|by Marina Zogbi
The first time I ever heard Guns N' Roses was the first time I saw their "Welcome To The Jungle" video, so the band's sound n' visuals have always been inseparable in my mind. The
fact that their videos have truly succeeded in capturing their distinctive personality and energy is one reason for Guns' phenomenal success. Not every band makes an easy transition to videotape. The camera loves Guns N' Roses.
"Welcome To The Jungle" starts out with a country bumpkin kid (Axl) in flared jeans and a backwards baseball cap getting off a bus in a big city (L.A.). After fending off a drug (or some other vice) dealer and looking around with a wide-eyed "Toto, we sure as f--k ain't in Indiana anymore" expression, Axl walks towards his destiny, well, actually a TV store window beneath which we glimpse Slash sitting and drinking. We now know that this intro is based on Axl's own story of leaving home, right down to the bell-bottoms.
(My theory is that this vid is also partially responsible for the recent outbreak of backwards baseball cap wearing.) Anyway, it's a great beginning to a great video and the G N'R story in general. Much of the clip features the band performing the song onstage in some sweaty club with Axl prowling around snarling like a small vicious cat (and looking very sexy indeed). The band plays dirty, looks tough, and the general effect is coolness and badness personified. Interspersed are clips of Axl in front of the tube either choosing or being forced to watch
scenes of grim reality.
In their next vid, "Sweet Child O' Mine," Axl's given up the teased hair for his own natural straight tresses (somewhat responsible, I believe, for the general de-poufing of metal hairdos that has occurred. OK, maybe I'm crediting Guns too much for setting fashion trends, but video's a powerful tool these days!). "Child" starts out with the now classic scene of Slash plugging in his guitar (so classic that M.O.D. does a hilarious sendup at the beginning of their "True Colors" clip). The video is a potent no-frills performance of the song with the band giving it their all in a warehouse with cables, cameras and crew in view. Also in view are the guys' girlfriends (in Duff's case, wife) hanging out and interacting with their respective sweeties, especially Axl's Erin, the actual subject of the song. The action builds along with the song:
Axl stomps around, swinging the mic cord, Izzy windmills guitar chords, Slash coolly but passionately rips out one of his most breathtaking solos. Another accurate portrayal of this intense band, available in two versions, one entirely in black and white, the other mostly in color.
Next up, "Paradise City," featuring live footage from summer of '88 shows at New Jersey's Giants Stadium and London's Castle Donnington, good contrasts in atmosphere. I was at the NJ show and remember the band (Axl in particular) getting frustrated with overzealous security guards and video cameras that kept getting in the way. You'd never know it from the vid which includes exciting clips of the band playing, the huge stadium filling up and the audience going nuts. Interspersed are scenes of Guns on the streets of New York, walking down St. Mark's Place and checking out the music stores on 48th St. You'd also never guess from the delirious Donnington audience that two fans were crushed to death at the foot of the stage during Guns' set that day. Actually, neither the band nor most of the crowd knew what happened until after the show. A tragic footnote to an otherwise perfect celebration. All of the Donnington scenes, as well as the New York street scenes are black and white, in contrast with the sunny color of Giants Stadium.
Guns' fourth and most recent video, "Patience," is a bit of a departure from the previous ones. A dream-like quality permeates this gently edited, slow-moving clip. The band performs the song in a very cluttered, cozy-looking "studio," amid draperies, pillows and other soft things. Casualness prevails as Axl glimpses once in a while at his lyric sheet and the others are sprawled about playing acoustic guitars and looking extremely relaxed. Intercut are seemingly unrelated scenes taking place in a hotel. People (guests) walk the corridors and sit in the lobby, then literally disappear like ghosts. Band scenes: Duff takes a room service tray down to the lobby desk, then looks around impatiently; Slash sits on a bed and plays with his snake while
a series of scantily-clad women get into bed (and disappear). He seems bored. Steven generally looks as frustrated as he must have been for this percussionless song. There's one great shot of him wistfully scratching his head with his useless drumsticks; Axl stomps on and destroys a glowing telephone. Recurring themes of impatience and boredom, yet somehow the mood is one of sadness. Maybe all those vanishing people ... In one cool scene, (an older and wiser) Axl bemusedly watches the "Welcome To The Jungle" video on a TV. Which brings us back to the beginning.
Four unique and engrossing videos representing one of the most intriguing bands of the '80s (and probably the '90s). Makes one wonder what the next four are going to be like.
Thanks Gypsy for the scans