Guns N' Roses in the late 1980s
Guns N' Roses is an American hard rock band whose dangerous reputation, controversial front man, and technical prowess have made them one of the most popular rock and roll bands ever. The band's 1987 major label debut, Appetite for Destruction, gained them world notoriety with its infamously self-destructive attitude while their 1991 second major effort, the simultaneous album releases of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, and subsequent tour cemented the band's place as a heavily influential and permanent member of rock and roll history.
Originating in Los Angeles in June 1985, Guns N' Roses' unique style incorporated punk, blues, thrash, and other genres of music into what was popular at the time: hair metal. The band was formed by singer Axl Rose, guitarist Tracii Guns, guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Robbie Gardner. The name was derived from a combination of Guns and Rose's pseudonymous last names, while earlier band names in the same vein had been Rose and Hollywood Rose. Fans often shorten the name to the 'Gunners'.
The Appetite Era
When Tracii and Robbie could not attend the Guns N' Roses' first show (in Seattle), Axl called guitarist Slash and drummer Stephen Adler who he had met recently and asked if they would play. The two agreed and the band's original line-up was finalized.
The band released a self-produced EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, in 1986. Copies of the EP reached Geffen Records executives who soon signed the band. Appetite for Destruction, GNR's Geffen debut, was released on August 21, 1987. The album sold 20 million copies, had three top 10 singles, and hit #1 on the charts. Appetite For Destruction remains as one of the best selling debut album of all-time.
Guns N' Roses' next release was the acoustic cd G N' R Lies in 1988 which hit #2 on the music charts. The album was also a source of controversy when one song, 'One In A Million' featured Axl Rose using the words 'niggers' and 'faggots', resulting in many accusing the band (or Axl) of racism and homophobia, which Axl denied citing the fact that his (then) lead guitarist was half black and that he was a big fan of homosexual singers such as Freddie Mercury and Elton John. Contributing Welcome to the Jungle to the soundtrack of movie The Dead Pool (in the Dirty Harry series) gave the band a couple of seconds onscreen in the movie.
In 1989, Guns N' Roses were presented with the American Music Award for favorite Pop/Rock single for Sweet Child O' Mine. At the televised annual award show in 1989, Duff McKagen and Slash appeared intoxicated and used strong language while accepting the award for Best Heavy Metal Album for Appetite For Destruction, and Best Heavy Metal Song for Paradise City. Because of the incident, subsequent American Music Award shows have been broadcast using a five second delay.
Use Your Illusion
Shortly after the release of 'Lies', drummer Steve Adler was dismissed from the band, reportedly due to his unwillingness to address his heroin addiction. Other members addressed their addiction after Axl Rose spoke up about them 'dancing with Mr. Brownstone' during their opening set for the Rolling Stones. In 1990 Guns N' Roses returned to the studio with new drummer Matt Sorum and keyboardist Dizzy Reed to begin work on the band's most ambitious undertaking yet. On September 17, 1991 they released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, which debuted as #2 and #1 on the charts.
After the release of the Use Your Illusion albums Guns N' Roses went on a 28-month-long world tour, during which Izzy Stradlin quit the band and was replaced by Gilby Clarke. The tour included The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. During this time, November Rain became the most requested video on MTV, eventually winning a VMA for best cinematography.
In 1993, Guns N' Roses released a collection of mostly punk covers entitled The Spaghetti Incident?. This album did not match the success of the Illusion albums and tensions were ever increasing in the band. In 1994 Axl fired Gilby Clarke. That same year, a cover version of The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil was recorded by the band, joined by Paul Huge (replacing Gilby Clarke), for the movie Interview with the Vampire. Several members started up their side projects (such as Slash with Slash's Snakepit and Duff McKagan in the Neurotic Outsiders). In 1996, Slash quit the band, citing creative differences with Axl. Within the following year, Duff and Matt also left the band, which left Axl as the sole original member.
The New GN'R
In 1998 Axl Rose returned to the studio accompanied by drummer Josh Freese (of the Vandals), bassist Tommy Stinson (formerly of The Replacements), guitarist Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), guitarist Paul Huge (aka Paul Tobias), and keyboardist Dizzy Reed.
In 1999, the band released one new song, Oh My God, which was included on the soundtrack of End of Days. This song was intended to be a prelude for a new album, Chinese Democracy. GNR also released Live Era 87-93, which was a collection of songs the original lineup recorded on the road between 1987 and 1993. Later that year, Finck returned to Nine Inch Nails briefly to record 'The Fragile.'
In 2000, avant garde guitarist Buckethead joined Guns N' Roses.
The revised lineup returned to the stage in January of 2001 with two well-received concerts, one in Las Vegas and one in Rio de Janeiro. Consisting of Axl Rose, guitarists Buckethead, Robin Finck, and Paul Huge, bassist Tommy Stinson, keyboard players Dizzy Reed and Chris Pittman, and drummer Brain (formerly of Primus), the band played a mixture of old hits as well as new songs from their forthcoming album. The new lineup played two shows in Las Vegas at the end of 2001. During 2002, guitarist Paul Huge left the band and was replaced by Richard Fortus, formerly of the band Love Spit Love. The band then played several shows in August of 2002, headlining festivals and concerts in Asia and Europe, and then making their way to New York for a surprise appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards.
A U.S. tour, the band's first since 1993, was planned. The tour got off to a bad start. The opening show in Vancouver was cancelled by the venue due to Axl not showing up in a timely manner. A riot ensued. Subsequent shows went on as planned. The tour was met with mixed results. Some concerts in smaller markets did not sell out, while shows in larger markets such as New York and Boston sold out in minutes. Due to a no show by Axl in Philadelphia and the resulting riot by fans, Clear Channel, the tour's promoter, cancelled all remaining shows of the tour. As of February 2005 the band has not played a show since their December 5, 2002 concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Reports issued by the band in 2001 and 2002 claimed that Chinese Democracy was to be released later that year by Interscope/Geffen Records, with whom they had apparently patched up their differences (if any). It is set to release in 2005. Despite Rose's protests, legal and otherwise, Geffen released a greatest hits album on March 23rd. Similarly, Cleopatra records released 'Hollywood Rose: The Roots of Guns N' Roses' in early summer. Again, Rose failed to stop its release.
In 2002, Q magazine named Guns N' Roses in their list of the '50 Bands To See Before You Die', although this was as part of a sub-list of '5 Bands That Could Go Either Way'.
In March 2004 Buckethead left the band, causing Rose to cancel their May 30th appearance at Rock in Rio 4 in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Other Gunners
Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum formed the band Velvet Revolver with Scott Weiland (formerly of Stone Temple Pilots) in 2003. The band contributed a song to the Hulk's soundtrack before releasing their first album, Contraband, in June 2004. Contraband debuted at #1 on the music charts. The band toured briefly before the release of the album and in the winter of 2004/2005.
Izzy Stradlin continues to release solo albums and occasionally collaborates on songs with Velvet Revolver. Steven Adler tours with his band Adler's Appetite (formerly Suki Jones) and has plans to record with this band.
This biography is published under the GNU Licence
- Tracii Guns, guitar (1985)
- Robbie Gardner, drums (1985)
- Slash, guitars (1985-1996)
- Duff McKagan, bass (1985-1997)
- Izzy Stradlin, guitar (1985-1991)
- Gilby Clarke, guitar (1991-1994)
- Steven Adler, drums (1985-1990)
- Matt Sorum, drums (1990-1997)
- Paul Huge, guitar (1994-2002)
- Josh Freese, drums (1997-2000)
- Buckethead, guitar (2000-2004)