Guns N' Roses - Biography

Guns 'N RosesGuns 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 mystique.


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 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 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 (1991-1993)

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 charts.

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 year.

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 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.


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 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.

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 this year.

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 1999.

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 heavy criticism.

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 since 1994.

Guns N' Roses Official Website

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