For anyone not familiar with the back story, suffice it to say that Chinese Democracy is the biggest boy-who-cried-wolf album of all time. Originally slated for release circa 1999, the album has been perpetually promised and delayed by the maligned Axl Rose, a rock 'n' roll has-been notorious for his maniacal perfectionism. But after enough empty deliveries, the music world called Axl's bluff, and Chinese Democracy became a myth, if not a joke; nothing more than a magnum opus in the mind of its troubled creator.
On the day of its release (a rare Sunday), I walked into Best Buy on 86th Street in an anticipatory state, half-excited but half-unsure if anyone else could sense the weight of the momentous day. History was being made, but with the hustle and bustle of New York City, palpability for these things tend to get lost in the melting pot.
Although the album was quickly accessible and well-placed in the center of the store on its own display rack, the overall experience was anticlimactic. I walked up and tried to admire the prominence of the exhibit, but it was mitigated by the fact that I was the only one who seemed to care or notice at the time. It didn't matter, though, for I was finally holding a piece of history in my hands.
Because Chinese Democracy was actually leaked to MySpace a few days before its official release, I briefly thought about going about my standard operating procedure, which is sampling the music first and then buying the CD or just downloading a few songs that I like. But then it hit me: It didn't matter how much I might dislike Chinese Democracy—with this kind of mythology, I had to own it regardless. Because in the age of iTunes, it was an instant collector's item that deserved a physical purchase. And in a time where truly great rock albums are in decline, it's worth even more.
My full review of Chinese Democracy: