Watch You Bleed, the book on Guns N’ Roses released this week, has come at an interesting time in the band’s history. How fitting that the book would remind us of part of the band’s dangerous origins. New York Magazine‘s Culture Vulture blog has obtained a passage of the book explaining the source behind GNR’s most recognized tune. As it turns out, "Welcome to the Jungle" had its origins in the words of a random old black man in upper Manhattan that approached a confused young Midwesterner in 1980:
Now an old man limped over to them. He gave them the once-over, seeming to linger over Bill’s cowboy boots. Bill was becoming uneasy now, his friend noticed, which was never a good thing, because, when agitated or upset, Bill’s behavior could get a little out there. Finally, the old man spoke, or rather squawked, in a high-pitched shriek.
"DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?"
The boys, taken aback, just looked at him.
"I SAID, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?"
Bill Bailey said, "Uh, we’re just trying to get to…"
"YOU’RE IN THE JUNGLE, BABY!"
Bill Bailey — the future W. Axl Rose — just stared at him in wonderment. And then the little old man wound himself up to his full fury and told these white boys what they could expect from New York City at the tail end of the seventies: years of bankruptcy, endemic crime, corruption, decadence — the gateway to the eighties and the scourge of AIDS. He told it to them straight from the gut:
"YOU’RE GONNA DIE!"
That’s as good a rock ‘n’ roll story as I’ve ever heard. Poor Bailey, Indiana’s got nothing on Washington Heights.