Inside the debauched life of Axl Rose 

“DVD Collector's Box”
Guns N’ Roses
MVD Entertainment Group

What is it about Guns N’ Roses that keeps people coming back?

After all, the band’s legendary debut, “Appetite For Destruction,” was released 20 years ago. Since then, they’ve only managed two good, but wildly uneven studio albums, a covers collection and an EP.

Now featuring the notoriously reclusive Axl Rose as the only original member left, the long-awaited “Chinese Democracy” CD — over a decade in the making — has been rumored for release just as long (the latest date making the rounds is March 6, 2007).

Two documentaries — one based on the band, the other on Rose — attempt to unravel this outfit's tangled web of debauchery and notoriety. Neither film was authorized by any G N' R members or their record labels. Therefore, there are no interviews with them on the DVDs.

Instead, you get insight from various L.A. scenesters and band hangers-on — music journalists, members from previous bands and former managers who were around when the group re-introduced gritty rock ’n’ roll to the masses during the height of the glam craze.

It’s disappointing not to hear about pivotal events in G N' R's history straight from the horses’ mouths, but it is interesting to get a perspective on the unbridled L.A. music scene of the ’80s from those who were there. Plus, there’s plenty of concert footage and still shots of the main cast to keep your eyes on the screen.

No self-respecting Hoosier goes through life not knowing that rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and Rose grew up in Lafayette. In both documentaries, the town is portrayed as a “conservative, down-home” kind of place that both men couldn’t wait to escape. In fact, when the interviewees get to the subject of the song “One in a Million,” that seemed to denigrate every social and racial group under the sun. One says Rose was merely singing about his upbringing in the Midwest. You know, a place where racism and prejudice are endemic. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

One panelist pins Guns N' Roses’ 1988 Donnington festival performance, when two fans were crushed to death during their set, as the event that soured the band's relationship with the press, but earlier stories suggest Rose’s megalomania started long before then.

Once band members started leaving and Rose surrounded himself with an entourage and slipped into seclusion, the story becomes more speculative. On the Rose documentary, those interviewed try to surmise why he would, among other things, schedule a concert and not show up for it, touching off riots. One guy summed it up best when he said you’d “probably have to be a shrink and have him on the couch for 20 years to know what he's thinking.”

That’s probably why, after years of no new music, cancelled tours and general unpredictability, we keep coming back to Guns N' Roses.

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