Guns N’ Roses might easily be mistaken for a street gang at first appearance. Every member of the band looked like they had crawled out of the gutter before they had some of the biggest singles of the hair metal era, and they played with guitars and microphones rather than switchblade blades. Guns N’ Roses remained a family up until the early 1990s, despite having a dark side.
Axl Rose, the band’s leader, thought they needed to set far higher goals for their upcoming release in light of the enormous success of their record Appetite for Destruction. Rose was persuaded that they needed additional material and set out to create a double album of just brand-new songs for what would become Use Your Illusion rather than simply releasing another rock record in their own popular style.
This period of Guns N’ Roses, although a collaborative effort, is when the band started to distinguish itself as Rose’s band, which also happens to include the founding members. Steven Adler, the band’s drummer, was sacked during the recording sessions, and Izzy Stradlin left when the group went on tour following the album’s release. Although the final product may have been a labor of love, Rose has grown to dislike one of the tracks on Use Your Illusion II.
When coming up with songs for the new album, the original plan was to write a song called “Why Do You Look At Me When You Hate Me” as a retort to the detractors. GNR had long fought the media, occasionally getting into arguments with writers who thought they were bad and wouldn’t amount to anything outside of the hair metal scene. Rose renamed the song “Get In the Ring” with the intention of venting all of his resentment on everybody who has ever brought the Guns N’ Roses name into disrepute.
Although the song begins like any other conventional kiss-off song, the breakdown, in which Rose names many journalists who have disparaged GNR in the past and commands them to suck his…appendage, makes the song alarmingly real. Although Rose’s typical masculinity may have been attributed to the lyrics, he later came to loathe the finished product.
Years after the incident, Rose revealed to That Metal Show that referring to these journalists by name wasn’t his idea. “There was this blank space in the song, and they said ‘Why don’t you just go in and go off on them’ and I eventually did, and everybody was happy with it. I didn’t realise the political wars between different publicists at the record labels and their relationships with magazines like Rolling Stone and SPIN. So I was set up, and no one stepped forward to say anything.”
However, even without the names’ background, the song still adheres to the Guns N’ Roses spirit of the period. They were one of the biggest bands in the world at this point, and a song about them ripping into their detractors is virtually a victory lap as they bask in the success of their rock star careers.
Even though the band may have created some artificial hostility, it also had some unintended consequences. Since they were still employed, adding “dissed by Axl Rose” to their resumes definitely didn’t damage them.