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apex-twin
 Rep: 200 

Re: "To shrug."

apex-twin wrote:

"Well, he's been doing a lot of reading..." (Bryn Bridenthal of Geffen Records, MTV, 08/08/97)

Atlas Shrugged is a big book from 1957 by Ayn Rand.

It depicts a society held together by a group of achievers, industrialists, who bail out facing new government-imposed regulations. At that point, the infrastructure begins to shake and crumble. In today's world, Rand's book reads out as the 1% cleaning out their desks, with the 99% left astray and directionless. The patronizing overtures are, therefore, a bit unsettling.

"[Atlas Shrugged] doesn't have all that much to do with the book, other than trying to do what you believe in and a line about shoulders not being wide enough." (Axl Rose, MyGnR Forum, Dec. 2008)

Right, a song about justifying one's actions by ideology. As for the narrow shoulders line...

The title is a reference to Atlas, a Titan described in the novel as "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders". The significance of this reference appears in a conversation between the characters Francisco d'Anconia and Hank Rearden, in which d'Anconia asks Rearden what advice he would give Atlas upon seeing that "the greater [the titan's] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders". With Rearden unable to answer, d'Anconia gives his own response: "To shrug". - Wikipedia

If it's too much for you, the hell with it.

Let go. They'll come crawling back.

Atlas is said to be a cross-breed of 70s glam rock and November Rain. That would suggest the music has a lingering style, with that big bass line and shifts to groovy, built-up choruses. And orchestration. Lots of it, likely. It worked well for Marilyn Manson with Mechanical Animals in '98, resulting with (I think) his best album.

Produced by one Sean Beavan.

Coincidence. Surely.

"[With Atlas, there've been] recording issues." (Axl Rose, chinesedemocracy.com, Dec. 2008)

"Robin's parts for the album [had] tuning issues [in the past] that needed to be addressed." (Del James, 2008)

Atlas may have had its guitars reworked by the simple token that the boss changed his mind. Issues on guitar tune suggest Axl wanted to sing the song, in part or in full, in one or more different keys. Robin's guitar follows Axl's vocals around a lot on CD, they are in tune, doing harmonies. They certainly have the squealing high-end for it.

So, if Axl decides vocals need to go up or down a notch or two, Robin needs to pick up the guitar and do it all over again. While nailing the elusive 'feel' Axl was fussing about. Which may have already required a massive amount of takes. Note for note, different tune. Still a fun job?

Small wonder Robin left - after his Guns contract expired - to tour with NIN in '99. People like to forget he was a free agent at the time.


Axl brought in Brian May, who was in CD ground zero for a week. His main responsibility was to record over Robin's parts on Catcher, Atlas and third track. Funny enough, the first two carry a title reference to English prose. The Robin/May conundrum puts Atlas up as a big track in the sessions.

"Axl was feeling that he was in a difficult place because... the guitarist that had done most of the tracks had departed, and Axl had a real emotional attachment to what he'd done, and yet he didn't want him on the album... because he'd disappeared...

"Brian, can you come and do stuff which I WILL LIKE, (laughing) and I won't feel too bad about ditching this other stuff?" So I did, I went over there, and I think I played on three tracks." (Brian May, 2000)

"I actually comped [the solos] up with [Sean Beavan] myself." (Brian May, 2008)

"I would go in there and [from] one day to another, Axl would have been in there like, from 5Am to 7AM, comping little bits of my solos and saying 'Can you get Brian to try this?'" (Brian May, 2000)

"All that feel and emotion referred to now [in Catcher] had a lot to do with Sean [Beavan] and I, and the parts I chose out of Brian's different runs, versions, practice runs, etc., to make sure we had those elements in one version. It's entirely constructed from edits based around one specific note Brian hit in a throwaway take." (Axl, 2008)

"He's so intense about EVERY single note that's on there, and the solos that I played. He was totally into it VERY much in the way that Freddie used to be... He did like it, but he wanted to get into EVERY single take of every single note." (Brian May, 2000)

There's a good chance May's work on Atlas was similarly chopped up and glued together again from a multitude of takes. That brings us back to the tuning issues Del James referred to. Once the songs had a structure, they were still a bit loose. Axl wanted to have that literal breathing space for his vocals.

He might've tried going over difficult parts by singing them in an alternate key. Then, his takes would be comped and he'd pick the best deliveries. With drum and bass, they'd be ok. Once Beavan clicked the guitar track on, some parts might have complications.

"[In October 2001, we were recording] overdubs with Buckethead and Robin Finck and some stuff with Tommy Stinson...  Atlas Shrugged was pretty good." (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)

"[On Atlas, an issue has been] getting the mix to a good level." (Axl Rose, chinesedemocracy.com, Dec. 2008)

"I have my own rough mixes, which I took away at the time for the purposes of working on the stuff further, if necessary." (Brian May, 2008)

Getting the mix to a good level would've also been gruelling if various guitar and vocal parts would be interchangeable. Throw it on the wall, see what sticks. Repeat.

Axl certainly had a vision for the album, but his method was to fumble there in the dark.


Ron worked on both Catcher and Atlas. Wonder if Bucket ever did that.

"I actually have the old guitar solo [on my laptop] that I played for [Atlas]... two days before the album was going to be mastered." (Bumblefoot, Eat More Heat, March 2013)

"In October [2008, I] first heard some of final mixes which were incredibly multi-layered and dense." (Bob Ludwig, Gateway Mastering, 11/25/08)

Get this. Ron recorded a solo for Atlas a month or so before the album came out. Talk about down-on-wire for stuff that was painstakingly comped eight years prior.

"Interesting song... We couldn't put Atlas Shrugged on Chinese Democracy... It would've taken it past the [74-minute time] limit... I was like, "Let's see if we can squeeze it on to the album." I busted out some guitar tracks for it, I have my own studio." (Bumblefoot, Eat More Heat, March 2013)

Is it just me or does this sound like Ron doing a bit of campaigning to include Atlas? The final track listing leaves 2mins and 42secs of available time on the album - big surprise Atlas fell short on the cut. A beleaguered guitar track might've been a dealbreaker for Axl, and perhaps Ron went on an 11th hour quest to elevate the song to the A-list.

Axl may had heard the guitar solo.

He shrugged.

elevendayempire
 Rep: 90 

Re: "To shrug."

The thing with Ron is what really baffles me – Axl spent years and years painstakingly chopping and changing bits from solos by Robin and BRIAN FUCKING MAY, and he was prepared to slap a last-minute Bumblefoot solo on the album version? WTF?

Re: "To shrug."

Sky Dog wrote:

or Ax just saved the song for the mystical second half of Chinese....maybe it is the lead single with Slash now on it for the pending reunion tour.....it's on according to my sources...ON.

misterID
 Rep: 473 

Re: "To shrug."

misterID wrote:

Atlas was a song Ron pointed out as one of his favorites. Its always been the top song I'm most interested in.

Atlas
The General
Seven
Soul Monster

Those are the songs I'm most curious to hear.

gavgnr
 Rep: 4 

Re: "To shrug."

gavgnr wrote:

Couldn't help but wonder if the title track didn't have such a long into, maybe Atlas might've made it onto the album.

Let's hope we hear the track one day

misterID
 Rep: 473 

Re: "To shrug."

misterID wrote:

I think it might be that Catcher took Atlas's place. From everything I remember hearing, Catcher was never intended for CD until the leak happened.

James
 Rep: 648 

Re: "To shrug."

James wrote:

When reading all the info about it in one shot it really makes you want to hear it. After reading that,  its safe to say judging on descriptions of it, its the biggest gun remaining in the vault. Maybe The General comes close.  Some people think its deranged to get excited about songs you've never heard but GNR fans have always done this. I remember drooling in 89-90 reading descriptions of The Garden, NR, Estranged(Without You at the time), Locomotive, Coma,etc. Just imagining what those sounded like almost made your head explode.


Not exclusive to GNR fans either. Us Soundgarden fans spent years wondering what their mythical track Kristi sounded like.  They finally released it on Echo of Miles. Like with some CD songs, I had built it up into something that couldn't exceed my expectations.  It was Soundgarden's Prostitute.




The symbolism of Madagascar along with Atlas "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders" makes you wonder if there will be similar themes. Not a leap to speculate that the song has something to do with the old band breaking up and/or Slash.

Nice catch on that statement about Robin's tuning issues possibly in reference to this song. I like the info Ron gave about the song but I don't like where it leads. I do applaud Ron for lobbying for its release though. Other than wanting another track with his contribution he may have been looking at it from the hardcore fan angle as well.  It will probably get the CITR treatment unfortunately and even if the song gets released, we may not ever hear how the song was supposed to sound back in 2001-02. Obviously I'll take any version of the song but that Beavan record really needs to be heard.

While Bucket is all over the album obviously, I do not understand the apparent lack of desire to feature him much more prominently. Most hardcore fans seem to agree that Ron's contribution to Catcher is an abortion. Why wasn't Bucket allowed to do that and if he was, why remove it? Wasn't it possible to add Ron and Frank without the additions being so abrasive?  I'd love to know hoe much time Bucket really spent in the studio working on Chinese. I remember Finck talking about how frustrating it was regarding Bucket's lack of desire to play the same thing twice. Maybe this pissed off Axl as well and instead of embracing his eccentric character, decided to shift him to the background during the sessions. When listening to Electric Tears(released in 2002) its a head scratcher and makes you wonder why that style wasn't brought to the table for CD, at least as far as the songs we've heard.

So the evolution of this song goes to May.....to Finck.....maybe Bucket in a pipe dream.....and Ron. Also take into account that while the 09-14 lineup never recorded anything, you can throw Ashba's name into the mix as well.

As far as Axl's vocals on the song, can we date the specific times he worked on vocals? Most of the vocals were recorded in 2001 but how many other examples are there? Axl mentioning VT massacre as inspiration for Shackler would date that in 2007.  The album was turned in back in 07 as well so these last minute additions by Ron might mean Axl also had some "finishing touches" to work on.

gav....good point on editing out all the intros to try and squeeze one more song on the album. Most of those intros were unnecessary IMO.

misterID wrote:

I think it might be that Catcher took Atlas's place. From everything I remember hearing, Catcher was never intended for CD until the leak happened.

I love the demo and think Catcher is one of Axl's best lyrically, but I wish it had never leaked. Had it not leaked, Axl might not have felt the need to release it and have Ron put something on it. We MIGHT have heard the original track years later.

Its instances like this that make you realize how the leaks did fuck things up in hindsight to a degree but at that point fans were starving to death for material.

elevendayempire wrote:

The thing with Ron is what really baffles me – Axl spent years and years painstakingly chopping and changing bits from solos by Robin and BRIAN FUCKING MAY, and he was prepared to slap a last-minute Bumblefoot solo on the album version? WTF?

It really is unfortunate how Axl felt the need to add people just because they joined for a tour. There was no need to add anyone after the 2000-02 lineup had finished it. The label shares much of the blame for this as well.

apex-twin
 Rep: 200 

Re: "To shrug."

apex-twin wrote:
elevendayempire wrote:

The thing with Ron is what really baffles me – Axl spent years and years painstakingly chopping and changing bits from solos by Robin and BRIAN FUCKING MAY, and he was prepared to slap a last-minute Bumblefoot solo on the album version? WTF?

Apparently, he was prepared to exclude Atlas from CD. Reading Ron's take sounds like he did the solo without prompting, just because he liked the song.

James Lofton wrote:

The symbolism of Madagascar along with Atlas "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders" makes you wonder if there will be similar themes. Not a leap to speculate that the song has something to do with the old band breaking up and/or Slash.

There's Axl's wonderful sense of self-awareness, again.
He'd likely see himself as Atlas, but if you look closely, Slash is the one who shrugged.

The achievers went 'fuck this' over government-imposed regulations (Axl turning Slash and Duff into employees).
The analogy goes on without casting a too favorable light on Axl's effort.

Also, the title is a hard sell nowadays. As said, the book takes the side of the 1%.
Of course, Axl may have taken all this into consideration and we only need to hear the song to get his side of the story.

polluxlm
 Rep: 210 

Re: "To shrug."

polluxlm wrote:

Axl, the only musician left who always leaves me wanting more. Wouldn't even consider spending time theorizing about unreleased songs with any other band.

That's the greatest tragedy in all of this. The wasted talent. Axl spent the better part of his career releasing nothing. Maybe at one point that will change since we know there is a bit of material, but currently this is where we stand.

In many ways it is a sign of the society we live in. There is simply no room for the daring in today's pop culture. Either you become a praised copy artist by towing the company line and adhering to old formulas and politically correct narratives, or you try to actually create and suffer the wrath of the world for daring to be so bold. Axl was derided when he finally released CD, because it wasn't perfect. The fact that it is still better than 99% of what passes for music these days is inconsequential. I suppose people are more than happy to eat up the latest Taylor Swift or some 80s band releasing another 80s record than to appreciate one of the greats taking a risk.

Pink Floyd would never get off the ground in this climate.

otto
 Rep: 81 

Re: "To shrug."

otto wrote:
apex-twin wrote:

There's Axl's wonderful sense of self-awareness, again.
He'd likely see himself as Atlas, but if you look closely, Slash is the one who shrugged.

That already happened with the album title, in my opinion. "Chinese Democracy" always felt like a declaration of "it's a band, it's supposed to be a democracy but I am the one calling all the shots"

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