The May 2016 Harper’s features a review of some books about the rock band called Guns N‘ Roses. I find this a bit odd, though perhaps reassuring, since I think I am too old for Guns N’ Roses, and yet Harper’s seems pitched at people who are at least as old as I. During the former editorship of Lewis Lapham, the magazine ran cigarette ads; now it runs ads for retirement communities, hearing aids, and mobile phones with large buttons.
Harper’s also runs ads for books from university presses. It’s a real intellectual magazine. But then there was this review of books about Guns N’ Roses. The review is by Karl Taro Greenfeld, who was born the year before I was. Apparently Greenfeld was not born too early to have enjoyed seeing the band in their development. His review is illustrated by a bitchin’ photo from 1985, credited to Marc Canter.
The year before that, I drove out to attend the Santa Fe campus of St John’s College as a sophomore, with two friends from the Annapolis campus. We all met up in Cleveland, at the home of one of us, who had a younger brother whose life revolved around rock & roll. I thus made acquaintance with the latest hair-metal videos on Youtube. I particularly remember
Within the next few years, I must have become aware that there was this band called Guns N’ Roses, featuring performers with the names Axl Rose and Slash. If I ever heard any of their music, I forgot it. Greenfeld’s review suggests that the music was something special. But I look at a Youtube concert video of Electric Company.
Actually I did hear a snatch of
Paradise City in the 1990s; but it was from the version by Pat Boone. His album In a Metal Mood had been featured in the Washington Post, and you could dial a telephone number to hear excerpts. This was true for all music being reviewed in the paper: you could hear it over the telephone, along with advertisements for vinyl siding. Perhaps this method of delivering promotions did not last long.
The Pat Boone video is accompanied with comments left by horrified visitors. Some people are convinced that what they like is the best, and all else is bad. But I myself confess to being horrified by a 1970s video that I was recently exposed to, of Up With People performing in part on the Santa Fe campus of St John’s College.
I am a performer myself. It is my job. I regularly mount a stage in order to draw the attention of people in an audience: mostly young people, as in a rock audience. Everybody today learns to pose for the mobile camera snapshot. I ended up in a nice one of those.
We could almost be in a rock band, except we are smiling too much, and we are not smoking.