This might be weird if it didn't involve Guns N' Roses.
Since it does, however, it shouldn't be at all shocking that New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza is responsible for playing a new Guns N' Roses song on the radio.
As he regularly does, Piazza appeared on New York classic rock station Q104.3's nationally syndicated Friday night show, "Friday Night Rocks ... With Eddie Trunk," with a CD marked "New GNR" which he said he received in the mail three weeks ago. He persuaded Trunk to play the song "I.R.S." at 12:15 a.m. Saturday morning.
Almost immediately the station was flooded with calls. One listener described it as combining rock and techno — Axl Rose's distinctive voice on top of Buckethead's unorthodox guitar work.
"It reminded me of Use Your Illusion-era stuff, with some modern flairs to it," said DJ Eddie Trunk. "The song had a loop track in the beginning, but then, when it kicked in, it was that same dramatic Guns N' Roses hard rock."
Not all of the calls were complimentary, however. One was from GN'R management, which issued a verbal cease-and-desist order.
"We've gotten hundreds, dare I say thousands, of e-mails since, urging us to play it again," said Q104 (WAXQ-FM) program director Bob Buchmann. "But we can't because the management flipped when they heard it on the air."
Because Trunk often deals with the same management company and has a professional relationship with them, he didn't argue with the request. There still was the matter of having a new GN'R song in circulation, though.
Trunk believes a fan aware of Piazza's love for all things rock sent him the CD-R, which also included the instrumental and complete versions of two other songs. So whoever sent Piazza the disc must have obtained it through the studio, he reasoned.
"People who listen to my show know that Mike is a fanatic about this stuff, as much as I am," Trunk said. "They know he's a regular part of the show ... And someone must have thought that this would be a cool way to leak the track."
The GN'R camp was so eager to retrieve the disc that they arranged to meet with Trunk, to whom Piazza had given the CD, as soon as possible. And that just happened to be at Shea Stadium on Sunday, while the Mets were hosting a game with the Atlanta Braves.
Since Trunk's show can be heard nationwide, it's likely not the last we will hear of "I.R.S." Although all traces of the segment were removed from taped broadcasts of the show, it's broadcast live in Minneapolis and Truck says many listeners routinely tape the show, which airs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Axl himself has been lax in protecting access to his band's new material. Two months ago, the singer played new songs at a Las Vegas strip club in order to gauge the reaction from the dancers.
"I.R.S." joins "Madagascar," which Guns N' Roses premiered at the 2002 Video Music Awards, as new material that may appear on the band's long-overdue new LP, Chinese Democracy.
A spokesperson for Guns N' Roses' label, Interscope, had no comment, but given the fact that management "flipped," they wouldn't have had a reason to were it not the genuine article and instead a tune by Paradise City, Mr. Brownstone, Bent Axle or any number of the GN'R tribute bands.
As for Piazza being comeback rock's new litmus test, Buchmann said it happens more often than you'd expect.
"Mike is a huge music fan," he said. "The truth is, Mike is so passionate about certain music that I would argue that he's on the top-10 list of real music fans that a band might circulate their unreleased stuff to. Piazza's a riot. He's as passionate as they come."
The lucky catcher has probably been listening to those new Duran Duran joints for months now, too.
This story updated 09.03.03 at 4:12 p.m. ET