Do you remember that weird period of time a few years back when the “social media is killing the rock star mystique and that’s a bad thing” hot take was going around? The idea was that we were losing something by having people in bands become more relatable through the use of Twitter and Facebook. It was a bad take because there are plenty of rock icons out there who rarely if ever post on social media and because having a legion of people play acting like they just arrived from 1975 isn’t going to save rock and roll.
Still, it was a bit of surprise when Axl Rose, the last truly memorable rock star, showed up on Twitter recently to not only encourage his fans to vote but to call out Donald Trump for, well, being Donald Trump. True, he still tweets with his own Axl idiosyncrasies — typing “n’” instead of “in” for example — but there he was, rock’s final great temperamental icon, typing “VOTE MOTHERFUCKERS!!” and following it up with a bunch of flag emojis.
Axl Rose using emojis is something few of us dreamed of when this year started, although most of us will agree that as opposed to most of this year’s surprises this one is pretty good. For so long he’s been the poster child of the difficult genius that it’s hard to even think of him as being a regular human being; Axl Rose, for most of us, is more a concept than a man. If you were old enough to know about music ‘87 and ‘94, you can at least picture him at his height pretty clearly in your mind’s eye, either as the young god he looked like in music videos or him, in a rage, jumping into a crowd before storming off the stage.
Sure, there were plenty of other big names in rock post-Guns N’ Roses going on hiatus, but they lacked a certain glamour that Rose had. Marilyn Manson was a boogeyman; Fred Durst’s came out of a genre full of guys who looked like your friends, not heroes; emo boys were pretty but they weren’t taken seriously; none of these are problems, mind you, as everyone who made it to TV was playing their parts perfectly, they just didn’t have that rock star sheen that pretty much disappeared with Rose.
Rose has been back in the spotlight for a few years now that Guns N’ Roses is a thing again, in addition to his time spent with AC/DC, and while he doesn’t look quite like the guy in our shared cultural memory, he’s at least played the part that most of us expected him to play. But should we really be so surprised that Axl — pardon my French — gives a shit? The man
But still, it is kind of funny to imagine Axl Rose sitting in his mansion, looking at his phone to see Trump tweeting and feeling the need to respond. Far too often all we learn about those who we used to see as larger than life is that they’ve got bad opinions or impulse control problems. And while that’s disappointing, isn’t it better to know who is terrible so you aren’t spending money on them? (If you still spend money on music at all; it’s still 2018.) So good on you, Axl, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, for channeling your “rage” into something healthy. Just don’t forget to log off now and then; too much Twitter, like too much rock excess, isn’t good for anyone.