The Rockstar Ramblings: The Guns N Roses Video Trilogy
Band Photo: Guns N Roses (?)
After the albums Appetite for Destruction and Lies, Guns N Roses released two albums at the same time titled Use Your Illusion I and II. From this double release would come three intertwining videos known as ‘The Trilogy’.
This week a look back at these videos and the excess involved.
The video begins with a baby floating to the top of water. The baby has blue eyes. Logically, the video cuts to Axl Rose who is caught in a Buffalo winter-like-blizzard. He is in a kilt and holding a gun. Ladies and gentlemen this is your setup to ‘The Trilogy’…now it gets weird.
Axl is now in his residence and is holding a gun and apparently contemplating suicide. His girl played by then girl friend Stephanie Seymour, wrestles the gun away, but not before Axl throws her against the wall; angry that his model girlfriend stopped him from killing himself. Next scene we are at a cemetery where Axl and his girl are having a picnic. Cut to the band playing on top of a skyscraper building. Shannon Hoon, the lead singer from Blind Melon joins Axl, singing along with the chorus. All members of the band have decided to carry bandanas that hang out of their back pocket, except for Matt Sorum (who replaced their original drummer Steven Adler) who is wearing his on his head. There is a sign that says WHERE’S IZZY signaling Izzy Stradlin’s departure from the band (replaced by guitarist Gilby Clarke). Axl is wearing a flannel shirt that is probably his way distancing himself from the backlash of hair bands that was beginning during this time. Axl does the “airplane” run from one side of the building to the other. This doesn’t appear safe.
Back to the drama, we have Duff and Slash separately having fights with their girls. Duff is outside a club/bar and Slash is out driving. It appears Duff tells his girl off while Slash decides to drive the girl off a cliff. I picture Slash and Duff in a bar later that night. DUFF: So I just said “Fuck You!” and that was it. SLASH: I drove my girl off a cliff. DUFF: Oh.
The video escalates with Axl in a hospital room that is probably an insane asylum. While Rose lies there in a gown another image of Axl wearing a kilt appears and then one wearing a blazer appears and then leaves. Just for kicks it would have been entertaining to have Axl with the hair from the “Welcome to the Jungle” video show up as well, but then sometimes I ask too much.
Back on the roof with the band and helicopters are overhead and Axl continues to run around like an airplane on this very high roof. At this point he might as well grab a pair of scissors as he runs because it’s clear all caution has been thrown out the window.
Back in the hospital and Axl’s hand’s are shaking and he’s making this strange look like “see I told you” to the doctor who doesn’t seem very interested in what is happening. Next scene we are back in the cemetery and the grave has the name Axl Rose engraved on it with the ending year of 1990 which is because (as Axl later stated) a very suicidal year for him. Below the grave a green demon like Axl is looking up then we cut to a baby again coming up from the water. This time the eyes are green….and…..CUT!
The second video for the trilogy is based on the short story, Without You, written by the band’s official biographer, Del James. The inspiration of the story came from Axl Rose’s relationship with former wife, Erin Everly.
Axl is sitting on the side of the bed and popping sleeping pills. Cut to a music hall where an orchestra is setting up and Axl Rose is sitting behind a piano now wearing a bandana around his head. Note that Matt Sorum is NOT wearing a bandana. Is there more to the story? Let’s assume that too many people wearing bandanas distorted Axl’s vision and had to be controlled. In between shots of the orchestra the cameras pan to a church and a statue of Jesus that has tears of blood.
Now we are inside the church for a wedding between Axl and current girlfriend Stephanie Seymour. A quick flashback to The Rainbow Room and then back to the church where Slash and Duff laugh about not being able to find the rings and then Slash leaves, my initial assumption is to go smoke. Instead Slash needs to play a solo and it would be rude to play in front of all the guests. When we return to the wedding Axl and Seymour are leaving the church and everyone is throwing rice. A happy ending for all, oh wait…
Back on the stage the orchestra is in full use and there is a shot of Duff moving across the stage. He is wearing a bandana around his neck. How often during the orchestra shoot did Sorum and Clarke exchange “is this really happening” looks? Fifty times?
Strange scene of Axl walking by a store that reads GUNS and then we are invited to the wedding reception where we get a close-up of Axl’s blue jacket before it rains, red wine spill, and the cake topples over.
So now is where everything goes crazy. We are at a funeral for Stephanie Seymour– now, the part between the reception and death was to be the next video Estranged – I think; however, Axl and Seymour broke up after the second video so instead there are dolphins? You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
The video ends with Axl waking from a nightmare, but it’s not only a dream. Rose is in the pouring rain, crouched over an open grave as his bride’s bouquet lands on top of the coffin.
The third (and final installment) shows Axl hiding in a crawl space. Initially it is unclear if it is because he has lost his mind or is still thinking about his decision to wear that blue blazer to the wedding. Probably a little of both. Matt Sorum is back to wearing his bandana and women are now watching members of Guns N’ Roses performing on television. As mentioned before this video sort of takes on a life of its own and doesn’t flow as well as the first two. My solution would have been to create this as the fourth video and use “Coma” as the song for the third video which could have transitioned Relationship Axl into Crazy Axl much easier. Of course, the big problem with this is that the collection would no longer be referred to as The Trilogy.
Back to the video Axl is having an out of couch experience that leads to a shower scene (fully clothed) and then he is dressed in white walking around a mental hospital. For those lost already, hold on! On a crazy scale of 1 to 10 we are treading around 3, but are heading to 10!
Back to the girls watching the television screens: When not watching Guns N’ Roses perform they are watching dolphins. While this is happening we are on Sunset Boulevard (band actually shut down part of West Hollywood to shoot this video) and Slash is floating through the streets during one of his guitar solos. Is this strange? Not compared to Axl who is walking along streets that have turned into rivers containing dolphins swimming along the side.
Time Out. So at any point did anyone stop here and go “This is too much?” The answer is no, in fact, someone green lighted THIS ENDING: Axl jumps onto an OIL TANKER, jumps off into the Ocean and sinks. Axl is swimming with the Dolphins as Slash RISES OUT OF THE WATER to play a solo and levitate on top. A HELICOPTER has to come and rescue Rose who loses one of his Converse shoes that actually have the name AXL on them and then the video concludes with a message that reads LOSE YOUR ILLUSIONS. I remember watching this the first time and I have the same reaction today. I have no idea if what I just watched was genius or garbage, but to this day I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
After the Use Your Illusion double CD the band put out a covers album titled The Spaghetti Incident? Over the next fifteen plus years the band would go through several line-up changes ending with Axl Rose as the lone original member in the band today known as Guns N’ Roses.
Today Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum work with their band Velvet Revolver as well as solo projects. Izzy Stradlin and Gilby Clarke have released several solo albums and Steven Adler has started a band named Adler’s Appetite and also has appeared in several season’s of Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab shows. As for Axl and the new Guns N’ Roses? They finally released the album Chinese Democracy and have toured Europe, South America, Asia, and Canada. No word as of yet on a U.S. tour or a second trilogy of videos.
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