#71, "Paradise City," Guns N' Roses (1989)

It's kind of a bummer that this one appears so soon after "Home Sweet Home" and they're the only two of that late-80s hard-rock genre on this list. Sorry, Robby. This list is not a nostalgia trip, it's meant to reflect the songs I love most NOW. The songs from my *past* that appear are songs I still enjoy to this day, which stand up to the punk, post-punk, and glam that I mostly listen to now. So it stands to reason that a great song by a band I never really liked and my favorite song by a band that was once my favorite in the world both appear in the 70s of my top 100 list. 


I was 12 when Use Your Illusion I and II came out and Wikipedia tells me that the first single from the double album was "Live and Let Die," about which I am suspect, followed by "You Could Be Mine" which makes total sense to me, followed by "Don't Cry." Yes. Perfect. I caught wind of "You Could Be Mine" because Astra, my fairly new friend at my new school, was really into Terminator 2 because she was obsessed with Eddie Furlong. I wonder how many Guns n' Roses origin stories start this way? I didn't care much for "You" at the time, it was just kind of there, screamy but vaguely infectious. But then they released "Don't Cry" and like so many other young girls of the early 90s, I suddenly found myself a fast fan of Guns n' Roses. Side note: Until about a year ago, I hadn't heard "Don't Cry" since the 90s and punched it up on YouTube. I'd idealized that song in my head for years and years, thinking it was simple and gentle and beautiful. It is not. It's discordant and annoying. And probably impossible to sing. What is Axl doing during those verses? That's not singing. It's not screaming or whispering, I don't know what it is. 


Anyway, I was obsessed with Guns n Roses and had an ENORMOUS boner for Axl. It became my world. I had the posters, bought the magazines, collected ALL the cassettes (even the one with the racist song). My aforementioned pal in this era of hard rock, Cybil came along and graciously ceded Axl to me. That was very nice of her. She admitted to me later that she thought he was hot, but knew I had that obsession market cornered. I legitimately appreciate it. She took Slash, in whom she was not physically attracted, but thought was cool and had a lot of hair just like she does. I guess she could have taken Duff McKagan, who's better looking, and as we found out later had more street cred, but not as fun as Slash. 


Anyway, as a kid I loved Use Your Illusion II best, with I a close second but as a grown up adult, I can rock out harder to Appetite. The songs are less drawn-out and lumpy, it's all closer to punk. It's also grimier and more LA. I have in some ways a love-hate relationship with the city of Los Angeles, but goddamn if it didn't produce some of the best music. The city itself inspired some of the best songs (see: X's entire catalog). I have mentioned before that I don't like songs that feature counting, or days of the week, or letters of the alphabet. I do love songs about places though. I think I just love places. "Paradise City" is a song about a place and I'd always assumed it was about LA, but reading about it this morning, it's apparently a little schizophrenic. I guess the band thought that the verses were about life in the midwest and the chorus was about LA but I think they're overthinking it. I don't care that they wrote it, they weren't very smart people. 


I do like those verses. They're all good, but I liked this best:


Strapped in the chair of the city's gas chamber

Why I'm here I can't quite remember

The surgeon general says it's hazardous to breathe

I'd have another cigarette but I can't see

Tell me who you're gonna believe


Hahahaha! I think I was a latent nihilist as a young teen. It was my mother's influence. 


So I abandoned hard rock in the advent of grunge. I was fucking sad about it, but holding on seemed embarrassing. I've mentioned before that I have a checkered relationship with grunge. I don't like sludgy music. Up the tempo, add a little spit-shine, and grow the fuck up, guys. I recall--and don't care enough to look it up--the turning point being when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" replaced *some song* off of one of the Use Your Illusions, possibly "November Rain" although I think that one came much later? It doesn't matter. That was my signal to let it go and join the Nirvana bandwagon. Axl was starting to show signs of megalomania anyway. They were cracking under the pressure and it was really ugly. Then you face facts about the racism, domestic abuse, and it all comes crashing down. 


I have been known to karaoke "Sweet Child o' Mine" in recent years. That one's pretty good. I don't think I could sit through an entire listening of any of the albums, but will probably put on "This Is Guns n' Roses" on Spotify when I'm done here and I will enjoy it. I am VERY pleased with Woke Axl's antics. I don't know whether it's expected or unexpected that he'd be anti-Trump but I'm so, so grateful he is. I think I would very much like to spend one supervised hour with him. Or if he'd just write a memoir already, I'd definitely read it. But he probably won't. I think even now in all his chubby-hairy glory, his greatest asset is his mystery.