Axl Rose is certainly no shrinking violet. The Guns ‘N’ Roses frontman is about as prickly as a cactus and as calm as creche at Kool-Aid time. As a result, his legacy as a tearaway is about as solidified as his musical one, if not more so.
Sometimes this highwire rock ‘n’ roll attitude can certainly land the bandana sporting frontman in hot water even by hair-rock standards. Aside from ill-advised comments like saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get an Uzi,” he has also entered a few physical scrapes too.
He is said to have reportedly attacked the fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger with a fearsome push, called out Kurt Cobain to fight him at the MTV VMAs, and he even came to blows with the late, great David Bowie. Seemingly he set about attacking a fan in the video below too. In short, Rose is an antagonist fitting of his condemned reputation.
Rose seemingly has mellowed from this manic affrontery in recent years having commented: “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. It’s taken a long time to turn that around and give a strong show without it being a kamikaze show.”
This shows the two sides to Rose’s nature. The drama of his iconoclasm was borne from a scene whereby a bit of punk snarling was expected by fans. Sometimes it got in the way of integrity and sometimes it was nettlesome, but would Guns ‘N’ Roses by Guns ‘N’ Roses without it? One fan would certainly say that could have done without it.
During their classic track ‘Rocket Queen’ from their 1987 debut studio record Appetite for Destruction, Rose was fired up with the visceral grotty sound of Slash’s distinctive guitar sound and took issue with a crowd member with a camera. Taking a break from his doggrel screaming he quite calmly, by contrast, repeatedly declares: “Take that! Take that!”
Then the carnage ensues as he finally yells, “I’ll take it God damn it” like a cat who hates getting its picture taken leaping for a mouse with a tiny Kodak. It left the St. Louis crowd stunned, and after Rose delivered a quick hook, he wrapped up what became known as the Riverport Riot by slamming: “Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home.”
This left fans not best pleased, and they joined the poor photographer in voicing their disapproval. In the end, several reportedly stormed the stage and smashed up equipment that Rose claimed to be worth an exorbitant amount. How much of this is fabled is open to interpretation, but the video evidence certainly shows that things weren’t savoury.