Guns N’ Roses: Glam Rock’s Slash N’ Burn

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Guns N’ Roses are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in the mid-1980s. The classic GNR line-up consisted of Axl Rose on vocals, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagen, and drummer Steven Adler. (See Wikipedia for this and further info). GNR is one of the best-selling hard-rock bands of all time, with a bent towards Glamour Rock. To date the band has sold over 150 million albums worldwide. These sales originated from only six albums: Appetite for Destruction (1987), G N’ R Lies (1988), Use Your Illusion (I and II) (1991), The Spaghetti Incident (1993), and Chinese Democracy (2008). Guns N’ Roses has been credited with reviving the popularity of hard rock music at a time when pop and dance music dominated the radio and music scene in the 80s and 90s.

 

Guns N’ Roses was formed in 1985 by singer Axl Rose and guitarist Izzy Stradlin of Hollywood Rose, along with lead guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Bach, and drummer Rob Gardner of L.A. Guns. The band coined the name by combining the names of both groups. After 2 or 3 shows, Beich was replaced by Duff McKagen, and Guns’ lack of attendance led to his replacement by Slash. Four days after this line-up was established, GNR embarked on a “Hell” tour of the West Coast. Later, McKagen said “This trip had set a new benchmark for what we were capable of, what we could and would put ourselves through to achieve our goal”. Guns N’ Roses then dedicated themselves with the superlative path to rock success of playing the Hollywood club scene  -rocking such famed bars as The Troubadour and The Roxy-which drew the interest of major record labels. Geffen records signed them in 1986, with the band receiving a $75,000 advance. (See Wikipedia)

 

The most extraordinary masterpiece by Guns N’ Roses by far was their debut album Appetite for Destruction (1987), featuring “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City”. “Welcome to the Jungle” was the band’s first single with accompanying video. At first the album did not do well; -that is, until David Geffen convinced MTV to play the video to “Welcome to the Jungle” in their afterhours rotation. (See Wikipedia) Even though it was played at 4am only once, metal and hard rock fans took notice, and requested the song/video be played en masse.  Another interesting fact is that, according to Axl Rose, the lyrics to “Jungle” came from an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man after disembarking from a bus in New York City;the homeless dude screamed at them: “You know where you are?! You’re in the jungle, baby! You’re gonna die!” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was a love song co-written by Rose to his then girlfriend, Erin Everly.GNR toured extensively in support of AFD. The band opened in North America for The Cult, Motley Crue, and Alice Cooper in 1987.

 

GNR shows in the late 1980s were marked by several events which led some fans to describe Guns N’ Roses as “The Most Dangerous Band in the World”. In a 1987 show Atlanta, Axl Rose assaulted a security guard, and was detained backstage while a roadie sang and the other band members played on. Near riots broke out in a 1988 concert in New York state. At England’s “Monsters of Rock” fest, two fans were crushed to death by the ecstatic crowd. At one opening gig for the Rolling Stones in 1989, Axl Rose announced that the shows would be their last if certain members of the band did not stop “Dancing with Mr.Brownstone” –a reference to some in the group’s heroin use. Regarding his own drug use, Axl Rose told Rolling Stone in 1989, “I’m not and never have been a junkie. I’m not necessarily against their use but they don’t fit in my life right now. Right now drugs get in the way of my dreams and goals. Then again, I could be out on tour for six months and a blast that night might be what cheers me up.”

 

Use Your Illusion I and II was one of the more ambitious projects by GNR. Drummer Steven Adler, however, was struggling during recording sessions for the two album blockbuster due to his cocaine and heroin use, resulting in more than 30 takes on one song alone. Adler was fired and replaced by Matt Sorum who had played with The Cult. Guns N’ Roses released Use Your Illusion I and II on September 17, 1991. The albums debuted at #1 and #2 respectively on the Billboard charts. GNR had several music videos on MTV accompanying the effort: “Don’t Cry”, “November Rain”, and “Estranged”. “November Rain” became the most requested video in MTV history, winning the 1992 music video award for best cinematography.

 

The band’s history is extensive and fascinating. (Please see Wikipedia and rock media such as Rolling Stone and AllMusic.com for further details). However, there are a few more “stand-out” events worth mentioning from the band’s seminal background. One is the “Riverport Riot”, where, in a 1991 concert at the Riverport Amphitheatre outside St.Louis, Missouri during the performance of “Rocket Queen” singer Rose noticed a fan filming the concert. He asked security to confiscate the fan’s camera, and when it didn’t happen fast enough, Rose jumped off the stage into the crowd, confronting the fan about the camera before assaulting him. Axl was pulled off the fan by crew, and then announced onstage “Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I’m going home!”, threw down the microphone and left! The stunned crowd turned angry, rioting and in the process dozens of concert-goers were injured.

 

Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit the band in 1991 after a repeat of the St.Louis incident nearly happened again in Germany. Stradlin cited a combination of Rose’s personal behavior (Rose frequently delayed shows for hours at a time) and difficulties being around drug-abusing band members when he himself had gotten sober.Tension between Slash and Rose led to Slash’s quitting of GNR in 1996. Shortly afterward, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagen ditched the band as well. An actual break-up of Guns N’Roses never occurred since departing band members were replaced.

 

The much anticipated release of Chinese Democracy, which had been in music production since 1994 and in that year alone had already cost $13 million, finally occurred on November 22, 2009. It was GNR’s 6th album and their first since 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident. On Dec. 11, 2011 it was announced that the classic Guns N’ Roses line-up would be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, along with Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Faces. In April 2012, Axl Rose announced on the GNR Facebook page that he would not be attending the RRHF induction. In April 2012, former Guns N’ Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan, Gilby Clarke, Steven Adler, and Matt Sorum all reunited at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They performed “Mr. Brownstone”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, and “Paradise City” with Slash’s band vocalist Myles Kennedy filling in for the absent Rose. Axl Rose, along with current band members (including lead guitarist DJ Ashba and rhythm guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai) continue to tour in support of Chinese Democracy.

 

4 Responses to “Guns N’ Roses: Glam Rock’s Slash N’ Burn”

  1. Still amazed that Axl Rose came from Indiana…

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