N' Roses - Biography
Guns N' Roses (GN'R)
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 defiant 1987
major label debut, Appetite for Destruction, gained them
worldwide notoriety while their 1991 second major effort, the
simultaneous releases of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your
Illusion II, and subsequent tour cemented the band's place as a
heavily influential member of rock and roll history. Their rapid
fall from these heights, continuous personnel changes and a long
period of inactivity has contributed to an aura of legendary
Guns 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, guitarist
Tracii Guns, guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and
drummer Robbie Gardner. The name was
derived from a combination of the pseudonymous last names of Guns
and Rose, as well as making reference to members' affiliation with
their previous bands: Hollywood Rose and LA Guns.
Rise to fame
When 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.
Guns N' Roses' next release was the
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
singers such as Freddie Mercury and Elton John.
The song "Welcome to the Jungle"
was included on the soundtrack of the Dirty Harry movie The Dead
Pool, which led to a couple of seconds of screen time for the
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 delay.
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 took further steps to deal with their addictions after
Rose spoke up about them "dancing with Mr. Brownstone" during an
opening set for the Rolling Stones. "Mr. Brownstone" is a common
nickname for heroin.
The Use Your Illusion Tour
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. 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
After the 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 was
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
During this time, "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
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.
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 continued to increase within the band. In 1994, Rose
fired Gilby Clarke. That same year, a cover version of
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.
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 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 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).
The revised 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:
"I know 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)
so that I could not be here with you tonight. I am as hurt and
disappointed as you that, unlike other bands, 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 May 2005 the band has not
played a show since their December 5, 2002 concert at Madison Square
Garden in New York City.
Axl Rose in 2004
with engineers from the Village Recording Studios, where tracks for
the Chinese Democracy album were recorded. As of April 2005, this is
Rose's last public appearence.
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.
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.
However, in 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
The former Members
Duff McKagan 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
In 2003, Slash, McKagan, and Sorum
formed the band Velvet Revolver 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 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.
McKagan and 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 80s bands) were no
longer seen as popular.
Their peers 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.
However, the 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, where 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
Front-man 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
Guns N' Roses
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