Wednesday, February 6, 2013

G N' R Lies: "Mama Kin"

If we're counting Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide as GNR's debut, "Mama Kin" appears on two of the world's most beloved hard rock bands' first albums.

From Aerosmith, 1973:

From Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, 1986:

After Rose Tattoo, Aerosmith was the second band that Guns N' Roses honored and obliterated by covering them on Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide. This time, it wasn't chops or charisma that gave GNR the distinct advantage, two things that Aerosmith has in droves. It was mainly something that that Aerosmith had that GNR didn't--a saxophone.

The saxophone may be the most polarizing instrument in all of rock n' roll, abhorrent in nearly every instance yet transcendent on Kid A, Cure for Pain and Bill Clinton's Arsenio Hall Show appearance. The A.V. Club and WNYC's Soundcheck have explored the sax's influence with simultaneous awe and scorn. For every Rolling Stones song with Sonny Rollins, there seem to be a thousand Kenny Gs. Aerosmith is one of the only rock bands that can make a saxophone work, and their "Mama Kin" is competent. But nobody listens to rock music for competence. "Competent" would be The Silver Bullet band, whom Aerosmith sound most like on "Mama Kin."

On Lies, "Mama Kin" comes right after "Move to the City," a GNR staple with gritty lyrics, a menacing progression, and yes--a saxophone. In that context, I like "Mama Kin" even more, knowing that Guns N' Roses had access to a saxophone and chose not to use it.

Joe Perry, whose band was taking Guns N' Roses out on tour the year that Lies was released, may have noticed. "I heard a lot of Aerosmith in them, which meant I also heard a lot of bands that came before us," Perry noted in Rolling Stone. "And I remember being a little jealous, because they were really hitting the nail on the head."

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