Friday, November 28, 2014


Wattstax is a 1973 documentary about the concert of the same name that took place in the Los Angeles Coliseum in August 1972 to commemorate the Watts riots of 1966 that served to give White American society notice that the Blacks were not the contented, happy-go-lucky folk of White imagination.

Quite a lot of the dialogue in the movie is about the  position of Black people in American society after those riots, which were replicated in other parts of the US such as Detroit, and the conclusion is that some things have improved, some have degenerated and some have stayed the same. 

Stax Records, the premier independent soul music label of the Sixties and early Seventies, obviously thought the riots worth celebrating anyhow, even if it were only a publicity stunt for its artists.

I remember seeing the double album of music from the event at Sygma Records and always kind of yearned to own it, though my main interest was in the inclusion of Albert King amongst the artists who performed and not so much the other acts who were only names to me. It seems that the acts that played at the event were those Stax acts that had hits at the time, hence the flavour of the festival as one big PR exercise, despite the presence of the Reverend Jesse Jackson as MC.

I have now watched the movie and I must say I am not unhappy anymore that I never owned the album of the event because by and large the brand of Seventies pop soul funk on display ain’t my cup of tea, smacking too much of major show business enterprise and not so much of the deep soul grit of the Sixties soul acts on the Stax label. Perhaps it is a sign of the increasing sophistication of the genre or just the overwhelming pop ambition of the label that had to have commercial success in order to survive, but the music in the movie is curiously flat and seems to lack energy.

There are parallels to the Woodstock movie though Woodstock celebrated White counter culture and not a race riot. Woodstock took place in the verdant countryside and Wattstax took place in an urban environment, which is probably a pretty apt comparison of the diverging worldviews of the respective groups.

One somewhat sardonically amusing similarity is the contrasting scenes of stage construction. In the Woodstock movie a team of hippie carpenters erect a massive wooden stage in the bucolic scenic beauty of upstate New York. In Wattstax, White, longhaired construction workers erect scaffolding for the stage in the middle of a football field.

The most obvious difference is that there are no hippies and no White hip, groovy cultural reference in Watts. Musical performances are separated by scenes of mostly a group of Black guys, and some women, discussing the experiences of their life and some scenes of a Richard Pryor routine on his experiences of Black life. Basically, being Black in the USA is not a particularly wonderful experience if you are on the wrong side of White ire.  Then, also, the Black males are kind of bragging on themselves and the Black women, although one or two praise Black men, have a much more cynical attitude towards their men than the men would appreciate.

None of this is new to me now; I’ve read enough about the Black experience in the USA and have seen enough documentary material that echoes and repeats the same kind of things. In a way these opinions almost seem scripted, as if the speakers are acting out a stereotype of Black male views, at least from that time.  Another example of this is the various views on blues. When blues are defined, the definition is the over familiar one. The young dudes are not interested in the blues anymore; the older men still have a fondness for the music of their youth.

The most interesting and intriguing aspect of the movie, for me anyhow, and in the light of watching quite a bit of documentary material of Black cultural life in the late Sixties and early Seventies, is of the fashions in clothes and hairstyles prevailing at the time. Forty years later Black, or now African-American, fashion has a completely different look than the old-school dandyism and Afri-centric looks of the time. The men wear big hats, and some of those hats are seriously big, and flared trousers, sleeveless vests, polo necks, suede jackets, Africanised loose coats, and so on. The hair is big, majorly big. The “natural,” more commonly known as the Afro, is the reigning style of the young and hip. It may be that the filmmaker selected as many Afro wearing interviewees as possible, but ii is palpably, abundantly clear that the Afro was a hairstyle of choice amongst the younger generation where the older generation stuck with the familiar derivations on the “process” and similar. I must confess, especially on young beautiful Black women, that the Afro is a sexy style,  that huge round bush of hair that much have been a bitch to style in the mornings after you got out of bed. I would imagine that the African nature of the style was as mythical as many of the Black yearnings for the home continent where Blacks may have been free but not necessarily prosperous, but the visual impact of it particularly in the street scenes of Watts, does give the otherworldly effect, a differentiation from White society, that was intended by the style and the general ;philosophy and ideology of Africanistion that emerged after the Watts riots with Black power and increasing awareness of African-Americans as a people with a history and a culture that went far beyond the distorted White imposed culture of slavery days.

The movie concentrates on the street life of Watts and for this reason it seems that it was not a very upmarket neighbourhood, or even simply middle class. The streets look congested, the building somewhat faded away and dilapidated.  Watts is a place time forgot and this is why the riots happened and seven years later it does indeed seem  that not much has changed. The various speakers, many of whom hang out in a barbershop, are not identified and one does not know what they do for a living; for all the viewer knows, these articulate people are artists in their own right or maybe they live on welfare.  They talk street. They must be from the street.  

As a primer on Black consciousness and expression in Watts in 1972 the movie succeeds to a degree. As a documentary of the music, it does not have much power. Most of the acts get one tune apiece. Only the Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes, the headliner of the event, are afforded more than that  single solitary song in the movie. This is why there is little sense of a lively, vibrant and exciting musical celebration. The emphasis seems to be on the narrations of Black experience  rather than the music. The blues is discussed a little bit but otherwise the talking heads have no comments on the artists appearing at the Stax event or even the event itself, as if the interviews were conducted for a different reason altogether.

I am satisfied that I’ve seen the movie at last. Unlike Woodstock, though, Wattstax is not a movie I’ll watch over and over again. There is too little music and the non-musical interludes are not interesting enough to bear repeating. Wattstax is a sociological and ethnological record of a time and a place and is invaluable for that. It can be research material for a treatise on African-American thought and discourse of the times and, perhaps in a peripheral way, be s frozen moment in time of Black popular music. It is not very entertaining at all and for a movie celebrating soul music, that is a big let down and a serious flaw.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground has been called the most influential band of the last 50 years, more so than the Beatles or Rolling Stones who caused a bit of a rock revolution in the United States. The conventional wisdom is that very few people paid attention to the Velvet Underground albums when they were released and yet just about everyone of those who did pay attention somehow formed a band or became part of a band that had  ingested and digested the influences of this band, and took its lessons further into punk, post  punk and beyond.  Along with the MC5 and The stooges,  The Velvet Underground was namedropped as a hug, seminal and significant influence on many of the punks, post punks and New Wave musicians of the UK punk revolution that took flight in 1976.

Initially the Velvet Underground moved within the sphere  of influence  of Andy Warhol and the New York art crowd and would as such probably have been no more than a high art project rather than a proper pop group. If one listens to songs like "Femme Fatale", "There She Goes" and "All Tomorrow's Parties" there seems to have been no reason, with some record company support and radio airplay, why any or all of these tunes would not have been major pop hits, currently to be found on any number of anthologies of hits from the Sixties rather than languishing in the comparative obscurity of cult affection. These songs are from the debut album and the rest of the songs are experimental, with "Waiting for the Man" and "Heroin" being overtly about drugs and "Venus in Furs" being about off-kilter sexuality. not necessarily a comfortable mix on a pop-album and this may be why the band did not get the mainstream attention and exposure it surely deserved. I would imagine that Lou Reed, at the very least, was seriously interested in making it big in the world of popular entertainment. He had, after all started his career in music as staff writer for a minor New York rock and roll label.

John Cale was the avant garde, classically trained, experimental spirit of the group, as counterfoil to Reed's pop instincts and this is perhaps why the first album juxtaposes the pop songs with the noise tunes such as "Black Angel's Death Song" and  "European Son" and the insistent thrash riff of "Waiting for the Man." One can imagine the Velvet Underground providing the soundtrack for "art" movies or art happenings and poetry readings. A stage is a stage and a gig is a gig and for the Velvet Underground the Warhol connection was worth the publicity but may have been the death knell as well give the relative obscurity of the Warhol entourage and its effect on mainstream art in the Sixties because mainstream culture did not think of Warhol as much more than a joke and this would not have been helpful for a sustainable career in music. Rock critics liked the Velvets and Lou Reed could manage to parlay this approval it to a solo career that was equally storied and approved by the scene makers and taste makers of the significant rock press.

"Black Angel's Death Song" sounds a lot like a Bob Dylan parody and "European Son" has the rave up guitar freak out that would have made it a great tune to play at Happenings and underground parties and Lou Reed speaks the lyrics in a bit of a trade mark delivery that also adumbrates the entire Lulu album he recorded with Metallica in about 2011. It is, to my mind, a weakness of the debut album that the Velvets guitar sound is just so insipid. If the band had a proper producer he might have beefed up the riffs considerably, as one can sense the mailed fist in the, um, velvet cloth of the jangly sounding performances that must have been one of the inspirations for the Eighties bands who were so much in thrall to that Velvet Underground blue print. Lou Reed should record a version of "European Son" with Metallica. That collaboration would surely highlight the power of the inherent rave up. The Velvet Underground were not so radically different from other bands around at the time, except maybe for the subject matter of the songs, and could have been much more of a proper rock band if they had turned up the amps in the studio.

It is apparent from the Velvet Underground albums that followed on the debut, the band is truly a pop band reaching towards popular acceptance and commercial success and has left the weirdness and noise behind. Most of the later great songs like "Rock and Roll," "Lisa Says" or "Sweet Jane" are remarkably quiet musically speaking with the effect of the songs being the lyrics.

Lou Reed managed to wrote songs that sometimes seem very banal in their matter of fact narratives yet hide deeper truths about the world he lived in and the demi monde of the New York of the Seventies. When one pays careful attention to what Reed says about that scene, it seems to be very similar to what I would imagine Berlin was like in the Twenties.

A lot of pop music is transparently aspirational and anodyne for that reason. The practitioners may have originated in poverty and deprivation but they have no intention of telling us about those bad times whereas Springsteen, as another example, does not necessarily share his teenage home life with us but tells us the stories of the people he knew back then and of the working class people who need championing. In his way Reed is very much the bard of the New York underbelly. The Beatles wrote beautiful but ultimately impersonal love songs. Perhaps Reed's tales are as impersonal though the characters seem a lot more real than the saccharine protagonist of Paul McCartney's best-known tunes.  

On reflection the Velvet Underground also had a great deal of influence on the jangly indie pop bands in the UK in the mid to late Eighties who made a pop sound that sometimes seemed twee beyond belief and yet often had quite strong rhythm sections to anchor the guitar filigrees and wispy tunes. In this respect  it was the quiet sound, and no so much the way the songs were played,  that these Eighties  bands adopted. Twenty years later, in the 21st century, the highbrow garage band concept to the Velvet Underground became a major influence again. Generation after generation there will be someone, or many ones, who will rediscover the Velvet Underground and be inspired by the combination of rough, noisy guitars, pop tunes and darkly subversive lyrics.  It is a heady mixture that will continue to please and satisfy as long as rock and roll exists.

The Rolling Stones get their ya ya's out

The first Rolling Stones live album I know of is Got Live If You Want It (1965), a collection of their pop hits from the early Sixties, performed in front of a typical Stones mania audience where the screams of the teenage girls drown out the music and in essence the band is just playing like a skiffle band with no finesse or power. All that the musicians do is to make a rhythmic noise to accompany Mick's singing. Pretty much a souvenir for those who were there but otherwise not an essential listening experience. One would ever consider the Stones to be accomplished musicians after listening to this anodyne album.

The next one is Get Yer Ya Ya's Out (1970), which is record of shows form the notorious (because of the Altamont disaster) 1969 tour of the United States, the first major Stones tour since about 1966 and the first tour with Mick Taylor and after they'd left behind the pop star thing and became the greatest rock and roll band in the world with Beggar's Banquet (1968) and Let It Bleed (1969) under their collective belts.

At this point the Stones had recorded and released the bulk of the great Stones songs that people still remember and revere to this day. only two good to great Stones followed,  Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main Street (1972). The pulling power of the Stones increased over the years and their notoriety increased as well but this was the tour when the future image was created and set in, um, stone.

Ya Ya's, then, consists of mostly the most recent songs from the two  preceding albums, plus one rack from Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) and some Chuck Berry numbers for  really kicking out the good time jams. Presumably it is  a compilation of songs from the live set and not the whole set. In the mid-Sixties the band, like the Beatles, used to play for about thirty minutes at a time, as part of a package of bands. In 1969 the concept of a rock concert had changed and a band was expected to play for around 90 minutes and even to stretch out and jam shorter songs into extended workouts. The Stones certainly extend songs like "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Midnight Rambler" to emphasise the groove and menace inherent in the lyrics and loping rhythms.

The live set also showcases the obvious technical abilities of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor who can show off their chops because the band is playing to an adoring, attentive audience who are no longer the teenyboppers of 1965. This for example, is why "Carol" and "Little Queenie" are almost tangible excitement in their high-energy rush. The guitar interplay for which the Stones became famous when Richards and Brian Jones were in the band may no longer be applicable but Taylor's virtuosity lifts the performances and must have challenged Richards into playing at a new level. Being called "the greatest rock and roll band in the world" might have been a bit of tongue in cheek hype but it is  credible hype on the evidence of the record of the 1969 tour. The other evidence is from the soundtrack for the Gimmie Shelter movie, with performances from Altamont that are at once more ragged and yet all the more powerful for the circumstances under which these tunes were played.. For all the superhuman rock and roll imagery and larger than life posturing, the Stones were just five guys in a band that made it really big. They were prone and vulnerable to as many of the vicissitudes of life as anyone else even if their money and managerial power and influence could protect them and isolate them from most of the daily mundane  shit people have to deal with. No amount of managerial muscle would have saved the Stones from a rioting force of Hell's Angels.

The pacing of Ya Ya's is thoughtful. The first two songs are loud and fast, then the band cools down and slows down and plays the blues, first kind of quietly with "Stray cat Blues" and "Love In Vain" and then with great menace on "Midnight Rambler." The good thing about the Stones and their live albums is that they don't seem to want  or need to make the tunes sound  exactly like the studio originals and do not get too fussed if the renditions are kind of loose.  With so many other bands, and especially these days, the effort goes towards replicating the studio recording instead of having fun with it. At first I had thought that Love You Live, the live album from 1977, was one of the worst, sloppiest live albums I'd ever heard. Over time and after careful listening the performances were illuminated as a  bunch of professionals trying to add new life to hoary old tropes and to keep on making their big, over-exposed hits exciting to play and to listen to all over again.

At the time Ya Ya's was recorded the now very well known tunes off the preceding two albums were still quite fresh and beguiling as examples of a band at the top of its form, a songwriters and as performers.

I must say that "Midnight Rambler" is perhaps the most disquieting lyric the Stones ever recorded and one of the most relentless grooves, even more so than "Sympathy for the Devil," the  song that follows "Midnight Rambler" on the live set. I prefer the studio version of "Rambler" because it builds and expands with more subtlety and greater slyness than the pile driving live version.  This is what I mean by the assertion that the Stones probably want to mess around with the template so familiar from the records. It's no fun replicating; it's lots  of fun innovating.

"Sympathy for the Devil" is also taken a tad too fast. Charlie Watts' drumming is about the sole reminder of the cool voodoo groove of the studio track. The brisk pace dissipates, as is the case with "Midnight Rambler", the menace of the song, which would have been better served as a long, slow building  set  closer.

This live version of "Live With Me" is the most disappointing track. Once again taken too fast and without the signature bass riff of the studio  track that gives the song its quirky funk.

From here, though, the band roars through a group of rockers, ending off with a far more electric "Streetfighting Man" than on Beggar's Banquet, that indeed convinces  us  that this is a rock band  playing at full potential and with no eye on heredity, except to provide a rocking good time for the adoring audience.

The Rolling Stones have released a bunch of live albums over the course of their career, and  by now also about as many DVDs of live  performances, and if I were to rate them, I'd say that Get Yer Ya Ya's Out, Love You Live and Stripped are the top three, mostly because they reflect, on the first two, the feisty, loose, rocking Stones without the professional entourage of the major, record breaking, money making tours of the Eighties, and because Stripped showcases an album's worth of unpretentious, unaffected performances of tunes that seem to have been selected for some kind of fun factor rather than just to trot out yet another set of live renditions of the best known songs in the canon.

Guns N' Roses


I was, and possibly am, an afficianado of a Sixties and Seventies hard rock and metal and never cared much for the Eighties metal bands that followed in the wake of punk, such as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal or the LA-based "hair metal" bands. By the late Eighties Rafe Lavine had a metal show on Radio 5 on Friday nights and that was about the best exposure I ever had to the music, whether it was Metallica, Mötley Crüe or Headpins, to name a few across the spectrum

Between roughly 1988 and 1993 Guns N' Roses ruled the hard rock world, taking up the discarded crown of Aerosmith who, though then still mega successful, had learnt that the way to mainstream stardom was through airbrushed power ballads and smoothed out radio friendly rock. Plus they were getting on. Metallica was the nearest competition but not as ubiquitous as the Gunners were.

I had seen the original Appetite for Destruction (1987) album at Ragtime Records, with the salacious, somewhat non-PC picture of a young woman with her panties around her ankles, evidently after having sex with, or having been raped by, a weird sci fi robot creature. The name of the band and the album cover made me think that this was typical of the crap metal that was so prevalent back in the late Eighties and with which I had no truck.

I changed my mind once I'd heard "Sweet Child O' Mine" and saw the video for "Paradise City."  The melodic power of the first songs and the controlled frenzy and guitar power of the latter convinced me that this band was far superior to the other LA hair metal bands I'd heard.  I also read more about the band - the rebelliousness, the rock 'n roll lifestyle - and realised that they were not dissimilar to the punks of the late Seventies. Insofar as Guns N' Roses were identified as Aerosmith acolytes, I was doubly smitten because I truly liked the kind of hard rock Aerosmith had made up to Night in the Ruts. The music on Rocks and Toys in the Attic were some of the scuzziest, loud, visceral hard rock I'd ever heard and that certainly put any punk band to shame for pure guitar power.

Once I'd actually heard some Guns N' Roses tunes I went out and bought the album, and not as a sale item either.  My anticipation of a great thrill ride was rewarded. "Welcome to the Jungle," "Mr Brownstone" and "Rocket Queen" easily matched the two songs I'd already heard and all of the songs were strong and assured. At the time I loudly proclaimed that Appetite for Destruction was the best hard rock debut of the Seventies and that Guns N' Roses was the arguably the greatest rock band of the Eighties. This is a view I still hold, albeit with less fervor than that time. Metallica might have been the great rivals but listening to the first couple of Metallica albums today I still believe that the Gunners would have blown Metallica off-stage.

In late 1991 Guns N' Roses released their major follow up to Appetite for Destruction. There had been an EP before that, of older tunes, but the new product was the first since 1987 and was keenly awaited. The music took the form of two double albums called Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II.  Same cover illustration, different colour scheme.  It was about the same time that Nirvana’s second album, the monster hit for them called Nevermind, was released. At that time I was cash strapped due to personal circumstances that had gone badly belly up yet I made a supreme effort to acquire not only the two Gunners albums but also Nevermind. In 1991 Ragtime Records was selling new CD album for around R89 but had a policy that certain brand new albums would be sold at R60 a pop within the first days of release, presumably this policy was restricted to surefire commercial hits where they reckoned turnover would make up for the discounted price and may well help push the album into the sales charts.  I did not care. R120 for two lengthy albums was a bargain back in the day.

I guess there was a concerned effort also to distinguish the two albums in terms of mood and theme and, like Kill Bill I and II, one may well have developed a preference for the one album over the other based on song content.

The first album had the big ballad hit "November Rain", a lot slower and elegiac than "Sweet Child O' Mine" and in the manner of all great piano driven, slow rock anthems. Tough guys can be even more tender and yearning than ostensibly sensitive guys.

The second record had the confrontational stuff like "Get In The Ring" where Axl Rose was daring rock writers, who loved creating "controversy? to take him on in a very real bout of fisticuffs.  This song apparently typified the belligerent arrogant attitude Rose had  those who did not share his opinions.

I must say that I liked the two albums although I found each to be rather too long.  It is a rock writer cliché that just about every double album contains an excellent single album and even if the dubious songs are in the minority, one could probably have made a killer double album  from the two double albums.

Steven Adler had been kicked out of the band, not so much (I guess) for using a lot of drugs in a band that was known for its excesses but for failing to controlling his drug intake and from allowing the drugs to impair his abilities to perform his drumming role. Litigation ensued.

Shortly after the Use Your Illusion world tour Izzy Stradlin also left, citing musical differences and the need to pursue diverging musical interests. He released a couple of solo albums and is presumably still active.

The only other product to emerge from the first era of the great Guns 'n Roses line up, was "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993), an album of covers versions of punk and metal songs, in the vein of Metallica's Garage Days releases. I bought this album as soon as it was available in Cape Town and I liked it. This record, too, has its controversial moments, because of the version of a Charles Manson song, but is not as band as G 'n R Lies' references to "queers." At some point Axl Rose and Elton John dieted on stage, making peace.

After this, things fell apart. First Stradlin, then Slash,  left and recorded solo albums. Gilby Clarke recorded at least one solo album, and the band went on an extended hiatus. not quite breaking up, not quite a viable, living organism anymore. It was an astonishing thing that a commercially successful band as Guns 'n roses had become simply just faded away like that.  Twenty years later there is still (kind of) an Axl Rose-led version of the band, and there was an album called Chinese Democracy (2008), by some version of the band and about 14 years in the making, but that is it. The main point of interest of this album was that it reportedly cost $14 million over 15 years to record it.

Band members have had various more or less successful side projects and have released various memoirs. Duff McKagan had teamed up with Steve jones, ex Sex Pistol, and the singer from Stone Temple Pilots for a now defunct, well-regarded group called Velvet Revolver. Slash had his Snakepit project and then went completely solo. Presumably Matt Sorum and Dizzy Reed are working. The books have spilled the beans on one of the last of the old school rock bands with roots in late Seventies hard rock. Metallica brought a whole new thing and was a prime mover in bringing metal closer to punk in attitude and style. Guns 'n Roses were a rock and roll band, like Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones, and not a metal band. They were as much against the LA "hair bands" of the Eighties as Metallica and the other thrash bands were, even if they had similar hairstyles, and the Gunners could also be seen as the link between Aerosmith and Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, between old school hard rock and the newfangled hard rock of the grunge bands.

I bought the EP G'n'R Lies (1988) some time after I’d bought the other albums, mostly because I resisted buying a record that was ostensibly acoustic based, given that the Gunners' appeal lay in their twin guitar hard rock attack, and not because I disapproved of the controversial lyrics of one song on the record. This EP also adumbrated the "unplugged" fashion that followed the grunge explosion, when, from about 1993, grunge bands suddenly discovered that quiet was the new loud and that plucking away at an acoustic guitar and crooning melodic tunes, was very satisfactory. The Stones had always known that it was an effective commercial trick and artistic statement to put away the electric guitars and play softer songs. Axl Rose was not just about screaming out hate or loathing. He liked a ballad as much as the next guy. The EP gives one a good overview of the strengths of the music Guns 'n Roses made and if it was a stopgap, it is still a good, underrated set. One should not shoot it down as a whole simply because there is one unacceptable song on it. 

Being a one hit wonder is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you are the artist who cannot achieve further commercial success, especially if the hit is truly excellent. The official Gunners canon consists of 4 studio albums and we should be glad that we have them and to be too saddened that there have not been more. All artists decline over time, start repeating themselves or just deteriorate in creativity, allowing craft and technique to carry the music rather than genuine, exciting innovation. The Guns 'n Roses of 1999 may well have been a pale shadow of the band of 1989 even if the original guys had stuck together and the hiatus never happened.

We do have a greatest hits set and a live set as well and the latter is as good a memento as anything else we have. I have not bothered to seek out Chinese Democracy and although I have a vague curiosity about how it would sound and compare to the glory years, this curiosity is not so strong that the acquisition is an imperative. I guess I would buy it should I find it at Cash Crusaders for R50 or less but so far it has not happened.

I was already 30 when Guns N' Roses became massive and they were just another band whose music I enjoyed; one amongst many. I still rate them highly and they are probably the last hard rock act that I took a serious interest in. I own a couple of Pearl Jam albums and a couple of Soundgarden albums but by and large I paid little attention to the grunge bands or post-grunge bands and the whole Nu-Metal moment of the late Nineties passed me by. No Limp Bizkit, no Korn, no Kid Rock or Linkin Park, or whoever. Even the likes of Creed and Live never particularly interested me beyond being perhaps palatable radio rock. You can keep the neo old school melodic hard rock of Nickelback. My interest in Metallica had been restricted to Metallica (1991) until I bought the Some Kind of Monster documentary and then decided to listen to the older albums, none of which have endeared themselves to me in any significant way.

Perhaps it is the blues rock underpinning of Guns N' Roses that attracts me to them but this band is pretty much the only hard rock act of the last thirty years whose records made a lasting impact on me. The Black Crowes were as important, and I actually own as many Black Crowes albums, though I would hardly think of the Crowes as hard rock.

The Guns ‘N Roses style Stones and Aerosmith influenced outlaw rock and roll still appeals even if I haven’t listened to it for many years. There is something about the swagger and attitude, accompanied by excellent playing and really good rock tunes, that deeply satisfies.  How on earth a band like that could simply fade away after so much success, is  unbelievable.  At least Guns ‘N Roses did not go down the road of smooth, commercial  AM rock that led to the critical demise of Aerosmith even as they raked in the millions.  Although Axl Rose is still out there scuffling away under the band name, one can argue that Guns ‘N Roses outlaw cred has kind of remained intact because it operated according to its own credo and rules and never sought to cash in when classic rock became big business.

A small catalogue of really good records is far better than a bloated forty years one with a few good, usually early, albums and then  mostly dross. A one hit wonder is always perfect.  A band that folds at its peak leaves us with the regret that it did not last, not the regret that it did last and simply became more and more crap as time went on.