A few days after Christmas 2015, visitors to Guns N' Roses' website noticed that something looked different. Atop the page was the band's bullet logo, a pair of opposite-facing revolvers girdled by a thorny rose stem. It hadn't been used since the group's early days.
For much of the world, the change passed unnoticed. But for the GNR faithful—especially those who'd been in mourning since the punk-metal powerhouse's disintegration circa 1993—it was a sign. As Loudwire.com reasoned, "The emblem is synonymous with the band's classic lineup," and that, concluded E! Online, meant one thing: "A reunion may be in the works."
As we know now, a reunion is exactly what it'll be. Sporting three-fifths of its original lineup, the band that Salon called "a high-functioning, talented train wreck" will play two Saturday nights at Coachella later this month, and then kick off 20 stadium dates that promise to be "the most chaotic tour of 2016."
That the most notorious metal band of the 1980s (OK, except for Mötley Crüe) will be headlining a music festival in the California desert is proof of an unlikely phenom: The hair metal that Gen Xers rocked out to is now legitimate fare for their millennial offspring. "We don't have arena rock bands now, and there's a need for that," explained Andrew Hampp, a former editor at Billboard who's now vp of brand strategy at music-marketing firm Mac Presents. "Now that it's been a full generation and a half since Appetite for Destruction, there's a lot for [younger fans] to connect with."
They'll connect with the music, of course, but also with millions of dollars of Guns N' Roses merch. Which brings us back to that logo.
It's among the most famous band insignias ever created—up there with Led Zeppelin's fallen angel and the Rolling Stones' hot lips. And, like many brand badges, GNR's has undergone some revisions—from the skull-and-cross design (generally credited to tattoo artist Bill White) that adorned 1987's Appetite for Destruction to the communist-style red stars of 2008's Chinese Democracy (which few recall because frontman Axl Rose was the only original member still in the band).
But it was GNR's original logo—the Bullet—that still quickens the pulse. It appeared on 1986's Live ?!@ Like a Suicide, a four-track EP pressed shortly after the GNR came together from the ruins of bands Hollywood Rose and the L.A. Guns. Popular lore holds that drummer Steven Adler drew the design himself—a great story, but one that's hard to credit given Adler's reputation for being zonked on coke and heroin much of the time.
But wherever it came from, the logo—which will appear on the official guitar picks Slash is using on the tour—is a rock icon, even in its variant forms. "It's gotten to the point where just about any rose tattoo is synonymous with the band," Hampp said. "It's transcended the Bullet."
This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.