Why Guns N’ Roses Never Played ‘Don’t Damn Me’ Live
"There’s just too many words," the guitarist said in a 2014 interview when asked if he would play the song with his new band featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. "You know, it’s a cool song and everything. I think even [with] Axl [Rose], we never did it because it was just too many words without a breath, and it just makes it really impossible to do it live."
The need for all those words makes sense. Long before Guns N' Roses became the biggest and most dangerous band in the world, Rose was a lightning rod for controversy. As his fame swelled, so did his notoriety, and on "Don't Damn Me," he struck back at critics, who he felt were constantly ragging on him.
One of the most aggressive songs on the genre-hopping Use Your Illusion set, "Don’t Damn Me" is an old-fashioned Slash-N'-Axl cowrite in the vein of the band's vitriolic debut album, Appetite for Destruction. The guitarist tears open the song with his buzz-saw riff, and Rose launches into a motormouthed polemic against his detractors, only briefly coming up for air during the song's half-speed, quasi-psychedelic bridge.
Listen to Guns N' Roses' 'Don't Damn Me'
For all the outrage that Guns N' Roses — specifically Rose — generated, the frontman insisted on "Don't Damn Me" that he was simply trying to speak his truth. "Don't damn me when I speak a piece of mind," he wailed, "'Cause silence isn't golden when I'm holding it inside."
Many Guns N' Roses fans have speculated that Rose wrote "Don't Damn Me" in response to the backlash he faced for using racist and homophobic slurs on the 1988 G N' R Lies tune "One in a Million." Neither Rose nor his bandmates have confirmed this, but the theory loses a bit of credence when considering "Don't Damn Me" also gives a cowriting credit to David Lank, Rose's childhood friend from Lafayette, Ind., who joined the singer on one of his early trips to Los Angeles. (Lank also played in a band called Mank Rage with guitarist Paul "Huge" Tobias, who played guitar on Guns N' Roses' 1994 cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" and worked with the group until 2002.)
Rose did, however, explain some of the "Don't Damn Me" lyrics — "Don't hail me and don't idolize the ink / Or I've failed in my intentions" — during a 1991 Rockline radio interview. "It's trying to show people to realize their own personal power and their own abilities rather than going, 'Axl Rose is God,'" he said. "It’s like, Whoa, don't say I’m God. Just get your own thing together, you know? And that’s where I said, 'If I've failed in my intentions.' If a person is just idolizing me and not working on their own life, then we've failed with things we're trying to express in that song."