Guns N' Roses is an American hard rock band who formed in Los Angeles, California, 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. Today, Axl Rose is the only remaining original member, in a lineup that comprises Use Your Illusion–era keyboardist Dizzy Reed, lead guitarists DJ Ashba and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, lead and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist Chris Pitman. The band released six studio albums, accumulating sales of more than 100 million albums worldwide, including shipments of 45 million in the United States.
A year after its release, Guns N' Roses' debut album Appetite for Destruction (1987) reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, on the strength of the hit "Sweet Child o' Mine", their only single to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has sold in excess of 28 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. The success of their debut was followed by the eight-song album G N' R Lies (1988). The twin albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (1991) debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide, including 14 million units sold in the United States alone. 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 many lineup changes, Guns N' Roses released the long-awaited album Chinese Democracy (2008) which, at an estimated fourteen million dollars in production costs, made it the most expensive album to ever be produced in music history. It debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 but underwhelmed industry expectations, despite mostly positive critical reception.
Guns N' Roses have been credited with reviving the mainstream popularity of rock music, at a time when popular music was dominated by dance music and pop metal. Their 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, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, their first year of eligibility.
Guns N' Roses was formed in March 1985 by singer Axl Rose and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin of Hollywood Rose, along with lead guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner of L.A. Guns. The band coined its name by combining the names of both previous groups. After only a short time, during which they reportedly played just two or three shows, Beich was replaced by Duff McKagan, while Guns' lack of attendance at rehearsals led to his replacement by Slash. Gardner quit soon after and was replaced by Steven Adler. Stradlin had previously played with Slash in Hollywood Rose, while Slash had played with McKagan and Adler in Road Crew.
In June 1985, just four days after the lineup was finalized, the band embarked on a short, disorganized tour of the West Coast, from Sacramento, California, to McKagan's hometown of Seattle, Washington. The so-called "Hell Tour" cemented the band's first stable lineup, with McKagan later commenting, "This trip had set a new benchmark for what we were capable of, what we could and would put ourselves through to achieve our goals as a band."
Through their increasing presence on the Hollywood club scene—playing such famed bars as The Troubadour and The Roxy—Guns N' Roses drew the attention of major record labels. They were signed by Geffen Records in March 1986, receiving a $75,000 advance. In December of that year, they released the four-song EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, designed to keep interest in the band alive while they withdrew from the club scene to work in the studio. The EP contained covers of Rose Tattoo's "Nice Boys" and Aerosmith's "Mama Kin", along with two original compositions—the punk anthem "Reckless Life" and the classic rock-inspired "Move to the City." Although billed as a live recording, the four songs were taken from the band's demo tapes and overdubbed with crowd noise. Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide was released on the Geffen subsidiary UZI Suicide, with production limited to 10,000 vinyl copies.
Appetite for Destruction and G N' R Lies (1987–1989)
Guns N' Roses' debut album Appetite for Destruction was released in July 1987. The album underwent an artwork change after the original cover design by Robert Williams—depicting a surrealist scene in which a dagger-toothed monster vengefully attacks a robot rapist—was deemed too controversial. The revised cover was a design by Bill White, a tattoo artist, who had originally designed the artwork for a tattoo Rose had acquired the previous year. The artwork featured each of the five band members' skulls layered on a cross. Rose later insisted that the Gold and Platinum plaques issued by the RIAA be set using the original cover art, which can be found in the booklet of the CD release.
In the U.S., "Welcome to the Jungle" was issued as the album's first single, with an accompanying music video. Initially, the album and single lingered for almost a year without performing well, but when Geffen founder David Geffen was asked to lend support to the band, he obliged by personally convincing MTV executives to play "Welcome to the Jungle" during their after-hours rotation. Even though the video was initially only played once at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, heavy metal and hard rock fans took notice and soon began requesting the video and song en masse. The song was featured in the 1988 Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool, starring Clint Eastwood, and members of the band had a cameo appearance in the film.
"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, "It was actually my least favorite song we ever wrote... I hate it, but it turns out to be our greatest song ever." 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.
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 in excess of 28 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units sold in the United States, which makes it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S.
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. The following year, they played headlining tours of the U.S., Japan, and Australia, and served as openers on North American treks 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."
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. "One in a Million" raised accusations of racism and homophobia. Rose denied he was a racist and defended his use of a racial slur by 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 earned Guns N' Roses the moniker "The Most Dangerous Band in the World."
Use Your Illusion and "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1990–1993)
In 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording their most ambitious undertaking yet. During the recording session of "Civil War", drummer Steven Adler was unable to perform well due to his struggles with cocaine and heroin addiction – his difficulties in the studio caused the band to do nearly 30 takes. As a result, Adler was fired on July 11, 1990, and was replaced by drummer Matt Sorum, who had played briefly with The Cult, and whom Axl credited for saving the band.
In response to an interviewer's suggestion that replacing Adler with Sorum had turned Guns N' Roses from a rock 'n' roll band into a heavy metal one, Stradlin responded, "Yeah, a big musical difference. The first time I realized what Steve did for the band was when he broke his hand in Michigan. Tried to punch through a wall and busted his hand. So we had Fred Coury come in from Cinderella for the Houston show. Fred played technically good and steady, but the songs sounded just awful. They were written with Steve playing the drums and his sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel. When that was gone, it was just...unbelievable, weird. Nothing worked. I would have preferred to continue with Steve, but we'd had two years off and we couldn't wait any longer. It just didn't work for Slash to be telling Steve to straighten out. He wasn't ready to clean up."
A few months prior, keyboardist Dizzy Reed became the sixth member of the group when he joined as a full-time member. The band fired their manager, Alan Niven, replacing him with Doug Goldstein in May 1991. According to a 1991 cover story by Rolling Stone magazine, Rose forced the dismissal of Niven (against the wishes of some of his band-mates) by refusing to complete the albums until he was replaced.
With enough music for two albums, the band released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II on September 17, 1991. The tactic paid off when the albums debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 respectively in the Billboard charts, setting a record as they became the first and only group to achieve this feat until Hip-Hop artist Nelly accomplished the same with his simultaneously released albums Sweat and Suit, which broke the long-standing sales records set by Use Your Illusion I and II. The albums spent 108 weeks in the chart.
Guns N' Roses accompanied the Use Your Illusion albums with many videos, including "Don't Cry", "November Rain" and "Estranged" – some of the most expensive music videos ever made. The hit ballad "November Rain" (No. 3 US) became the most requested video on MTV, eventually winning the 1992 MTV Video Music Award for best cinematography. It is also the longest song in chart history to reach the Top Ten, clocking in at 8:57. During the awards show, the band performed the song with Elton John accompanying on piano.
Both prior to and after the release of the albums, Guns N' Roses embarked on the 28-month-long Use Your Illusion Tour. It became famous for both its financial success and the many controversial incidents that occurred at the shows, and is still currently the longest tour in rock history.
The Use Your Illusion World Tour program included a guitar solo from Slash based on The Godfather theme, a piano-driven cover of "It's Alright" by Black Sabbath and an extended jam on the classic rock-inspired "Move to the City" where they showcased the ensemble of musicians assembled for the tour.
Many of the successful performances during the tour were equally matched, and often overshadowed, in the press by riots, late starts and outspoken rants by Rose. While the band's previous drug and alcohol issues were seemingly under control, Axl was often agitated by lax security, sound problems and unwanted filming or recording of the performances. He also used the time in-between songs to fire off political statements or retorts against music critics or celebrity rivals.
On July 2, 1991, at the Riverport Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis, during a performance of "Rocket Queen", Rose noticed that a fan was filming the show with a camera. He asked the venue's security to take away the camera, and after a few seconds decided to take it himself, jumping into the audience and tackling the fan. He had a heated confrontation with the fan before physically assaulting him. After being pulled out of the audience by members of the crew, Rose said, "Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!", threw his microphone to the ground and stormed off stage. The angry crowd began to riot and dozens of people were injured. Footage was captured by Robert John, who was documenting the entire tour. Rose was wanted by the police for inciting the riot, but police were unable to arrest him until almost a year later, as the band went overseas to continue the tour. Charges were filed against Rose, but a judge ruled that he did not directly incite the riot. In his defense, Rose stated that the Guns N' Roses security team had made four separate requests to the venue's security staff to remove the camera, all of which were ignored, and that other members of the band had reported being hit by bottles launched from the audience, while the security staff was refusing to enforce a drinking limit. Consequently, Use Your Illusion's artwork featured a hidden message amidst the Thank You section of the liner notes: "Fuck You, St. Louis!"
Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin abruptly quit the band on November 7, 1991, after a repeat of the St. Louis incident nearly unfolded during a concert in Germany. Stradlin cited a combination of Rose's personal behavior (Rose frequently delayed the start of shows by hours at a time) and his mismanagement of the band and difficulties being around Slash, Sorum, and McKagan, due to his new-found sobriety and their continuing alcohol and substance addictions. Axl Rose originally wanted Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro to replace Stradlin, but Stradlin was eventually replaced by Los Angeles-based guitarist Gilby Clarke, whom Slash credited for saving the band. During many shows throughout the tour, Rose introduced Clarke to the audience, and Slash and Clarke would then play "Wild Horses", a Rolling Stones cover. In late 1991, Rose added a touring ensemble to the band which included a horns section and several background vocalists despite the rest of the band's refusal. Izzy Stradlin has since produced eleven solo albums, more work than any other single member of Guns N' Roses had produced.
In 1992, the band appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, performing a three-song set. Slash later performed "Tie Your Mother Down" with the remaining members of Queen and Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott, while Axl Rose performed "We Will Rock You" and sang a duet with Elton John on "Bohemian Rhapsody". Their personal set included "Paradise City" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". When they returned to the US for the second leg of the Use Your Illusion Tour, Queen guitarist Brian May opened the shows with a band that included Cozy Powell on drums. Axl had originally wanted the grunge band (and labelmates) Nirvana to open their Use Your Illusion Tour, but frontman Kurt Cobain refused. Cobain also made some negative comments about Guns N' Roses, which infuriated Rose, and started off one of his biggest feuds, other than the ones with his band-mates.
Later in the year, they went on the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour, with American Metal band Metallica. During a show in August 1992 at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Metallica frontman James Hetfield suffered severe burns after stepping too close to a pyrotechnics blast. Metallica was forced to cancel the second hour of the show, but promised to return to the city for another performance. After a long delay, during which the audience became increasingly restless, Guns N' Roses took the stage. However, the shortened time between sets did not allow for adequate tuning of stage monitors, resulting in members of G N' R not being able to hear themselves. In addition, Rose claimed that his throat hurt, causing the band to leave the stage early. The cancellation led to another riot by audience members, reminiscent of the St. Louis riot, that had occurred one year earlier. Rioters overturned cars, smashed windows, looted local stores and set fires. Local authorities were barely able to bring the mob under control. This can be seen on video in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica. On MTV's rockumentary about Metallica, the band spoke about this tour and how they learned from Guns N' Roses what not to do.
The historic tour ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 17, 1993. The tour set attendance records and lasted for 28 months, in which 194 shows were played. The show in Buenos Aires marked the last time that Slash, as well as newcomers Sorum and Clarke, would play a live show with Rose. At the tour's conclusion, Rose would fire Clarke without consulting anyone, claiming he was only a "hired hand".
On November 23, 1993, Guns N' Roses released a collection of punk and glam rock covers entitled "The Spaghetti Incident?". Despite protests from Rose's band-mates, an unadvertised cover of the Charles Manson song "Look at Your Game, Girl" was included on the album, at his request. Years later, Rose said he would remove the song from new pressings of the album, claiming that critics and the media had misinterpreted his interest in Manson. Axl can be seen wearing a black Manson shirt in the video for "Estranged" from Use Your Illusion II. He also can be seen wearing a red Manson shirt in footage from their show in Milton Keynes, England, in 1993, with the additional text on the back, "Charlie Don't Surf". The song "Look at Your Game, Girl" has not been removed and is still featured on pressings of the album. Despite initial success, "The Spaghetti Incident?" did not match the sales of the Illusion albums and its release consequently led to increased tension within the band. In 1994, all of the members of the band at the time contributed to Gilby Clarke's debut album, Pawnshop Guitars.
Interviews with Guns N' Roses band members suggest that between 1994 and 1996, the band sporadically began to write and record new material, most of which, according to Slash, had been written by Rose. Rose has stated the exact opposite in the open letter on the official Guns N' Roses website, that the album was mostly a "Slash album" and Rose was allowed very little input into the album. At the time, the band had intended to release a single album with 10 or 12 songs.
Regarding the dysfunction of the band's recording at that time, Rose is quoted as saying, "We still needed the collaboration of the band as a whole to write the best songs. Since none of that happened, that's the reason why that material got scrapped."
In December 1994, Guns N' Roses released a cover recording of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil". The song appeared in the film Interview with the Vampire, as well as Fallen, on the movie's soundtrack and was also released separately as a single. It is the final Guns N' Roses single to feature Slash on lead guitar, Duff McKagan on bass, and Matt Sorum on the drums. It also featured Paul Huge on rhythm guitar. Huge's presence on the track and in the band created great tension between Rose and Slash, because Slash disliked Huge and felt he had no place nor the 'chops' to fit in G N' R.
The recording of "Sympathy for the Devil", as well as tension between him and Rose, led Slash to quit the band officially in October 1996. He was replaced by Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Robin Finck in January 1997, who signed a two-year contract with the band in August 1997, making him an official member. Slash's departure was followed shortly thereafter by Matt Sorum, who was fired in April 1997 and then by bassist Duff McKagan, who resigned from the band in August 1997. As such, all of the members who had taken part in the recording of Appetite for Destruction (aside from Rose) had departed from the band. Multiple views have been presented on the departures by various band members (current and former). 1994 was the last year Rose held a press conference or performed until 2001 with his new cast. Rose's only performance in 1994 was a duet with Bruce Springsteen on a cover of The Beatles song "Come Together". An actual break-up of Guns N' Roses never occurred, as new players were brought in as the old ones left. (For more information on the personnel changes over the years, see the article: "List of Guns N' Roses band members".)
McKagan was the last of the Appetite lineup to leave, resigning as bassist in August 1997, being replaced later that year by Tommy Stinson (formerly of The Replacements). Sorum was replaced by Chris Vrenna for a short time in April to May 1997, followed briefly by Pod, and finally by Josh Freese in the summer of 1997. By the end of 1998, a new version of Guns N' Roses had emerged: many musicians have come and gone from the new band, but the core group has included Rose, Stinson, keyboardist Dizzy Reed and multi-instrumentalist Chris Pitman.
Geffen released Live Era '87-'93, a collection of live performances from various concerts during the Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion tours. The band owed Universal/Interscope a live album, which was primarily assembled by Duff, who at the time was still a partner in the band.
The "new" Guns N' Roses and Chinese Democracy (1999–2011)
In 1999, the band released a new song, "Oh My God", which was included on the soundtrack of the film End of Days. The track featured additional guitar work by Dave Navarro and Gary Sunshine, Rose's personal guitar teacher. The song's release was intended to be a prelude to their new album, entitled Chinese Democracy.
Also in 1999, during an interview with Kurt Loder for MTV, Axl said that he had re-recorded Appetite for Destruction with the then-new band, apart from two songs which he had replaced with "Patience" and "You Could Be Mine".
Chinese Democracy had reportedly been in the works since 1994, with Rose the only original member still in the band. According to a report published in 2005 by The New York Times, Rose had allegedly spent $13 million in the studio by that point.
In 1999, guitarist Robin Finck departed the band to rejoin his former band, Nine Inch Nails, on tour. In 2000, avant-garde guitarist Buckethead joined Guns N' Roses as a replacement for Finck. Drummer Josh Freese was replaced with Bryan Mantia (formerly of Primus). Robin Finck returned to the band in late 2000, to complement Buckethead on lead guitar.
With nine years having passed since the last Guns N' Roses concert, the band made a public appearance in January 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 songs from previous albums as well as songs from then-unreleased Chinese Democracy. During their Rock in Rio set, Rose made the following comment regarding former members of the band: “I know that many of you are disappointed that some of the people you came to know and love could not be with us here today. Regardless of what you have heard or read, people worked very hard (meaning my former friends) to do everything they could so that I could not be here today. I am as hurt and disappointed as you that unlike Oasis, we could not find a way to all get along.”
They played a further two shows in Las Vegas at the end of 2001. In 2002, rhythm guitarist Paul Tobias left the band because of his frustrations with life on the road and was replaced by Richard Fortus (formerly of The Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love). The band then played several shows in August 2002, headlining festivals and concerts throughout Asia and Europe. They made their way to New York for a surprise appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.
In 2002, the band's first North American tour since 1993 was organized to support Chinese Democracy, with CKY and Mix Master Mike supporting. However, the opening show in Vancouver was canceled by the venue when Rose failed to turn up (having remained in Los Angeles), and a riot ensued. This tour was met with mixed results. Some concerts did not sell well, while shows in larger markets such as New York City sold out in minutes. Due to a second riot by fans in Philadelphia when the band failed to show up again, tour promoter Clear Channel canceled the remainder of the tour.
The band went on hiatus until they were scheduled to play at Rock in Rio IV in May 2004. However, Buckethead left the band in March of that year, causing the band to cancel. That same month, Geffen released Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits, since Rose had failed to deliver a new studio album in more than ten years. Rose expressed his displeasure with this album as its track listing was established without his consent and went as far as trying to block its release by suing Geffen. This failed, however, and the album went triple platinum in the US.
In February 2006, demos of the songs "Better", "Catcher in the Rye", "I.R.S.", and "There Was a Time" were leaked on to the Internet through a Guns N' Roses fan site. The band's management requested that all links to the MP3 files and all lyrics to the songs be removed from forums and websites. Despite this, radio stations began adding "I.R.S." to playlists, and the song actually reached No. 49 on the Radio & Records Active Rock National Airplay chart in the final week of February – the first time an Internet leak has done so.
Five warm-up shows before a 2006 North American tour were held in September 2006. The tour officially commenced on October 24 in Miami. Drummer Frank Ferrer replaced Bryan Mantia, who took a leave of absence to be with his wife and newborn child. Coinciding with the tour, the song "Better" was featured in an internet advertisement for Harley-Davidson beginning in October 2006. That same month, Rolling Stone published an article revealing that Andy Wallace would be mixing the final album.
In December 2006, Axl Rose released an open letter to fans announcing that Merck Mercuriadis had been fired as the band's manager. He revealed that the last four dates of the North American tour would be cut so the band could work on post-production for Chinese Democracy. He also set a tentative release date for the album for the first time since the album's announcement: March 6, 2007.
On February 23, 2007, Del James announced that Chinese Democracy's recording stage was finished, and the band had now moved onto mixing the album. However, this proved that the March 6 release date would be impossible to achieve, and the album once again had no scheduled release date. January 10, 2008, Axl's personal manager Beta Lebeis announced that Chinese Democracy was finished and that everyone knew that.
On May 4, 2007, three more tracks leaked from Chinese Democracy; an updated version of "I.R.S.", "The Blues" and the title track. All three tracks had previously been played live. Guns N' Roses embarked on the 2007 leg of the Chinese Democracy World Tour in Mexico in June, followed by dates in Australia and Japan. The songs "Nice Boys" and a "Don't Cry" Bumblefoot solo rendition were played for the first time since the Use Your Illusion Tour. The tour ended on the twentieth anniversary of Appetite for Destruction's release date, in Osaka. During this tour, the band featured Axl Rose, Robin Finck, Ron Thal and Richard Fortus on guitars, Tommy Stinson on bass, Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman on keyboards and Frank Ferrer on drums.
On March 26, 2008, Dr Pepper announced a plan to give everyone in America – except the band's former guitarists Slash and Buckethead – a free can of Dr Pepper if the band released Chinese Democracy before the end of 2008. Rose added, "As some of Buckethead's performances are on our album, I'll share my Dr Pepper with him." With the announcement from Guns N' Roses regarding a release date in November, Tony Jacobs, Dr Pepper's Vice President of Marketing for Dr. Pepper, announced a free soda coupon campaign for 24 hours on Sunday, November 23, 2008. Due to "heavy volume" on the server throughout the entire day it was impossible to submit for a free coupon.
On March 27, 2008, the day after Dr Pepper's announcement, the band announced that they had hired a new management team, headed by Irving Azoff and Andy Gould.
Nine tracks purported to be from Chinese Democracy were leaked to an online site on June 19, 2008, and quickly removed due to a cease-and-desist letter from the band's label. Six of the leaked tracks had surfaced previously in some form, while three were new. The leaked songs were fleshed out more than previously heard tracks. On July 14, 2008, Harmonix, in conjunction with MTV Games, officially announced the release of a new song from the upcoming Chinese Democracy album, called "Shackler's Revenge", through their new game Rock Band 2. Also the song "Chinese Democracy" is being played on the band's website.
In late August, speculation about the impending release of the album resurfaced, further fueled by separate reports from both Rolling Stone and Billboard about a November 25 release date as a Best Buy exclusive. This was finally confirmed October 22 when band management, Best Buy, and Interscope Geffen A&M Records officially issued a joint press release confirming the much anticipated release of the album in the US on November 23 as a Best Buy exclusive.
Chinese Democracy was released on November 22, 2008, in Europe and Australia, in North America on November 23, 2008, and in the United Kingdom on November 24, 2008, becoming the band's sixth studio album and their first since 1993's "The Spaghetti Incident?".
On February 6, 2009, Axl gave his first interview in nine years when he sat down with Billboard's Jonathan Cohen. Rose said that there was no chance that he would ever agree with a reunion with Slash:
Rose was however open to working again with Stradlin and McKagan:
In March 2009, the band's website announced that DJ Ashba would substitute for Robin Finck on an "upcoming tour", though the statement was later removed. This led to a lot of rumors about a tour, which eventually would become the Chinese Democracy World Tour 2009/2010.
In May 2010, Axl filed a $5 million lawsuit against former manager Irving Azoff, saying that Azoff sabotaged sales of Guns N' Roses' comeback album and lied about a potential "super tour" with Van Halen (which Azoff manages) as part of a plan to force Rose to reunite with his estranged former band members. Rose said in his suit that Azoff failed to promote his 2008 album, Chinese Democracy, and deliberately mishandled concert dates, "forcing Rose into a position where he would have no choice but to reunite with the original members of Guns N' Roses for a reunion tour."
Guns N' Roses headlined the Friday night at Reading Festival 2010 and closed Leeds Festival two days later. Guns N' Roses were 58 minutes late coming on to the stage and because of a curfew issued by Reading Council their set had to end at midnight. This meant that they could not complete their set engaging in attempting to play "Paradise City" without amplification with the audience singing along. Axl orchestrated fan frustration toward the organizers, telling fans that they would not play at the Leeds Festival. But two days later Guns N' Roses played the final night of the Leeds Festival coming onto stage only 30 minutes late.
On September 1, 2010, in Dublin, the band was 90 minutes late arriving on stage. Axl suddenly stopped the band in the middle of the second song, "Welcome to the Jungle", and warned the crowd that if any more water bottles were thrown on stage, the band would leave. After the fourth song, a bottle was thrown on stage. The band departed the stage. A PA announced that 'technical difficulties' were being experienced which caused more booing. After 15 minutes the lights went up, as thousands milled around, with many leaving. Unexpectedly, after 40 minutes the band re-appeared, and Axl completed the set, either standing or sitting, but refused to engage with the crowd other than to introduce the band members.
On October 14, 2010, Duff McKagan joined Guns N' Roses to perform four songs, "You Could Be Mine", "Nice Boys", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Patience" (on tambourine), at the O2 Arena, London, England. The appearance was said to be a spur-of-the-moment thing as he and Rose happened to be staying in the same hotel.
During Guns' performance at Rock in Rio 4 on October 2, they played "Estranged" for the first time since 1993. Again on December 8, during a performance in Youngstown, "Civil War" also made a return after an eighteen-year absence. On November 10, Axl gave his first TV interview in as many years to Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine of That Metal Show discussing his whole career and the band's future. After reuniting with Axl in 2010 for the first time in seventeen years on stage, Duff McKagan joined Guns N' Roses on part of their tour for two Seattle shows on December 16 and 17, as well as having his band Loaded open for Guns N' Roses.
Next album, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, touring and future (2011–present)
In an MTV phone interview with Kurt Loder in 1999, Rose said he and the then-new band had recorded enough material for a double album. In an informal chat with Rolling Stone magazine in February 2006, Rose stated the band had 32 songs in the works. While appearing on various fan message boards in December 2008 (after the release of Chinese Democracy, which was released in November of that year), he stated several working titles of songs from a possible future album. Amongst the working titles confirmed: "Elvis Presley and the Monster of Soul" ("Soul Monster", formerly known as "Leave Me Alone"), "Atlas Shrugged", "Seven", "The General", "Thyme", "Ides of March", "Berlin" (formerly "Oklahoma"), "Zodiac", "Quick Song", and "Down by the Ocean" (co-written by original member Izzy Stradlin). During the chat, he mentioned the bridge of "Soul Monster" as the band's "most Black Sabbath" moment, and referred to it as "the meanest section of anything I've sung to date." In a 2007 interview, Axl Rose's close friend Sebastian Bach stated "The General" had a "heavy" sound with "screaming vocals" and also said it was the sequel to the 1991 classic ballad "Estranged" from the album Use Your Illusion II. Bach also remarked that Chinese Democracy would be the first installment in a trilogy of new albums, and that Rose had told him the third, as yet untitled, album had been slated for 2012, although the year ended without seeing a release past Chinese Democracy.
Guitarist DJ Ashba has said that the next album is being discussed, stating that the band "has been throwing around a bunch of ideas" and joked that the next album "won't take as long" to release. On April 20, 2011, Ashba said in an interview at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards that Guns N' Roses have been "working on new songs every day". GN'R guitarist DJ Ashba says a new Guns N' Roses album is on the way and expressed happiness with the songs Axl Rose has written to music reporter Nui Te Koha on Triple M Melbourne's Hot Breakfast:
On December 7, 2011, it was announced that the classic Guns N' Roses lineup were to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with several other acts, including Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Faces. Commenting on his Twitter Axl commented "I'd like to thank the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame and our fans. This is your victory". In his That Metal Show interview commenting on the induction he said "I don't know what it means in terms of me with the old band and the old lineup," ... "If we were to be invited, I don't know what they would ask of me. It's up in the air." Slash also commented saying "Thanks for all the R&RHF mentions, It's quite an honor to be inducted. Cheers! Iii|; ) (sic).", he went on to say "I have no idea how that's supposed to go. If Axl, [bassist] Duff, [guitarist] Izzy and myself start communicating, it could go one way. It we don't, God knows."
On January 20, 2012, Bumblefoot talked about a possible theater tour taking place in February. It is unknown for now if they will tour in support of a new album. Guns N' Roses announced shows in United States and Europe. The shows themselves varied considerably in comparison to the recent Chinese Democracy Tour. All of the North American shows took place in smaller-scale clubs, rather than a large arena or stadium. All pyrotechnics were removed from the shows. The European leg of the tour will begin approximately one month after the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The circumstance regarding a new album is unknown, however guitarist DJ Ashba recently stated that the band have many demos recorded, and are planning on discussing 'how they are going to create the best album possible.'
In an interview with Metal Hammer, Dizzy Reed supported the hypothesis of the original lineup reunited in the Hall of Fame:
On April 11, 2012, Axl Rose released an official statement via Guns N' Roses' official Facebook page, announcing that he would not be attending the band's induction into the Hall of Fame.
On April 14, 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 Alter Bridge and Slash's band vocalist Myles Kennedy in Rose's absence.
In June 2012, NME reported that Guns N' Roses' tour security said they had been instructed by Guns N' Roses management that anyone wearing a Slash t-shirt not be allowed into the tour venue.
On June 24, 2012, guitarist Richard Fortus was interviewed by the French music website Rock N' Live, and revealed that the band would not go on playing more dates for the "Up Close and Personal Tour", as they hoped to spend more time going into the studio to work on and hopefully complete their next album by the end of the year. Fortus said "I'm pretty much focused on GnR right now. We're getting ready to go back in the studio, so that's where my head's at right now, that's all I want to think about until the end of the year, pretty much."
On August 13, 2012, Bumblefoot announced on his Facebook page a series of concerts entitled "Appetite for Democracy" in Las Vegas, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band's debut album, "Appetite For Destruction", and the fourth anniversary of the album "Chinese Democracy".
Style and influence
Guns N' Roses signed with a major label within eight months of their inception and topped national sales charts weeks after garnering late hours airplay on MTV. Appetite for Destruction is the highest-selling debut album of all time in the United States. Their peers in the music industry often spoke highly of the band. Joe Perry said that they were the first band to remind him of Led Zeppelin. Ozzy Osbourne called Guns N' Roses "the next Rolling Stones." The music of Guns N' Roses is a fusion of punk rock, blues-rock, heavy metal and glam rock. In the 1990s, the band integrated keyed instruments (played by either Rose or Reed, and accompanied on tour by Teddy Andreadis) into the band, and for roughly half of the Use Your Illusion tour, added a horn section to the stage. While Reed has remained on some of the Chinese Democracy demos, tours since 2000 have not included wind instruments, though the band has employed synthesized horns on some of their new songs.
A heavy influence on both the image and sound of the band was Finnish band Hanoi Rocks (singer Michael Monroe and Rose have collaborated on various occasions). Rose has stated that the band was massively inspired by groups like Queen, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, and Rose Tattoo and that the sound of Appetite for Destruction was influenced by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Van Halen, the New York Dolls, and Hanoi Rocks. Guns N' Roses has influenced many modern rock bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Mother Love Bone (which would eventually become Pearl Jam), Buckcherry, Dir En Grey, X Japan, Hinder, The Darkness, Limp Bizkit and Manic Street Preachers, among others.
In 2002, Q magazine named Guns N' Roses in their list of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die". The television network VH1 ranked Guns N' Roses ninth in its "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" special, and also ranked 11th on "Top 50 bands". Appetite for Destruction appeared in Rolling Stone magazine's special issue "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Guns N' Roses No. 92 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". "Welcome to the Jungle" had also been voted "Best Hard Rock Song" out of 100 others by VH1. Guns N' Roses were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 14, 2012, along with Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Faces/The Small Faces and the Beastie Boys, although Axl Rose refused to attend the event.
The band has also received criticism throughout the years. The flagrant alcohol and drug abuse by some members of the group, and Axl's fondness for Charles Manson T-shirts, were used by the media to portray Guns N' Roses as a poor example and negative influence on their young fans. Lyrical content of songs such as "One in a Million" stirred controversy. The long periods of time that the band took to release albums were also a source of criticism: the band's second album, G N' R Lies, was actually an EP packaged with another older EP, and one of the songs was an acoustic version of a song from their debut album. It took four years for the band to release a proper follow-up to Appetite for Destruction, and it took Rose another 15 years after The Spaghetti Incident to release Chinese Democracy. Their controversial late appearances and "war" with Reading and Leeds festival have been criticized by artists and their peers in the industry. In October 2009, Ulrich Schnauss's record labels Independiente and Domino sued Guns N' Roses, alleging that the band had committed copyright infringement by using portions of Schnauss's compositions in the track "Riad N' the Bedouins" on the album Chinese Democracy.
- Current members
- Axl Rose – lead vocals (1985–present)
- Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals (1990–present)
- Tommy Stinson – bass, backing vocals (1998–present)
- Chris Pitman – keyboards, backing vocals (1998–present)
- Richard Fortus – rhythm guitar (2002–present)
- Frank Ferrer – drums (2006–present)
- Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal – lead guitar (2006–present)
- DJ Ashba – lead guitar (2009–present)
- Appetite for Destruction (1987)
- G N' R Lies (1988)
- Use Your Illusion I (1991)
- Use Your Illusion II (1991)
- "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993)
- Chinese Democracy (2008)
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Image from Discogs