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Axl’s voice change from late 1987


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I don’t know if this has been talked about, but…

Listening to shows from 1986-87, demos from ’86 and of course Appetite, you can tell that Axl’s voice was young and “tender”, without much scraping and so on. Even on the Marquee show (June ’87) and Whiskey (August ’87, WTTJ video recording), his voice remains the same as on the album, demos, or LA club shows; But then at the Ritz show (October ’87) his voice is rougher, scrapedier, and less high-pitched (but still very good). Then in ’88 he kept singing that new way, and all the shows are incredible in terms of his voice (except Ritz ’88, which doesn’t sound very good even if it’s epic.)

Does anyone know why his voice changed in such a short time? It seems to me something very curious, because except for the acoustic show in October ’87, his voice never sounded like it did in 1983-87.

Edited by Neider
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8 hours ago, Neider said:

I don’t know if this has been talked about, but…

Listening to shows from 1986-87, demos from ’86 and of course Appetite, you can tell that Axl’s voice was young and “tender”, without much scraping and so on. Even on the Marquee show (June ’87) and Whiskey (August ’87, WTTJ video recording), his voice remains the same as on the album, demos, or LA club shows; But then at the Ritz show (October ’87) his voice is rougher, scrapedier, and less high-pitched (but still very good). Then in ’88 he kept singing that new way, and all the shows are incredible in terms of his voice (except Ritz ’88, which doesn’t sound very good even if it’s epic.)

Does anyone know why his voice changed in such a short time? It seems to me something very curious, because except for the acoustic show in October ’88, his voice never sounded like it did in 1983-87.

I assume he was still exploring his range and expression as an artist. 

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He blew his voice. Significant change in 88. At the start of the UYI tour he was a wreck, managed to find a way out of it in 92 but by the mid 90s he was a shell of his former self. Spent the last of it on Live Era and the CD sessions before surgery and forever Mickey Mouse. At his peak he was burning his voice like firewood. That's why it's so good.

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9 hours ago, LAGuns87 said:

He blew his voice. Significant change in 88. At the start of the UYI tour he was a wreck, managed to find a way out of it in 92 but by the mid 90s he was a shell of his former self. Spent the last of it on Live Era and the CD sessions before surgery and forever Mickey Mouse. At his peak he was burning his voice like firewood. That's why it's so good.

Explain 2010 then. 

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Axl sounded great and versatile in 2006, sounded great in 2010 and with AC/DC… As he stated in the China Exchange interview he purposely decided to sing differently on many songs during the Chinese Democracy recording era and that bleed into the 2001/02 shows but I believe the press backlash led to him changing his style in 2006… He definitely struggled to maintain at points during the illusions tour but overall for that style of singing really maintained his voice relatively well… Not saying he hasn’t had really bad showings in the last decade and maybe the AC/DC tour was the last time he was ever really going to risk his voice and push it that far.  

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21 hours ago, Neider said:

I don’t know if this has been talked about, but…

Listening to shows from 1986-87, demos from ’86 and of course Appetite, you can tell that Axl’s voice was young and “tender”, without much scraping and so on. Even on the Marquee show (June ’87) and Whiskey (August ’87, WTTJ video recording), his voice remains the same as on the album, demos, or LA club shows; But then at the Ritz show (October ’87) his voice is rougher, scrapedier, and less high-pitched (but still very good). Then in ’88 he kept singing that new way, and all the shows are incredible in terms of his voice (except Ritz ’88, which doesn’t sound very good even if it’s epic.)

Does anyone know why his voice changed in such a short time? It seems to me something very curious, because except for the acoustic show in October ’87, his voice never sounded like it did in 1983-87.

He went on tour. That's it, it's pretty simple. You can't have a voice like Axl's and not have continuous shows impact it. Vocals get worn out, also there were probably shows in 87' that he forced it a little too much or his vocals weren't up to it but he performed anyway - stuff like that just adds to vocals being damaged and/or strained. That "tender" sound you're talking about is because it hadn't been put through the ringer yet with the appetite tour. No doubt he was discovering new ways to sing and express his range and perhaps he did alter his style somewhat to make it through tours but going through 87' to 88' had an impact on it.

Edited by nightrain86
expand on what I mean.
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18 minutes ago, chester said:

Axl sounded great and versatile in 2006, sounded great in 2010 and with AC/DC… As he stated in the China Exchange interview he purposely decided to sing differently on many songs during the Chinese Democracy recording era and that bleed into the 2001/02 shows but I believe the press backlash led to him changing his style in 2006… He definitely struggled to maintain at points during the illusions tour but overall for that style of singing really maintained his voice relatively well… Not saying he hasn’t had really bad showings in the last decade and maybe the AC/DC tour was the last time he was ever really going to risk his voice and push it that far.  

Most likely he did alot of training ahead of the AC/DC shows, preparing for that tour every single day. We all know how much it meant for Axl, so for sure he try harded it. With GNR he doesnt even show up for one soundcheck before tour starts.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 9/27/2021 at 5:13 AM, LAGuns87 said:

He has never matched his 90s vocals since. Forget about 80s. Ac/Dc is easy to sing, that's Axl on half power.

AC/DC is NOT easy to sing, especially the BiB standard tuning stuff for a bass like Axl. He gave 110% and it's why his voice cracks nowadays.

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On 9/27/2021 at 10:13 AM, LAGuns87 said:

He has never matched his 90s vocals since. Forget about 80s. Ac/Dc is easy to sing, that's Axl on half power.

Half power🤣 Sorry but you're really wrong. What he did with AC/DC is only comparable to the early 90s. He was going for it 100% and he didn't do that since the 90s although he was fantastic in 2007/07 and he sounded very good in 2010

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26 minutes ago, Tom2112 said:

Half power🤣 Sorry but you're really wrong. What he did with AC/DC is only comparable to the early 90s. He was going for it 100% and he didn't do that since the 90s although he was fantastic in 2007/07 and he sounded very good in 2010

Although I agree that Axl/DC was difficult for him to sing (and it was great), 2006 and 2010 were much better. Specifically, I think 2006 is his most COMPLETE voice because he was able to sing with the classic low voice, with a clean voice, with a raspy voice, reached the high notes of 2001-02 and still had his vocal midrange.

Edit: And compared to the early 90s, his voice in 1991 sounds a bit ugly to me, although 1992-93 was already god-level. But I still think 1986-87 and 1988-89 were better years for his voice than on the UYI tour.

Edited by Neider
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On 9/26/2021 at 10:10 AM, LAGuns87 said:

He blew his voice. Significant change in 88. At the start of the UYI tour he was a wreck, managed to find a way out of it in 92 but by the mid 90s he was a shell of his former self. Spent the last of it on Live Era and the CD sessions before surgery and forever Mickey Mouse. At his peak he was burning his voice like firewood. That's why it's so good.

What surgery are you referring to?

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37 minutes ago, Neider said:

Although I agree that Axl/DC was difficult for him to sing (and it was great), 2006 and 2010 were much better. Specifically, I think 2006 is his most COMPLETE voice because he was able to sing with the classic low voice, with a clean voice, with a raspy voice, reached the high notes of 2001-02 and still had his vocal midrange.

Edit: And compared to the early 90s, his voice in 1991 sounds a bit ugly to me, although 1992-93 was already god-level. But I still think 1986-87 and 1988-89 were better years for his voice than on the UYI tour.

What are the disadvantages of the 2010 voice compared to 2006, to you ?

 

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On 9/26/2021 at 10:10 AM, LAGuns87 said:

He blew his voice. Significant change in 88. At the start of the UYI tour he was a wreck, managed to find a way out of it in 92 but by the mid 90s he was a shell of his former self. Spent the last of it on Live Era and the CD sessions before surgery and forever Mickey Mouse. At his peak he was burning his voice like firewood. That's why it's so good.

2001 was not Mickey Mouse. In that year he still had hints of his voice on the UYI tour, but it really was a CLEAN voice and reached higher notes than in the time of the classic GNR. That 2011-14 and 2017-21 are really Mickey Mouse is different, but in 2001 his voice was good and it would have been better with more physical preparation. In addition, in 2006 he could do any voice (low, medium, clean, raspy and super high notes) and in 2010 he always sang with a raspy voice, so your argument does not take into account that 2001-02 had good things and that 2006 -10 was a peak for his voice.

But I do agree that his voice has undergone many changes.  I think we could divide Axl's voice by epochs:

  • 1985-87. “Tender” and quite high-pitched voice with little scraping. AFD was recorded around this time.
  • 1988-89. Voice less high-pitched than in previous years but already with full rasp and more powerful.
  • ¿1990? Probably around this time the voices of the UYI were recorded. On the album, Axl’s voice doesn’t sound much different than it did at the opening shows with the Stones or at Farm Aid. Pretty flawless voice.
  • 1991. Extremely raspy voice, out of tune on many songs. The truth is that I don’t like his voice on that year.
  • 1992. Raspy voice but less than in 1991. Axl already had control of the rasp and I think his voice in that year sounded incredible. His best year of the 90s.
  • 1993. Not very different from 1992 but already his voice sounded somewhat weakened. I think this year he made a lot of use of his mid vocal range. It is natural that after two years of touring his voice would sound like this.
  • 1994. Sympathy for the Devil. I think his voice sounds great on that song, but it’s no longer raspy, and it’s higher than on the UYI tour.
  • 1996. The West Arkeen band song where Axl and Slash collaborated. It is already much higher and cleaner than in Sympathy, it even has some traces of his voice on the 2002 tour.
  • 1998-99. Some re-recordings of Axl’s voice for Live Era. It’s already a much cleaner voice, it doesn’t sound similar to the UYI tour but I think it was pretty good. Those highs were of good technique, and they would help him later to record the voices of Chinese Democracy.
  • 2001. He still had airs to his voice ten years earlier, but it is mostly high-pitched and clean. Those high and long notes that he made were incredible. The only problem is that he was short of breath, but with good physical preparation and rehearsals, he would have sounded so much better.
  • 2002. I think it’s weaker than 2001 (but he made brutal high notes just like the year before). Although he sounded a bit bad at the VMAs, at the end of the tour he was improving a lot. Albany, Boston and MSG were good shows.
  • 2006. No words for that year. His most complete and versatile voice. It was brutal and incredible.
  • 2007. His voice in that year was weaker than in 2006, but stronger than in 2002 so it is a middle point between the two.
  • 2009. Even though he was probably the fattest Axl we’ve ever seen, his voice was amazing. A lot of rasp but he also did some songs with a clean voice. I listened the entire Osaka show and it seems brutal to me.
  • 2010. Better than the previous year, very powerful and scratchy voice 100% of the time. I think it was the last year where Axl sang well from start to finish on every show.
  • 2011. Here the decline began, although I think that in some shows he sang a little like in 2010 but the damage was already done.
  • 2012-13. Axl in autopilot mode. His voice is already the real Mickey Mouse but he still sang well some songs like WTTJ or Nightrain.
  • 2014. A little better than the previous ones, especially the shows with Duff. Yes, his voice was Mickey but again in some songs it was acceptable.
  • 2016. A pretty good year for Axl's voice. Sitting on the ‘throne’ I think he sang very well, with a raspy voice and airs to his 2010 voice. Then with AC / DC he took it out of the stadium—he sang perfectly during the tour with them. And then with Guns, he also did incredible but somewhat uneven; songs like ISE, WTTJ, Nightrain, TIL or Better were brutal, but SCOM or NR very weak, with the same voice from 2011-14.
  • 2017. I think it was OK until July of that year (on the Apollo show it sounds like his voice from 2016), but it went from more to less across the rest of the year.
  • 2018-21. Much weaker, more Mickey in his voice, but I think that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that he is out of breath, he can’t stand singing the verses and he gets too tired. As I said in another post on the forum, if he had good cardiorespiratory endurance and rehearsed, even Mickey’s voice would sound good.
9 minutes ago, We love Axl Rose said:

What are the disadvantages of the 2010 voice compared to 2006, to you ?

 

I love his voice from 2010, but the plus of 2006 is that he could bring out his super raspy voice but also his mid vocal range or the high notes of 2001-02. But still 2006, 2009 and 2010 were an incredible thing, I like them more than 1991.

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1 hour ago, IncitingChaos said:

I thought Izzy was one of the first to recommend Axl use more rasp and distortion in his vocals after they were messing around on a song. I think i read that a long time ago and always assumed that’s why Axl got away from his early clean vocals 

Yes… that makes sense to me. Axl’s voice between 1985-87 was quite clean and young, but with the constant touring, Izzy’s suggestion, and how wild the GNR concerts were, that may explain the change in Axl’s voice in late 1987.

Just an opinion from me: Ritz 1988 does not define Axl’s voice in 1988. I think the USA tour in the middle of the year, Donington, VMA and Japan at the end of the year, are what really define his voice in that year. His voice that year was not clean (but it was much, much less raspy than in 1991) nor was it as high and tender as in previous years, but that year and 1987, 1992, 2006 and 2010 are my favorite years of Axl’s voice.

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4 minutes ago, Coma16 said:

I'm glad he moved away from his Rapid Fire voice.

Just a doubt, do you think Axl’s voice in Suicide, AFD and maybe Lies, is like in Rapidfire? I think his voice at that time (1985-87) sounds closer to Hollywood Rose’s Axl (I’ve heard practically nothing from Rapidfire) than to Axl from the UYI tour, for example.

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5 minutes ago, Neider said:

Just a doubt, do you think Axl’s voice in Suicide, AFD and maybe Lies, is like in Rapidfire? I think his voice at that time (1985-87) sounds closer to Hollywood Rose’s Axl (I’ve heard practically nothing from Rapidfire) than to Axl from the UYI tour, for example.

No, his voice in Rapid Fire nearly rasp-less. I think there's something like 4-5 songs floating around out there. Nothing special imo

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39 minutes ago, Coma16 said:

No, his voice in Rapid Fire nearly rasp-less. I think there's something like 4-5 songs floating around out there. Nothing special imo

Well, Axl’s voice on Suicide and AFD is mostly clean, really. Even live between 1985-87 his voice sounded like this, and he rarely sang with rasp. As I have said in the main post, the rasp in his voice started in 1988 or late 1987, and then it was excessive in 1991, and then it was balanced in 1992.

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2006 was my favorite. I thought it was over around 2012, but he was better in 14’. Didn’t expect much in 16’ but I thought he was great and Axl/DC was on another level. I think the constant touring of that year is what led to his downfall. This year he started rough, but got better. I think he ended somewhere around 2017 levels by the last show. 

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