The new rock hall-of-famers had a bad-boy image—but did their most successful work on mushy ballads.
Writing about Guns N' Roses isn't like writing about most bands. It's more like writing about Michael Jordan: It's impossible to separate the man, or the band, from the legend. You can't simply discuss Jordon's on-court accomplishments as measured by statistics and other career accolades. You also have to account for his reputation as the most clutch performer in the history of sport, the fact that he was the first athlete to become synonymous with a single brand (Nike) and the way his name was once synonymous for being the best at something (e.g. Barry Bonds was the Michael Jordan of baseball, Steve Jobs was the Michael Jordan of personal electronic devices). LeBron James can amass scoring titles and fill highlight reels for years, but he'll still be just a basketball player. No one is going to start referring to Lena Dunham as the LeBron James of mumblecore films. It just isn't going to happen.
Guns N' Roses, whose induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April will be aired this Saturday on HBO, presents a similar problem. Such a persistent and overpowering mythology has formed around the group that it's difficult to analyze their musical catalogue without first noting that during their heyday (roughly 1986-1992), GNR was the baddest band on the planet and pushed rock-star debauchery to new heights. In 1992, British music journalist Mick Wall wrote book titled Guns N' Roses: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, and that moniker stuck. In 1991, The Independent ran a story titled "Just say Yo; Guns N' Roses put sex and drugs back into rock'n'roll" detailing the band's substance abuse and unpredictable onstage behavior. In that same story, lead guitarist Slash succinctly sums up the problem with the media coverage GNR tended to receive, saying "The problem with our relationship with music journalists is that they don't write much about our music."