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May 20, 2020 52 mins

Guns N' Roses were the biggest rock band in the world by 1991 — but that didn’t mean they were impervious to criticism. Their double-barreled smash ‘Use Your Illusion’ featured the song “Get in the Ring,” in which the notoriously thin-skinned Axl Rose struck back against those he felt had wronged him in the press. The track is notable for its complete lack of ambiguity. He specifically names music journalists and challenges them to fight. But when they accept his challenge, Axl never shows. “Get in the Ring” crystalizes the dichotomy between the singer’s brawling bad boy reputation and his actual actions, and raises questions about how celebrities defend themselves against critics.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Rivals is a production of I Heart Radio. Well Everyone
and Welcome to Rivals, the show about musical beefs and
feuds and long simmering resentments between musicians. I'm Steve and
I'm Jordan, and welcome to the jungle. Baby. It's the

(00:22):
only way to open this episode. And you're not gonna die,
right we we we can assure our listeners that they
will survive this episode, but we don't have fun and
games even if they're going into the jungle. Spite and bile. Yeah,
you know, on our show, usually, you know, we talked
about rivalries between you know, one person and another person,

(00:43):
but in this episode, it's basically like one guy versus
the entire world. Man. I mean, you you've gotta love
Axcel Rose and just all of Guns and Roses. They're
just always starting ship. They're writing songs that piss people off,
dropping f bombs on TV, peeing in places where you're
not supposed to be peeing. I mean, it's just you
gotta love them. You do have to love them. They
were one of the biggest bands of my youth, one

(01:06):
of the first badass rock bands that I ever loved.
And of course they're big album came out after Type
of Destruction, and then they put out two enormous albums,
Use Your Illusion one and Usual Allusion Too. And many
great songs came from those records November Rain, Don't Cry

(01:26):
You Could Be Mine. But the song we're gonna be
talking about today not one of the best songs from
those records, but very memorable, especially in terms of rust infamous. Yes,
of course we're talking about the song Get in the Ring.
And in this episode we're gonna be talking about Axel
Rose versus everybody that he named checks and Get in
the Ring, Axel versus All, Axel versus All, and you know,

(01:50):
we're gonna get into this in the episode. But like,
one of the big things that fascinates me about this
song is that I feel like it wouldn't exist now.
Like if Axel could have gone on Twitter or Instagram
in and just vented a little bit, he probably wouldn't
have had to spend millions of dollars in recording studios

(02:10):
to record this song and then put it on an
album that went on to sell like a gazillion copies.
I mean, that's a comforting thought. I feel like that
might be giving him more credit in the Sanity Department
than he might actually have, like he might have actually
really appreciated the fact that this angry letter took millions
of dollars and hours of studio time, like that might
have been part of the appeal. Well, I think we
can both agree that we're glad that he didn't just

(02:33):
tweet about this, that he put it on a record,
because here we are, almost thirty years later and we
can still dive into the minutia of Axel Roses beefs
with the rock press in the early nineties. So without
further ado, let's get into this mess. So we take
it back to the release of User Illusion one and

(02:55):
two in septemb I always thought this was kind of
the rightful successor to the apathet for Destruction, like Lies
for Me just didn't cut it. Yeah, I mean, Lies
does have patients on it, one of the great Guns
and Roses ballads. But you're right that it was basically
like a stop gap release while the world waited for
Axel to make these two huge, just massive albums. And

(03:16):
I always thought, use your Illusion, We're kind of like
Axel's plastic ono band record in a way, because it
came out around the same time that he got really
into regressive therapy and which dredged up all sorts of
childhood traumas with his dad and stepdad and his mom
and always horrible things, which I mean, he always had
a temper, but this shortened his temper into like microscopic
territory here. And I feel like these discs are just

(03:38):
the result of that. They're just panoramas of bile and
score settling. Yeah, you know, I love that comparison. I
don't think I've ever heard that before, but it just
makes me think of like if Axel would have said,
I don't believe in guns and roses, I just believe
in me. That would have been beautiful if that could
have been a lyric on this record. But I think
you're right. I mean, the influence of so going into

(04:00):
therapy was undoubtedly influenced not just on these albums, which,
as you say, are just full of bile and and
and confessional uh songs about Axel's youth and and and
everything that he's gone through in his life. It also
translates to the music videos that they put out at
this time. Are you familiar with the trilogy of of
great over the top music videos? That they put out

(04:22):
for the Usual Illusion albums. Yeah, there's some some mysterious
appearances of sea creatures in there that I never really,
never really understood. Yes, Axel does swim with the dolphins
in the video for Estranged. That is the final video
of the trilogy, the Return of the Jedi, if you will.
Of the Usual Illusion era music videos, you've got Don't Cry,

(04:43):
that's the video like where um Axel literally walks through
a mirror at one point while conversing with two other
versions of himself, which is incredible. Then you have the
November Rain video, which is I think the most iconic
of the three, you know, to carry over the Our
Wars analogy. This is the Empire strikes back of the

(05:03):
Guns and Roses trilogy. And we can agree Empire is
the best Star Wars movie, probably right of the of
the original three. Oh yeah, oh easily. And I think
we can agree that November Rain is the critical nexus
point of the Guns and Roses trilogy. You have actually,
you know, having a wedding with Stephanie Seymour, you have
Slash throwing his guitar into the canyon. Uh, all sorts

(05:24):
of great stuff. Um, but yeah, the dolphins really jump
out at me from does anyone look like with like
a Freudian background, know what dolphins may and please treat
at us because I really do want to know like
what that represents in like his dream Psyche. I think
I just know it has something to do with usual illusions,
like using your illusions and dolphins. There must be some

(05:46):
kind of connection, uh to be to be made there. Um.
But yeah, you know, I think the power of those records,
and you know, we're poking fun at them because obviously
they're you know, very over the top and and bloated
in their own way. But I know, for me as
a kid, like those albums meant the world to me.
And um, when I listened to them, I heard songs

(06:09):
about teenage alien nation, like I could really connect with
them on a universal level. But when you dig into
the lyrics, I mean, they're incredibly specific in terms of
Axel's inspirations and and and it's usually just him ranting
at somebody for some wrong that's been done to him.
Oh yeah, I mean, you know, it's a shame because
I was born in December and I wish that I

(06:31):
could have gotten experienced g n R in in real
time because sort of experiencing it in the early adds
when Buckethead was there and Axel was like knee deep
in Chinese democracy tapes like it kind of colors your
view of of you know, their back catalog. And and
this is a great example. I mean, there's so many
piste Off songs where just the messages Axel just kind

(06:52):
of writing an angry letter You've got right next Door
to Hell, which is about his beef with his neighbor
who accused him of hitting her with a wine bottle. Which, know,
I mean, writing a song about hitting her neighbor with
a wine bottle is a totally normal thing to write
a song about, right, Steve Well, And I was gonna say, like,
isn't she the one right next door to hell? Like
if he's hitting her with a wine bottle, Like, I

(07:13):
feel like she should be singing that song, not him.
I mean, unless he's saying that it's hell to be
accused of hitting someone with a wine bottle. You know,
I just feel he said he was the victim. He
is the victim in the case of hitting somebody with
a wine bottle. That's a very Axl Rose point of view.
But I'm with I'm with the neighbor on this one.
I feel like, if Excel was your neighbor in the

(07:34):
early nineties, you're the one living next door to hell.
Whereas Axel should have written a song called right next
Door to an innocent person who's just trying to live
their life. You know, that should have been the title
of his song. But the worst part of that was
apparently was her bottle of wine. And it was supposed
to be like a very nice bottle of wine too.
She's also out a bottle of wine. Yeah, I mean,
at least hit her with two buck chuck, you know,

(07:56):
like not not the good stuff, but at any rate,
not that you should hit anyone with a wine bott
I'm just saying that's a p s. A. Don't please,
if you're listening, don't hit your neighbor with the wine bottle,
especially expensive stuff. Right. So, so you've got that, You've
got back Off Bitch, which is about Axel's girlfriend, old
girlfriend from when he moved to l A in the

(08:16):
early eighties. But I guess she she kicked him out
over his surprise his anger issues, So back off Bitch.
That's another one strange which you mentioned um sort of
about from a bummed out period from his life after
his marriage to Aaron Everley was annulled. Um what else
we got? We got you could be mine, which is
about is he's failed relationship with his ex girlfriend. Uh.

(08:38):
And then of course you have in the liner notes.
I forget if it's one or two or both. Uh,
you have a um you have fucked you St. Louis,
which is a You know, it's rare. I'm not familiar
with too many bands calling out an entire city in
their liner notes. Is that this is unique? Is that not?
That's a unique thing, especially when it's over an incident

(09:00):
that was entirely your own fault, you know, Like I
think we can see a pattern here, like where you know,
Axel was writing a lot of songs about girlfriends who
he feels did him wrong. But it's clear that he
was just like a really angry, belligerent person and brought
all these things onto himself. And in the case of
the St. Lewis incident, Yeah, I feel like it's the

(09:21):
ultimate example of that because of course, g and Are
they played a show in St. Louis in in a
riot ensued because Axel refused to finish the show. He
blamed the security and what was the can you do
an Axel impression? Here? Like, what was what was the
exact quote that he said before he stormed off. Well,

(09:42):
he saw somebody in the audience with an unauthorized camera,
and he just kind of like looks the side of scared,
scared of get you know, get that guy. And then
he just he's dressed like in my memory, he's dressed
like every one of the village people all in one person.
He's got like a like a leather police hat and
like a feather boa and a huge crucifix. I don't
know if anyone the village people had a crucifix, but

(10:04):
in my mind they did. And he tosses off his
hat and he dives into the audience. Duff and Izzy
I think the only ones just kind of like playing
these like low almost like the Jaws theme and uh.
And so he's out there wailing on this guy getting
his camera. He comes back on stage and he says,
thanks to the lay mass security, I'm going home. And
then the best part is he just he know he

(10:26):
has a mic drop he likes, spikes the mic as
hard as he can on the stage floor and storms
off and uh, and the crowd rioted by the way,
I just want to say, like, Jordan's is like the
nicest person I know. So I like hearing you repeat
Axel Roses words because it's a great juxtaposition between your
kindness and his petulance. Uh, you got Rockabye Baby album

(10:50):
of like me just reading Axel rose lyrics to like
kids to put them asleep. It would and that would
be good. I mean, I think you're gonna be trying
out this later because you know, and when we were
talking about this episode, I wanted to make sure that
Jordan was the one reading the lyrics to get in
the ring, just because of his unassuming delivery. I think
it just really brings the songs home. We're gonna take

(11:12):
a quick break and get a word from our sponsor
before we get to more rivals. So, but yeah, speaking
up getting get in the ring. It's another example of acts,
so essentially using this mammoth canvas that guns and Roses

(11:36):
has to settle scores with the people that he feels
has wrong them, and in this case, of course, it
was the rock Press. Uh. The song originated as a
Duff McKagan song called why Do You Look at Me?
When You Hate Me, which great title, by the way,
I would I'd be curious to know, Like it'd be

(11:57):
nice to see like an alternate universe, like where that
song ended up on the record, and not Get in
the Ring, because I think that might have been a
better song. But at any rate, Axel takes this song
and he pretty much chucks everything about it except for
the opening line, and he turns it into this screed essentially,
And screed is really the only apt word here. I

(12:18):
don't use the word screed lightly, but I think it
applies to Get in the Ring. He's taken shots at
all of the big hard rock magazines essentially at the
time he's talking about Hip Parader, he's talking about Circus.
He takes specific shots at two pretty big journalists of
the time in the hard rock world. You have Mick

(12:38):
Wall who was a writer for Kerrang, and you have
Bob Guccioni Jr. The founder of Sipin. And look, I
remember where I was the first time I heard Get
in the Ring. You know, I bought the Usual Illusion
records like the week they came out. This was like
a huge deal for me. But I'm curious for you,
Jordan's because as you said, like you were born the

(13:01):
same year as Appetite for Destruction came out, So you
came to these songs a little bit later when they
were divorced from their original cultural context. What's your take
on the lyrics when you dive into them? And again,
like I said, can you please recite them for posterity's sake?
Oh with pleasure? Um? You know, I mean, on one hand,
you feel for Axel like he's an artists and artists

(13:21):
are sensitive folk. He feels persecuted, he feels judged, he
feels misunderstood. You know that's not nice. But but he
didn't say that, you know. And there's a breakdown the
middle of the song, and it came out a little
something like this. And that goes for all you punks
in the press that want to start ship by printing
lies instead of the things we said. That means you
Andy C. Sharrett, Hit Parade, Circus Magazine, Mick walt Kerrang,

(13:45):
Bob Guccioni. It's spin what you piste off because your
dad gets more pussy than you. Fuck you suck my
fucking dick. You'd be ripping off the fucking kids. Will
they be paying their hard earned money to read about
the bands. They want to know about printing lies, starting controversy.
You want to antagonize me, antagonize me, motherfucker Getting the Ring? Motherfucker,
I'll kick your bitchy little ass punk. Who I gotta

(14:08):
say that? That's I've never heard someone say an tagging
as e motherfucker and had me think, Oh, what a
sweet guy. You just bring the sweetness to that song
that doesn't exist otherwise. Yeah, I mean he he obviously
just like went off and again the idea that he's
in the studio recording this song and there's lots of

(14:29):
people around him. There's record producers, there's other people in
the band, there's people from the record label. I want
to read an oral history of all the people that
were around Axel when they recorded Getting the Ring. And
I want to know, like, did anyone ever try to
intervene and say, you know, maybe people He blames other people,

(14:51):
but in later years, like he was doing an interview
on like Eddie Trunk a couple of years ago where
he's talking, oh, yeah, I was a def so idea
to tell me to like really get my feelings out there,
and and the geff and a in our head Tom
zoots out. I think I say is then the guy
Pete Davison played him in the dirt They said, oh yeah, yeah.
They were telling me to just speak my mind, and
it was all their idea, which is, you know, totally focus.
I mean, we'll get into this in the episode. But
I find it hard to believe that there wasn't anyone,

(15:13):
any voice of reason, who said, Axel, maybe you just
want to shout into a pillow for a half hour
instead of recording this song, Maybe that would be a
better way to get out your aggression and putting this
on this enormous record. It's gonna be one of the
biggest rock records of its time. Um, if that didn't happen,
I wonder if people were just intentionally setting him up

(15:33):
to humiliate himself, knowing that in thirty years people would
still be talking about it on podcasts and having a
laugh over it. You know. It was either they tried
to stop him and he wouldn't listen, or there was
some sort of sabotage going on in the studio. Yeah,
I mean, just the insulation that must have been around
him at that point must have been truly crazy for
it to get to the point where this was on

(15:54):
the record that sold what seven million? Yeah, it's it's nuts.
But I think to get deeper to axel psyche, it's
important to know he had sort of like Nixonian levels
of paranoia when it came to the press. There was
a case in I think it was just after his
relusion came out in ninety two, when when j N
R toward and We're playing a show at Madison Square

(16:15):
Garden and a review in The New York Times described
the crowd as oddly restrained, which is, you know, kind
of a neutral thing to say. If anything, you could
read it as like, wait, why why isn't the crowd
going more nuts? A great show? Of course took it
that way, right. Axel wasn't offended when he read that, right, Um,
not so much. He He actually challenged the reviewer to

(16:38):
come on stage at the next night show and explain himself.
And then when when the reviewer declined, I imagine, politely declined, uh,
Axel went and give an interview in Rolling Stone and
said he didn't have the balls to stand by what
he wrote, and he got exposed. You know what, I'm
not going to make The New York Times anymore money.
It was an obnoxious piece. It was ship journalism. He's

(16:58):
just getting started. He could written, I didn't like the
show personally, I think they suck. But you know what, Okay, fine, cool.
You can think we suck and I can think you're
an asshole, but don't try to make it look like
nobody enjoyed it. And then he went on the call
the reviewer a person with some severe fucking personal problems
and he has no business being there or writing about
our show. This is from a pretty pretty small comment

(17:21):
when you say yeah, and again, like you said, if
you want to read it as an insult, you can,
but I think that the more sane way to read
it would be to say, hey, this audience is a
little dead. You know, this is a great band. Why
aren't they being more excited. He's writing about the audience,
not so much about the band, So it's like weird
for Axel to react this way. It's also I think

(17:42):
another thing that's important to note too is that like
Guns and Roses, especially for the kind of band that
they were, was like pretty critically acclaimed at the time,
Like like you know, if if you want to talk
about other bands from l A whether it's Poison or
Motley Crue or any of those big hair metal era bands,
they tended to not get a lot of back from critics,
and yet Guns and Roses with appetite for destruction, people

(18:04):
were comparing to them to like the Rolling Stones of
like the early seventies. I mean, maybe maybe I'm wrong,
but I can't imagine the New York Times like reviewing
a Poison show, you know, exactly, It's it's pretty nuts, exactly, yeah, absolutely,
I mean yeah, Like, I think Axel was definitely the
kind of person who was liable to snatch an insult

(18:26):
from the jaws of a compliment, you know. I think
that was just his way of looking at it. And
it's an interesting segue into talking about one of the
big targets of getting the Ring, which is mc wall
of Karrang Magazine because Nick wall Um. Of course, if
you read a lot of hard rock biographies like I do,

(18:47):
he's a very famous name. He's written books about led Zeppelin,
Black Sabbath, He's written a couple of books about Guns
and Roses, including a book called The Most Dangerous Band
in the World, which came out and I remember getting
that book up. Have you a familiar with Mickwall Oh yeah,
I means a legend. He's He's got another Axl Rose biography,
I think O w a R. I think it's called

(19:08):
the Story of Axel Rose from a couple of years
ago and it's in another incredible book. He's a legend, yeah, absolutely,
And and he was pretty tight with the band in
their early years. He was he was a champion of
them in the late eighties as they started to get
really big in the wake of Appetite for Destruction. And
he was really one of those guys that, like Axel Rose,
could just pick up a phone and call whenever he

(19:28):
wanted to do an interview. Um, if texting existed back then,
you would say that he was on you up status
with Mick Wall he could take he could text him
metaphorically say you up, and then they would be, you know,
having the interview. And it's that very relationship that got
Mick Wall in trouble because in early Axel Rose calls

(19:52):
Mick Wall up. It's like in the middle of the night,
isn't it. Yeah. I think Mick what was saying, He's
like brush and his teeth or something. I get ready
for bad. Yeah. So just and he got you up
just picture. I mean you and I are are journalists.
Imagine like you're getting ready in your pajamas, You're getting
ready to wind down, brushing your teeth. All of a
sudden your phone rings and who is it? It's Axel Rose.

(20:15):
I mean, pretty incredible thing to have on the other
end of the phone. And the reason why Axel called
was because he wanted to vent about Vince Neil of
Molly Crue. And who doesn't want to vent about Vince Neil.
I mean, you've called me in the middle of the
night to complain about Vince Neil from time to time.
I mean, if you got a Vince about Vince Neil,

(20:35):
you should probably vent about Vince Neil to the journalist.
That's probably the best way to do it, I'd say.
And the reason why he was mad was because of
this incident that occurred at nine MTV Video Music Awards,
where um it started with Axel and is he straddling
from G and R performing with Tom Petty and the
Heartbreakers on the song free Fallen And have you ever

(20:57):
seen that performance? Is that the one with the snake down, Like, yeah,
it's like prime era Axel He struts out there like
Pepe lapew and he sings the chorus of Free Phone
with Tom Petty doing the Snake Dance, which, for my
money is the greatest frontman dance of all time, unless

(21:18):
you want to give credit to Davy Jones or the
Monkeys for originating it, because he kind of did the
same thing, and you know in the video for Daydream Believer,
of course, yeah, I never even made Oh yeah, I
think there's always the theory that it's the snake dance.
I've also heard it called the Davy Jones dance that
Axel does. But anyway, it's a great performance. But as

(21:39):
they're walking off stage, Vince Neil punches Izzie Stradling because
is he supposedly hit on Vince Neil's Was it his
wife or his girlfriend? I think it was his wife.
His wife who was a mud wrestler at the Tropicana,
I believe, just a yeah, exactly, no judgments. I'm just saying,

(22:03):
you know, it's perfect that Vince Neil's wife was a
mud wrestler at the Tropicana. Um, So Vince punches Easy
Stradling and Axel. You know, this is several months later
that he calls mc wall. He's still angry about this,
and he's basically challenging Vince Neil to a fight through

(22:25):
an interview with Mick Wall. And it's interesting, you know,
when you look back in retrospect, why didn't Axel just
punch Vince Neil after he punched is he? You know, like,
if you wanted to fight Vince Neil, you think he
would have just done it. Then the moment was there, Yeah,
the moment was there, is he is? He was like
out right, he was like out cold. Yeah, apparently got
cold cocked. I mean, I think part of the you know,

(22:47):
the disagreement here was that, I think the idea was
that he got sucker punched. That is, he had no
opportunity to square up and do like a real fair fight,
that Vince just just decked him backstage. But uh, anyway,
Axel is really hot and bothered about this, and he
he gives this amazing quote. He says, I tell you

(23:08):
he's gonna get a good ass whipping, and I'm the
boy to give it to him. It's like, whenever you
want to do it, man, let's just do it. I
want to see that plastic face of his cave in
when I hit him. I feel like I'm doing a
slight John Wayne impression here. I I'm imagining Axel talking
like John Wayne. I I don't know. I wish John

(23:30):
Wayne once said like ass whoopen? I feel like I
would like a lost scene from like The Searchers or something. Yeah,
I'd love to hear John Waye say is he stradling?
You know, just if we could somehow, if someone could
do a deep fake of that, that'd be amazing. Um, Personally,
I don't think he has the balls picking up again
with Axel's quote here, But that's the gauntlet and I'm

(23:52):
throwing it down. Hey, Vince, whichever way you want to go, man, guns,
knives are fists, whereever you want to do. I don't
air uh now. I I love this story, but like
the follow up from it, like it wasn't very good
and Axel was the one who got mad about it
essentially right Oh yeah, I mean you know, there's really
no ambiguity about these quotes. Right here, he is challenging

(24:15):
Vince Neil to a fight, like there's there's really no
like metaphor, There's there's no nuance here. It's very literal guns,
knives or fists. Uh So, Mick Mick Wall is typing
up the interview and he's reading this all back and
he's saying, oh, geez, this is this is this is
pretty tough. And he calls Axel and reads everything back
and says, hey, man, like you, this is pretty uh

(24:36):
it's pretty explicit here. You sure you want me to
you sure you're okay with this? And Axel says, hell, yeah, man,
I stand by every word. Uh So it gets published
in April, is the cover story for Krang and you know,
as you would expect it ignitied a war between the
Motley Crewe and G and R camps and you know,
I mean they're both from l A. They run in
the same circles. Nikki six and Slash had been friends.

(24:58):
This is some like j versus Shark ship. It's about
to go down. I remember this playing out at MTV um.
I didn't see the mcwall story, but I remember on
MTV news this was like a big thing, and it's
almost seem like MTV was like trying to perpetuate this,
which I loved. I mean I was eating everything up,
like they didn't interview with Vince Neil where Vince Neil

(25:19):
is essentially like talking directly to the camera like rowdy,
rowdy piper, you know, challenging Axel to a fight. And Uh.
Later on in in the Motley Crue book The Dirt,
Vince Neil claims that Axel got back to him through
an intermediary and there was this plan that they were
going to fight in the parking lot of Tower Records

(25:42):
in Los Angeles. Uh, like, I I don't know, like
by the smoking dumpsters. Maybe I I don't know. But
apparently Axel bailed. And but while but even though he bailed,
behind the scenes, he kept talking in the press that
he wanted to Vince Neil. Like there was another interview
that Axel did with Kurt Loder where he basically said, hey, man, like,

(26:07):
if you want to fight in Atlantic City for a
charity thing, like, let's do it. And I think Vince
Neil even agreed to that too. But like, no matter
how often Axel would say publicly that he wanted to fight,
it seemed like behind the scenes he never would commit
to it. Oh yeah, he blamed the whole thing on
Mick Wall. He said that he was like a rotten
journalist who lied and misrepresented his quotes. Which you know,

(26:28):
I mean, you can't misrepresent what's it gonna pea, guns,
knives are fists. There's not much to misrepresent there. But
you know how much he actually believed this in his
own mind is up for debate. But Mick got blacklisted
and uh and he I think to this day has
a feud with him. I think in like the late
two thousands, he like still blacklisted him from Guns and

(26:49):
Roses show in London, so he still pissed about this.
And look, Axel, if you want to collapse Vince Neil's
plastic face, like do it man, or you know, don't
throw the journalists under the bus. It doesn't seem fair.
But like it's the weird thing was he kind of
came out looking pretty good, right, Axel, like, even though
he totally just ran away from multiple attempts from Vince

(27:10):
to like actually call him on it. Yeah, I mean,
I think it's interesting because this whole thing of like
Axel getting into fights with people, it coincides with Guns
and Roses shifting in esteem in the public, and it
has a lot to do with how the rock scene
was changing in the early nineties, Like during that whole
Vince Neil Guns and Roses thing. I think the press

(27:33):
looked at Guns and Roses as a more authentic band,
and they were more willing to give Axel the benefit
of the doubt in a rivalry with Vince Neil. And
you can see in the optics of how that was
presented on MTV, like where again, Vince Neil was presented
basically like a buffoon, you know, like pointing to the camera,
wanted to start a fight with Axel Rose, whereas Axel

(27:55):
had an audience with Kurt Loder like he was the
president of rock music at that time. You know, I
think they were sitting like in a garden, like maybe
behind Axel's house or something. It's just much more dignified,
even though Axel is also acting like a buffoon at
this time. But that would change, I think, pretty dramatically
once we get to the n nine two Video of

(28:15):
Music Awards. And I don't know if you know this
about me, Jordan, but I'm kind of obsessed with the
nineteen ninety two Video Music Awards. Oh yeah, I mean
I I would love nothing more than to hear you
recount this story. And this is like a chance to
hear Bob Dylan do like a lost first from you know,
times they are changing. It's something I would love nothing
more than to to hear this from your lips. Yeah,
this is my this is my freebird guitar solo. I

(28:37):
would say the story, but yeah, it's the story about
how Axel and Kurt Cobain almost got into a fight backstage.
So the short version is that Axel Rose and Stephanie Seymour,
they're walking backstage and they're passing by Kurt Cobain and
Courtney Love. And just for some context, like Axel Rose
really loved Nirvana, Like he actually wanted to put Nirvana

(28:59):
on an opening act for Guns and Roses when they
did that big Metallica G and R stadium tour um
So he was a fan of the band. But like
Kurt Cobain looked at Axel Rose as a joke. So
he viewed him as like everything that was wrong with
rock and roll right like there, it's everything that was
like l a phony manufactured much like yeah, I mean

(29:19):
like yeah, exactly, like a macho guy who's dropping racial
slurs and songs, you know, disparaging language towards women, all
those sorts of things. And Corobain I think probably felt
that he was the antithesis of that um so Axel
and Stephanie Seymour walking by, and Courtney Loved shouts at

(29:40):
Axel and says, hey, uh, actually, do you want to
be the godfather to our to our daughter Francis Bean?
Probably not a sincere question. Seems like it was pretty snarky,
wouldn't you say some elements of sarcasm could have crept
in there. I agree, And Axel takes a sarcasm and

(30:01):
he looks at Cobaine and he says, you shut your
bitch up, or I'm taking you down to the pavement,
which he's not talking about the band pavement. He's not
just not like a slanted, enchanted shout out. He's talking
about beating up Kurt Cobain, and Cobain turns to Courtney
Love and he says, in a dead pan voice, Okay, bitch,

(30:24):
shut up, which is a great comeback. You know, It's
like he's obviously mocking Axel. And then Stephanie Seymour decides
to step in to save face for her boyfriend, and
she turns to Courtney Love and she says, are you
a fashion model? Courtney Love says to Stephanie Seymour, No,
are you a brain surgeon? And that's that's that's brilliant.

(30:50):
That's That's pretty much the end of it right there.
But it's another example of Axel wanted to start a
fight and then just totally getting schooled by the to it.
I mean, did John Hughes wright that? I mean, the
lines of that are incredible, you know, yeah, I mean
there's something about that incident that The thing I love
about it is that it sounds like something a rock
critic would have made up as a metaphor for like

(31:13):
hair metal being replaced by grunge, Like he would write
a scene where Axel and Kurt Cobain have a altercation
and Axel Rose is the one who's who's humiliated. You know,
it just feels like a metaphor, but it actually happened,
which is beautiful. That's what I love and miss about
the vm as in the early nineties. It was like
like the high school lunch room of the rock scene,

(31:34):
Like you can have all these fights and stuff like, oh,
it's not the same now, but to get back to
to get in the ring, I mean, I feel like
the Bob Guccioni Jr. Part of that song which to me,
like Guccioni Junior takes it on the chin the most,
like he seems to like Axel's insult of him is
very personal and he's really going hard against him. But

(31:56):
in a way, that's also the insult that backfired on
him the most, right, Yeah, I mean this is like
the Kiss of Death and Godfather too, like when when
freid of betrays Michaels. It just there's so much. He
gets it the most because he felt the most betrayed
because Spin, back in the early days, was a huge
champion of guns and roses. I mean, people forget this now,

(32:17):
but Appetite for Destruction took something like a year to
crack the top ten, and a lot of that was
because of Spin calling the album that I think on
the future of music, you know, and Spin at that
time was sort of the alternative the Rolling Stone. It
was new, and it was championing all the stuff that
Rolling Stone kind of was missing, like hip hop and
college indie rock, and so that kind of endorsement from

(32:37):
Spin met a great deal. But um Axel's view towards
the presses touched on earlier, so to get more adversarial
and guns of roses had this contract in the early
nineties that they gave to anybody who wanted to interview them,
and it was truly an insane contract. It had what
I'll have It basically allowed the band to edit the pieces,

(33:00):
allowed them to write the captions, allowed them to maintain
copyright ownership of the content, and failure to meet any
of those demands result in a hundred thousand dollar payment
for breach of contract. I mean, you couldn't, like, as
a journalist, you can't sign that. I mean, there's just
absolutely no way. Yeah, I mean yeah, just to contextualize
that for people who like aren't in the media, like

(33:20):
there is no pop star alive that would request something
like that and get away with it, Like Beyonce couldn't
get away with that. You know, it's insane that even
a band as big as Guns and Roses would have
even thought to do something like that at that point,
just refuse interviews like don't have a down on paper
that he's in the sand requests. I mean that makes
it worse because he said it is now on paper,

(33:42):
and Bob Guccione basically presented it without without commentary. He
published the contract just as was in the pages of
spin basically for mockery, like inviting like fans that just like,
oh yeah, you guys want to interview Axel Rose. Well,
here's the contract, Like sign it and fill it all
out and send it off to him. And I guess
the Guns and Roses offices were just inundated, but tens

(34:05):
of thousands of copies of this bogus contract just because
Bob encouraged them, So he humiliated the group, and uh
and it gets worse spin. You know at this point,
obviously Axel has some you know, he's very controlling of
his image. Shall we say, Um, There's a man named
Danny Sugarman. He started as a music industry figure. He

(34:26):
started off when he was younger, managing the Doors right
after Jim Morrison died, and I think he managed Iggy
Pop too. He wanted to write a book about Guns
and Roses and the band wanted absolutely nothing to do
with it. So I guess Danny Sugarman spoke briefly to
Axcel like a bar for it sounds like it was
like a fifteen minute conversation. It wasn't anything big, but
he took the short conversation and spun a hole spin

(34:50):
cover story out of it, which Bob published, and Uh,
the Guns and Roses team were not happy. They were basically,
we didn't agree to this. We didn't realize this was
on record. This was not what we you know, what
we said could happen. Um. And instead of blaming Danny Sugarman,
he blamed the Gooch, Bob d Cone um and uh.

(35:11):
And that really sets the stage for his verse in
uh in Getting the Ring, which would you like to
take this again? I know it's my favorite part of
Getting the Ring? Yeah? Again? You know the line directed
at Gooch. I like that you call him Gooch. By
the way, We're let's call him Gooch for the rest
of this episode. Uh, what you piste off because your

(35:31):
dad gets more pussy than you. Fuck you suck my
fucking dick. Now, let's step back for a minute. The
context for that line is that Bob Guccioni's dad, the senior,
of course, is the founder of Penthouse Magazine, and I
guess the implication here is that as the founder of
Penthouse Magazine, Senior is has a way with the ladies

(35:52):
that perhaps his son does not. So very personal there
going after him. Now there's this next person the song
where he says, you'll be ripping off the kids while
they'd be paying their herdered money to read about the
fans that they want to know about, written mys starting controversy.
You want to antagonize me, intaggon as me motherfucker. Now

(36:13):
do you think that's directed at everyone or just GUCCIONI Jr.
Because it does seem like GUCCIONI more than anyone else,
was antagonizing Axel like he was a champion early on,
but he was really poking the bear, that contract thing,
putting on my my sort of reading comprehension halt for
a moment. It could apply to Mick Wall too, because

(36:35):
he did say that the whole Vince Neil thing was
completely made up. But I don't know. I prefer to
think that it's just at Gooch, just like this whole
the whole rest of the verse is all at him
now Axel. You know, of course after the intagon as
me antagonized me, motherfucker part, he says, getting the ring, motherfucker,
and I'll kick your bitchy little ass punk a clear challenge,

(36:55):
a call back to the what was that the knives
fist or guns thing from the Midple interview. I mean
exactly no ambiguity and equivally, you know, shouting this guy
out asking for a fight. Um, but it's fair to
say it didn't turn out the way Axel thought it
would write. I mean, the problem was Bob was more
than happy to get in the ring. Like Axel probably
didn't know that that the good had something like ten

(37:16):
years of full contact karate experience, so he was down
the go. Yeah, and he was also like a total
sleeze bag. I mean that's the other element. And I
think he liked the publicity that he was going to
get from this. Oh yeah, I know he wanted to
turn in this big stunt for Spin and I guess
he sent Geffen a letter after trying to get in
touch with Axel a bunch of times, and the letter
was published I think in a bunch of different newspapers.

(37:36):
I'd like to read a part of it now. I
just I enjoy how how cordial, yet asked whooping it
is at the same time, Um, I think I have
a special talent for reading these kind of things. I
just I've just heard your song getting the Ring, and
I want you to know I hardly accept the challenge
and thank you for the invitations very cordial. Let's do it,
I say, at your earliest convenience, By the way, I

(37:58):
mentioned in the press, that would be only who happy
to oblige you. I take the fact that there's been
absolutely no response from you to indicate how busy you
must be. I mean, what with canceling concerts, starting riots
and beating up paying fans trying to take pictures of you.
What a schedule you've had. Incredible. I sympathize. So I
just wanted to let you know directly that as soon
as you're ready, I am too. Perhaps until then you

(38:19):
shouldn't sing that song, at least not too loudly. Huh,
what a great What a great letter. I'm just picturing
him with like white gloves and you know, slapping Axel
in the face, you know, like I I accept your
challenge of a duel. You know, let's meet guns at dawn.
You know that's very much the tone of that letter.
Oh it's so good. And then he was on a
current affair, like a short time later, and he had

(38:40):
another great quota about Axel. I don't think Axel Rose
sits at home and wonders how he can make himself
look like more of a bad boy. I just think
he's a bad person, which touche. I think that was
probably a pretty fair assessment of Axel at that time. So, like,
did actually just take that lying down? I mean, was
at the end of it he kind of doubled down.
He was given a concert in in Wistern, Massachusetts, which

(39:02):
is actually my hometown, uh, in December nine one, and
he claimed that, uh, that he was not only gonna
sue magazines, like all the magazines he mentioned, presumably, but
also that the people that he mentioned in the song
put a hit out on him, which he called, uh,
what do you call I think he called it a
real pussy approach, putting a hit out on him. Well,

(39:23):
you know, I guess yeah, if that had any connection
to reality, I suppose hiring a hitman to murder Axel
rows over getting the ring would be, you know, not
the best move, although again I feel like that probably
was not grounded in anything that actually was in the
real world at that point. No, absolutely not. I mean,
so when push comes to show, Axel backs down. He

(39:45):
tries to justify an interview. He basically says that, yeah,
getting the ring isn't necessarily literally about getting in the
ring with boxing gloves. You know, otherwise I'd be a boxer.
But you know, to get in the ring, you need integrity,
and that disqualifies Bob it off the pat So that
song about getting in the ring wasn't actually about getting
in the ring. And even if it was, I wouldn't

(40:05):
fight Bob because its integrity. So there's some some fun
logic there. Yeah. I like I like the idea that, um,
I can't kick your ass if if I respect you. Uh,
I only beat up people that I respect and that
have integrity, uh, which you know, Yeah, you wrote a

(40:25):
song about people wanting to fight them because they don't
have integrity, and then you had like actual boxing sounds
in the song. Like I think there's like a boxing
bell song and there's like there's crowd cheering. Um, it
seems like a pretty literal representation of boxing in the song. Uh.
But yeah, it's a metaphor. Sure, we'll let Axcel have

(40:48):
that one all right hand. We'll be right back with
more rivals. I think we need to recap here Axel's
non fighting fighting history because we've talked about the get

(41:08):
in the Ring song of course, and and mcwall and
BOBU Joni Jr. Of course, being the two big targets
of that song. You have the Vince Neil incident. Um
again the knives guns are fists. There's no knives guns
are fists at all. In the vicinity, uh of that battle,
you have the Nirvana incident backstage where he's gonna take

(41:31):
Kurt Cobain to the pavement, doesn't take him to the pavement,
doesn't even play him Signed and Enchanted or any of
those great albums. Really, the only fight that he gets
into that I'm aware of, like as a public figure,
involves the fashion designer Tommy hill Figure. Like, are you
familiar with this story? I love this story so so
much because especially because it's kind of like a I

(41:53):
would say it past his prime Axels, Who's it's not
even like nineties era, Like this is like mid odds
Love Bowl two. I think it wasn't like oh three
or oh six. Yeah, I think it was oh six.
Like they were at some event, Axel was, you know,
at a table with Tommy hill Figure and Tommy Hill
Figure's girlfriend, and Axel from his telling of it, he

(42:13):
moved Tommy Hill Figure's girlfriend's drink because there was some calamity.
That was about to befall her cocktail, supposedly, and then
Tommy Hill Figure reacts to that by essentially slapping Axel
Rose about the face. And I mean Tommy Hill Figure
says that like Axel pushed him first, right, I mean,

(42:35):
isn't that his story? Yeah? I mean Tommy was acting
completely out of fear, like I mean, his Axel's reputation
with all these songs were getting the ring and everything,
it just totally preceded him. And he said, Axel pushed me,
And I said that was rude. And he noticed that
that actual had a huge ring on, and so he thought,
you know what, if I get hit, it's gonna take
my eye out, it's gonna take my teeth out. This
is gonna get bad. So it was just it was

(42:56):
a it was a preemptive strike. And I love this quote.
Like Axel asked about this later and he said, quote,
it was the most surreal thing I think that's ever
happened to me in my life. He just kept smacking me,
which you know, I think it would be pretty surreal
if Tommy Hill Figure was beating the crap out of you.
That does seem like a dream that you would have

(43:18):
you know, on having too much spicy food like late
at night, and you had that dream exactly. Uh, you know,
and maybe that's like some sort of weird anxiety dream
about you know, not feeling good about your wardrobe, so
like a fashion designer is beating you up. Yeah. I
don't know if that would be the interpretation of that.
I'm at an amount of psychiatrist, but um, I just

(43:43):
think it's funny that for Axel, with all the things
that have happened to him in his life, even for
him he thought, oh, this is like a cut above
the weirdness of my just everyday life. I can't believe
that this happened to me. I think it was a
happy ending though, too. Didn't they like patch things up later? Yeah?
I think so. I think I think that they you know,
I think they both realized, like, wow, this is like
such a bizarre thing. Maybe we should just both try

(44:05):
to put it behind us and and be friends. So anyway,
in terms of Axel's fighting history, that is really the
only like kind of big fight that he actually got into.
Otherwise it's a lot of talk and virtually no bite
coming from Axel, right, I mean, you know, it's just
funny how this reputation just was really born, would you

(44:27):
say primarily out of getting the ring? Like I'm trying
to figure out at what point that his reputation as this,
like you know, w WF wrestler turned singer began like
it was it? Because looking back on it, I think
it's around there. But was it earlier? Yeah? I mean
I think there was an idea that Axel was a
tough guy that predated getting the ring. I think getting

(44:47):
the ring in a way was the pinnacle of that
and also the beginning of the end, because um, I
mean the thing about Axel And again, like as I
said earlier, Guns and Roses was a big band of
my youth. There's still a band that I love, and
Axl Rose is like one of my favorite rock stars
of all time. And I think the appeal of Axl
Rose in much the same way as it is for

(45:10):
someone like Kanye West, who I think, weirdly enough, is
like the closest thing that we have to an analog
to Axl Rose, like early nineties Accel Rose that we
have now that he's like cartoon, you know, and like
ultra real, keep it real, like human being, you know,

(45:30):
like he's someone that obviously where's all of his emotions
on his sleeve and doesn't keep anything back. And you know,
while his prime predated social media, he did have that
sort of like oversharing quality that is so common now
with pop stars, like he had that in the late
daies and early nineties. But then he's also larger than life,
and in a song like Getting the Ring, he's he's

(45:51):
he's basically like a pro wrestler, you know, and it's
it's part of what makes that song I think so lovable,
is a piece of camp. Like again, I don't know
how you feel about that song generally. I mean, I mean,
do you appreciate it on that level or is it
just like garbage to you? I mean, I have a
hard time listening to it as like a real song,

(46:13):
Like it's more sort of infamous to me than I
have a hard time stripping away the backstory from when
I hear it, and I like to it. To read
Mick Wall's assessment of the of the song, which kind
of mirrors my own. He calls Getting the Ring a
lot of l a puff about nothing, a big terry
hair pulling tantrum from an overindulged child star shouting and

(46:33):
swearing because he can't get his own way. UM. So
that's that that kind of goes with with how I
feel about it. I am curious that you mentioned that
Gus Roses big band of your youth, somebody you really
I won't say admired, but definitely you know, have an
affection for um as a music journalist. Now, how do
you view that song, Like, do you feel a lot

(46:54):
more sympathy and affinity towards Mick Wall and Bob and
all the people we call that oh absolute? I feel
like I I put myself in their position, and I
it just seems unfathomable to me to be in the
eye of that kind of storm, because you know, nowadays,
I think it's actually pretty common for journalists to end

(47:16):
up on the wrong end of a stick with a
with a celebrity like you and I have both had
uh situations like where famous people didn't like something that
we wrote, UH and they called us out on social
media and getting a cent and you're, yeah, it's not fun,
and and and having a mean tweet written about you

(47:36):
and then having like all of like the minions come out,
you know, all the dregs of social media coming out
to sort of chime in and take shots at you.
That's not fun and it can be pretty intense for
about you know, twenty four to forty eight hours. But
that's not the same thing as like having a song
written about you and having that song on like one
of the biggest albums in the world. And just I

(47:59):
mean tweets they come and go and people tend to
move on after not a whole lot of time. But
like Getting the Ring is a song that again like
here we are, like it's like thirty years later and
we're talking about like how Mick Wall and excel Ros
were feuding in you know, like we wouldn't really remember
this stuff if it weren't for this song. It just

(48:20):
like blows it up to like a whole other like
level of like mythical proportions. It's an immortal feud like exactly.
It's just it'll always it'll never fade. It's so yeah,
it's crazy, and like, you know, I don't think that
this is a great song. There's are I think there
are like obviously many other songs from like that era

(48:41):
of G and R there that way overshadow this song. Um,
but in a way, this song is important as far
as showing how the perception of guns and ros has
changed pretty dramatically in the early nineties, like um, the
usual loution albums that came out the same month as
never Mind, you know, and like Pearl Jam ten came

(49:02):
out I think like a month earlier. You know, this
was kind of the beginning of the end of like
rock stars acting like this and getting away with it.
You know, there was like a whole other generation coming
in where they wouldn't have acted like this. There was
a there was a new kind of sensitivity, so there
was like yeah and like like kind of de emphasizing machismo.

(49:24):
I mean you could say that that came back later
in the decade, like with all the new metal bands
that came back, like the Limp Biscuits and and Corns
and bands like that. They reiterated that to some degree.
But like, you know, I don't think that those bands,
as big as they got, were ever on the scale
of like Axl Rose in like right before this band

(49:46):
started to go into decline. Oh no, absolutely, I mean
they're getting the Ring is the high watermark right before
that sort of way, everydingulousness just completely crested right. So,
I mean, if we look at this song, I mean,
normally in this part of the episode, we would like
give the pro side for each side of the rivalry.
I mean, I think the pro side for the journalists
in the song is pretty clear cut that Axel was

(50:09):
insane to write this song and that they didn't deserve
to get called out in the way that they did.
You know, the pro side for Axel, I guess would
be that thirty years later, when there's no danger of
anyone actually getting physically harmed because of this song. To
me again, it just lives on. Is like lovable camp,
and it's something that I enjoy listening to, not necessarily

(50:32):
because it's a good song, but just because I think
it's really funny and it usually puts a smile on
my face when I hear it. I think it's like
an ink blot test for how you feel about Axel, too,
Like I mean, if you kind of if you're predisposed
like I was, because I got to know him a
sort of like the guy who made guns and roses
disintegrate because he fired everybody or made it unlivable, and
you're predisposed to think that he's kind of ridiculous. You

(50:53):
think that this is just the ultimate moment of his
ego and just just insanity. But if if you like
and and kind of have a soft spot for his
his brashness, then yeah, I can see this being like
a really fun piece of piece of performance art. What's
funny now is that, you know, Axel Rose is now
known as the guy who calls out Steve manution on Twitter,

(51:16):
like like he's calling out members of the Trump administration
to get in the ring, you know, like it's one
of those things like where people kind of love him
now for that brashness, you know, because because he'll do
that to two politicians. I saw someone tweet about this
recently where they you know, they said, imagine you imagine

(51:37):
being it's and you're thinking about the year and what
the reputation of Axel roses versus Morrissey, and like things
change a lot of course of decades, and and and
how we look at things can shift over time, and
even as something like getting the ring and its own
small way can maybe be redeemed that that is a

(51:57):
that is a beautiful thought. I love that you've really
you've changed my approach on that. Well, Jordan, I hope
that you and I will never have reason to get
in the ring. Guns Knives are fist Stephen. Gun knives
are stupid until the back of the Tower Records parking lot.
All right, man, Well until then, everyone, We'll be back
with more Rivals next week. Rivals is a production of

(52:27):
I Heart Radio. The executive producers are shaun Ty Toone
and Noel Brown. The supervising producers are Taylor Scogin and
Tristan McNeil. I'm Jordan's Run Talk. I'm Stephen Hyden. If
you like what you heard, please subscribe and leave us
a review. For more podcasts for My heart Radio, visit
the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcast, orhe ever you
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