Axl Rose: egomaniac, kickass vocalist, object of my pre-teen affection. Guns n’ Roses were the be-all-and-end-all in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and Axl and Slash were second only to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart as far as vocalist/guitarist duos went in my mind. I remember seeing the video for “Don’t Cry” for the first time and marveling at Axl’s perfect face, his shaking hands, his writhing body. Also, the clothes. ’90s fashion perfection. I had seen other G n’ R videos before, but watching this grand interpretation of Axl’s life being played out by the man himself–fucked-up Axl, withdrawal Axl, cool-as-fuck blazer-clad Axl, underground Hulk Axl–felt different. I loved the poetry and the storytelling, even if it was some narcissist’s big, vulgar ego stroke. (Which…I think we can give give the “Biggest Ego Stroke” award to “November Rain”.) And Slash–can we talk about that guitar god? The hair! The top hat! The snarl! I was totally in love with that sliver of face and wild mass of curls. And the way he played guitar was beyond music. It was an awakening.
I loved the rooftop band performance scenes in that video, where Axl wails under the accusatory glare of helicopter lights, sharing the spotlight with another singer. This man also had long hair and wore a plaid shirt, and he was so gorgeous that whenever he appeared I kind of forgot about Axl altogether. Axl was in the whole video, but you had to work to appreciate this other dude. Years later, I would discover thanks to VH1’s Behind the Music that the backup singer in that video that outshined Axl was none other than Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.
When I found that out, it all clicked. Of course. The man who wrote “No Rain”, the saddest song with the happiest melody. The man dancing in a field, his long, wavy hair draped over his shoulders; the man singing to delicate yellow flowers. The man who introduced this lonely, sad, weird kid to the Bee Girl. For the first time ever, I saw someone on television who looked like me and wasn’t just there to be a sidekick or a punchline. She was her own person, and it was her weirdness, her tap dancing, her longing, that made the story. And she finds her bee people! A whole fucking field of bee people! Hope, the thing in my chest that bloomed like a sunflower, big and bright and bold.
I had been planning on writing about these two videos together since we started this challenge, and it’s been my goal to write about it all day. Lo and behold, Facebook memories reminded me that exactly five years ago today, this is what I had to say about “No Rain”, which I shared on my page: “This may be my favorite song of all time. Seriously. The video only makes it better. I identified with that Bee Girl so intensely. Still do. Must be where my love of tutus comes from.”
It’s a song I return to whenever I’m feeling alone and weird and sad, and I find it perfectly odd that five years ago it was the song on my mind. Our brains are funny things, aren’t they?
Tell your stories. Be exactly who you are. You’ll find your people eventually.