GN'R Lies The Album and Music

GN'R Lies

October 25, 1988 (Uzi Suicide/Geffen)

The Album

GN'R Lies, subtitled, "The Sex, The Drugs, The Violence, The Shocking Truth" contains a re-issue of the Live Like A Suicide album and four new acoustic songs on the flip side.  The first four songs were recorded in 1986 and previously released on the Live Like a Suicide EP.  Lies served the dual purpose of fanning the growing fire and buying the band some time in widening the gap between Appetite and the next LP.  "We wanted to put something out between the last tour and the next album," Slash explained at the time.  "We also heard that kids were having to pay $50-150 dollars for the original Live album."  The remaining four songs were written and recorded in 1988 with acoustic guitars only during a single recording session, with the exception of You're Crazy, which appeared in an alternate version on Appetite For Destruction.  "We wanted to do some new songs that showed another side of us.  These are songs we just felt like doing."  In defense of the anticipated complaints that the Gunners had gone soft, Slash explained, "Yes, this is a rock n' roll band, but there's a lot of different influences within Guns N' Roses.  We write a lot of our songs on acoustic guitar, so doing Lies seemed a natural thing for us."  During the Lies session, a track named Cornshucker (sometimes called Cornchucker) was recorded. It was only played live once and for unknown reasons was never included on the album. In February 2006, demos of the song were leaked and they can be found on various GNR fan sites.

The album's artwork was designed to resemble a tabloid magazine cover and presents the band's ironic response to the incessant and ridiculous rumors continually swirling around them which began with the Daily Star, a British tabloid that branded them nastier than the Beastie Boys.  "We've been the center of so much attention, hype, and sensationalism and all of it is BS.  We've heard that we've all died, in a car crash, that we've done this or that.  This was our chance to turn it around and stick it back in their faces."  Or to reduce a potentially aggravating situation to absurdity by playing it up with a sense of humor.  Unfortunately, it backfired on them and stirred up more controversy for the band.  Even more controversial however was the music and one song in particular almost got them banned.

The Music

Reckless Life was written about Axl's life as it was shortly after moving to LA.

Nice Boys is a Rose Tattoo cover.  It is a song about runaway teens that get caught up in drugs and prostitution.  Many of these teenage girls also became groupies and chased after local rock bands.

Move To The City was written about Axl's move from Indiana to LA.

Mama Kin is an Aerosmith cover.  It reflects Axl's life in Indiana, his relationship with his mother and the times he hitchhiked from Indiana to LA and back before moving there permanently.

Patience was written by Izzy after Angela Nicoletti left him.  However, it also reflected Axl's relationship with Erin before they were married.  During the 2001-2002 tour, Patience was played live with electric guitars with the new line up. The lead guitar was the only electric guitar, played by Robin Finck. Also, it is said that when Axl re-recorded Appetite for Destruction, this electric guitar version was used. No demos from this re-recorded album have surfaced, but the set lists from the 2001-02 tour supposedly reflect the album. General discussions about which version of Patience is better are not uncommon.

Used To Love Her is a song in reference to Axl's childhood pet dog that he was forced to euthanize and bury in his back yard.  Most probably however, it is a reference to his girlfriend.  During a live performance at a small club in New York in 1987, Axl stated, "it's not really a song; it just expresses how I feel at certain times." So, the song could've been about one of his fights with Erin.  I'm sure we all want to kill someone when we're mad at them. It's an honest song and both analogies fit it very well.  This is one the most hotly debated songs in rock history, next to One in a Million.

You're Crazy had been released previously on the band's debut album, Appetite For Destruction and was later recorded as written originally. The true shock of the album was that the acoustic version of You're Crazy - a balls-out, careening rocker on Appetite for Destruction was stripped raw and naked for Lies, and yet its seething, boiling core remained - and burned stronger for the lack of electrical artifice. Axl's lyric was more intense, the guitars bluesy and ranging; everything came together in an unexpectedly heavy way.  "It was written on acoustic, about another girl we know who was crazy." - Axl  The album producer called the song, "one of those magical Rock N Roll history moments."  The band agrees that the song is magical stating in concert that, "something weird happens every time we play it live."

One In A Million is a Redneck anthem if there ever was one.  It's a modern-day Dixieland for sure.  One in a Million caused some outrage among homosexual organizations and human rights activists, as its lyrics speak of niggers and faggots. Speaking retrospectively on the 2004 VH1 Behind The Music documentary on GN'R, lead guitarist Slash said that, "the song had made him feel uncomfortable around Rose," since he himself is half black.

Axl explained the song during a Rolling Stone interview in 1989.  "I went back and forth from Indiana eight times my first year in Hollywood. I wrote it about being dropped off at the bus station and everything that was going on...the black guys trying to sell you drugs is where the line 'Police and niggers, get out of my way' comes from. I've seen these huge black dudes pull bowie-knives on people for their boom boxes.  It's ugly.  When I say 'I'm just a small town white boy', I'm just saying I'm no better than anyone else I've described. I'm just trying to get through life, that's all."  Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't buy it.

The following is another explanation: "It was originally written as comedy. It was written watching Sam Kinison during one of his first specials. I was sitting around with friends, drunk, with no money. One of my friends [West Arkeen] had just gotten robbed for seventy-eight cents on Christmas by two black men. The song is very generic. It's vague, it's very simple, it was meant to be that way, it was written that way." - Axl

One in a Million is one of the best protest songs in rock history since the Vietnam Era.  He's saying all the taboo things that people think all the time, but are afraid to say.  It's a great song and much needed in today's over-politically correct world where it's okay for one ethnic group (African American, Native American, etc) to blurt prejudiced slurs to their hearts content while the other (Caucasian) has to bend over backwards to please them.  In fact, it was 20 years ahead of its time.  I think the song is aimed at racists.  "Radicals and racists, don't point your finger at me."  If you say "don't be racist" then those people aren't going to listen to you. If you come down to their level and say what they're thinking, then you've got their attention.  As the front of the album cover points out, he was extremely generalizing and wasn't trying to offend anyone.  This is what racists do - they generalize one experience to a whole race.  Axl did the world a favor by forcing us to talk openly about these issues and address them.  Love the song or hate it, you can't deny the man has balls.

In my opinion, One in a Million was a song that needed to be written.  It expressed the viewpoint of many mainstream Americans who felt that our country was being eroded by immigrants and overseas countries taking our jobs, as this was the era when outsourcing began and racial quotas had to be met in the workforce because of the Affirmative Action movement. The white American male had lost his rights as an American citizen to minorities; it was nearly impossible for a white man to get a job. This remains a burning issue today. Homosexuals also began coming out of the closet during this time; it was the second wave of the sexual revolution. This coming out movement sparked fear and outrage amongst heterosexuals who neither understood nor agreed with the homosexual lifestyle. Axl himself is quoted as saying that, "he did not understand the gay lifestyle," and went on to talk about being sexually abused at the age of 2 by his biological father. He was also attacked by a gay man in a hotel room while hitchhiking across the country. He has been harassed by police since he was a young teenager. Black men at the Greyhound bus station in LA tried to sell him jewelry and would not leave him alone when he tried to walk away. "Police and niggers, get out of my way. Don't need to buy none of your gold chains today."

There is an introduction explaining the song and a clear apology printed on the album cover, but it has never been acknowledged:

"Ever been unjustly hassled by someone with a gun and a badge? Maybe you've been conned or had someone attempt to sell you stolen property and they just won't take no for an answer. Been to a gas station or convenience store and treated like you don't belong here by an individual who can barely speak English? Hopefully not, but have you ever been attacked by a homosexual? Had some so-called religionist try to con you out of your hard-earned cash? Have you ever been banned or censored by a relatively small group of people claiming to be a majority with self-righteous and dangerous motives? This song is very simple and extremely generic or generalized, my apologies to those who may take offense."

No one ever caught it.

This song is very simply one which expresses Axl's own negative life experiences with various people unknown to him and was blown so far out of proportion from reality that no one ever got the true message of what he was saying. It's a shame that freedom of expression was reduced to an all-out war over the meaning of a single song (or two coupled with Used to Love Her). It is a true Rock N Roll tragedy.  In early 2000, Rose claimed that future pressings of the album would not contain One in a Million, citing that critics and popular media misinterpreted the lyrics and that a misunderstood public no longer deserved to hear it. As of 2006, the song is still present on the album.

I certainly do not condone racism or hate crime.  Just let me make that perfectly clear before you complain about my guide.  One In A Million is a song, nothing more.  It is what it is.  Quite frankly, I've heard a lot worse in today's rap music that promotes the killing of police officers, violence against women, gangs, etc and many youths and adult males across a wide range of ethnicities emulate what they hear in rap music.  People change; cultures change; music changes to reflect cultural paradigm shifts, then that same music influences culture.  The wheel will turn once more and what will we hear 20 years from now?