Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Guns N' Roses

Mrs Langsett's upcoming new job in a whole new bit of the country has prompted multiple trips to the tip, with the aim of leaving us with no more belongings than can be accommodated in a single knotted handkerchief on a stick. Prep was underway for yet another run, and I was emptying the cupboard in the living room. There was an old stereo in there, and I popped the cassette deck open.

"Oh YES!" I shouted, dropping to my knees and waving the tape that was inside at the heavens, "YYYYYYES!!!!"

It was "Use Your Illusion 2" by Guns N' Roses.

"Huh?" you might be thinking.

You know, "Use Your Illusion 2"! Part of the most unlikely outburst of musical productivity in the history of rock music (just how did they manage to be naughty on such an epic scale AND write all those songs? etc)! Very nearly the best album ever.

This was more or less the first album I ever got bought. OK, so a long time before there was not only an Ah-Ha album, but also a Walkman to play it on. And then there was that whole Phil Collins thing which I don't like to think about. But it was the first album I got in my teens, after realising that there needed to be a first album and lots of other music to follow it. I remember unwrapping it and generally treating it like a plasticky version of the the tablets that God wrote the Ten Commandments on. I was particularly awed by the black and white "Parental Advisory - explicit content" sticker on the front. As it turned out, Geffen need not have worried because in my case at least that explicit content went straight over my dubiously styled 1993 hair...

Of course, Use Your Illusion 2's already awesome levels of awesomeness are doubled - no cubed - by the use of You Could Be Mine on the soundtrack to the awesome-in-its-own-right Terminator 2. A few weeks ago, I'd found myself driving my small black Volkswagen in my dark grey suit towards my professional job and wondered whether there'd been some missed turning point in my early teens where I could have started riding a motorbike to school, smoking a lot of cigarettes and generally been more badass. A bit more like John Connor.

There was a Tuesday when I left Mrs Kennedy's history class and went down to the leaky Portakabin for my violin lesson (ok, so I know that on any rational assessment, the fact that I've just had to include the words "violin lesson" in an exploration of whether I could have been a rebellious yet heroic future leader of humanity probably answers the question fairly conclusively, but come with me on this) and my violin teacher had just not turned up.

"This is interesting, " I thought, " because no one's going to be expecting me back in class for a good half hour." I was hanging about in the bike sheds - no really! My secondary school actually did have bike sheds which really did lend themselves to being the setting for minor infractions of the school rules - thinking about what I could do with all this spare time I'd been given, when Fliss came down the path. Wow. Fliss. I worshipped her in a slightly unnerving way which would really take off a year later, after I decided that mixing Woodpecker and Guinness in a 1:1 ratio with my friends on a dark playing field was a legitimate social activity. But for now I just vibrated slightly and tried to look laconic. I might have leaned.

"Where's Mr H?" asked Fliss, furrowing her brow slightly, but smiling in a way that suggested she'd realised she been gifted a pass out of lessons too.

I shrugged. If I'd had a Zippo and a packet of red Marlboro, they would have been utilised at around this point.

"So are you skipping lessons?!" asked Fliss cheekily, joining me in the bike shed. And - that's it! Right there. That's the John Connor moment. That's when I should have procured the keys to Mr Phelan's Yamaha by any means necessary and wheelied it across the playing fields with Fliss on the pillion.

Well, maybe.

Anyway, I was keen to stick "Use Your Illusion 2" in the Volkswagen's tape player and try it on for size. So that's what I did.

A few things struck me:

1. I should have given it more thought before playing this round at my nan's house.
2. Wow! Axl certainly had a lot of bad luck with girlfriends.
3. Actually, the fact that Axl is the common factor suggests that Axl's girlfriends had a lot of bad luck with Axl.
4. And even if 2. is correct, I would probably have been a bit more circumspect than Axl about writing songs about it, whilst being a member of The Biggest Rock Bank In The World.

But then I went straight from a radio news bulletin about Gaza to "Civil War". And there's a bit where Duff's peacemaker is answered by an end of the world chord from Slash's Gibson Les Paul and Axl's reluctant soldier growling "My hands are tied! / The billions shift from side to side / And the wars go on with brainwashed pride / For the love of God and our human rights..."

This is genuinely legendary, I thought.

I've come down off my giddy nostalgia trip a bit now, but I am still absolutely over the moon to have this epic slab of guitar heroism back in my life. Here's a quick blast to finish up with:

You Could Be Mine

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