uns N' Roses "The Stones meet the Sex Pistols", as they were once described, was started by vocalist Axl Rose (Real Name: William Bailey; vocals) and Izzy Stradlin (Real Name: Jeffrey Isbell; guitar). Axl Rose, who's name was an anagram of "Oral Sex" (so he claimed), was actually derived from Axl being the name of a former band and Rose being the last name of his biological father (at 17 he had legally changed his name). He had his singing debut at the age of five in a church choir. He met Stradlin after moving to Los Angeles in 1984;soon after Tracii Gunns (guitar) and Rob Gardner (drums) would join in. They were originally called Rose, Hollywood Rose and then simply L.A. Guns before settling on Guns N' Roses. Shortly after their renaming, Guns and Gardner left to be replaced by Slash (Real Name: Saul Hudson; ex-London; guitar), Steven Alder (ex-London; drums) and Duff Rose McKagen (Real Name: Michael McKagan; ex-Fartz/ex-Fastbacks/ex-Ten Minute Warning and some 30 other outfits; bass).
Their first tour, Hell Tour '85, was a failure but they released an EP anyway on the independent 'Uzi/Suicide' label called Live?!@ Like A Suicide the same year. The single gave them interest from critics and record companies alike. During 1987 they toured extensively and managed to get themselves signed to 'Geffen Records' and another EP was released. But the bands' self destructive ways were showing through early when Fred Coury (of Cinderella) replaced Alder temporarily because of a broken arm and Rose was booted out only to be back in within three days.
Appetite For Destruction (1987) would be their debut album, and what a debut it was! 20 million copies were sold, and after the first year it finally reached number 1 in the US; it was the second largest debut release in recording history at the time. The Welcome To The Jungle track with its trademark cascading guitar intro. was featured prominently in the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool, and reached #30 in the UK The tracks Sweet Child O' Mine (written about Axl's girlfriend and later wife Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly (of The Everly Brothers)),Paradise and Mr. Brownstone were also very popular pieces that pushed album sales skyward. The original cover art of a robot raping a woman was withdrawn due to controversy, however.
Their 1988 show at the Castle Donnington Monsters Of Rock was popular for other reasons than just their musical performance. During the G N' R set a crowd disturbance resulted in two dying and the show being canceled the following year; the only year it has ever missed. Oh, and it got better, for at 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. Or how about 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. But this wasn't the only times the attendance was worked into frenzy, only a short time later, in 1992, in Montreal, Canada a concert including Metallica and Guns N' Roses was canceled the night of the show and an angry mob of fans trashed the "Big O" (Olympic Stadium).
Back to 1988 and Guns N' Roses' next album, G N' R Lies. 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 the album, peaked at #4 in the US, while the album itself reached #2 on Billboard 200. The track 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: "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.
In 1989 they released the eight track album G N' R Lies. It became a hit in the UK and USA, but the single One In A Million was criticized as being homophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Black (the lyrics were a good hint as to why). They would re-emerge at the 1989 Farm Aid IV charity concert, but after this their past of rowdiness, drunkenness, drugs and general misbehavior caught up with them. Roses' touch-and-go relationship with Everly Stradlin, his urinating in public on an airplane, and McKagan and Slash swearing live on TV when receiving trophies at the American Music Awards didn't help matters. It came to a head in September of 1990 when Matt Sorum (ex-Cult) replaced Alder and they expanded into keyboards with Dizzy Reed (Real Name: Darren Reed) joining just in time for their 1991 tour.
A remake of Bob Dylan's Knockin' On Heaven's Door was recorded for the Days Of Thunder movie soundtrack, and the Use Your Illusion I and II albums would follow in 1991. The singles You Could Be Mine from the Terminator II movie soundtrack, as well as Don't Cry, would help the Illusion pair straddle the top two spots on Billboard; the first time two albums from the same artist held consecutive first and second spots since Jim Croce in 1974.
Stradlin left soon after and Gilby Clarke would fill in. Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson would give Slash guest appearances because of his reputation as a good guitarist; he would also contribute to tribute recordings of Muddy Waters and Les Paul. The band, in the mean time, got a spot at the 1992 AIDS benefit concert dedicated to Freddie Mercury.
The Illusion set sold 4 million units by 1993 before new material arrived. The Spaghetti Incident? (1993) was a cover album of mostly punk style pieces. As a unit, the album wasn't much and served little other purpose than to re-introduce some long time UK punk bands like UK Subs, Misfits, etc. The album received much of its press coverage because of one song, Look At Your Game Girl, which was written by the mass murderer Charles Manson. 1994 is when the hammer of fate fell.
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, while Rose claimed the exact opposite citing it was mostly a Slash album. At the time, the band had intended to release a single album with 10 or 12 songs. Regarding that dysfunction of the band's recording at that time, Rose was 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 film's soundtrack and was also released separately as a single. It is the final Guns N' Roses single to feature Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum on the drums. It also featured Paul Huge on rhythm guitar, a former room mate of Axl's when Clarke was dismissed, the result of which caused a lot of ill feelings towards he and Rose in the media. Huge's presence on the track and in the band created tension between Rose and Slash, because Slash disliked Huge and felt he had no place nor the 'chops' to fit in the band.
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. Slash's departure was followed shortly thereafter by Matt Sorum, who was fired in April. Bassist Duff McKagan resigned that August 1997. An actual break-up of Guns N' Roses never occurred, as new players were brought in as the old ones left over the years even though no recordings resulted.
Slash, for his part, went on to form his own band Slash's Snakepit.
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.
The next would be album, 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 Brian Carroll, more commonly referred to as "Buckethead", joined Guns N' Roses as a replacement for Finck. Drummer Josh Freese was replaced with Bryan Mantia (ex-Primus). Robin Finck returned to the band in late 2000, to complement Buckethead.
Eight years after the previous 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 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.
Many claimed it would never happen, and even 5 years ago you would have been taken very seriously for saying such a thing... but it did in late 2016. The original GNR re-united and will tour in 2017!
They have experimented with booze and drugs, had attitudes the size of some continents, and suffered internal squabbling that threatened to break the group apart on more than one occasion; and by 1996 it did. This highly volatile situation, to their credit, however, sells big time and has no doubt made them legends and one of the biggest names in Rock music history. They single handily re-introduced the bad boy and outlaw attitude back into Rock. In the late 1980s they gave Rock music a new and fresh approach at a time when even the NWOBHM was beginning to sound like "oldWOBHM". They are the classic textbook heavy metal band.