Guns N' Roses Biography
N' Roses was founded in Los Angeles in June 1985. Their unique
style incorporated punk, blues, thrash, and other genres of music
into the popular heavy metal music of the time. The band was formed
by singer Axl Rose, guitarists Tracii Guns and Izzy Stradlin',
bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Rob Gardner. The name was derived
from a combination of the last names of Guns and Rose, as well
as making reference to members' affiliation with their previous
bands: Hollywood Rose and LA Guns.
Tracii Guns and Robbie Gardner could not attend the first Guns
N' Roses show in Seattle, Rose called guitarist Slash and drummer
Steven Adler, whom he had met recently, and asked if they would
join the band on stage for the show. The two agreed and the band's
most famous line-up was finalized. On the way back to Los Angeles,
the five members wrote the lyrics for the song "Welcome to
the Jungle", which eventually became their signature song.
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 debut album, was released
on August 21, 1987. The album sold 20 million copies and hit #1
on the charts. The album included the songs "Welcome to the
Jungle", "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise
City", all of which were top 10 singles on the Billboard
charts. As of 2005, Appetite For Destruction remains the best-selling
debut album of all time.
The band began
opening shows for major bands in the rock industry, but as Appetite
for Destruction's sales began to rise, a world tour in support
of the album was scheduled. Guns N' Roses traveled all across
United States, and in the spring of 1988, they were invited to
co-headline the notorious Monsters of Rock Festival in Europe.
The band shared the stage with legendary groups like Iron Maiden,
KISS and Judas Priest. However, the behavior of the members of
GN'R was gathering attention from the media. McKagan, Slash and
Adler were constantly seen on stage under the influence of alcohol
or other drugs. Members of the crew at the time even stated that
Slash had to be carried on to the stage by a group of people and
that he often passed out after the concerts ended. A tragic event
occurred during the Monsters of Rock concert in the UK, when two
fans were accidentally killed when the crowd present at the concert
began jumping and moving forward at the moment that the Guns N'
Roses' show started. The media blamed the deaths of the fans on
the band, even though they were unaware of the incident until
after the show ended. All these events during the Appetite for
Destruction tour earned the group the title of "the most
dangerous band in the world".
Guns N' Roses'
next release was the half-acoustic CD G N' R Lies in 1988, which
hit #2 on the music charts. The song "One In A Million",
which used the words "niggers" and "faggots",
led to controversy that accused the band (or Axl) of racism and
homophobia, which Axl denied, saying his (then) lead guitarist
was half black and that he was a big fan of homosexual and bisexual
singers such as Queen's Freddie Mercury, Elton John, and Judas
Priest's Rob Halford.
The song "Welcome
to the Jungle" was included on the soundtrack of the fifth
Dirty Harry movie The Dead Pool, which led to a couple of seconds
of screen time for the band.
In 1989, Guns
N' Roses were presented with an American Music Award for favorite
Pop/Rock single for "Sweet Child O' Mine". At the televised
annual award show in 1989, Duff McKagan 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
The drug abuse
of some members of the group was becoming a source of controversy
with their music label, which demanded that the band modify their
habits. The members took further steps to deal with their addictions
after Rose threatened to end the band if they continued with their
heavy drug abuse. He also spoke up about them during an opening
set for the Rolling Stones in 1989 saying that "if some members
don't stop dancing with Mr. Brownstone, Guns N' Roses will end."
The whole band's heavy use and abuse of heroin is referenced throughout
Appetite for Destruction, the song Mr. Brownstone is about heroin
and its effects. (Brownstone is a common slang term for heroin,
mainly due to its sometimes brown color.)
1990 Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording their
most ambitious undertaking yet. During the recording of the album,
drummer Steven Adler was unable to perform since he was alledgedly
unwilling to combat a heroin addiction. Adler was fired in August
1990, and replaced with the former drummer of The Cult Matt Sorum.
Also keyboardist Dizzy Reed joined the band as a full time member.
With enough music for a double album, the band instead chose to
release Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II as two separate
albums on September 17, 1991. The tactic paid off when the albums
debuted as #2 and #1 on the Billboard Music charts.
release of the Use Your Illusion albums, Guns N' Roses went on
a 28-month-long world tour which was notorious both for its success
and for many controversial incidents along the way. Possibly the
most famous of these incidents took place in the summer of 1991,
when Axl Rose jumped into the audience during a concert in St.
Louis, Missouri. Rose hit one of the fans after taking away a
video camera with which the fan was recording the show. After
that, Rose left the stage and the angry crowd began a riot in
which dozens of people were injured. Rose was charged with having
incited a riot, but the police were unable to arrest him until
almost a year later, because the band went overseas to continue
the tour. Charges were filed against Rose, but a judge ruled he
had not directly incited the riot. During this time, guitarist
Izzy Stradlin' quit the band due to differences with Rose. He
was replaced by Los Angeles-based guitarist Gilby Clarke.
The band also
appeared at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert that year, and
went on a mini-tour with American heavy metal band Metallica.
During a show in August 1992 at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Metallica
front-man James Hetfield suffered severe burns after stepping
too close to a pyrotechnics machine. Metallica was forced to cancel
their part of the show, but asked Rose and Guns N' Roses to continue
the concert. After a long delay, Guns N' Roses took the stage.
However, Rose claimed he had problems with his voice that night
and decided to cancel the band's presentation after just four
songs. This led to yet another riot during a Guns N' Roses concert,
but no criminal charges were filed.
The Use Your
Illusion Tour is notable for the many videos the band released
to support it. Among them, "Don't Cry", "November
Rain" and "Estranged" - these videos are some of
the most expensive ever made.
time, the hit ballad "November Rain" became the most
requested video on MTV, eventually winning an MTV Video Music
Award for best cinematography. During the awards show, the band
performed "November Rain" with singer Elton John.
In May 1993,
Gilby Clarke broke his wrist in a motorcycling accident, and the
band needed a replacement for some shows in Europe. Stradlin'
briefly returned for a string of 5 shows before leaving yet again.
tour ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 17, 1993. The tour
set attendance records and lasted for 28 months in which more
than 200 shows were played. The last show in Buenos Aires proved
to be the last for the classic line-up of the band.
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 continued to increase
within the band. In 1994, Rose fired Gilby Clarke without informing
the rest of the group. That same year, a cover version of The
Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" was recorded
by the band (with Rose's childhood friend Paul Tobias replacing
Gilby Clarke), for the movie Interview with the Vampire. The addition
of Tobias seemed to be the spark that set off the final disintegration
of the band's original line-up. During the recording of "Sympathy
for the Devil", Tobias played over the original solo that
Slash recorded, and Rose deleted several contributions from the
other members. The next member to quit was Slash in 1996, citing
creative differences with Rose. A year later, Sorum was fired
from the group after having a serious verbal dispute with Rose
in the studio. Months later, McKagan opted out of his contract.
This left Axl Rose as the sole original member of the band.
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 Tobias (aka Paul Huge), 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(s),
recorded on the road between 1987 and 1993. Later that year, Finck
returned to Nine Inch Nails to perform on the world tour for the
album The Fragile.
In 2000, avant-garde
guitarist Buckethead joined Guns N' Roses, and drummer Josh Freese
was replaced with Brian Mantia (formerly of Primus).
lineup returned to the stage in January of 2001 with two well-received
concerts, one in Las Vegas and one at the Rock in Rio Festival
in Rio de Janeiro. The band played a mixture of old hits as well
as new songs from their forthcoming album. During the concert,
Rose made several comments about the former members of the band:
that many of you are disappointed that some of the people that
you came to know and love could not be with us here tonight. Regardless
of what you may have read or heard, people worked very hard (meaning
my former friends) to do everything they could so that I could
not be here with you tonight. I am as hurt and disappointed as
you that, unlike OASIS, we could not find a way so that we could
all get along."
The new lineup
played another two shows in Las Vegas at the end of 2001. During
2002, guitarist Tobias left the band because of his frustrations
with the slow way in which the recording of the new album was
going. He 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 2002 American
tour, the band's first since 1993, was organized as a prelude
to the long-awaited Chinese Democracy album. However, the opening
show in Vancouver was cancelled by the venue when Rose failed
to show up in a timely manner, and a riot ensued. The tour was
met with mixed results. Some concerts in smaller markets did not
sell well, while shows in larger markets such as New York and
Boston sold out in minutes. Due a second absence by Axl Rose in
Philadelphia and the resulting riot by fans, Clear Channel, the
tour's promoter, cancelled all remaining shows of the tour.
As of July
2005 the band has not played a show since their December 5, 2002,
concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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.
In the meantime,
despite Rose's vocal and legal protests, Geffen released a greatest
hits album on March 23rd. Similarly, Cleopatra records released
"Hollywood Rose: The Roots of Guns N' Roses" in early
summer over Rose's objections.
In March 2004
Buckethead left the band, causing Rose to cancel their May 30th
appearance at Rock in Rio 4 in Lisbon, Portugal. The band is currently
in Los Angeles, auditioning new guitar players, and is reportedly
still tinkering in the studio with Democracy, which has been in
production for over ten years and has cost more than twelve million
dollars in studio time alone. It is, of course, currently rumored
that Chinese Democracy will be released at last in 2005, but the
news is being treated with strong skepticism until more concrete
evidence of a release date and promotion for the album is at hand.
April 2005 a demo of a new GN'R song called "IRS" spread
through numerous internet sites. The management of the band responded
that they have not leaked any new songs to the public, but that
the song available on the internet was only a "low quality
demo." This event has stirred up more controversy about whether
or not the new album will be available this year.
and Matt Sorum participated in the one-album side project Neurotic
Outsiders in 1995–1996, with former Sex Pistol Steve Jones
and Duran Duran bassist John Taylor; the Outsiders had a brief
three-show reunion in 1999.
breakup of Guns N' Roses, Slash formed Slash's Snakepit. After
the dissolving of Slash's snakepit, Slash went on to a new project,
Velvet Revolver. In 2003, Velvet Revolver was formed from Slash,
McKagan, and Sorum formed the band with Scott Weiland (formerly
of Stone Temple Pilots). The band contributed a song to the soundtrack
of the film the Hulk before releasing their first album, Contraband,
in June 2004. The band has been touring ever since March 2004.
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. On June, 2005, Adler said in an interview that
Rose had threatened to kill him and that he was constantly keeping
away from the rest of the former members. Rose and Adler have
not had any type of communication since 1990. Gilby Clarke is
currently on the road with a blues-rock cover band called The
Slash sued Axl Rose in 2004 over the rights of certain GN'R songs.
They claim that Rose has denied several motion pictures the opportunity
to use Guns N' Roses songs. They believe that by not allowing
the songs they have co-written to be featured in movies, they
have been denied the opportunity to make money. On the other hand,
Rose claims that all Guns N' Roses songs are part of the GN'R
catalog, to which McKagan and Slash agreed to give sole rights
to Rose in 1992. The case will be seen in court in November, 2005.
Guns N' Roses
is recognized as the band that changed the way the heavy metal
industry was moving in the late 1980s. While most bands during
the period produced simple songs and were dependent of their looks
rather than the messages of their music (see hair metal), Guns
N' Roses ushered in an era where facial make-up and spandex pants
(typical of the late 80's bands, and Axl, who wore spandex into
the 90's) were integrated into popular culture.
in the music industry spoke highly of the band. Ozzy Osbourne
and Joe Perry called GN'R "the next Rolling Stones."
In 2002, Q magazine named Guns N' Roses in their list of the "50
Bands To See Before You Die". Also, the television network
VH1 ranked Guns N' Roses # 9 in the "100 Greatest Artists
of Hard Rock". All of their studio albums of original material
appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine's "500 Greatest Albums
of All-Time" list.
band has not been free of criticism from the media. The well-known
drug abuse by some members of the group, particularly Slash and
McKagan, and Axl's Charles Manson T-shirts, were used by the media
to display GN'R as a bad example to the millions of teenagers
that followed them around the world. The long periods of time
that took the group to record their albums was also a source of
Axl Rose, however, has become a source of both controversy and
criticism since the majority of the original members left the
group. His excessive elusiveness has led to several stories that
claim that he is suffering from serious bipolar disorder. Music
critics have blamed Rose for the break-up of the original group,
have criticized him for continuing the band after the departure
of the originals, and for the "perfectionism" that has
contributed to personal conflict and the long delays between albums.
Rose has not given a press conference since 1994.