart and soul of the band. No Joe Perry = no Aerosmith. I felt the same when Perry talked about hiring a replacement singer a few years ago.

I think Alice in Chains should be performing under a different name. I realize that it was always Jerry Cantrell’s band, and I actually like Black Gives Way to Blue, but the new version is missing some of its intensity and soul.

As much as I’d like to see the three surviving members of Pantera get back together to do something, maybe as often speculated with Zakk Wylde on guitar, I wouldn’t want them to call it Pantera. Without Dime, there will be something missing. And don’t even get me started on the current touring lineup of Quiet Riot — or Frankie Banali and Three Other Guys.

I wouldn’t begrudge any of those folks what they’ve accomplished, and I wouldn’t want to see the music they’ve made retired. I don’t mind them going out and playing the old songs under a new name, but it’s not the same band and I don’t think it’s right to represent it as such.

Maybe it’s a silly thing to get caught up in a name like that, but that’s the way I feel.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse reviews.com.
Fred Phillips

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