Sometime toward the end of the second Dubya Bush term, we at New Times found ourselves on the back patio of a downtown Miami nightclub in full-throttle Friday-night mode.
Inside the club, sweaty bodies writhed and wiggled all over each other like an overturned bucket of earthworms. Rightfully so, as the tunes cranking out of the sound system were bona fide party jams.
We were standing in line to grab some grub from the club's official griller when a friend ran up and pointed to a nearby speaker, which was vibrating to the beat of the four-on-the-floor electro-house pumping from the cabinet. Cupping a hand to my ear, he yelled, "Can you believe it? This is Chinese Democracy!"
Of course, he was joking. The late-night banger inspiring denizens to shake their shit was definitely not Guns N' Roses' long-awaited, practically mythical album, finally released in 2008.
The seeds for what would eventually become that record were planted in 1994, right after the group's phone-it-in covers album, The Spaghetti Incident?, which cashed in on the still-soaring Use Your Illusion album's popularity without having to provide new material.
In the process of imploding — Axl versus Slash, everyone versus drugs, etc. — GNR was doomed to scrap everything several times. But at least those initial sessions spawned the album's name. It wasn't the most productive period of time. However, it was the most progress that would be made on Chinese Democracy in more than a decade.
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The real Guns N' Roses dissolved in 1996 with the departure of classic-era guitarist and spiritual center of the band, Slash. And as the years wound on, the band (Axl plus a revolving cast of scab players) and its new album increasingly mutated into dangerously expensive abstractions.
Chinese Democracy became a contemporary symbol of the unattainable. Deep down, it was what we were all hoping for and working toward. It didn't matter if the record was ever released, because the constant waiting taught us the ancient art of patience. Well, until 2008, when our rock 'n' roll stoicism was met with the harsh reality of the actual Chinese Democracy.
But you know what? Who cares? When Axl and whoever is on the payroll these days take the stage at the American Airlines Arena, they're certain to play a hearty clump of C.D. duds. But you can bet your Ticketmaster service charges they'll be knocking out all the hits — "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Paradise City," "November Rain" — too.
All you need to do is sit back, wait for GNR's cover of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," lean over to the person next to you, and say, "I hear this one's off Chinese Democracy."