Yankee Pot Roast


The Norman Rockwell–Axl Rose Correspondence

Jeff Barnosky

He keeps pulling out the “Paul Westerberg’s more difficult to deal with than Axl Rose” line. And I think, “Yeah, of course.” Wouldn't Van Gogh be more difficult than Norman Rockwell? (Laughs.)
—Harp Magazine

Dear Norman:

When it finally came time to decide on an artist for the cover of Guns N’ Roses’epic, world-changing new album, Chinese Democracy, I realized that I only had one real candidate: you. After all, who more symbolizes democracy, China, and the naked, violent exposure of the human soul better than Norman Rockwell? Nobody. I know that this may be a difficult task for you, especially considering the daunting fact that you have been dead for 25 years. You should know however that whatever Axl Rose wants, Axl Rose gets!

You Should Be Mine!

Dear Axl:

Thanks for writing! First and foremost, I should say that I’ve been a fan ever since I first heard the harrowing first chords of “Jungle” playing on my Victaphone back in ’87, nine years after I died. As soon as I bought the album, I knew that I should have been the one to draw the cover. Seriously, how many records can you sell with a picture of a bunch of skeleton skulls on the cross? I know you guys were huge (and still are!) but think about how earth-shatteringly, mind-numbingly huge you could have been if your record didn’t alienate so much of the population? The past is past, but I always imagined you guys all standing around the table, looking at the Thanksgiving turkey with a hunger reserved only for the night before the West Lafayette Peach Tart Festival! I’ve included some sketch ideas I have for Chinese Democracy. Tell me what you think.


Most beautiful, wonderful Norman,

I have been trapped in this studio for so long, feverishly trying to beat the deadline for what will certainly by my most thoughtful, introspective album. There’s nothing I hate more than making people wait, so I never miss a deadline. How nice of my record company to give me 14 years to complete Chinese Democracy! And how wonderful of you to open my mind up to the beautiful world outside of the recording studio, a world I always imagined died when Johnny Thunders did. My favorite sketch is the one of me saluting the Chinese flag in Tiananmen Square, though you so very ironically appear, at first glance, to be depicting Lincoln saluting the American flag at Gettysburg. Genius! Genius!

Your dearest Rose

My lovely Axis of Roses!!!!

How wonderful it is hear your response to my sketches, though I must admit I am not entirely happy with the work I’ve produced for you. A genius such as yours, especially in the area of logical moral discourse and humanism, deserves a cover artist who can at least hint at the depth of your passion and beauty. Axl, I’ve been dead for almost 25 years and I’ve seen every one who’s ever died in one way or the other. You, W. Axl Rose, are the most beautiful human being to ever live. You are the reason God created the heavens and the earth. You are truth and beauty at the same time. Here is what I hope will be the only drawing I can do that will capture your inner wonder: a picture of you as young boy, standing on a chair with your pants half-down, checking out the doctor’s credentials. To vaccinate Axl Rose, you must have your M.D. from heaven itself!

You Rock me so Well.

N, my love:

“Sweet Child”? You. “Patience”? You. “November Rain”? You. You. You had me at the first Saturday Evening Post. Alas, I didn’t even realize what I was singing all of those years ago. What I really felt in my heart was: Take me down to the Norman Rockwell City! Don’t you cry, Norman. I still love you, baby. You are my genius, my muse.

A Rose without thorns.


Nothing could distill my admiration and love for you, Axl baby. One problem, however. Your record company just sent me a note that said that Chinese Democracy would be delayed sixth months? What the hell? I still love you, baby, but daddy needs to get paid.


Dear Mr. Rockwell:

Thank you for your submission to the Guns N’ Roses fan-art contest. While your work shows a keen sense of social consciousness and moral fervor, not to mention a wry, folksy sense of humor, we feel that is not right for the cover of Chinese Democracy. We also realize, now, that you’ve been working closely with Mötley Crüe on their comeback album and that we now are walking the streets at night, just trying to get it right. We don’t have time for the pain. We need you.

Guns N’ Roses Management