Once upon a time in late 1999, Axl Rose played me many of the songs on Chinese Democracy.
First he invited me with my family to his house for Halloween. That's a story for another day.
A few weeks later, we met in the middle of night in a studio that I believe was then owned by the Captain & Tennille. Having first met Axl just as his career was taking off, he generously invited me and took a few hours from recording to play me some of the music that he'd already been working on for years. Then he gave me an extremely rare interview about his already mysterious work in progress for Rolling Stone. I loved what I heard. Sometime that morning, I remember asking Axl if having just missed the 20th century, he would definitely commit to releasing the album during the 21st century. I think Axl -- arguably the last real rock star -- might've even cracked a slight smile, but then again that might be wishful remembering.
I'll never forget that night because I got home at 4:45 am, crawled into bed with my wife, and then looked at the clock as I fell asleep around 4:58 am. At exactly 5:01 am, my older son Andrew, who was then just two, crawled into our bed and woke me up for the day. Fortunately, the buzz from the music was more than enough to keep me going on three minutes sleep. Andrew is now 11 and thinks Guns N' Roses is really cool, like his brother, his mother and father.
Last night I finally heard Chinese Democracy in all its glory.
Why did it take so long? Maybe Axl wanted to wait until he outlived the music industry. Maybe he was waiting for Obama to come around and remind us about American Democracy. Or maybe it just took exactly as long as it took. In any case, I love it. It's the perfect soundtrack to our not-so-Great Depression, and the sort of inspiring resurrection that's always welcome for all those of us for whom rock & roll is still a religion.
Axl, it's always great to hear from you, and thanks for the gift. I downloaded your album on iTunes, but so far it's the Best Buy of my holiday season.
Come around more often, you hear?