Part 285: Chinese Democracy

By request of reader Johnny Sixx: A review of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy so long that I split it into two parts. Part Two comes tomorrow. Read on!

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 285: Chinese Democracy

The story goes like this:

In late 1994/early 1995, T-Rev and I would update the store’s “new releases board” every few weeks. This board advertised what new releases were coming in the weeks and months ahead. When I was given my own store, T-Rev took over the original as manager, and continued on diligently with the new releases board.

Of course, one of the most anticipated releases even back in 1994 and 1995 was the “new” Guns N’ Roses. We’d sat through solo albums from Izzy, Duff, Gilby and finally Slash himself. While Izzy and Gilby came close to the mark, none of these were a substitute for a real Guns N’ Roses album. The only official new Guns N’ Roses CD that we had for sale was the CD single for “Sympathy For the Devil”. Little did we know back then that “Sympathy” was like the straw that broke the Guns’ backs! (Axl had secretly brought in Paul Huge as Gilby Clarke’s replacement, and had him overdub “answer” solos to go with Slash’s. Slash was furious, especially since Axl fired Gilby without telling anyone.)

The rumours were always buzzing, so T-Rev would periodically call me. “Mikey! Do you know any more new releases I can add to the board?” I was always checking out M.E.A.T Magazine, and inside a recent issue (March/April 1994), Slash himself said he was mixing the new album himself, and that it would be out by summer.  He actually went into quite a bit of detail regarding the new Guns N’ Roses album in this article.  He offered no song titles, but it’s easy to tell from his descriptions that many of the songs ended up on his and Gilby’s solo albums.  He downplays Axl Rose’s contribution to the project considerably.

An excerpt:

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Flush with cryptic updates such as these, I would always be able to help T-Rev keep the new release board up to date.

“Yeah man, I got a Guns N’ Roses update for you,” I would tell him on the phone.  “The new album’s coming out next quarter.”  After M.E.A.T Magazine went bust in 1995, I would have kept up with the latest Hit Parader or RIP Magazine.   The release dates kept getting pushed back.

Every month, T-Rev would dutifully change the board. Guns N’ Roses – spring 1995. Then the next month, he’d call me again. “Anything new?” And I’d let him know whatever I’d read. “The album’s scheduled for summer. This is according to Metal Edge,” or whatever.

And the board changed again. Fall 1995. Christmas 1995. Spring 1996. It became a running gag. Even if there was no GN’R news, T-Rev kept that album on the board dutifully. He’d just bump it ahead a couple months. He kept doing that until the store moved and changed formats at the end of ’96.  Even if no customers got the joke, the two of us thought it was freakin’ hilarious.  Trevor always predicted it would never come out.

I don’t think we would have laughed if we knew how long it would really be before Chinese Democracy was finally released to the public!  We waited through lineup change after lineup change, and the release of the new track “Oh My God” in 1999.  It would be almost a decade more before the final release.  Would it be worth the wait?  Find out tomorrow.

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26 comments

  1. The whole Chinese Democracy was a surprise one for me. I had zero interest in it or what Guns N’ Roses were up to. I paid no attention to any of the bootlegs or leaked tracks. But then when it was finally released, I bought it out of curiosity and absolutely loved it! I suppose it might have been more exciting for me not having heard the leaked versions of the songs in advance. I remember Classic Rock Mag made Chinese Democracy the “album of the year” a couple of years before it had even been released!?

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    1. I’m glad you liked it! I followed the rumours religiously. Some of them were pretty ugly rumours. Shaquille O’Neal recorded a rap for Chinese Democracy, for example. That was true.

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      1. I did hear a lot of the stories, it was practically unavoidable! But I just thought it was going to be crap and left it at that. Ended up buying it when it came out just to see what the fuss was all about. I got the vinyl a while back too. I think it works better on the vinyl for some reason. The songs group together on each side really well.

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    2. I remember that too. What a joke. Classic Rock is a well respected mag, but that one was really embarassing…

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    3. I love this album. I only got into the band in about 2004 though, so my wait was OK. If I had to wait since ‘Illusions I’d be miffed. It would be like if Tool took an extra 8 years from now and then released a really good Death Metal album… it would be like “what the heck?”

      Interesting about the stuff going on the solo albums.

      I hope they release the other 2cds of their supposed 3cds worth of finished material. I’d be all over that to be honest.

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  2. A friend of mine called his Masters Thesis his ‘Chinese Democracy’ – it kept getting pushed back to the point where it looked like it would never come out. I’ve since borrrowed the phrase whenever I take far too long to complete something!

    Looking forward to the review – hopefully “tomorrow” will actually be tomorrow and not another ‘Chinese Democracy’ tomorrow!

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  3. Worth the wait? Ok, here’s a spoiler. No, it wasn’t. Not even close. It’s an Axl Rose solo album and there isn’t anything on that album that sounds like G N’R. Apaprt from the fact that most of the song plainly sucks. The chainsaw is already out. :-)

    Another cool anecdote is that Warrior Soul released an album called Chinese Democrocy a couple of years prior to Axl’s release. Just because he knew it would piss Axl off as that title had been around for ages and everybody knew it was to be the title of Axl’s next record. “So what? Axl doesn’t own that title”, was Kory Clarke’s respond when being asked about it. Anyway, Kory rereleased that album twice after that, both times with new titles. I think that’s hilarious.

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    1. Offspring were going to call their album “Chinese Democrazy (You Snooze You Lose)”. But then their album got delayed so many times, they thought the title was cursed and changed it!

      I won’t say anything about Chi-Dem today, you’ll have to wait for tomorrow, but get the chainsaw oiled.

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      1. Yeah, well, The Offspring sucks so they don’t count… :-D
        Now that you mention it, I think I heard about them using the title as well.

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    1. Thank you Patrick! That was a good read. Frankly there are lots of good reads about various parts of the making of this album.

      My favourite story was the label rep who sent Axl a box of CDs to see if he liked any of the producers. Axl ran the box over with his car and crushed them all :)

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  4. This was leaked online a few days before it’s actual street date and I held out and went and bought it and played it and what came to my mind was it was good but with Axl this was a solo album I mean that’s what happens when u put home studios in your house you tweak tweak and tweak…..for he kinda tweaked and layered so much on it but man there are some scorchers on there….

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  5. I’m a little curious of if Axl made even a dime off this album. I mean, he paid for the making of it with his own money the last few years. Couldn’t have been cheap. I heard that the album didn’t sell that well either.

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    1. e-tainment news reviews :
      I’m a little curious of if Axl made even a dime off this album. I mean, he paid for the making of it with his own money the last few years. Couldn’t have been cheap. I heard that the album didn’t sell that well either.

      Good question. I mean it did cost at least around £13m, but then it is worldwide multiplatinum (it sold badly for GnR, but I’m sure most bands would be ecstatic at those sales). I’d guess he probably broke even on the record, but stuff like promotion and lawsuits…probably made a loss at that level. But that’s just my clueless wikipedia based opinion.

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      1. Yeah, I imagine he would be more likely to make money off of it if he released multiple albums. Well…y’know before fans stopped buying music.

        He probably won’t even be able to make the same sort of Best Buy deal this time around. Maybe leasing music to videogames and movies is the way forward.

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        1. The album would probably have been better as well, if he had released it in the late 90’s or something.
          I also heard he was suing his record company for sabotaging the promotion of the album. That’s his explanation to why it didn’t sell. Like it couldn’t have been that his fans was fed up with waiting on him and had moved on to other bands? Or that the album didn’t held up to G N’R standard? That’s Axl’s reality. Why in the world would a record company sabotage the album? Like they didn’t want to make any money out of it??? The guy’s insane…

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        2. Ringtones too, possibly. But I don’t get why anybody would pay money for a ringtone that I can make for free using free software such as Audacity. In fact my current ringtone is one I made myself…it’s the local radio DJ saying, “LEBRAIN!” and then it’s the riff from “Loner” by Black Sabbath.

          Axl may in fact make the majority of his money from touring and selling merch. They have been on the road on and off for years now.

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