HOLLYWOOD ROSE – The Roots Of Guns N’ Roses

HOLLYWOOD ROSE - The Roots Of Guns N' Roses


Deadline Music
Release date: June 22, 2004

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Deadline Music teamed up with Chris Weber, a Los Angeles, California native, guitarist, and high school chum of Tracii Guns, to obtain the rights to the original 5-track demo recordings of the band Hollywood Rose. Hollywood Rose is being labeled by Deadline Music as the precursor band to Guns N’ Roses, and was comprised of Weber, Lafayette, Indiana natives Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, and drummer Johnny Kreis.

The condensed history lesson here goes like this: Weber made it known to Guns that he wanted to start a band and was looking to join forces with another guitarist. Guns introduced Weber to Stradlin to fill that role because Guns had the insatiable desire (even back then) to create what eventually became the band L.A. Guns. Stradlin then introduced Weber to Rose as a “can’t miss” vocalist, and the band eventually took on the name Hollywood Rose. Kreis was brought in when Weber’s parents agreed to hock up the jack to fund the recording of the Hollywood Rose EP in January of 1984, which is curiously now entitled The Roots of Guns N’ Roses (stay tuned … there’s plenty more information regarding the controversy surrounding this title below). Hollywood Rose, with the help of agent Vicky Hamilton who was enamored by Rose’s enthusiasm and charisma, began playing gigs in the Southern California circuit. Weber made what turned out to be a critical error in judgment by leaving Los Angeles to see what successes he could conjure up in New York, and was replaced by his buddy Guns during this absence. Soon after, Duff McKagen joined the band to play bass guitar, and Steven Adler came on board to play drums. Lo and behold, though, Guns still wanted to pursue the L.A. Guns concept, so he left the band and Slash came into the picture to fill the guitar void. Amid this torrid chain of events, Hollywood Rose eventually changed their name to Guns N’ Roses … and became one of the most successful and influential bands ever to enter the Hard Rock music scene.

The 5 tracks by Hollywood Rose are entitled: “Killing Time,” “Anything Goes,” “Rocker,” “Shadow Of Your Love,” and “Reckless Life.” The CD has 3 versions of each song. The first version is comprised of the original recordings from the demo tape, the second version was remixed/remastered by Gilby Clarke and includes subsequent guitar additions and overdubs by Guns on “Shadow Of Your Love” and “Reckless Life,” and the third version was remixed/remastered by Fred Coury from Cinderella’s camp.

Interestingly enough, topically and lyrically, Hollywood Rose was much more tame and vanilla than anything Guns N’ Roses ever produced. There were no controversial lyrics like in “One In A Million,” or curiously thoughtful and poetic verses like in “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Likewise, there’s not a whole lot of rebellion in these songs and definitely nothing contentious or offensive – just good and basic rock ‘n’ roll with bluesy, bass-driven rhythms and riffs. The songs are all fast paced and good (none great), and definitely show Axl and company had a developing understanding of what makes songs appealing and catchy. With the 3 versions of each song on this CD, listeners are unwittingly provided an education on how sound engineering is used to artists/bands advantage in the editing room, because each version sounds notably different with various levels of appeal, even though they all started with the same source tape.

Hmmm … the best bet at this point is probably to simply compare and contrast the versions of each song …

Killing Time (original time: 3:26)

This song is probably the “roughest” of the demo versions, and topically is simply about waiting around for something noteworthy to happen to break the routine and boredom. The sound isn’t clear at all, and Axl comes through with too much volume and with a somewhat annoying shrill in his voice, especially when hitting the high notes. Conversely, version #2 focuses more on a clean guitar sound and turns down Rose’s volume, making for a noticeably more enjoyable song. Other than wiping out the high-end distortion, everything else about the recording essentially remains unchanged. Version #3 focuses much more on making the drums the prominent instrument, especially from the bass end. The drums are largely ignored in the first 2 versions. Rose comes through in a similar volume to version #1, but is very clear and sounds more like what we heard in Appetite For Destruction. The guitar solo is much more prominent and at the forefront, making version #3 the best of the 3, and vividly showing how a studio doctor can make a homely bride look like a glamorous queen!

Anything Goes (original time: 4:55)

As a demo version, this track is already pretty good and has a “let’s let it all hang loose” message. Rose is a bit toned down compared to “Killing Time,” and it has a pretty solid chorus. Version #3 speeds up the pace by about 24 seconds, which works well until Rose’s vocals come through … the faster pace gives Rose’s voice a Chipmunk effect, causing him to come through with uncharacteristically high treble … the final result is it doesn’t sound at all like Axl. Version #2 simply cleans up the sound, which really allows the chorus to shine, thus making this version the best of the 3 – and creates a song that would serve any raucous party well!

Rocker (original time: 3:35)

Topically, this song is similar to AC/DC’s track by the same name off of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap … just a song designed to make the statement that the band loves rock ‘n’ roll. This song is probably the weakest of the pack due to the overused “Rocker!/Roller!” chorus, but it’s not a disaster, especially because of the guitar solo that lasts 1:10. Version #2 does the best job of subduing the chorus line brashness found in the original demo, and also does a pretty good job of better emphasizing the solo. Version #3 emphasizes the opening pick slide on the strings in an interesting fashion, but #2 is the strongest presentation overall.

Shadow Of Your Love (original time: 2:47)

The story line of this song has Rose trying to shake off the cobwebs from a previous emotional relationship … it has a lot of true potential that is hidden in the demo version, but is nicely accentuated in both subsequent versions, making this the best song on the CD. Version #3 adds 13 seconds to the original demo by adding a longer guitar intro, and better defines a great, fast drumbeat, which was somewhat uncommon back in 1984. Version #2 includes Guns subsequently adding some guitar flare into the intro and elsewhere throughout the track, but in doing so, Rose’s voice is taken down too low behind the music. The result is version #3 presents the strongest interpretation.

Reckless Life (original time: 4:22)

Topically, this song boasts of the band living fast and loving it. The original demo has a 1-minute intro similar to “Red Hot” from Shout At The Devil by Mötley Crüe. The only weakness in this song is that the guitar solo pace doesn’t pair up well with the music. In version #2 Guns adds another 15 seconds or so to the intro, but the vocals again get a bit lost and are too subdued. Similarly, version #3 adds a few more seconds to the beginning, then consciously shaves off many of the intro similarities to “Red Hot.” As with all of Coury’s versions, the drum pronouncement is excellent and gives this song a very modern feel, thus making version #3 the best.

Funny, but whenever Axl Rose is directly or loosely involved in anything, there tends to be controversy. Rose led a movement to try to stop the release of this Hollywood Rose album, claiming trademark infringement, violation by use of his name and photographs in promotional materials, and unfair competition. On July 2, 2004, the judge from the United States District Court of Central California signed a denial of Rose’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have essentially caused Deadline Music to have to pull every copy of The Roots Of Guns N’ Roses off of the shelves everywhere. Rose still has the option to sue Deadline Music for whatever damages he wants to dream up, but the CD is likely here to stay, and is definitely a must have for all Guns N’ Roses fans everywhere … casual fans of the band too should enjoy listening to how sub-par recordings get polished, massaged, and made into songs that can conform to current musical trends via the remastered versions of each track.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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