Brian May’s Frustration About Guns N’ Roses
Musical collaborations between two cult acts or artists could be dream-fulfilling material for eager audiences. The unique chance to listen to one’s favorite musicians teaming up for a project impresses both the fans and the critics; it also provides good commerciality for everyone involved. Sometimes, the collaboration may be a product solely of publicity, or it could be just two talented musicians genuinely wanting to work with one another.
As dreamy as it may sound, these ‘teaming up’ projects could also result in various creative disputes between the artists. Where one musician may believe their take on the collaborated track is good, the other artist may not be as content. As every musical act and persona has their own work routines and a unique melodic imprint, different artistic identities may not get along during these creative processes. The fans may anticipate collaborations, but these works could lead to problematic results.
When Brian May took on Guns N’ Roses‘ offer to feature in one of the tracks of ‘Chinese Democracy,’ the guitarist eagerly produced a solo for the upcoming album. It was, by all means, a high-class combination of a legendary guitarist playing alongside another cult figure in the rock scene. However, when the record was released after almost a decade, Brian May was slightly disappointed and frustrated with the final output. Now, let’s take a look at why this dreamy collaboration resulted in bitter remarks from the Queen legend.
Why Was Brian May Disappointed With His Guns N’ Roses Collaboration?
Studio sessions for ‘Chinese Democracy’ started in the mid-1998. As Guns N’ Roses had been planning to produce their sixth full-length record for the past few years, the band was eager to work with other established musicians, including Brian May. Long hours were spent in the studio as May and GNR worked together, and the Queen guitarist was content with his guitar riffs at the end of the recording process. Until then, there were no significant problems with either side.
The song was to be called ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ a criticism made by Axl Rose against the anger-fueled youth by taking inspiration from J.D. Salinger’s cult book. Brian recorded his solo for the track in 1999, and the end product was released almost a decade later, in 2008. However, Brian’s guitar riffs didn’t make it to the final mix as his work was excluded from the song. When the musician was asked by a fan who had suggested his parts had been left out of the track, May responded by saying that it was a pity as he had put hard work into the solo.
Brian May stated through his personal website:
“Well, it is a shame. I did put quite a lot of work in and was proud of it.”
Yet, the guitarist tried to be assertive as he emphasized Axl’s decision to exclude his parts from the song. Brian remarked that he could understand Rose’s decision as the GNR frontman tried to establish the cult sound of his band through the works of his fellow bandmates. So, perhaps, it could be said that May wanted to explain the incident by pointing out the fact that his feature could have gotten in the way of GNR’s distinctive tune.
The guitarist explained:
“I could understand if Axl wants to have an album which reflects the work of the members of the band as it is right now.”
Axl Rose would later explain his decision to cut Brian May out of the track to Uncut magazine. The frontman stated that May’s contribution to ‘Chinese Democracy’ was underappreciated, with many of the fans asking for Slash’s solos rather than pointing out Brian’s sound. For Axl, the guitarist’s appearance was a personal favorite of his, yet, he couldn’t understand why it wasn’t met with more enthusiasm by the listeners.
The musician then revealed that Brian wasn’t all too pleased with the final mix as well. Rose recalled when they showed the Queen legend the finished version of the track. The frontman expressed that May was confused with his edited parts. Even though it seemed that the guitarist later warmed up to the song, at least publicly, Brian’s initial reaction was to express that he couldn’t recognize his guitar riffs.
The GNR frontman’s words on the process:
“I knew people liked the song, but the Brian appreciation really only showed up in force publicly after we had moved on in Guns. In fact, not many seemed to care, and most comments were aimed at why Slash, in their opinions, should be here. Brian’s solo itself is a personal fave of mine, and I really couldn’t understand, as he’s such a rock legend, why it wasn’t openly appreciated more at the time.
And though Brian seems to have warmed a bit to it in the final edition, at least publicly, he was, unfortunately, none too pleased at the time with our handiwork. I remember looking at Brian standing to my left and him staring at the big studio speakers, a bit aghast, saying, ‘But that’s not what I played.'”
It really doesn’t matter in the end if two talented musicians collaborate for publicity or with a genuine desire to work together. What matters is the dynamics between the artists. If collaborating musicians manage to put aside their creative differences, the finished product will be met with pleasant outputs from both the artists.