Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guns N’ Roses, Kurt Cobain, and Pearl Jam 20 Year Later

This Friday will mark twenty years since January 17, 1994, a grim anniversary for Gen X rock fans.  For it was twenty years ago this week that the main phase of Guns N’ Roses’ career effectively came to an end, with the release of “Estranged,” their final non-cover-song single. 

If you don’t mark the occasion by taking a short ten minutes out of your life to rewatch the epic video for the song, not only are you likely a bad person, but you’ll be missing the politically-relevant SWAT raid in the video’s open, symbolic references to Axl’s divorce, his unsubtle attempt in the video to commit suicide by leaping off a real oil tanker, his rescue by dolphins, and of course Slash rising from the sea playing an electric guitar.  If you don’t love this video, in some sense I hate you. 

(On the other hand, given that all the band members are millionaires, you’d think they could have hired someone to avoid the typos in those fake dictionary entries that appear at the bottom of the screen explaining what “Estranged” means.)

My college cabal (mostly comedy-writing libertarians, if you can imagine such a thing) loved G N’ R, and like the rest of the world, we would have to wait fourteen long years after “Estranged” to hear truly new Guns N’ Roses songs, in the form of the so-so Chinese Democracy album that Axl spent a decade mixing and remixing to no great avail.  And without Slash.  Needless to say, without Slash, it ain’t really Guns, man.  Remember that video where he rose out of the ocean playing his guitar?  Dude, that was awesome.  Well, if we instead count “Estranged” as their real finale (Spaghetti Incident and the like notwithstanding), we can almost say they ended on a high note.

Oh, and I suppose if it’s been twenty years since “Estranged,” April will mark twenty years since our youth ended with news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and November marks twenty years since the Republicans took over Congress and launched the recent epoch of pretending to reduce the size of government.  But mainly: “Estranged.”

Lest I sound like I’m slighting grunge, though, know that I watched a lengthy VH1 documentary about Pearl Jam recently, and it convinced me that Eddie Vedder is as nice, shy, and likely insane as Cobain was, climbing fifty-foot scaffolds without a net back in the day and performing the world’s most dangerous stage dives into the arms of complete strangers in flannel.  We’re lucky we didn’t lose both men, really. 

Watching the documentary during a visit home to Connecticut, I learned my Dad somehow hadn’t heard of Pearl Jam -- but then the same conversation taught us I’d never heard of the song “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.  And as if these feats of Boomer and Gen X ignorance weren’t shocking enough, I met a millennial bartender at DuMont Burger in Williamsburg once who never heard of, as she put it, “Eddie Vee-der?”

Probably best I stay out of that youth-infested ’hood for a while -- but I enjoyed last night’s Empiricist League science lectures in Williamsburg, will replace the debates I hosted at Muchmore’s with something else cool somewhere soon enough, and encourage you to gawk at all the hipsters over there once in a while in the meantime.

You know, I once overheard two of them, no doubt in their twenties, trying to deduce in their youthful info-fog whether Joe Jackson was the father of Michael Jackson.  How soon the culture forgets.  

No comments: