A Coming of Rage in East Rutherford!
Across the Hudson, Donald Trump had divested himself of The United States Football League team The New Jersey Generals in 85.
The Donald had “negotiated” his way into owning two casinos in Atlantic City at that point. He had done it in typical 80’s style with brash language and plenty of enthusiasm for words like Awesome, Excellent and HUGE!Morning in America had made its official debut in 1984. We knew this because Ronald Reagan told us so. We didn’t have to feel bad about Vietnam anymore and it was time to get down to the business of kicking ass once again. Trump, truly embodied this latest American renaissance. There was however one group of people who failed to get the memo. This was the recording industry out in California.
Despite the fact that Heavy Rock/ Metal had enjoyed a renaissance of its own through the early eighties, somehow the executives at the major labels had mis interpreted what was happening. Bands like Metallica and Slayer and GNR were considered outliers. They didn’t get much airtime and initially didn’t have videos on MTV. Instead groups Like Poison or Cinderella known as “Hair Bands” were promoted. While the real scene was happening in rat hole clubs, performed by the ugly byproduct of desperation and talent.
Guns n Roses were not pretty to look at. They had long hair but it was dirty. They had tattoos (largely reserved for bikers and convicts) which was only hip on the wrong end of Sunset. Up close or at a distance, they wore the part of genuinely filthy Hollywood drug addicts. Fronted by a manic depressive in the person of Axel Rose. It was just what America ordered. Looking like something between Rowdy Roddy Piper and a 13th century Barbarian. Axel’s gyrations and agitations are backed up by Slash, who from top hat to worn out cowboy boots looks to be about 9ft tall. It isn’t possible to see his face, due to a cascade of greasy hair. Although none of that matters because his guitar is talking in majestic tones for him. Co- founder Izzy Straddling is on rhythm guitar, keeping the train on the track one brutal street song brawl after the other. There is no separation of the life and the music here, this is Izzy. Bedraggled but on point, with that aggressive junkie stance reminiscent of The Sex Pistols or Velvet Underground.
“Duff” is on base. A blur of blonde hair in a bottle, that thumps through “It’s so Easy, and Mr. Brownstone”. Steven Adler finishes out the lineup as the original drummer. Due to various excesses he would be booted from the band before the height of their fame. (Returning for a handful of dates in 2016.)
A little less than two months before Guns N Roses would hit the stage in East Rutherford, Donald Trump was doing an interview with . Oprah She asked him if he would ever consider running for President. “No I don’t have the inclination. But if things ever got really bad I wouldn’t rule it out totally” he said. Its funny how such an off the cuff comment could retain such relevance twenty eight years later, but it does. He goes on to talk about putting tariffs on Japan and Kuwait. Because they were flooding our markets and we weren’t getting our fair share.
The Appetite Tour had been gaining momentum since June 19th 1987. By the time GNR had hit Giants Stadium on August 16th 1988, they had evolved into an unstoppable force. Opening for Acts like Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden, they held their own. Serving up a steaming hot plate of in your face rock n roll, and even though it burned you knew for sure it was all that was good and righteous with the world.
Right about the time the roadies were setting up GNRs instruments on that sweltering August day, Trump was likely somewhere in Manhattan. Arranging junk bond financing for the Trump TAJ Mahal. He would declare his first bankruptcy less than two years later.
In the meantime, the sun was beating down on several thousand kids who were about to bear witness to the changing of the guard. I had seen the same phenomena when I saw Metallica open up for Ozzy in 85’. The show had been out in Long Island somewhere. While Ozzy would put on a decent show, Metallica had reigned supreme for ever after. A crackle came over the P.A. system followed by a harsh announcement that the show was about to start. “You wanted the best? Well the best couldn’t F—— make it! So here’s what you get! From Hollywood Guns N Roses!!”
Thirty seconds into the first song (It’s So Easy) and the crowd had gone absolutely apocalyptic. Before I really knew what was happening, myself and several thousand other kids were streaming down from the top deck seats. We smashed through security at every level and reached the wall separating the field from the stands. This was a critical juncture. Every few seconds about ten to fifty fans jumped the wall and made a beeline for the crowd on the floor. Mr Brownstone cut across the crowd, urging more fans to take the chance. Most got through, but every so often someone would get caught by overwhelmed and definitely dangerous security guards. These were the cream of the crop from Secaucus, Kearny and Elizabeth. Part time security gigs for guys who beat people up for fun, and made no bones about it. They were winners! I looked into the eyes of a security guard about twice the size of me. He pointed directly at me and told me not to. Seconds later, I had jumped feat first over what had to of been at least a ten foot wall. I hit the ground in a running crouch and bolted.
I was moving at top speed as I came upon a loose formation of security, the last line of defense between myself and the stage. I faked left, then put my head down and charged right. I put my shoulder into the last guard in front of me and broke through the line. Getting into the crowd I immediately took my shirt off and tried to look like I had the money for floor seats. In a quick motion, one of the kids that had been with me at the wall was yanked from behind. He went out with his fingernails scratching at the ground as five hundred pounds of security descended upon him.
At this time Axel announced two things. One “Security is a bunch of A——-“and two they were making a video for MTV called Paradise City.
The trickle of fans streaming over the wall turned into a river and then an ocean. At times the blue padded wall was completely obscured by a sea of bodies. With flecks of security yellow that occasionally swarmed onto individuals in the midst. A great roaring echoed through the coliseum and we were all making history.
This is as near as I have ever been to a collective moment in time. One of those rare instances that define a generation. For Gen X this was about as close as we ever got to Woodstock (Outside of Nirvana). We had seized the moment, fleeting as it was. In our own eighties way our flag had been planted and we all walked a little bit taller. Aerosmith took the stage after GNR finished up a short set, there was a new sheriff in town and everybody knew it. They played Sweet Emotion and all the seventies standards, but the crowd had exhausted themselves on GNR. After Deep Purple did Smoke on the Water I walked out. I looked around the parking lot and saw people all around me that were totally spent. As if they had been at a three day long religious revival.
This was one of the last great power moves of the decade. Trump, Reagan, Thatcher. They were all Men and Women of their time. Guns N Roses represented the youth of that era and all that came with it. Donald Trump represented what many of us still believed was in the grasp of the common man. Anybody could be a success in America. Even though he was born wealthy, there was still a tendency to think sooner or later we would all receive the gold plated key to the executive washroom.
So does Donald Trump.This is why he is behind in the polls. In the eighties winners didn’t have to worry about what they said or who they said it to. They were winning or had won that was enough. Of course political winners never went after babies or veterans ever before. Trump is down by six points and he could very well forget again what century this is, and lose the election. Once a media darling, he now curses the press and can’t understand why this liberal, millennial, mega corp constantly attacks him.
As the mid-nineties would see the end of Guns and Roses in everything but a name, the word no would figure prominently. No the band isn’t getting back together. No Axel and Slash aren’t speaking, and No Chinese Democracy isn’t ready. Trump had to say No he couldn’t pay his bills, and No it really wasn’t a problem.
In the end we all survived. I’m going to see the Not in This Lifetime Tour at Dodgers Stadium on Friday. I’ll be looking for a hint of that eighties energy we were all riding so high on, lo those many years ago. The Donald will be looking for it too, probably not on the far reaches of Sunset out by the ball park. More likely from the top of Trump Tower, with a telescope trying to reach across the Hudson. All the way down the turnpike to Atlantic City. On a clear day with the right amount of faith you can just about see it. A shining flicker of a once great nation, it fades into the exhaust of a garbage scow and is gone.
The Aftermath of Destruction, and Trump Rides Again!
Myself, and four others had gotten to the stadium at about 730. It had been close to an hour from Hollywood to our seats. The Uber driver, who picked us up had commented that he had never seen the traffic so backed up for any previous events at Dodgers. He appeared to be a first generation Asian immigrant. We had tried to impress upon him the magnitude of the event, but it got lost in the translation. He had never heard of Guns N Roses.There was no way to trully explain, so I didn’t.
A little bit after 8:00 Guns hit the stage. They started the show with its So Easy. “It’s so easy when everybody’s trying to please me baby.” For perverse psychological reasons, I can’t really get into here, this made me think of Trump. How coming out of the primaries he looked every bit a winner.Then things got messy. There was political carnage at every turn from a nasty spat with the Khan’s, to investigations from the Secret Service. Regarding alleged threats against Hillary.
In the parlance of rock groups, past and present, “the tour bus had broken down”. Black clouds of a blown diesel billowed from the engine, as representatives of a West Texas anti- narcotics force plied their trade. Packs of drug hounds mauled the interior of the coach. Raising legs and chewing on the edge of the waterbed. “The man with no eyes” kept a sharp gaze on the operation, and all hope of playing the oval office was radiating away at 104 degrees, on the side of Interstate 40.
“Do you know where you are Los Angeles? Wake up time to Dieeeeeee!”
Yes of course, I am in the jungle and have been for so very long. Like Moses in the desert minus ten years and twenty centuries. An hour into the show, and the great chasm of expended time is lifted. So many recognitions are slowly stitched together. I once again have a sense that I am a part of something. Looking around from our reserve level seats, the median age of the crowd is about thirty six or seven years old. Nobody is rushing the stage, and although it is never verbalized most marvel at the fact that we had lived to see this day.
During the eighties, people were allowed to smoke everywhere at a concert while being “Loaded like a freight train”. Tonight I’m drinking water and smoking behind a white line. Taking a break while Axel is doing something off the new album. Is there a new album? Could there ever be? Use your Illusion was the last album or was it that Spaghetti Incident? What? Riots in St Louis? The band broke up? What the —- do you mean the Twin Towers are down? You want to card me for cigarettes? I’m thirty years old I mean forty. Senior citizens and veterans beaten at the airport? What the Hell is going on? “THEIR OUTA GET ME”!
Trump had more pressing problems in Ohio. He was behind by six to eight percent here as well as in Florida and Colorado. The Donald never looked back as his jet blasted out of Kennedy, straight into Monday morning. He took the stage in Akron lambasting Clinton and reaching out to African American voters he asked “What do you have to lose?” “Are you better off now then you were four years ago? “ Where’s the Beef?” Then loudly proclaiming “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this Wall!”
“Ladies and gentleman, On drums Mr. Steven Adler. Do you want to do another one Stevie?” “Well your daddy works in porno now that mommy’s not around! She use to love her heroin but now she’s underground! So you stay out late at night and you do your dope for free driving your friends crazy with your life’s insanity!” Right! The grinding craziness that pushed so many of us to the edge, and those were the good old days. A generation that had come of age with cocaine for breakfast, washed down with Busch beer and left over fajitas from TGI Fridays. Vicodin for a late night snack, to slow down from 100 mph to zero as quickly as possible. All things being even people had to go to work tomorrow, “So they could buy more coke, to work harder, to make more money, to buy more coke!”
Axel is very cordial throughout the show, speaking to the audience with the graciousness of being in somebody’s living room. The crowd knows the lyrics to every song except for the Chinese Democracy stuff, and the 2nd gen GNR efforts.. I almost start to wonder about the Donald again, when the whistle blows for Night Train. Duff fingers three beats on his base and Slash crunches into the first couple of riffs like a chain saw cutting steel trees. “I’m a West Coast strutting one bad mother got a rattlesnake suitcase under my arm, Said I’m A mean machine drinking gasoline and honey you can make my motor hum. I got one chance left in a nine live cat, I got a dog eat dog sly smile. I got a Molotov cocktail with a match to go, I smoke my cigarette with style.”
Yeah that’s what it was, style, charisma, a panache. An arrogant swagger that said “Reagan Youth!” Deal with it! The idea that the times or lifestyle could ever end was unthinkable. The show would just roll on. A whirling, driving, mass of spandex and mullets. Perpetually intoxicated on the possibilities of life in Paradise City.
The Donald doesn’t exactly have charisma, he has CARAZMA. A different kind of thing, that sounds weird and threatening on the West Coast. Back in Jersey, and at Trump Towers, most of the message is interpreted as “it’s my bat and my ball , I’m going home, your mother wears combat boots, and your brother blows bubble gum.” It simply won’t play on the national stage. If he can keep his mouth shut, and Kelley Anne can keep him on point, there could be a November morning for the G.O.P. “Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” With less than ten weeks to go until the vote it could all come down to how the Dow is doing. Traditionally when the markets are down that spells trouble to an incumbent. Think Clinton, Bush 92’. Right now stocks are up and so is Hillary. Speaking of which, another load of potentially damning emails has just hit the fan and this is still anybody’s race.
The last crescendo of Paradise city is exploding into fireworks and a reckoning of all scores. There are urgent whipsaws on the guitar, ripping faster and faster. Heads are banging in unison, even more speed now. Breaking the sound barrier,my head can’t move any faster.
“OH WON’T YOU TAKE ME HOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! YEAH!”