“Patience” – Guns n’ Roses

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When “Patience” was released as a single in the spring of 1989, I remember more than a few people snickering about how Guns n’ Roses were jumping on the metal ballad bandwagon with “a little something for the ladies.”  And I remember being really pissed off at that assumption.   Yes, “Patience” is in many ways a departure from the onslaught of “Appetite for Destruction” and it is a lovely ballad.  But the song always struck me as really, really dark.  Not so much for the lyrics, but for the stark way in which the song is recorded.  The acoustic guitars slash (no pun intended) and sting at times and the echoey production sounds like it was recorded in a prison cell.  Coupled with the very public knowledge about lead singer Axl Rose’s often troubled relationships with women, the song becomes less a reassurance to an insecure lover and more about the singer reassuring himself that everything will be OK, to ride out the fears and insecurity he is facing with someone he loves.   Though I should point out the fallacy in making this assumption, since the song was composed by band guitarist Izzy Stradlin.  Still, In my opinion, the song is the best thing the band ever did.

Brilliantly used in Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of “Cape Fear,” during a heated domestic argument between Nick Nolte’s and Jessica Lange’s characters that is straight out of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“Cape Fear” (1991) dir. Martin Scorsese

When director Martin Scorsese signed a deal with Universal Pictures in the late 1980s to release his passion project “The Last Temptation of Christ,” I’m fairly certain he was required to deliver a commercial film in exchange for Universal releasing such a polarizing personal film. Well, in 1991, Scorsese delivered in spades.

Forget “Boxcar Bertha” (the exploitation film Scorsese made for Roger Corman in the early 1970s), “Cape Fear” is Scorsese’s ultimate balls-to-the-wall exploitation film. Granted, it wasn’t seen that way given the large budget and stellar acting cast (Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis), but make no mistake, Scorsese’s remake of the 1962 shocker with Robert Mitchum is the ultimate Freddy-Jason stalker/slasher film.

Many Scorsese purists detest this film. To whom I say, f–k you! Scorsese loves ALL films, including the sleazy ones that used to play Forty Deuce. Legend has it that he got into a fight with one of his girlfriends, studio executive Dawn Steel, over the merits of the classic 1982 exploitation film “Vice Squad” (Scorsese angrily argued that it should have been up for Best Picture at that year’s Oscars).

Despite its disreputable pedigree, it did win Oscar nominations for DeNiro and Lewis. And it was Scorsese’s biggest box-office success until the release of “The Aviator” in 2004. I’m docking the accompanying trailer MAJOR points for NOT including the music from “Cape Fear” and substituting generic music instead. The music from Cape Fear (originally composed by Bernard Herrmann, but adapted for the remake by Elmer Bernstein) is one of the scariest scores ever composed for a motion picture. I’ve included a link to this score here:

Scorsese has always used music … especially pop music … effectively in his films. I wish I had a clip I could link to, but the use of Guns N’ Roses “Patience” during a vicious verbal fight between Nolte and Lange, while their daughter played by Lewis tearfully locks herself into her room, is brilliantly edited and shot.

“I Don’t Care About You” – Fear

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Holy mackeral! This song damn near defined my 9th grade year in junior high. To my immature ears, this was the angriest, coolest, and funniest song I’d ever heard. Though, crazily enough, I actually first heard this song in the cheesy 1983 horror film “Nightmares.” In that film, Emilio Estevez played a video game addict who played this song constantly in his headphones. In retrospect, that was the ONLY thing I remembered about that otherwise s–tty movie.

When a friend of mine played it for me a year later on a punk compilation he had copied, I freaked out like that blind guy in the 1931 Fritz Lang film “M” when he heard the serial killer humming “In The Hall of the Mountain King.” I later learned the band who did this was Fear. … who I later saw in several infamous and legendary clips on the punk TV show “New Wave Theater” … and whose lead singer Lee Ving had pivotal acting roles in several mid-1980s films (“Flashdance,” “Streets of Fire,” “The Wild Life,” “Clue”) … and who I later learned was one of John Belushi’s favorite bands before he died (Fear plays a VERY pivotal role in the final third of the infamous Bob Woodward biography of Belushi “Wired”).

Guns n’ Roses later covered this on their 1993 album “The Spaghetti Incident”.

A totally rude and nasty classic!!! From Fear’s 1982 album “The Record.”  Due to multiple f-bombs, not safe for work.

“Breakdown” – Guns N’ Roses

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The “Use Your Illusion I & II” CDs were quite the unwieldy spectacle. The equivalent of 4 old-fashioned LPs of material composed over a 2-3 year period, it’s a journey through highs and lows. And yes, most everyone agrees the best stuff should have just been put on one CD and be done with it. “Breakdown” is one of those tracks, if not, the BEST track from the whole shebang.

“Ain’t it Fun” – Guns N’ Roses

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Guns N’ Roses’ killer cover of Peter Laughner’s / The Dead Boys’ sad, nihilistic classic “Ain’t It Fun.”  Recorded for their punk cover album “The Spaghetti Incident,” this is the best version of this song I’ve heard.  There have been some good versions (Dead Boys, Rollins Band) over the years, but the Guns N’ Roses version is probably the best, in my opinion.  It’s probably no coincidence that this ended up on their greatest hits CD.  If any song sums up composer Laughner’s life, it’s this song.  If you have any interest in what you’ve just read, please read Lester Bangs’ legendary obituary of Laughner “Peter Laughner is Dead” for context (located in the Bangs’ compilation “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung”).

“You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” – Johnny Thunders

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The one Johnny Thunders song most people know and would agree is a classic. Covered by everyone from Guns ‘n’ Roses to Ronnie Spector. Put to great use not only in Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing out the Dead” but also on “The Sopranos.”