A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 285: Chinese Democracy
GETTING MORE TALE #798: Chinese Democracy
I met Thussy back in 2007. He joined the team at work and we became friends immediately. We liked the same stuff. Trailer Park Boys, Guns N’ Roses, comedy. He is responsible for getting me into Super Troopers, which admittedly took a couple tries. We were also both getting married around the same time, so we had similar complaints and gripes to talk about. Drama with bridesmaids and seating plans, egads.
Thuss is a gamer, and we enjoyed chatting games. Axl Rose did a voice (a radio DJ) in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. You could switch between stations, and if you chose the rock station you got Axl. It was one of the few things Axl did that was released during that long dry spell between albums. Of course, this led to ample discussions of Chinese Democracy.
“It’s never coming out,” Chris insisted. I hated to say he was right, but it sure seemed that way. He refused to back down on his position. We’d been fucked with by this band for so long. Guns had missed several release dates, so many that it had become a joke. Axl chewed up managers and spat them out like stale bubblegum. Then the Dr. Pepper soda company offered to buy a Dr. Pepper for everyone in America if Axl managed to make his 2008 release date. Axl seemed good-naturedly amused by the idea, offering to share his Dr. Pepper with Buckethead when the album comes out. (This because Dr. Pepper said the only Americans exempt from this offer were former Guns members Buckethead and Slash!)
On October 22 2008, I was working at my desk, listening to the radio when the DJ, Carlos Benevides, announced that they would shortly be playing a brand new single by Guns N’ Roses. It was the title track, a song both Thuss and I were already familiar with. He had a disc of rough mixes for many of the tracks, and I had the Rock In Rio bootleg CD set. We already knew half the new songs, and “Chinese Democracy” was a track I thought smoked. I called Thuss and he listened in as it played.
It sounded like shit on our little mono telephone speakers, but we were listening to brand new Guns! The overall listener reaction was mixed to negative, but I already loved it. “The album’s never coming out,” said Thuss.
“It has to, now. There’s a single out. It’s definitely coming.”
“No.” Thuss was insistent. “It’s never coming out.”
“But Dr. Pepper…” I began before being cut off.
“No. Not coming out. Never.”
The funny thing was, “Chinese Democracy” wasn’t actually the first song released from the album. A month earlier, “Shackler’s Revenge” became the first new Guns song in nine years, when it was released as part of the Rock Band 2 video game, which neither of us had.
A new release date of November 23 was announced. “Nope,” said Thuss. “Nothing is coming out on November 23.” It was, strangely, a Sunday. Generally, nothing came out on Sundays. It was absolutely an odd move that did throw the whole release into question for some.
I asked ye olde Record Store to hold a copy for me. “Do you want vinyl?” he asked. “No, just CD.” It was something I’d regret, when he sold out of the vinyl a week later. I emailed to ask if he had any left. “Do you remember me asking you if you wanted vinyl?” he scolded. “Yeah,” I sulked.
When I walked into the store on November 23 and was handed my precious copy of Chinese Democracy, it was so anticlimactic. There it is. It’s in your hands, the culmination of a decade and a half’s work. You’ve been waiting all this time for this album, and there it sits. An album that had “release dates” going back to 1995 and every single year since. Then, you witness Guns return to the live stage from their cocoon, different but recognizable. You watch them struggle to establish a lineup, and you hear rumour after rumour about song titles and release dates. Then you’re holding a CD in your hands, a pitiful little plastic case with a little paper cover inside. You hand the guy your debit card, he rings it in. Transaction approved, you are handed your receipt. Chinese Democracy goes into a little plastic bag. Even though it’s probably the most expensive and longest gestating album of all time, your little plastic bag weighs the same as if you bought Sex Pistols.
At least I’d be able to show it to Thuss. Monday the 24th rolled around.
“It came out. I have it,” I told him as I strolled into his office.
“No it didn’t. It never came out. It’s never coming out.” He was sticking to his story come hell or high water!
“Yes it did! It’s in my car right now! I’ll show it to you.”
“You have nothing,” he responded, refusing to come and look.
In the years since, Thuss has stubbornly stuck to his guns and his believe that Chinese Democracy has never come out. “I have the unreleased mixes,” he says. “That’s all there is.”
I emailed him to tell him I was writing this story, our tale of the time Chinese Democracy was released.
“So you are going to take a crack at some fictional writing…nice.”
I will never win this one!
So now I have two stories both titled “Chinese Democracy”. I say, why not? Peter Gabriel has three self-titled albums.