The summer of 1991 was a weird time for me.
I was in between girlfriends, bands and had finally gotten my life together to the point where I was just a semester away from graduating from college. In addition, I’d unexpectedly started living alone in the Tower District again.
So everything was pretty much in the air at that time.
But there was one thing I knew for sure, so sure that I wrote these exact words in my journal: “Prediction: the next Guns N’ Roses album is going to be very important to me.”
And while I’m sure that sentiment was at least partially due to whatever advance press the Illusion twins were getting, I’m guessing that it had way more to do with this song, the video of which was exploding all over the MTV that summer.
Said video, BTW, is yet another tentpole in my ongoing theory that Slash is a Time Lord. Why else would the Terminator travel back in time and target Guns N’ Roses but to make sure their time traveller doesn’t get in the way of his mission?
Meanwhile, musically, the song is the most perfect expression ever recorded of the Guns N’ Roses hybridization of Aerosmith & The Sex Pistols. “You Could Be Mine” is filled with big rumbling drum builds, feedbacky guitars and of course Axl’s sneer, which is at its sneeringest on the chorus.
You could be mi-innne
But you’re way outta li-iiine
With your bitch-slap rappin’ and cocaine tongue
You get nothin’ done
I said you could be mine
And the end, with Axl playing call-and-response with Izzy & Duff while Slash piles on the guitars and Matt Sorum pounds away, is utterly thrilling, getting harder and hotter until Axl ends the whole thing with a long scream of “miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiineee, yeah!”
I mean, I wanted a whole album of this stuff! Stat. Though in retrospect that would have been fucking exhausting.
Looking at it a quarter-century later, what we ended up getting was weirder, wilder and far more complex. If at the time, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II seemed like the bloated results of too much ego, too much money and too much drugs, then I think time has been incredibly kind to these records.
What seemed like ego in 1991 seems like generosity in 2016. Like they knew that they were going to explode like a supernova and that explosion was going to swallow everything whole, so might as well get these songs out there before that happens.
Like Sandinista! Or Warehouse: Songs & Stories, other examples where a band that instinctively knew it was nearing its last legs said “fuck it, here’s everything we got.”
Of course, I’m just glad I got to witness the supernova from a safe enough distance.
“You Could Be Mine”
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