I was cranking Sweet Child o’ Mine into my ears at dangerous volume the other morning, for motivational purposes. This is a song that I was too cool to like when I first heard it and now regard as one of the greatest songs in creation. Anyway, just as I was doing my best to think generous thoughts about Axl Rose, because of the astonishing vocal in that song, I got stuck on some unfortunate associations he finds himself tangled in at the moment. He gets his own line of thanks in the credits of The Wrestler, echoed by Mickey Rourke in his Golden Globes acceptance speech, for lending “Sweet Child” to the soundtrack free of charge (and it is a killer addition to its scene). This is a beautiful gesture in itself, which was adding to my warm thoughts about Axl. But then I realized he shares this other thing with Mickey Rourke, which makes them ironically fitting collaborators for a film inflected with nostalgia for 80’s excess – the mangled face thing. I wanted to view this shared misfortune in a generous spirit – the appropriate form of which is, I think, sadness – but then I couldn’t shake a separate reference to Axl, which (perhaps unintentionally) evokes the very thing I’m trying to be all magnanimously sad about, but with a lot less apparent sympathy: the reference in this song to “foam-injected Axl Rose,” which I have to admit is brilliant and funny.
You try to engage in some innocent personal revisionism, but cruel facts intercede, and then you try and compensate with sympathy and magnanimity, and some wiseguy steps in and ruins that. It’s a tricky business these days, having emotions.