It Takes One To Know One

Yesterday’s musical allusion inspired me to dig up a lost classic, Guns ‘N Roses’ “You Ain’t The First” from their Use Your Illusion double album.

I tried so hard just to get through to you
But your head’s so far
from the realness of truth
Was it just a come on in the dark
Wasn’t meant to last long
I think you’ve worn your welcome honey
I’ll just see you along as I sing you this song
Time can pass slowly, things always change
Your day’s been numbered
and I’ve read your last page
You was just a temporary lover
honey you ain’t the first
Lots of others came before you woman
said but you been the worst
Sa’ you been the worst
Say goodbye to you girl
So long, farewell
I can’t hear you cryin’
Your jivin’s been hell
So look for me walkin’
Down your street at night
I’ll be in with another
Deep down inside
Deep down inside

It’s not hard to figure out – a guy telling off his hookup/fling/groupie who took it for more than it was worth and tried to control him. With a second look, though, the song goes deeper; the protagonist obviously let himself get too invested and “jived” with, to the point he has to tell her off and winds up plotting a revenge f*%$ with another woman to put the first one to rest. It certainly takes a devil-may-care player to know a harping harlot.

The lesson is that there is no free lunch in the SMP; narcissistic casual-sex culture eventually consumes both sides. A second lesson might be it’s lonely at the top; highly desired people have access to deep stores of unparalleled social dysfunction – professional relationships with highly creative but deeply insecure and narcissistic people, fame chasers, groupies, unscrupulous self-interested “friends” and agents and the sense of paranoia that comes from everyone wanting a piece of you.

People who want to live a good life must take active, internalized steps, with a focused support system (the culture at large is not going to support you), to decline the ubiquitous temptation of cheap thrills and continuous gratification. Most people are not going to have the immense and reliably productive talent they would need to outweigh the kind of flake-first dossier built up by a rock star or a groupie. (Case in point just today: Bill Clinton served two terms as President despite a long series of philandering incidents known to his handlers as “bimbo eruptions.” The exception proves the rule; Chris Lee of NY-26 resigned after seeking an affair over the Internet – a sex scandal that involved no sex.)

Axl Rose (left) and Izzy Stradlin

Axl Rose (left) and Izzy Stradlin

The song itself is an unusual arrangement, a slide-guitar-accented and half-drunk barroom waltz, for a group that earned their keep hard rock numbers and protracted epics. Despite a catchy rhythm and a convincing groovy feel, the track is all but forgotten in the shadow of instant classic hits like November Rain and Don’t Cry. GNR frontman Axl Rose’s personal demons have been well discussed, as have his conflicts with women (another song on the album was entitled “Back Off Bitch”) but this song was in fact penned by his childhood friend and Guns bandmate Izzy Stradlin. Without a doubt Stradlin experienced the same romantic dysfunction of the LA rock and roll scene or at least witnessed it up close in Rose’s life.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “It Takes One To Know One

  1. Keoni Galt

    The song itself is an unusual arrangement, a slide-guitar-accented and half-drunk barroom waltz, for a group that earned their keep hard rock numbers and protracted epics. Despite a catchy rhythm and a convincing groovy feel, the track is all but forgotten in the shadow of instant classic hits like November Rain and Don’t Cry.

    This has always been one of my favorite GnR tracks, period. Funny, but I never really thought about the lyrics and their meaning, even though I have the song memorized and can sing along with it in my sleep. Yet your analysis makes perfect sense. My question is when did Izzy write it?

    Without a doubt Stradlin experienced the same romantic dysfunction of the LA rock and roll scene or at least witnessed it up close in Rose’s life.

    The UYI albums came out years after GnR hit mega-stardom with Appetite. Once they hit it big time, Izzy would most certainly have had a full immersion in the endless gang bang of groupies happy to screw any member of such a famous group, despite being widely considered the least attractive guy in the band.

  2. Pingback: Guns N’ Roses’ “Locomotive”: Dysfunctional Angst in Music and Lyrics | The Badger Hut

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