Part 18. Guns N' Roses

Formed in Los Angeles, Guns N' Roses were a punctuation-based rock band that became very popular with typesetters in the early nineties. Originally called Cheese and Onion, the band came into being when lead singer Crankshaft Daffodil, real name Harry Web, ran into a guitarist called Comma at a McDonald's drive-thru in Minnesota.

After an exchange of insurance details, the two realised they had a common passion - burgers. To finance their love for happy meals, they decided to form a band.

Different backgrounds

From the outset it was obvious that the pair came from very different backgrounds. Daffodil was the son of an Indiana tartan farmer and had spent much of his early life herding kilts. Comma, real name Reg Dwight, was a travelling ceramicist from Stoke-on-Trent in England, whose claim to fame was that he could throw a pot in forty seconds. At the time he met Daffodil he had just quit an itinerant troupe of potters following an argument over a teapot.

After finding a bass player and a drummer in a Burger King down the road, the band was up and running but gigs were thin on the ground. Thinking that perhaps the name 'Cheese and Onion' might be holding them back, they decided to retitle themselves.

Initially they changed it to Cheese 'n' Onion, which seemed a little more rock and roll. When this didn't improve matters they considered Fish 'n' Chips, Ebb 'n' Flow and even Chip 'n' Dale, before finally settling on the name Guns 'n' Roses.

Short of the mark

Likewise Daffodil felt that his alias fell somewhat short of the mark and changed it to Carburettor Tulip, then Alternator Pansy and finally Gearbox Gladioli, before knocking all the flower references on the head and calling himself Axel Foley.

Comma, meanwhile, experimented with calling himself Full Stop and then Semi-Colon, before arriving at Backslash. This got altered to Forward Slash, which he felt was more progressive, and nowadays it is generally just shortened to Slash.

Punctuation-based hits

Initial single releases didn't generate much interest but then "Sweet Child o' Mine" marked the beginning of a run of punctuation-based hits that included "Live n' Let Die", "Knockin' 'n' Heaven's Door" and "Paradise 'n City". But despite the successes all was not well and ultimately Slash left because of typographical differences. In a subsequent out of court settlement he was awarded one of the band's apostrophes and retired to a town called Colon in Honduras with his wife, Caret, and their two children Asterisk and Ellipsis.

Meanwhile Axel Foley continued with the now slightly retitled Guns N' Roses. Aiming to capitalise on their previous success he recorded a song in Morse code, figuring that a track composed entirely of dots and dashes couldn't fail to succeed.

It failed to succeed. In fact, it caused an international incident during a performance in Milan when it was misinterpreted as a distress call and resulted in an Italian emergency crew turning up, covering the band in spaghetti, inflating them with helium and instructing them to remain in bed for several days.


Following the spaghetti incident, Foley recorded a song entirely in semaphore. Of course, listeners were treated to nothing more than the sounds of furious flapping, but the video played in heavy rotation on MTV and it didn't prevent them from winning a Grammy.

In more recent years the band has stopped releasing records in order to concentrate on publicity, and have proven to be so successful that they have lately been approached by Unilever to market a new brand of edible lemon flavoured washing powder.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster will henceforth no longer be available after 8pm on Wednesdays, as this is now his bath night.

Return to 'The History of Rock'

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