Remembering when Axl Rose and Bruce Springsteen absolutely butchered The Beatles song ‘Come Together’
Given the colossal legacy left behind by The Beatles and John Lennon, it comes as little surprise that some of the most recognisable figures in music have attempted to put their spin on a string of their biggest hits.
Originally released in 1969 as the opening song to The Beatles’ eleventh studio album Abbey Road, Lennon was, at the time, attempting to write a song for Timothy Leary’s political campaign for governor of California. Skip forward a few months, however, and Leary was imprisoned for possession of marijuana and Lennon’s track remained without purpose.
“The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song,” Lennon once said of the song. “I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, ‘Come Together’, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?”
While the track appeared to lose purpose early in its creation, ‘Come Together’ went on to become one of The Beatles’ most iconic creations and further solidified Lennon’s supreme songwriting ability. While the likes of Kate Bush, Arctic Monkeys, Soundgarden, Ike and Tina Turner all delivered impressive renditions of the song… some, unfortunately, did not.
It’s not often you can sit here, watching Bruce Springsteen pick up his guitar with his usual authority and then, out of nowhere, be left wincing and cringing at the catastrophe that is unfolded before your very own eyes. It seems, however, if you add Axl Rose and some wildly unprepared notions to the formula you’re left doing just that.
While appearing at the 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where Rose was presenting Elton John with an award, an earthquake was unfolding in Los Angeles which would significantly affect the rest of the evening. Organisers had pre-arranged for Rod Stewart and Elton John to perform ‘Come Together’ in tribute to John Lennon who was being posthumously inducted as a solo artist. However, the aforementioned earthquake had disrupted Stewart’s travel to the event in New York which left organisers scrambling for a solution.
Heading into the crowd to try and recruit a big name for an impromptu rendition of a Beatles classic, the lyrics were repeatedly placed in front of Springsteen who, quite emphatically, refused multiple times. Accepting defeat, organisers moved across to the next table and asked Axl Rose if he would step up. Rose, armed with his words of persuasion, headed back over to The Boss and managed to persuade him to join him on stage.
Then it happened, the most unlikely of collaborations, Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose walking from the crowd and into the bright lights to perform a tribute to John Lennon with absolutely zero practice or rehearsals — and boy did it show.
Rose, waving his arms wide and clapping along, took to the mic as if supercharged, electrocuted by the sheer gravity of the moment, suitably over-sang almost every note while missing a few cues in the process. Springsteen, looking into the crowd and wondering how one earth he has allowed himself to be convinced into taking part in this car crash, strums almost pointlessly and somewhat awkwardly on his guitar and gets dangerously close to turning this into ska/ dub/ reggae rendition.
Thank goodness for the backing band that’s all I’ll say. After this moment, Rose didn’t perform again in public for six years… enough said.