The release of “Live Era ’87-’93” album was just a pro-form motive for music media all over the world to put the name of GUNS’N’ROSES into their headlines, because it was anxiously expected which direction (Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy) the beast would show up from. The same beast we saw the first time in 1986.
“Double live album was something we wanted to give to the audience, something like a goodbye to the previous era”- Axl Rose, the only original G’N’R member declared for MTV. The last hope of faithful fans for the possible reunion of the “old team” was dug under ground exactly with those words. Today it’s unnecessary to discuss “whose fault it was” for disbanding of the winning combination that held the throne of popularity at the beginning of the 90s. Still, we can use the phrase of one of the RAMONES brothers “I won’t tell you who was guilty for the breakdown of G’N’R (Ramones) ’cause I don’t wanna take the dirty underwear out, but it all started with Axl (Joey)”
Reckless life & scandals
When we get back to the far 1985, Jeff Isbell, later known as Izzy Stradlin who wanted to make the best band on the planet founded this group. He wanted his long time friend, William Bailey, to sing the vocals. This friend changed his name into Axl Rose when he found out the last name of his real father. The rest of the band were bunch of local faces such as: Tracii Guns (guitar), Rob Gardner (drums) and Michael “Duff” McKagan (bas). Such Motley crew didn’t hold on for long, played without any rehearsing under different names (ROSE, HOLLYWOOD ROSE…). Gardner and Tracii soon left the band (right after the departure, Tracii formed the band LA GUNS). But Duff found the replacement for Tracii in ROAD CREW, one of the million local LA bands he played with: Steven Adler (drums) and Saul “Slash” Hudson (guitar). And that’s how GUNS’N’ROSES were born. Axl stole his first styling from the walls of Izzy’s room where were posters of Michael Monroe and HANOI ROCKS, which indirectly influenced their sound: glam rock sounded (and looked) quite good. A big publishing house “Geffen” saw in G’N’R the glam/sleaze comebacks and was ready to offer a contract worth $75,000 in March 1986. But they did not know G’N’R would spend the whole sum for debts and inevitable drugs. The same year a self-produced EP “Live?! Like A Suicide” was published in the limited edition (10,000 copies) for the small label, Uzi Suicide Records. Album sales were beating all predecessors. EP had two covers: AEROSMITH “Mama Kin” and “Nice Boys”, a song from Australian group ROSE TATOO. It also contained two original songs: “Reckless Life” and “Move To The City” which described a chaotic state all members were in. A couple of years after a little deceit was discovered concerning this edition – all 4 songs were recorded in the studio and later on they added the roar of the audience in order to have a “concert atmosphere.”
Reputation of G’N’R was growing rapidly, still the success was quite far from them. The last day of July 1987 “Appetite For Destruction” comes out and admit it or not, it was on the list of Top10 ever recorded! 13 years after, this EP doesn’t reveal any mistake, any wrong/excessive tone; everything is unmistakable – from skeptical “Welcome To the Jungle” to manic “Rocket Queen”. Rock’n’roll riffs fly across one dimension to another, lyrics is drowned in the cheap Nightrain wine, strained battle for Mr. Brownstone who they didn’t know how to run away from. Paranoia and love, glam & heavy, finally all that was in the same place, simple & perfect. Despite its potential, this album at first didn’t mark much of a sale. “I didn’t give a shit about success”, recalls Slash, “And when it happened, it surprised me. We were touring during the whole year, we knew album was selling high number of copies and all of a sudden, the mass started coming to our concerts. The publishing house would call us and tell us on which position we were on the Top list and how many copies we sold, but I didn’t appreciate it until at the end of one tour, in the free shop on the airport, somebody asked me to give him my autograme”. It took a whole year for “Appetite…” to get on the first place of the U.S. Billboard Chart and finally started selling it. And what a year… The first scandal headed right after the release of the album: vinyl version that usually shows up first had a “rude” envelope. It was an illustration “Appetite for Destruction” by Robert Williams from 1978 where the scene of raping was shown. But since the year 1987 was the year of Tripper Gore (the wife of senator Al Gore) who was against “violent lyrics and explicit covers” of rock albums, very soon stores withdrew sales of this record. Unsold copies were taken back to the publishing house, which changed envelopes of vinyl and both cassette and CD edition – it was the cross Guns’N’Roses on the black background.
Chaos and more scandals
Tours were the right way of promoting their record, but the band was constantly in the state of chaos, deeply into problems with alcohol, drugs, and women, always on the verge of existence. It’s hard to say who actually played with the band during the tours – beside the usual line-up, we should mention Weat Arkeen and Del James; there were also members of bands as MOTLEY CRUE (Slash and Adler saw heroin overdosed Nikki Sixx), Fred Coury (CINDERELLA) played drums for some time (Steven injured his arm ?), IRON MAIDEN, Alice Cooper, ZODIAC MINDWARP and THE LOVE REFLECTION; the bass played legendary Kid Chaos (ex-ZODIAC MINDWARP, CULT, THE FOUR HORSEMEN) ’cause Duff decided to go on the honey moon.(?!) etc…Yet, event that filled tabloids all over the planet was the accident on the Monster of Rock Festival on Castle of Donnington in Britain, when 2 fans got killed in the crowd. Who got the chance to listen to the bootleg from that concert has surely heard the effort of Axl Rose to calm the audience down, but nothing helped – the press found the scapegoat. “The press is the press” says Slash “They take some event and turn it into something that would sell the papers”. Swamp with scandalous articles, with good concert promotion and couple of video-clips rotating on the leading music television, G’N’R were slowly getting into the spotlight – album that was on the first place of the Billboard Chart was one year late.
Naturally for some excesses they weren’t guilty at all, which we couldn’t say for the controversial song “One In A Million” (Album “G’N’R Lies – the Sex, the Drugs, the Violence, the Shocking Truth”) published in the last month of 1988. Axl attacked black population (calling them pejoratively “niggers”) with lyrics “get out of my way”, as well as immigrants and homosexuals accusing them that “immigrants and fagets/they make no sense to me/they come to our country/ and think they’ll do as they please/like start some mini Iran/or spread some fucking disease.” It’s not known how the immigrants reacted (Serbian community didn’t say a word), but homosexuals manage to cancel G’N’R show for the anti AIDS charity concert in New York. But the lyrics about “niggers” made tension within the band. Slash’s mother is black. “I’ll say only I wasn’t for that song at all, and I refuse to play it on the shows” says Slash. These events didn’t affect the album sales and G’N’R had become the first band after a decade and a half whose 2 albums got on the Top5 list. The rest of “Lies” contained 3 new acoustic songs and all 4 songs from their first EP.