It was 1988. I was eight years old. I remember watching Rage on Saturday morning, and being mesmerised by the single ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses. Around that time, I was also mesmerized by the band Poison. At this point in time, being only eight years old, the only physical music I consumed were LPs and cassettes that my father owned. I was listening to Dire Straits and Billy Joel on a fair heavy rotation at that stage, as these were the two cassette albums I was able to access and enjoy at this stage in my life. I would spend every Saturday morning in front of the television, watching Rage, with the VCR simultaneously set to pause and record, and at the start of every song I would press pause; enabling the record function. If it turned out to be a song I didn’t like, I would rewind and re-cue the tape back to the end of the last music video I had previously recorded. My goal was to create a VHS tape playlist of my favourite songs. Back then, it seemed, as a kid, you had to work really hard to create a playlist! This VHS tape had many tracks on it, but my two favourite artists were Poison and Guns N’ Roses. As my passion for music grew, I started asking my parents if I could get a cassette of my very own. This was a big deal for me at the time and I spent a lot of time thinking about it, in anticipation for an album of my very own. I had a dilemma, in choosing between Poison and Guns N’ Roses, and as it turned out, being only eight years old, I found the album cover of ‘Appetite for Destruction’ to be scary, and consequently chose ‘Open up and say ah’ by Poison. Thankfully for my parents, this album was filled with good Christian values and ‘relatively’ innocent lyrics. On the other hand, perhaps, ‘Appetite’ would have been a poor choice for an eight-year-old, to be singing along to songs about sex and heroin….! Nevertheless, I through myself in to ‘Open up and say ah’, memorising the lyrics to every song, knowing the liner details back-to-front, and generally be in awe of owning my very own album. As time progressed, I continued to build my VHS of my favourite songs by religiously watching Rage every Saturday morning, which by the end of 1988 included ‘Patience’ by Guns N’ Roses.
Fast forward to 1991, I was eleven years old and in Grade 6. I had added ‘You could be mine’ to my ever growing VHS playlist, and I was in Ballarat with my mother. I had convinced her to take me to a guitar retailer to purchase a TAB booklet. I browsed the collection of TAB booklets on the stand and decided, based on my favourite songs, to choose ‘Use your illusion 2’ by Guns N’ Roses. I was able to further convince my mother to also purchase the album on cassette that same day, as it wouldn’t make sense to have the TAB book without the cassette. It was a huge win for me at the time. I remember very clearly, the first thing my mother did was read the lyrics. She wasn’t impressed, but nevertheless, allowed me to listen to the album. I owned a Song Walkman, and ‘Use your illusion 2’ became the soundtrack of my life. I listened to that tape so much that the paint wore off the plastic and erroneous sounds appeared at certain points, as a result of me pressing stop and rewinding to listen to certain tracks on repeat – such as ‘Estranged’, which to this day, is my favourite Guns N’ Roses song. I might also add, that my Walkman, was a very early version of the Sony portable tape player, and it only had the fast-forward function. This resulted in my stopping the tape and swapping it to the other side, to press fast-forward, which would allow me to ‘rewind’ the other side. The other interesting feature of this device was that when it had new batteries, it would play faster, and then gradually become slower as the batteries ran out. I distinctly remember having a friend in Year 8 who had a new Walkman, and I was blown away that it played at the same speed, regardless of how much the battery had been used, and that it had a rewind function – this was state of the art stuff!
During my final months of primary school and throughout my first year of high school, I made it my mission to learn these songs in my precious TAB book. By the end of Year 7, I could play the rhythm guitar parts to Civil War, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Locomotive, Estranged, You Could Be Mine, and Don’t Cry. Furthermore, by the end of Year 7 I had also acquired “Use your illusion 1’ on cassette, as well as the TAB booklet, and the cassette of GNR Lies. As I moved in to Year 8, I sat at my little keyboard and forced myself to learn the piano part to November Rain, which I still pull out as a party trick today. In Year 8, my parents had made a revolutionary decision in purchasing a brand new hi fi system that had a compact disc player. I am pretty sure I was the first kid in my town to have access a CD player. One of my very first purchases was a retrospective purchase of Appetite for Destruction, as well as the TAB book, of course. My collection was complete. The only thing left in my life to do at this point, was to go and see the band, at Calder Park. However, being only thirteen years old, my parents wouldn’t let me go, despite there being a bus organised to leave from my school, with teachers supervising… However, I collected every newspaper article of the band’s visit to our country, and proudly pasted them on my walls. I collected Coca Cola bottle tops to enter a Guns N’ Roses competition. I collected well over 100 caps, and as a result, I was awarded a bandana and belt bucket. As I entered Year 9, my love affair with Axl Rose and Slash concluded. From this point I transitioned to Pink Floyd and Grunge. From being just eight years old through to a reserved thirteen-year-old, Guns n Roses were my passion, my obsession, my heroes. In 2007, I went to see Guns N’ Roses at Rod Laver Arena – at the time, I felt, I was making up for a missed opportunity to see them at Calder Park – unfortunately, the ‘Axl Rose’ show as bitterly disappointing. Afterwards, I resigned to the fact that I would never be able to see my childhood heroes live in concert.
Fast forward to a few days in to 2016, after having read both Slash and Duff’s bios, I was absolutely shocked when the Coachella Music Festival announced that Guns N’ Roses had reformed and were headlining the festival. I was in shock. Could my childhood heroes actually tour, and maybe play in Australia? Six months later, my dream came true. I felt proud and privileged to be an MCC member, which allowed me to purchase Diamond General Admission tickets to see Gunners at the MCG. I spent the months leading up to event in quiet anticipation. However, in the week leading up to the concert I became increasingly excited. Just the fact that I was heading in to the MCG to watch a concert with an expected crowd of 70,000 was exciting enough, let alone that it was Guns N’ Roses. Entering the arena was an event untoward itself. I simply could not believe how close we were to the stage, and every time I looked behind me, I was in awe of how huge the stadium was and just how many people were there. My friend and I used the time during the Wolfmother set to eat dinner and go to the toilet – as we both resigned to the fact that once we found our ‘spot’ in the crowd, there was no chance we would leave it until the very end. We grabbed our spot with half an hour to go, however, in true GNR fashion, they were an hour late on stage, which saw us standing in one spot for an hour and a half, waiting. Luckily, the delay seemed to be planned, unlike at Rod Laver or previously at Calder Park. There were animations and sound effects to keep the crowd slightly entertained.
There was a slow buildup of the visuals and sounds, getting louder and louder until they came on stage. It was a glorious moment, despite the fact that we were referred to as ‘Sydney’. They played an insane set that lasted a staggering two and a half hours. I soaked up every moment. The highlight was, of course, the playing of my favourite song; ‘Estranged’. From what I could see, Duff and Slash have aged quite well, however Axl seems to have stacked on the pounds, however, he was still able to run around the stage at a surprising speed and do his classic swaying dance moves. My friend and I were on a high at the end of the concert. I’m not sure if that high was heightened by the constant cloud of pot that surrounded us, in a strictly non-smoking arena, or if we were just naturally ‘doped’ up on dopamine. Either way, it was a fantastic night, and was one of the best concerts I have attended, certainly the biggest concert I will ever attend by a single band.
Guns N’ Roses will always have a place in my heart as my childhood heroes, and I feel blessed that I got the opportunity to see them live in concert, most likely for the last time, at least in Australia.
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Observations and opinions of popular culture, covering everything from music, film, television, people and other things.