Roughly three months ago, Guns N’ Roses started promoting their current 12-night Las Vegas residency using the original cover art for their landmark 1987 debut Appetite for Destruction. As SPIN’s Kory Grow pointed out at the time, the artwork shows, in part, a robot who appears to have sexually assaulted a woman. Even in the waning years of the Reagan administration, retailers tended to agree rape was not something they wanted their business to be associated with, and the band ultimately compromised by putting the artwork on the inner sleeve. (The image was drawn from underground cartoonist Robert Williams’ 1978 work titled, yup, “Appetite for Destruction,” so there’s some avant-garde credibility here.)
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where Axl Rose and the band are playing their Vegas shows, responded to weeks of criticism of the artwork with a statement on Friday. “Hard Rock Hotel & Casino regrets that the Guns N’ Roses advertising for their current shows has offended any member of the community,” it said, as quoted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The resort has decided to further modify the art and began the process of changing the materials.”
Parent company Hard Rock International issued a separate statement noting that it and property owner Brookfield Real Estate Financial Partners are both on the same page about the offending advertisement, which was used on billboards, taxis, and buses. “Hard Rock International does not condone the advertisement or any depictions of sexual violence,” the company said.
The band’s publicist didn’t return the newspaper’s calls, and Axl Rose’s Twitter feed has stayed mum on the subject. The Hard Rock has covered up the woman in an ad on its website, but at press time she’s still very much present in the main image on Guns N’ Roses website.
Like the images of nearly naked women that abound in Sin City, violence toward women is not uncommon there, either. Las Vegas police answered 59,000 domestic violence-related calls in 2011 alone, a county commissioner told the city’s newspaper. Hannah Brook, executive director for the Rape Crisis Center, called the ads “simply unacceptable.”
Rape is a rare area where boundary-pushing artists and patriarchal Bible thumpers sometimes share depressing common ground. As much scorn as is deservedly heaped on lawmakers for their comments appearing to tolerate rape, the music world continues to work out its own issues, as seen in the debate a couple of years ago over what Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quinn dubbed Tyler, the Creator’s “sickening rhetoric.” There must be plenty of us who sympathize with one while still enjoying the music of the other — who supported Al Gore yet still proudly listen to 2 Live Crew — but this controversy suggests the conflict between artistic freedom and social responsiblity is far from settled.
On a much, much happier note, Blabbermouth points out that Axl has been using a levitating piano during “November Rain.” Enjoy fan footage below (and watch out for the feedback at the end).
Guns N’ Roses’ remaining Appetite for Democracy residency dates:
Wednesday, November 7
Friday, November 9
Saturday, November 10
Wednesday, November 14
Saturday, November 17
Sunday, November 18
Wednesday, November 21
Friday, November 23
Saturday, November 24