11 January 2008

Adagetude: Chinese Democracy

Murphy, whoever he was, clearly was more opportunist than optimist, somehow getting his name attached to perhaps the most well-known (yet pessimistic) adage under the sun. But what about the lesser-known eponymous laws, the proverbs that lay in semi-anonymity just waiting to be referenced at dinner parties and the like? Buckle up, because it's time you adjusted your adagetude. This week:

Brooks's Law - Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.


In 1975, Frederick Brooks, former product manager for the IBM System/360 computer family, penned his vastly influential codenerd-bible “The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering”.

In 1975, it’s unclear what William Axl Rose was up to, but I would have to imagine it involved whizzing rocks at passing cars from an overpass on the Indiana turnpike or an equivalent act of juvenile delinquency. The point is, there’s no way he read “The Mythical Man-Month.”

How can I be sure of this? Call it a hunch. But, if he had waded through the 329 pages of head-scratching material, I’m guessing he would have come away with the central argument that has been neatly (and conveniently) distilled into the above adage, which basically states that too many cooks in an already crowded kitchen ain’t necessarily a good thing if you want to enjoy a timely meal.

To add even another layer of conjecture to the “what-if” cake we’re baking, had he (and his record company) known that adding manpower to an already late project would only make it later, would we all still be living in a world without Chinese Democracy?

I’m going out on a very creaky limb here to say probably not.... Yesterday's latest round of rumors contest that the album is finally finished, conjecture that I believe would be solid fact if only he had heeded Brooks’s advice. Why?

Perhaps we should revisit the disastrous chain of events: the backbone of the original Guns N’ Roses lineup began work on their sixth studio album, Chinese Democracy, in 1994. Two years later, Slash walked away from the project, chafing at Axl’s dictatorial tendencies and paving the way for Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan to leave shortly thereafter. Undaunted, Rose pressed on for another 11 years, where he is still presumably twiddling knobs somewhere in the Nevada desert. According to The New York Times, the cost of the album has eclipsed 13 million dollars. In fact, that figure is over two years old and only represents the colossal hit that Geffen took before cutting ties with Rose and leaving him to complete the album on his own dime.

I believe that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Rose truly does want Chinese Democracy to be completed and released. The problem is that while making this album, every ridiculous whim that has ever crossed his corn-rowed mind has been indulged. As a result, he has no excuses. To avoid being the biggest laughingstock in the history of the recording industry, this album must be perfect. And it’s driven him crazy, forcing him to rethink, re-record, remix, and re-engineer almost every aspect of the album. And since money is apparently no object, he’s been allowed to assemble a dizzying roster of producers, engineers and musicians to help shoulder this unspeakable burden. The list of people who have at one point or another had their fingerprints on Chinese Democracy is both hilarious and awe-inspiring. Not even counting the revolving doors of producers and engineers, there have been at least 21 musicians contributing to the album, and among the guilty are:

- Sebastian Bach – Skid Row frontman cum VH1 reality personality cum MTV karaoke celebrity cum Broadway star cum guest GnR vocalist
- Brian May – guitarist for Queen, contributor to Chinese Democracy track “Catcher in the Rye” and author of the blog Brian’s Soapbox (you really owe it to yourself to read it)
- Tommy Stinson – former bassist of the Replacements turned reluctant bassist for Guns N’ Roses and alleged source of Axl’s stress?
- Buckethead – guitar virtuoso best-known for wearing a KFC bucket on his head. Fun fact: he allegedly caught a case of “the gimmes” from Axl when he demanded to record his parts for Chinese Democracy from inside a chicken coop, which was promptly constructed for him within the studio.
- Bumblefoot – not really worth noting apart from the fact that this album boasts BOTH a Buckethead and a Bumblefoot.
- Shaquille O’Neal – oh my.
This is a freak show. Who could possibly focus on recording an album with Shaq in a makeshift chicken coop while dodging Tommy Stinson’s flying bass and wondering what gear Sebastian Bach will try to pawn? The manpower added to Chinese Democracy only served to seal its fate as the album that will never see the light of day. This roster is both Rose’s neuroses and procrastination incarnate. They represent everything that went wrong with these sessions over the past 14 years.

To take them out of the equation would imply that Rose had been somewhat reined in by Geffen and given some sense of boundaries from the get-go, something he obviously needed.

On the plus side, maybe it’s best if Chinese Democracy never comes out. As it stands, this is a phenomenal rock and roll story, combining the now-bygone bloated excesses of the recording industry with the personal madness of one of popular music’s most mercurial figures. Later generations will study this fable with the same scrutiny once applied to Brian Wilson’s epic meltdown during the original Smile sessions. Was “Patience” actually an advanced plea from Axl to his fans, foreshadowing the 14 years they’ve been waiting for Chinese Democracy? Was his public brawl with Tommy Hilfigger actually a display of displaced aggression towards the other “Tommy” in his life, Tommy Stinson? Did anyone actually witness Buckethead and Bumblefoot in the same room at the same time? Perhaps most importantly, if this album is ever released, will anybody give a shit?

Listen:
"The Blues" by Guns N' Roses (theoretically, from the album Chinese Democracy)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

great post. i totally think chinese democracy should never be released. mosly because no one, as you say, "gives a shit".

btw- who is the heck is bumblefoot?!

Anonymous said...

yessssss! this better become a regular feature!

Anonymous said...

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy (2008)

(9 tracks from CD)

1. Better
2. Chinese Democracy
3. IRS
4. Madagascar
5. Riyadh & The Bedouins (New Song #1)
6. New Song #2
7. If The World (Would End Today) (New Song #3)
8. The Blues
9. There Was a Time

Ripped mp3@192kbps CBR


http://rapidshare.com/files/125244043/JNRS987q45yhn.rar

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