60 Quotes for 60 Years

One word that might describe Axl Rose is “controversial.” Since finding fame with Guns N’ Roses in the mid-’80s, the frontman has been an icon of excess, drama and personal anguish, much of which was played out in public.

As Rose turns 60 on Feb. 6, 2022, UCR looks back at some of the mercurial vocalist’s career milestones. There are many, from Guns’ record-breaking debut album Appetite for Destruction, to their giant tours of the early ’90s, to the visceral (and often warranted) reactions to his lyrics.

Then, of course, there’s the band’s difficult second chapter, as the classic lineup collapsed and Rose became the only original member in the 21st century. The fury of his fallout with guitarist Slash, combined with the agonizing delay over Chinese Democracy, made Rose a figurehead of eccentricity and perfectionism.

But in 2016, Rose shocked the world by doing the previously unthinkable: reuniting with Slash and Duff McKagan and embarking on the hugely successful Not in This Lifetime … Tour, reminding fans what they’d been missing for more than 20 years.

Below are 60 quotes from Rose, pulled from interviews across his 35-year career. These quotes demonstrate Rose’s singular devotion to his art and his steadfast refusal to make that art on anyone else’s terms. Perhaps an even better word to describe him would be “determined.”

1. “I started playing [piano] when I was really little, something my father wanted me to do because he regretted he hadn’t taken piano lessons … Sometimes I’d sit there for a couple hours and I’d just make up things.” – 1991

2. “I hit L.A. with a backpack, a piece of steel in one hand, and a can of mace in the other, and guys were trying to sell me joints everywhere.” – 1988

3. On hitching to Hollywood: “When I wore the codpiece I got the ride a little quicker!” – 2001

4. “I worked at Tower Video for a while. I became a manager for a very short amount of time… I let everybody have beers after work.” – 2001

5. “We all went through various bands back and forth, and we kept ending up around each other because we all like and play what we wanna… we all have the same goals and there’s a lot of people who aren’t necessarily goal-oriented. They just want to be stars.” – 1987

6. “We [Izzy Stradlin and I] grew up in Indiana and we got a lot of shit. I got thrown in jail over 20 times, and five of those times I was guilty. Of what? Public consumption. I was drinking at a party underage. The other times I got busted because the cops hated me. So I don’t have much love for that fucking place!” – 1987

7. “When I first got to L.A. Motley Crue was just getting signed, and there was W.A.S.P., there was Ratt, there was Dokken, Great White – all those bands. And then it kinda died after those bands left, and it was dead for a long time. … We just kept working the whole time until finally we got it down; kinda set up our own program.” – 1987

8. “As soon as we began headlining, we brought in different opening bands like Jetboy, Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns, and it kind of created this scene. … We always tried to help others because I want to see a really cool rock scene. I want to be able to turn on my radio and not be sick about the shit I’m going to hear.” – 1987

Watch Guns N’ Roses Live in 1988

9. “One of the best shows I ever saw was an Aerosmith show, but it wasn’t Aerosmith that was the most exciting part. Rose Tattoo opened the show, and Rose Tattoo was great. … It was about 18,000 people who hated Rose Tattoo. … I watched people; people went psycho: ‘This is the greatest! Love it!’ Next day they were all scared to say it.” – 1987

10. “To me, Mick Jagger is one of the greatest athletes who ever lived, just for how much he puts into it onstage. I went and saw the Stones in Vegas on their last tour and it’s like, how hard they work at it, it’s there. It’s evident.” – 2014

11. “I’ve always looked at things in a versatile sense because of Queen, ELO, Elton John, especially early Elton John, and groups like that. With Queen, I have my favorite: Queen II. Whenever their newest record would come out and have all these other kinds of music on it, at first I’d only like this song or that song. But after a period of time listening to it, it would open my mind up to so many different styles. I really appreciate them for that. That’s something I’ve always wanted to be able to achieve.” – 1989

12. “When I was growing up, I was never really popular. Now everybody wants to be my friend. I like my privacy, to live alone in my own little world. I live in a security building, and all my calls are screened. I don’t even know my own phone number. I’m not paranoid. This is how I choose to live. This is comfortable.” – 1989

13. “I know it’s a love-hate thing. There are people that are big fans and people that really hate me. A majority of what’s in the press is negative. But I think that we’re also gaining more fans, people of all different ages that really like what we’re doing. There’s a really good vibe in the crowd, a warm vibe.” – 1992

14. “I’m real spoiled. I’ve spoiled myself. I’ll get better at dealing with that, though. I mean, it’s still new.” – 1992

15. “It’s not that what [the press] print is so bad. It’s just that when someone puts corny little words in that you didn’t say . . . like Slash saying something about, ‘Well, we’re gonna just shake it up and see what happens.’ Slash would never say that, and it made him feel really dorky.” – 1992

16. On confronting the media: “One of the reasons that I did that was because I remember some of those same mags doing the same things to Zeppelin; and I couldn’t get a decent Zeppelin interview and learn what I needed to do to put a band together right. And when kids, you know, are reading these magazines and they’re getting false stories… it doesn’t really give this person anything to work with.” – 1991

17. On not writing a memoir so far: “I haven’t figured out how to word things in a way that doesn’t just look like being negative to everybody else and calling them a liar!” – 2016

Watch Guns N’ Roses Live in 1992

18. On the St. Louis riot of 1991: “I think that the way the media covered it made me look completely responsible for it. I don’t think I was the last straw. I think that the people who decided to start throwing stuff were the last straw. … We gave them what we were contracted to do, and we gave it good. They wanted more, and they felt that they could just have it, regardless of what happened to us or how we felt about it. … It was announced that we would come back onstage, and they were more into the riot than even the band playing.” – 1992

19. On his social media comments: “In general, my posts in regard to current events, politics or social issues are usually coming from a sense of outrage, obligation and responsibility to say something at times when I feel not to is being complicit – as opposed to a desire for attention or self-promotion.” – 2020

20. “I feel that child abuse and sexual abuse … is kind of the key to why there are so many problems in the world today. The more books I read on it, and the more work I do on trying to overcome the problems that I had in my childhood that I accepted … I knew it was crazy, but I accepted it as normal behavior for my life, and I realize now that it wasn’t normal behavior.” – 1991

21. “I’m not a qualified therapist. I don’t know a lot of shit about this, but I do know that we’re in the ’90s, and I do know that if we’re gonna make it for another 50 years on this planet, we gotta change our shit now.” – 1992

22. On rejecting induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “For the record, I would not begrudge anyone from Guns their accomplishments or recognition for such. Neither I or anyone in my camp has made any requests or demands of the Hall of Fame. It’s their show not mine.” – 2012

Watch Guns N’ Roses Live in 2001

23. On his record label’s contribution to the delays surrounding Chinese Democracy: “Things would be good for a month. Then, according to whoever was involved at the time from their side, someone above Jimmy [Iovine] would start putting pressure regarding us on him, Jimmy would start pressuring others at his label [and they] would begin doing the same with us. … After a month of this the whole thing would get ugly and extensively interfere with getting anything productive done, and near the middle of the third month we’d arrange for Jimmy to come down again. They’d go away happy and the entire process would repeat itself over and over and over.” – 2009

24. On an early version of Chinese Democracy being leaked ahead of its release: “Having someone jeopardize your efforts so cavalierly is pretty much a nightmare. I don’t know that it hurt us though, at least as one might think. Hard to say.” – 2009

23. “I’m a person that has a lot of different relationships.… Just ’cause you’re not totally in love with a person doesn’t mean you don’t like them. You can think they’re attractive, and you want to touch them, have a great time with them. Maybe at that moment you are in love. I think love and lust go hand in hand, like good and evil.” – 1989

24. “I’m not, and have never been, a junkie. … That doesn’t mean that at some point I won’t get really sick of life and choose to OD. Then people will go, ‘He was always a junkie.’ That’s not the case… Right now, for me, a line of coke is too far. A line of coke puts my voice out of commission for a week. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I did lots of stuff before. Maybe it’s guilt and it’s relocated in my throat. … And if somebody goes, ‘Oh, man, he’s not a partier anymore,’ hey, fuck you! Do you want a record or not?” – 1989

25. On being accused of being bigoted for his “One in a Million” lyrics: ‘It can bother me. But the racist thing is just bullshit. I used a word that was taboo. And I used that word because it was taboo. … When I used the word ‘faggots,’ I wasn’t coming down on gays. I was coming down on an element of gays.… I guess I made a judgment call, and it was an insult.” – 1992

26. “I pretty much follow my own internal clock. … That hour-and-a-half or two-hour time period that I’m late going onstage is living hell, because I’m wishing there was any way on earth I could get out of where I am and knowing I’m not going to be able to make it. … It’s confusing to me that people go, ‘Well, I have to work in the morning.’ If you were getting laid, you wouldn’t be so worried about what time it was. I know it’s complicated, but so is getting onstage. And I’m sorry.” – 1992

27. “I consider myself a time broker! And everything I do is, like, another way to buy time. And with that time, you can get back in touch with yourself and figure out what you’re doing. And it’s like, with all the interviews, and reacting to interviews, or doing anything like that… you’ve gotta space it, so that you can get back in touch with yourself.” – 1991

Watch Guns N’ Roses Live in 2006

28. On Appetite for Destruction sales: “I thought about trying to sell more records than Boston’s first album. I always thought that and never let up. Everything was directed at trying to achieve the sales without sacrificing the credibility of our music. We worked real hard to sell this many records. … Maybe Appetite will be the only good album we make, but it wasn’t just a fluke.” – 1989

29. “Everybody wants another record immediately. They all say, ‘Let’s milk this sucker.’ … I read where Bon Jovi was saying nobody’s outdone their biggie, Slippery When Wet. He knew it was their biggie, and he didn’t know if New Jersey would be as big. Of course, you’re gonna want to outdo it. What I want to do is just grow as an artist and feel proud of these new songs” – 1989

30. On The Spaghetti Incident? covers album: “We wanted to call it Pension Fund because we were helping these guys pay some rent!” – 1994

31. On “My Michelle”: “When I’d written it all nice I thought, ‘That’s not how it really is.’ So I wrote the real story down, kind of as a joke. … She and her dad ended up loving it. It’s a true story, and thats what works, I think.” – 1987

32. “I sing in, like, five or six different voices, so not one song is quite like another, even if they’re all hard rock. … I’m from Indiana, where Lynyrd Skynyrd were considered God to the point that you ended up saying, ‘I hate this fucking band!’ And yet, for our song ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ I went out and got some old Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes to make sure that we’d got that downhome, heartfelt feeling.” – 1987

33. “The most important songs at this point are the ones with piano, the ballads, because we haven’t really explored that side of the band yet. … The beautiful music is what really makes me feel like an artist. The other, heavier stuff also makes me feel like an artist and can be difficult to write. But it’s harder to write about serious emotions.” – 1989

34. “Well, there’s a song called ‘November Rain’ and another one called ‘Breakdown.’ There’s also a song tentatively titled ‘Without You.’ Last night, I wrote a whole new intro to that. It just appeared out of nowhere, like the verses – just little pieces that have come whole. … They’ll just show up. I keep them on file in my brain and then add them together.” – 1989

35. On the acoustic songs on G N’ R Lies: “We’re not getting away from hard rock, but we don’t want to be limited or contained in any group. Our basic root is hard rock, a bit heavier than the Stones, more in a vein like Aerosmith… We love loud guitars. … At the same time, I have my favorite symphony pieces, orchestra pieces if you will.” – 1989

36. “Right now I don’t want to have a child, because I can’t give it enough time. But I’d want him to talk about what he listened to with me, and have him show me new things, and me show him new things. He could play me the Screaming Banshees From Hell, and I could play him Jimi Hendrix or something. We could talk about the music.” – 1989

37. On releasing Use Your Illusion as two separate records: “So that the people could afford it. You know, they can buy one or buy the other; or they can buy one and a friend can buy the other and they can tape it.” – 1991

38. On “Don’t Cry”: “That was the first GN’R song. I mean, there’s ‘Back off Bitch’ that was written, like, in ’82, but the first GN’R song that we wrote for the band was ‘Don’t Cry.’ We saved it… cuz we didn’t know if we were gonna sell five records or a million records of the first one… we wanted to make sure we had a good song ready for the second!” – 1991

39. On “Live and Let Die”: “A critic in L.A. was bagging on all the James Bond songs, and how they were all great, but ‘Live and Let Die’ was a terrible song. And so we kinda decided that maybe he needed to hear that for another five years!” – 1991

40. On creating Chinese Democracy: “I am building something slowly, and it doesn’t seem to be so much out there as in here, in the studio and in my home. … If you are working with issues that depressed the crap out of you, how do you know you can express it? At the time, you are just like, ‘Life sucks.’ Then you come down and you express ‘Life sucks,’ but in this really beautiful way.” – 2000

41. On Chinese Democracy’s release: “It’s the right record and I couldn’t ask for more. Could have been a more enjoyable journey, but it’s there now. The art comes first.” – 2009

42. On those who prefer Guns’ early sound: “Yeah, well, there are people who like a girl that had the same haircut she had 10 years ago, too. I understand that. I understand that a lot. But it’s like, we’re evolving, and it’s us. … Maybe it would’ve been best for the purists if we’d died or broken up. Then they’d get to keep it the way they liked it.” – 1992

Watch Guns N’ Roses Live in 2012

43. “The poverty is what kept us together. That was how we became Guns N’ Roses. Once that changed, Guns N’ Roses was like the old Stones or whatever. Not necessarily the friendliest bunch of guys.” – 2000

44. “It is the old story that you are told when you’re a kid: ‘Don’t buy a car with your friends.’ Nobody could get the wheel. Everybody had the wheel. And when you have a bunch of guys, I’m telling you, you are driving the car off the cliff.” – 2000

45. “It is something I lived by before these guys were in it. And there were other people in Guns N’ Roses before them, you know. I contemplated letting go of that, but it doesn’t feel right in any way.” – 2000

46. On Slash: “One of the two of us will die before a reunion.” – 2009

47. “Izzy went back to Indiana. That pretty much explains the absurdity of the whole goddamn thing. …I am not even bagging on Indiana, I just know how much Izzy hated it. I went to high school with this guy. It’s pitiful. It was the fame and the heroin addiction and the fear of death. Before that he was pulling away, but that was the end.” – 2000

48. “I never said that I was bitter. Hurt, yeah. Disappointed. I mean, with Slash, I remember crying about all kinds of things in my life, but I had never felt hot, burning tears … hot, burning tears of anger. Basically, to me, it was because I am watching this guy and I don’t understand it. … I don’t get it. I wanted the world to love and respect him. I just watched him throw it away.” – 2000

49. “There are people that I thought I was friends with who are all of a sudden in the magazines, going, ‘They’ll never get anywhere without Slash.’ Thanks a lot. Like, I made this happen, you know. I basically figured out a way to save my own ass. There was only one way out, and I found it.” – 2000

50. On reconnecting with Duff McKagan in 2014: “It’s pretty funny because we’d go to talk about certain things from Illusions, and there’s things he doesn’t remember, there’s things I don’t remember. We kind of finish some of each other’s memories sometimes. … And he got along with the guys really well. He and some of the band and crew were doing their yoga together during the days we were out there, so…” – 2014

51. On the reunion with Slash: “It had a lot to do with Paul Tollett of Coachella. He started talking about it, it seemed real, so at that point, I just told my people that they could go ahead and start talking to people, and see what’s going on. As it became more real, I texted [my manager] Fernando and asked for Slash’s number. Then Fernando texts his mom and is like: ‘If this is a joke, I’m going to kill you.'” – 2016

52. On Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler’s absence from the reunion: “Steven did join us. At the same time, I have no idea. When this started, Steven had just had back surgery. So I don’t have any idea about that. With Izzy, it’s something I cant really describe. I don’t really know what to say about Izzy. You could have a conversation and think it’s one way, then the next day, it’s another way. So I’m not trying to take any shots at Izzy, but his thing is his thing. Whatever that is.” – 2016

52. “We like to give people more than they feel they paid for. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair for people to expect that from us, but there’s something where we feel good when we did it.” – 2014

53. “I don’t even know that I like what I do, I just look down at my feet and go, ‘What am I doing now?’ But I feel if I stand there, people will think, ‘Oh, this is boring.’ So I gotta do something.” – 1987

54. “I don’t know if ‘fired up’ is the right phrase for this, but for me right now I really enjoy singing ‘Wichita Lineman.’ It has such a haunting vibe… and our version feels a lot like old Guns acoustically to me.” – 2018

55. On Guns’ 2012 Las Vegas residency: “I’ve been married in Vegas before. This could be my demise!” – 2012

56. On his early-era performances: “I was expressing my emotions and took that as far as you can and still be alive. I could beat my mic stand into the stage but I was still in pain. Maybe fans liked it, but sometimes people forget you’re a person and they’re more into the entertainment value.” – 2012

Watch Guns N’ Roses Live in 2017

57. “Well, I think Guns N’ Roses achieved a lot … the amount of sales. The amount of people that were into it. Things like that. But I think that as much as we tried to be on top of the business, we were very naive businesswise. I think there were things we could have done better, and I feel the labels and the attorneys and the A&R men all knew that. But they wanted the band to be set up in a way where they could attempt to manipulate it. And that didn’t really work out for anybody. Including them.” – 2014

58. On helping AC/DC complete their Rock Or Bust world tour: “I paid them a lot of money! … I’m hoping to make it through the first show before I get fired!” – 2016

59. “We’ve toured the world a few times over, but there are always places where we still haven’t performed. We played Iceland for the first time this year and we’re playing Hawaii for the first time this December – there are always places left to go.” – 2018

60. “Hopefully there’ll be at least a few more years. and then we can judge everything a little better … if I’m lucky!” – 2014

Guns N’ Roses Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide (We Think)

Few bands have impacted rock ‘n’ roll the way they have, and even fewer have weathered as many changes. 

Source: Ultimate Classic Rock

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