"Welcome to the Jungle," by Guns N' Roses, is a kick-ass American rock-and-roll masterpiece
If the opening chords of "Welcome to the Jungle" don't trigger some sort of Pavlovian reaction, one in which you suddenly have the urge to shotgun a beer and do a little shimmy from side to side, then you probably don't know where you are right now. Relax. Don't panic. You're in the jungle, baby.
I think pretty much everyone wore out their cassingle of "Welcome to the Jungle" around 1989 or so because they were so addicted to that sweet, sweet opening riff. The lyrics, though...whatever, amiright? The extent of my interest in whatever Axl Rose was singing went something along the lines of, "Blah, blah, blah, just get to the part where he goes sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-neee!"
Turns out, it's about a jungle or something. This much we know. Maybe. But what else was going on in that teased-out brain of Axl's? Let's examine, shall we? Brace yourself. Something tells us it's gonna bring you -- DOWN! Huh!
This hobo is a guitar god in the jungle.
There are two things you have to know about "Welcome to the Jungle" before you start believing it's some great treatise on Reagan-era politics and, like, the system, man. The first is that Guns N' Roses' manager said that when coming up with the idea for the video, he just stitched together ideas from Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange and The Man Who Fell to Earth.
The first two are pretty obvious, but other than the fact that Axl's makeup on stage is a little Bowie-esque, I'm not sure how the third one applies. Maybe because they're both lonely gingers walking the earth in a state of confusion? Whatever, we'll roll with it. So all that depressing, dystopian imagery in the video is less poignant and more, "Hey, this would be cool."
Lonely gingers, unite!
The second thing you have to know about this song and the accompanying video is that Axl Rose's explanation for how he wrote the lyrics basically boils down to "I went to a small town one time and I felt like they had everything I needed." Jigga-what??! Then how do you explain these lyrics, good sir?
"If you've got the money, honey, we've got your disease."
Axl's Oh! face.
Pro tip: When you're singing a line that's clearly aimed at potential groupies, maybe don't talk about selling off your disease while pointing to your junk. It's the '80s, dude. Axl needs to take a cue from the TLC tip and start wearing condoms stitched to his clothes. Safety first.
"I wanna watch you bleed."
"I wanna hear you scream."
"If you want it, you're gonna bleed."
Question: Was the "small town" that inspired this great American masterpiece actually Twin Peaks? Did Axl visit Bob in the Black Lodge? I grew up in a small town. I promise my impressions of it were not "Gee, they have everything I need here -- by which I mean, obviously, sadomasochistic blood torture."