don’t damn me

Great Rock Albums That Never Were – Part One

2 March 2009


So, I’ve been listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses a lot this weekend and it’s got me thinking about Use Your Illusion – one of the single greatest rock albums never made (technically speaking). 

Obviously, Guns released Use Your Illusion parts I and II as a double-album in 1991, representing the follow-up to their blistering debut Appetite For Destruction, and together the two works are punctuated by a string of absolutely corking tracks. However, due mainly to the effects of Axl’s growing megalomania and the band’s inevitable course towards implosion, the double-album was somewhat blighted by inconsistency – and, crucially, by simply being too long.

And so I ask you this – what if UYU had in fact been a more conventional hour-long single album? Would we not have had a contender for the most sublime rock record ever released? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, here’s how – if they’d thought to include me in the studio sessions – I would have written the tracklisting (I suppose employing a ten year-old child from West Berkshire for this task would have been a little out-of-character for Guns ‘n’ Roses at the time, but nevertheless I think we can all agree it was an oversight):   

Perfect Crime
Don’t Damn Me
Civil War
Pretty Tied Up
You Could Be Mine
Dust ‘n’ Bones
Don’t Cry
Bad Obsession
Live And Let Die
14 Years
November Rain
Get In The Ring
You Ain’t The First

OK, the order’s not quite there (everybody knows it take months to properly order an album) but I think we can all concur that there’s no dead wood involved.  

By the way, I like to maintain that, whilst they had a tendency to release the occasional duff track, GNR summed up the essence of rock and roll like no other band has before or since. These guys were 100% thoroughbred. Take Slash, for example, a man who hit the substances for so hard and so long that he ACTUALLY DIED in an elevator and had to be brought back to life by his manager. I don’t care how many swimming pools you’ve driven cadillacs into, THAT is the most rock and roll thing I have ever heard. And in some ways, the band’s reputation and image supercedes the impact of the actual songs themselves. By which I mean that GNR (whilst my favourite band of all time) don’t have nearly as many great tunes as The Beatles or Pink Floyd – but what they have in greater abundance than any of their competitors is an elusive quality that Hugh Padgham would call ‘tude. That is, the attitude of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Long live the Guns, I say.   

By the way, I’ve just discovered, via the wonder of Wikipedia, that the compilation album Use Your Illusion was in fact released in September of 1991 (in the USA only). Mind you, this was comprised only of the songs lacking profanities in order that the record could be sold in Walmart. Depressing, eh?   

Chris Lightyear

(Disclaimer: this feature is unlikely to have a Part Two. It just sounded like the kind of title that required the suffix “Part One”. You know, like it’s a series on VH1 or something)