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Re: Axl Rose

GNR Discography

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Noteable Appearances

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See Also: Axl Rose Online Chat Transcripts.


W. Axl Rose was born William Bruce Rose, Jr. on February 6, 1962 in Lafayette, Indiana. He grew up in a house on 2375 N. 24 St.

His biological father, William Rose, left the family when Axl was two years old. His mother remarried when he was an infant and changed his name to William Bailey, using the last name of her new
husband L. Stephen 'Beetle' Bailey.  She changed Axl's brother Stuart's last name as well. 

Axl, his younger brother, Stuart, and half-sister, Amy, had a very rough childhood. All were abused, sexually and physically. Strict parenting and abuse led to his corruption in adolescence.  As an
adult, he stated that repressed memories had revealed to him that his biological father, William Rose, had sexually abused him as a small child. He also suffered physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather.

"My mother and real father weren't getting along and he kidnapped me, because someone wasn't watching me. I remember a needle. I remember getting a shot. And I remember being sexually abused by this man and watching something horrible happen to my mother when she came to get me.  I don't know all the details. But I've had the physical reactions of that happening to me.  I've had problems in my legs and stuff from muscles being damaged then.  I think I've got a problem, if my dad fucked me in the ass when I was two.  I buried it then to survive -- I never accepted it.  I got a lot of violent, abusive thoughts towards women out of watching my mom with this man.  I was two years old, very
impressionable, and saw this.  I figured that's how you treat a woman. 

And I basically put thoughts together about how sex is power and sex leaves you powerless, and picked up a lot of distorted views that I've had to live my life with. No matter what I was trying to be, there was this other thing telling me how it was, because of what I'd seen.  And then she married someone else,
and this person basically tried to control me and discipline me because of the problems he'd had in his childhood.  And then my mom had a daughter.  And my stepfather molested her for about twenty years.  And beat us. He beat me consistently. I thought these things were normal. Basically, I've been rejected by my mother since I was a baby.  She picked my stepfather over me and watched me get beaten by him.  She stood back most of the time. Unless it got too bad, and then she'd come and hold me afterward.  She wasn't there for me.  My grandmother had a problem with men. I overheard my
grandma going off on men when I was four.  And I've had problems with my own masculinity because of that. I was pissed off at my grandmother for her problem with men and how it made me feel about being a man.  I couldn't allow myself to be a real man, because men were evil, and I didn't want to be like my father.  I've always felt this urge to go back and help my mom.  I felt obligated to, but I don't anymore. She fed me and put clothes on my back, but she wasn't there for me."

Axl was brought up in a deeply religious Pentecostal/Holiness family.  He and his siblings, known as The Bailey Trio, sung gospel music together.  They started out in the back of a library and later moved to a church eight miles out in the country. 

The Bible was

"shoved down my throat and it really distorted my point of view." "I had to go to church anywhere from three to eight times a week. I even taught Bible school while I was beaten and my sister was being molested. We'd have televisions one week, then my step-dad would throw them out because they were satanic. I wasn't allowed to listen to anything except gospel or Elvis music. Women were evil. Everything was evil. I had a really distorted view of sexuality and women. I remember the first time I got smacked for looking at a woman. I didn't know what I was looking at, and I don't remember how old I was, but it was a cigarette advertisement with two girls coming out of the water in bikinis. I was just staring at the TV - not thinking, just watching - and my dad smacked me in the mouth and I went flying
across the floor.   Nothing ever happened to me. I watched my father speak in tongues and people interpret it. I watched him sing in perfect Japanese - and my dad doesn't know Japanese - and sing every note right on key with his eyes closed, driving 100 miles an hour down the free way and not hitting a car. I don't know how that happened. I've seen people with no eyes read. It was very strange, but nothing ever happened to me.  I always won all the Bible contests. I taught Sunday school. I played piano. I knew more gospel songs than anybody I knew."

In spite of his elevated spiritual aspirations, the big pay-off somehow eluded him.

"I always thought I was cursed or something. Now I just feel pissed off. If there's somebody up there, I don't know. I just don't have a clue about it."

"When I was in the first grade, I wasn't allowed to cross the street until I sang two Elvis Presley songs.  And then, when I was in the third grade, at recess, I had to stand on a tree stump and the teachers made me sing all the Top-40 Elvis tunes for the younger kids."

He began classical piano lessons when he was nine years old.  On the way to his piano lessons, Axl
stopped in a drug store to peek at porn magazines; his favorite was Oui because of the photography.  It was there that he first heard the song "I'm Not In Love" by 10CC.  D'ya Maker by Led Zepplin got him into hard rock.  He learned to play the song on piano.  When he tapped the drum beat on top of the piano, his dad would knock him off the bench for it.  It was during this time that he composed the skeletal version of November Rain.  Rose was an outcast in school, where he was picked on for being "different," but found solace in singing with his school and church vocal choir and eventually rock music. 

"When I was in [Junior High] school there were all these stereotypes.  If you liked the Stones, you were a faggot; you were a faggot because of the time Jagger kissed Richards on Saturday Night Live.  If you liked the Grateful Dead, you were a hippie. If you liked the Sex Pistols you were a punker. I guess that would make me a faggot hippie punk rocker." 

As a choirboy, he confused his teacher by singing high vocal parts, though he was supposed to be a second baritone. 

"My teacher had ears like a bat, so in order to get away with singing someone else's
part, you'd really have to get it down. He used to wonder why he's hearing a soprano in the bass section.  Nazareth's version of Love Hurts got me
singing in my high pitch voice." 

Despite Axl's feelings about homosexuals, two of his greatest influences were gay. 

"Aerosmith are a tradition that I grew up with. They were the only band that people who lived in my city in Indiana would accept wearing make-up and dressing cool.  When we did 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert) that was totally unrehearsed. Brian asked me to do it that day, and it felt right. I spoke to Elton before the show and he was kind of uneasy about meeting me - you know, I'm supposed to be the most homophobic guy on earth. When we talked, I was excited but serious, telling him how much his music meant to me. By the end he was like 'Whoa'!  I've played piano in a style influenced by Elton John and Billy Joel, but it's minimalistic.  I know what I can and what I can't do, so I aim it carefully.  It's basically influenced off Elton John's attack."

Axl didn't seem to mind working around his mother's rule that no rock n' roll was to be played in the house.  He made exceptional grades in school, but didn't really care for what was taught. He dropped out and came back a few times before finally dropping out permanently sometime during his senior year.
After leaving school for good, Axl created a lot of paintings and drawings and he visited the library to educate himself.  By Axl's own account, 

"in high school I was an athlete, a real jock.  I used to run cross-country."

Nonetheless, he found himself continually warring with school authorities concerning what were, in his opinion, ridiculous, inconsequential orders and rules.  After a few years, the rebel in Axl emerged in earnest; he grew his hair long, smoked pot, and decided that since he was already perpetually in the
the dog house, he might as well give "them" a good reason to bust his nuts".

When Axl was 14, he met Jeffrey Isabelle, otherwise known as Izzy Stradlin, the former rhythm guitarist of GNR.  Together with Izzy and the following friends, he formed a band called A.X.L.: Dave Lank (longtime friend of the band), and Paul Tobias.  The name came from the wheel axle of his skateboard.

"I remember when I was in junior high and they talked about finding a goal - ´Yeah, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that´- all just trying to impress the teachers to get a grade. If they get a good grade, they
get an allowance. I was like, ´No. I wanna be in a band and I wanna do great things´. So I got an ´F´ for thinking grandiose thoughts." 

Despite his choral training, when the idea of joining a band first struck Axl, he didn't envision himself as a vocalist. He was willing to do anything to be part of a group; he tried his hand at the keyboards and then changed over to bass. But Axl ended up "on the mike" out of necessity, because he was the only guy who could hit more than one note per week.  In Izzy's words,

"We were long-haired guys in high school. You were either a jock or a stoner. We weren't jocks, so we
ended up hanging out together. We'd play covers in the garage. There were no clubs to play at, so we never made it out of the garage. Axl was really shy about singing back then. But I always knew he was a singer." 

Among Axl's later musical influences were: Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks, Sex Pistols, Thin Lizzy, and New York Dolls.  The blue rose on Axl's right shoulder was taken from the cover of a Thin Lizzy album.  The lead singer died before Axl got to meet him.

A psychiatrist once assessed Axl's behavior as evidence of psychosis, and Rolling Stone Magazine revealed that Axl has been prescribed lithium to combat a manic-depressive disorder; but Axl remains dubious about the diagnosis and treatment he's received: 

"I'm very sensitive and emotional and things upset me and make me feel like not functioning or dealing with people.  I went to a clinic in LA, thinking it would help my moods. The only thing I did was take one
of those 500 question tests - ya know, filling in the little black dots.  All of a sudden I'm diagnosed manic-depressive. ´Let's put Axl on medication.´ Well, the only thing it does is help keep people off my back because they figure I'm on medication." 

Izzy remembers that Axl was like a serious lunatic when he met him"

"He was really fucking bent on fighting and destroying things. Somebody'd look at him wrong, and he'd just, beat the shit out of them."

The strict discipline and Pentecostal education he endured as a child led to his rebellion as an adolescent against both Indiana and society in general.  Lafayette, Indiana, is a blue-collar town about 65,000 small, the eastern part of the city separated by the Wabash River from west Lafayette and Purdue University. Not unlike many small towns, the river is a demarcation zone. One side doesn't mix with the other, and
for kids the rivalry is obsessive. The lower-middle-class residents of east Lafayette work at AE Staley's corn syrup plants, out at the Subaru-Isuzu factory or at Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals. They fix their own cars at curbside. Axl and Izzy grew up there as Bill Bailey and Jeff Isabelle. The popular conception is that west Lafayette is white-collar middle class, home of Purdue academics and professionals. 

Axl gradually bloomed into a full-fledged juvenile delinquent, and by the age of 16 was exiled from his parents' home supposedly for refusing to cut his hair.  After getting kicked out, he moved in with his grandmother. Anger and boredom threw Bill into constant tension with the law. Tippecanoe County Court records indicate that Axl spent a total of 3 months in county jail as an adult on charges of battery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, public intoxication, criminal trespass, and mischief. He was arrested four times as a juvenile.  Serving as his own lawyer "cause I didn't trust the public defenders
for shit", he admits his guilt on five of those occasions, for "public consumption" -ie, drinking while underage; the other arrests, he insists, were motivated solely by the animosity between him and local law. 

Monica Gregory runs Lafayette's Rock Vault, the only rock n' roll clothing shop in the Lafayette area. She and her ex-husband Dana are part of a close, creative gang of about a dozen Lafayette artists and outcasts that included Bill Bailey long before he morphed into Axl Rose. Monica has turned down several interviews in deference to Axl and Izzy, but agreed to discuss the small-town oppression exorcised by Axl at Deer Creek in an interview with Dean Kuipers.   

"It's not really a chip on his shoulder," she says. "He got hassled a lot, for a variety of reasons. I don't
want to go into it other than to say that it is legitimate."  According to Monica, the gang hung out on local friend David Lank's front porch, or at Axl's grandmother's house, which was right behind the frozen custard shop on the edge of Columbian Park, only a hundred yards from Axl's house. Ironically, they often hung out on the park's tiny stage and talked about how they might open some minds in their hometown.

"There was one really cool place called the Stabilizer," said Monica.

"Axl's bedroom just had mattresses sitting around and drawing pads and his piano and you could get really artistic in whatever way you wanted to. He got a piano and put it in his bedroom and practiced. He would just sit down and play the most beautiful things - I mean, beautiful. He turned me on to Elton John '˜cause he used to do a lot of Elton John. The creative side he had was so intense," Monica adds, "and I think it grounded the little group of people that was there for I don't know how many years even before I entered the picture." 

This circle of artists was clearly an aberration among east-siders, and included: Izzy, originally a drummer; songwriter David Lank (now in the LA band Mank Rage); Dana Gregory (an artist in Lafayette); Mike Staggs (in Dumpster, now in LA; opened for GNR in San Francisco); David Pyle (musician); and Shannon Hoon (singer for Blind Melon). Monica Gregory is virtually the only one that hasn't left for the palm-tree violence and plastic of LA.

Growing up, Axl thought Bailey was his biological father; Axl's name had been "William Bailey" since his father had left. At age 17 however, he learned of his biological father's existence and readopted his birth name, William Rose. He would only refer to himself as "W. Rose", however, as he did not wish to share a
name with his biological father.   

"I wasn't told I had a real father until I was 17. My real father was my step-dad, as far as I knew. But I found some insurance papers, then I found my mom's diploma with the last name Rose. I was never born Bill Bailey. I was born William Rose. I am W. Rose because William was an asshole."

Later on around that time, he found out that the court was going to charge him as a habitual criminal, which could mean life in prison, so he followed the advice of his lawyer and got out of there as quick as he could.  He took a bus to St. Louis where he hitched a ride with an air conditioner repairman.  They
shared a hotel room and Axl woke up to the man trying to have sex with him. 

From St. Louis, he hitchhiked to Bronx, New York where he slept on a park bench in a school yard.  A black man approached him and said, "You know where you are?  You in the jungle baby; you gonna die."  Axl left New York and returned to Indiana and took a bus to Los Angeles to find Izzy.  He looked for Izzy for 2 days but didn't find him right away. He eventually he caught up with Izzy. Sometime after finding Izzy, Axl reportedly went to Indiana and back to LA eight times. 

When he was 20, in 1982, he dated Gina Siler in Lafayette.

"When I came to L.A. in 1982 from some hellhole in the Midwest, I was wearing cowboy boots and
everyone said I looked like I just came off the boat.  All of a sudden, it's become a fashion, so now I guess I drive the boat." 

Axl was engaged to Gina a few times, but they were never married. They lived together for a time, but
the relationship eventually ended. When she moved out, Izzy moved in. 

When I was in Indiana I was labeled a punk...a punk rocker. When I moved to L.A., the punks called me a hippy and didn't want anything to do with me.  I remember standing at the Troubadour for two years.  People wouldn't even talk to me.  The Hollywood rock scene was a war-zone back then. I tried out
for a punk band and I didn't make it because they said I sounded too much like Robert Plant."

The Glam movement that was started by David Bowie took over LA/Hollywood after Eddie Van Halen adopted the style.  Axl soon learned that he couldn't play in any of the clubs unless he had the right 'look'.  Axl hated the glam scene, but he had to tease his hair and don makeup in order to compete with Motley Crue and Poison for club gigs.   

"The other reason I put my hair up is because Izzy had these pictures of Hanoi Rocks and they were cool, and because we hung out with this guy who studied Vogue magazine hair styles and he was really into doing my hair."

All of the members of GN'R migrated from band to band before the Fab Five got together. Axl first started a band called AXL named after his teenage band with Steve Darrow, Chris Weber, and Rob
Gardner.  It was Steve Darrow who convinced Bill to begin calling himself Axl.  According to an interview in the Rock City News in January 1988,

"The main guy was Steve Darrow.  Before that Izzy and I had a band called Rose and before we had Rose, it was called Axl and that was before I was Axl.  This guy said, 'Man, you eat, sleep, and walk like
Axl, why don't you just be Axl?'  And I said, bitchin', alright." 

That band changed its name to Rose after Bill assumed the identity of Axl.  Afterward, it became Hollywood Rose.  He then joined L.A. Guns before fusing Tracii Guns with Hollywood Rose to become Guns N' Roses. 

"I left Hollywood Rose and joined L.A. Guns and the drummer and bass player freaked out and we kinda broke up. In the meantime, Izzy had booked a gig for Hollywood Rose and there was no band left, then Tracii booked a gig for L.A. Guns and there was no band there either. We mixed what was left of the two bands and we got Guns N' Roses. Then Tracii left and went back to L.A. Guns and we got Duff. This line up was finalized on June 6, 1985."

In 1984, his biological father was murdered; his body was buried in a strip mine in Chicago. 

"I found William Rose. Turns out, he was murdered in '84 and buried somewhere in Illinois, and I found that out like two days before a show.  I've been trying to uncover this mystery since I was a little kid. I didn't even know he existed until I was a teenager.  I was told it was the Devil that made me know what the inside of a house looked like that I'd supposedly never lived in. So I've been trying to track down this William Rose guy.  I was robbed of my true identity and I just wanna know something about my heritage." 

Axl legally changed his name to W. Axl Rose after signing a recording contract with Geffen on March 25, 1986. 

"Up until we got signed, I lived on the streets for five years. I never lived in one place for more than two months, always crashing at people's houses. My parents would say, 'Come back home and go to college and we'll pay for it' but I would reply, 'No, I have to do this now'." 

Guns N' Roses received their first paycheck, an advance by Geffen records in the amount of $75,000.   

"We were all sitting around with bits of paper trying to figure it out. Everyone came up with different numbers, but basically we stopped counting after we got past $100 million." 

Jim Morrison also made an impression in the way of showing up late for shows and having problems with the press.   "They killed Jim Morrison and now they're trying to kill me!!"  The Platinum Rainbow was a book often seen in Axl's possession. This book basically discussed the ins and
outs of how to run a band, such as gigs and recording. 

"I owned this book a long time ago, and it was good back then, but doesn't compare to today's options like the Gigging Guide by Guitar World."  After the filming of the video, August 2, 1987, Axl overdosed on  "too many valiums" and slipped into a coma.  He woke up two weeks later in Cedar Sinai
Hospital in Los Angeles.  The first person he saw when he woke up was Todd Crew.  The day
Axl was released from the hospital, Todd gave him a hug and said,  "You can't do this to the family, man."  Two weeks later in September, Todd died of a heroin overdose in New York City.

"Todd was the first person I was close with who died on me and I've been told that I won't get over it until it happens again and I'm not looking forward to that."  On October 31, 1987 during the Horizon show at Syracuse, New York, Axl dedicated Knockin' on Heaven's Door to Todd.  It was the first time the song was played live.  Todd's death was the first of many that would plague Axl's life.

As of 1990 when he was at the pinnacle of his career, Axl's world began spiraling downward.  In April of 1990, he fired Steven Adler for heroin abuse.  In October of 1990, Axl's wife Erin had a miscarriage after a fight; their marriage was annulled in January of 1991.  In May 1991, he sent a stretched limo for his family to bring them to the Indianapolis concert. Axl's grandmother is apparently a female version of him
and sang along to all the words at the show. There was a family reunion after the gig and apparently something went wrong because Axl trashed his hotel suite that night, which he has almost never done before. 

He is still on good terms with his siblings. He's been very supportive of his sister, Amy, who had been molested by Stephen. He gave her a job in charge of the fan club and let her live in his house in the 90s.  Amy appeared in the November Rain video during the wedding scene in the church.  She is
wearing the red dress.  He also listed Stuart and Amy in the credits on the Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion albums. 

On September 27, 1991, Izzy left the band.  In June of 1994, Axl fired Gilby Clarke.  Sometime in the middle of 1995, Slash left the band.  On October 21, 1995, Shannon Hoon died of a heroin
overdose 20 minutes before a show in Blind Melon's tour bus in New Orleans. In early 1996, Matt Sorum
was fired for defending Slash. Axl's mother died of cancer on May 28, 1996.  Axl, Amy, and Stuart visited her before she passed away.  On June 2, 1997, West Arkeen died of a heroin overdose.  Duff left the band in 1997. 

Around 1994 Axl went into seclusion and was not seen again until 1998.  He emerged to celebrate his 36th birthday and was arrested at the Phoenix Airport in Arizona.  Afterward,he spent another three years in seclusion.  He re-emerged on December 31, 2000/January 1, 2001 to perform at the House of Blues in Las Vegas and emerged again in September of 2002. He then left for China to spend another two years in seclusion.  He returned to California and remained in seclusion until his comeback in May of 2006. 

Thanks to for collecting many of the various quotes used.

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