In 1987 a band of loud, ill-tempered, obnoxious young men wearing spandex appeared on the scene on Los Angeles’ famous Sunset Strip and helped change the music landscape. Axel Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagin, Steven Adler, and a tall, odd-looking fellow who never took off his top hat or sunglasses named Slash dropped a song called “Sweet Child O Mine”, and an album called “Appetite for Destruction” and subsequently blew up into the biggest band in the world. GNR as they were called, were legendary for their bad behavior and raw, sexual and sometimes violent lyrics. Now, years later the band is still in the spotlight and Slash was pontificating on cancel culture and whether or not they would be cancelled today for their behavior. The short answer is yes. Check this out.
In the interview, he touched on how the band would’ve been canceled — so canceled — if they were trying to get established in the modern era of the internet.
“To be honest, I haven’t really thought about all that [controversies] that much recently. But now that you mention it, most of everything that we did would’ve gotten us canceled in this day and age,” Slash said.
One of the controversies that Slash touched on was the one surrounding the band’s song “One In A Million” off their album G N’ R Lies. The song came under fire due to its lyrics which included racial and homophobic slurs.
“We would not have fared well in this environment, for sure; on so many different levels. But I mean, a lot of things from back then would not be what you consider acceptable at this moment in time,” he said.
Having grown up in that era and being a fan of GNR, Slash ain’t kidding. One of the bands more famous songs, “Rocket Queen” actually has real, live sex sounds in it, as Axel was recording the sound of sleeping with multiple women at once to get the right vibe for the song. The previously mentioned song, “One in a Million” manages to hit about every button and taboo word. Truth is that a song that raw and politically incorrect would never be considered for recording today. However, it was a different time as Slash points out. People had thicker skins and politicians and the mainstream media had yet to discover how profitable division is. Plus, no internet helped.
“I’m just glad that we didn’t have the internet back then! It would’ve been a different world altogether. But anyway, I don’t dwell on all that stuff. It just is what it is.”
When looking backward through the lens of time, if you are going to criticize a band like GNR, you have to look more deeply at other artists. Since the 70’s many rock and pop artists were dropping racial slurs or other things that in that time period just weren’t a big deal. John Mellencamp, a brave social warrior that recently was caught sitting and eating popcorn during the National Anthem used the “n” word in one of his songs. In the 1990’s. Lou Reed maintained that all of the “colored” girls go doot, de doot in his gender bending “Wildside” song. “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones is pretty much what you think it is, with mentions of plantations and whippings. Phil Collins and Genesis had a radio hit in the 80’s with “Illegal Alien”, where Phil speaks in a fake Mexican accent while figuring out how to get back across the border. The point is, thank goodness there was no social media. Perhaps that is why modern music largely stinks, and the only taboo themes are sex. It is ok to be as nasty as you want now, but heaven help you if you offend a gay or fat person. Progress doesn’t always ensure things will actually better, but maybe we can spare some feelings at the expense of good music.
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