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Guns N’ Roses is an American hard rock band from Los Angeles formed in 1985. The classic lineup, as signed to Geffen Records in 1986, consisted of vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. The current lineup consists of Rose, Slash, McKagan, keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist Chris Pitman. The band has released six studio albums, accumulating sales of more than 100 million records worldwide, including shipments of 45 million in the United States, making Guns N’ Roses one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.
Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, Appetite for Destruction (1987), reached number one on the Billboard 200 a year after its release, on the strength of “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, the group’s only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the US, as well as the eleventh best-selling album in the United States. The success of the debut was followed by the eight-song album G N’ R Lies (1988) which reached number two on the Billboard 200. The twin albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (1991) debuted at number two and number one on the Billboard 200 and have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide, including 14 million units in the United States. The cover album “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993) was the band’s last studio album to feature Slash and McKagan. After more than a decade of work and several lineup changes, Guns N’ Roses released the long-awaited album Chinese Democracy (2008) which, at an estimated $14 million in production costs, is the most expensive rock album to ever be produced in music history. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 but undersold industry expectations, despite mostly positive critical reception. Classic era members Slash and McKagan both rejoined the band in 2016.
Guns N’ Roses has been credited with reviving the mainstream popularity of rock music, at a time when popular music was dominated by dance music and glam metal. Its late 1980s and early 1990s years have been described as the period in which they brought forth a “hedonistic rebelliousness” reminiscent of the early Rolling Stones, a reputation that had earned them the nickname “the most dangerous band in the world”. The band’s classic lineup, along with later members Reed and drummer Matt Sorum, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, in its first year of eligibility.
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” was the album’s second U.S. single, a love song co-written by Rose as a poem for his then-girlfriend Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. Due to the growing grassroots success of the band and the cross-gender appeal of the song, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and its accompanying music video received heavy airplay on both radio and MTV, becoming a huge hit during the summer of 1988 and reaching the top of the charts in the U.S.Slash later commented, “I hated that song with a huge passion for the longest time, and it turned out to be our hugest hit, so it goes to show what I know.” The song was released in Japan as part of the EP Live from the Jungle, which also featured a selection of live recordings from the band’s June 1987 dates at London’s The Marquee, their first shows outside the United States.The song is the highest charting Guns N’ Roses song, their only to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
After the success of “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, “Welcome to the Jungle” was re-issued as a single and reached No. 7 in the U.S. By the time “Paradise City” and its video reached the airwaves, peaking at No. 5 in the U.S., Appetite for Destruction had reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. To date, the album has sold an excess of 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units sold in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S, in addition to being the eleventh best-selling album in the United States.
Guns N’ Roses toured extensively in support of their debut album, embarking on the 16-month-long Appetite for Destruction Tour.In addition to headlining dates in Europe and the U.S., the band opened North American shows for The Cult, Mötley Crüe, and Alice Cooper throughout the second half of 1987. During the 1987 tour, drummer Steven Adler broke his hand in a fight, and was replaced for 8 shows by Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. Bassist Duff McKagan missed several shows in May 1988 to attend his wedding; Kid “Haggis” Chaos from The Cult filled in. Don Henley of The Eagles played drums for the band during the 1989 AMA show while Adler was in rehab.
The band proceeded to tour the United States, Australia and Japan, while serving as opening acts on North America shows by Iron Maiden and Aerosmith. Tim Collins, Aerosmith’s then-manager, remarked, “By the end of the tour, Guns N’ Roses were huge. They basically just exploded. We were all pissed that Rolling Stone showed up to do a story on Aerosmith, but Guns N’ Roses ended up on the cover of the magazine. Suddenly, the opening act was bigger than we were.”
Izzy Stradlin was the band’s rhythm guitarist from 1985 until 1991.
Guns N’ Roses’ next album, G N’ R Lies, was released in November 1988. It included the four recordings from their 1986 EP Live Like a Suicide, as well as four new acoustic tracks. “Patience”, the only single released from G N’ R Lies, peaked at No. 4 in the U.S., while the album itself reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album cover, a parody of tabloid newspapers, was modified before release to remove the headlines “wife beating has been around for 10,000 years” and “ladies, welcome to the dark ages”.
The song “One in a Million” raised accusations of racism and homophobia.Rose denied that he was a racist and defended his use of a racial slur, claiming that “it’s a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn’t necessarily mean black,” although he later conceded that he had used the word as an insult towards black people who had tried to rob him. In response to the allegations of homophobia, Rose stated that he considered himself “pro-heterosexual” and blamed this attitude on “bad experiences” with gay men.
Guns N’ Roses’ late 1980s shows were often eventful for more than just the band’s performance. During a November 1987 show in Atlanta, Rose assaulted a security guard and was held backstage by police, while his band mates continued playing with a roadie singing. Riots nearly broke out during two August 1988 shows in New York State. At England’s Monsters of Rock festival, held that same month, two fans were crushed to death during their set by the slam-dancing crowd. During the first of four October 1989 dates opening for the Rolling Stones at the L.A. Coliseum, 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 their song of the same name about heroin. Events such as these helped earn Guns N’ Roses the moniker “The Most Dangerous Band in the World.”
Use Your Illusion I and II
Main articles: Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II
In 1990, Guns N’ Roses returned to the studio to begin recording their most ambitious undertaking yet. Drummer Steven Adler was briefly fired from the band over his drug use, but he was reinstated after signing a contract in which he vowed to stop taking drugs. During the recording session of “Civil War”, Adler was unable to perform well due to his struggles with cocaine and heroin addiction, and his difficulties in the studio caused the band to do nearly 30 takes. Adler claimed at the time he was sick from taking opiate blockers to try to kick his addictions. Adler was fired on July 11, 1990 as a result, and later filed a lawsuit against the band. Adler recalled the reason for the lawsuit and recapped his firing in a 2005 interview:
Doug Goldstein called me into the office about two weeks later. He wanted me to sign some contracts. I was told that every time I did heroin, the band would fine me $2,000. There was a whole stack of papers, with colored paper clips everywhere for my signatures. What these contracts actually said was that the band were paying me $2,000 to leave. They were taking my royalties, all my writing credits. They didn’t like me anymore and just wanted me gone. That’s why I filed the lawsuit – to get all those things back