APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2007.11.29 - A&E Biography - Guns N' Roses

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2007.11.29 - A&E Biography - Guns N' Roses Empty 2007.11.29 - A&E Biography - Guns N' Roses

Post by Blackstar Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:53 am



Transcript:
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Joe Perry: They were, like, the last rock band out of our mold.

Vicky Hamilton: There’s never been another band like them.

Lars Ulrich: It was one of those, like, big moments, you know. I remember where I was the first time I heard Appetite.

Neil Zlozower (photographer): They were singing about things that most teenagers could relate to.

Mike Catherwood (KROQ DJ): These were guys who were born and bred to do one thing: to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Robert John: And they went from the streets, literally, to being one of the biggest bands in the world.

[Opening titles]

Voice-over: 90 million albums sold worldwide - 39 million in the United States alone. Their 1987 major label release, Appetite for Destruction, sold over 26 million copies, making it one of the best-selling debut albums in history. The band’s classic lineup consisted of frontman Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. But before they could make it big in the mid-80s, fate had to bring them together. Slash grew up Saul Hudson in Los Angeles, California with parents who worked in the music industry.

Marc Canter: When I first met him, I noticed he had a talent for drawing. It’s not like something he did, he just knew how to do it. Then we started riding bikes together, and he was doing things that they do now, that are common, but back in the 70s all these tricks weren’t that common. So he was ahead of his time.

Voice-over: Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, drummer Steven Adler became friends with Slash while growing up in West Hollywood.

Steven: Slash and I got together. We were about 11-12 years old, junior high school. I had a guitar, and when I met him in school, he came over and I showed him the guitar – and, literally, the next day he had a guitar.

Neil Zlozower (photographer): Duff is, you know, a great bass player. He looks like a rock star. He loved to drink back in the old days.

Voice-over: Michael “Duff” McKagan was a 6 foot 4 blonde from Seattle, who was an honor student in high school, but he dropped out to go on tour with a punk band, The Fastbacks.

Duff: I played drums in a few bands, I played guitar in a few bands, I played bass in a couple of bands.

Voice-over: In 1983, Duff McKagan headed south to join the music scene of Los Angeles.

Stephen Davis (rock biographer/journalist): Bill Bailey is Axl Rose’s real name. He grew up in Lafayette, Indiana and one of his best friends was Jeff Isbell. Jeff Isbell is Izzy Stradlin. Izzy moved first, he’s the only one with a high school diploma, and he left Lafayette, Indiana immediately. Axl stayed behind for a while. He changed his name from Bill Bailey to W. Axl Rose when he was 17 years old, because he found out that his real father’s name was William Rose. But he kept getting arrested, he got in trouble all the time. I think he was arrested something like 20 times before he was 19 years old. Somewhere around 1982, Axl Rose, as he was now called, jumped bail in Lafayette, Indiana and drove to Los Angeles, where he spent about anywhere from three to six months trying to find Izzy Stradlin.

Mike Catherwood (KROQ DJ): Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, mid 80s. Every single girl had huge teased hair. Every single guy thought he was Brett Michaels, thought he was Tommy Lee. It was like rock and roll high school. All of Hollywood was consumed by these guys, and their androgyny, and their licks, and their super over the top cheetah print heavy metal.

Stephen Davis: So there was this incredible vacuum in 1985 and 1986 of a lot of crap coming out and being shoved down the throats of the high school kids of America, who had nothing else to buy. So there was obviously room for a blazing, furious, half-psychotic rock ‘n’ roll band to come out. It didn’t matter where it came out of; it just happened to come out of the glam metal scene on Sunset Strip.

Vicky Hamilton: All the bands were coming to Hollywood. It was like the promised land, because so many bands were getting signed out of this area. People were trying each other on like wet suits in those band days. It was like, a guy would be in a band for, like, two weeks and then he’d be moving on to the next band.

Voice-over: The future members of Guns N’ Roses circled each other on the Sunset Strip music scene in Hollywood before finally coming together in June of 1985. Slash and Steven Adler were in a band named Roadcrew. They needed a singer, so they convinced Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, who were in a band called Rose, to start a new band that they would call Hollywood Rose. Hollywood Rose fell apart. Axl joined Tracii Guns to form L.A. Guns and Izzy joined a band called London. Slash auditioned for a band called Poison, but their persona didn’t quite fit Slash’s style. In the meantime, L.A. Guns changed their name to Guns N’ Roses. They needed a bassist, so they hired Duff, whom they knew from their earlier band, Roadcrew.

Marc Canter: So Guns N’ Roses is playing around at the Troubadour and they got everybody except Slash and Steven from the Appetite for Destruction lineup. Then Duff, who was from Seattle, pretty much booked a tour to Seattle and some of the clubs he was familiar with.

Voice-over: Tracii Guns and Rob Grander, the original GN’R lead guitarist and drummer, were somewhat skeptical of the trip.

Duff: They didn’t want to do the tour that was booked. And we called Slash and Steven.

Voice-over: With the new guitarist and drummer on board, ready to travel, the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup was set.

Duff: They came in and, like, the first couple of chords that... you know, the five of us in the same room, it was like lightning really struck.

Steven: We were driving up to Seattle and Danny, a guy we worked with, a roadie that was the driver – the car broke down.

Duff: We ended up hitchhiking. And, you know, five guys wearing leather jackets and carrying guitars hitchhiking, you’re not gonna get a lot of rides – and if you do, not for very far. We hitchhiked for 1000 miles.

Stephen Davis: When they got to Seattle, they did the gigs, but no one showed up.

Marc Canter: They went through hell to get there. And after they got done playing, the owner didn’t want to pay them, and they basically threw them up against the wall and demanded some money. They got a little bit of money.

Stephen Davis: The other club owners on the tour heard that the show sucked and the band wasn’t happening, so it got cancelled. So the first Guns N’ Roses tour was an absolute fiasco.

Marc Canter: But when they got back to Los Angeles, they were tight. They had a bond of taking this little road trip and surviving it, making it happen, hitchhiking or whatever – you know, whatever it took.

Duff: It was the best band we’d all been, and we knew that for us this was it, musically.

Voice-over: Guns N’ Roses emerged from the Hollywood gutters in 1985 and injected a gritty, emotional and, sometimes, dangerous edge to hard rock. The band’s musical style, onstage presence and bad boy image would be embraced by fans who had grown tired of the glam metal scene. As individuals, they were five talented musicians from around the country.

Neil Zlozower: Slash, to me, is one of the greatest guitar players I’ve ever heard in my life.

Joe Perry: He just plays from the heart, he comes from the blues rock style, he’s got great chops.

Lars Ulrich: It never looks like he’s struggling, it never looks like he’s trying too hard. It never looks like he’s ever kind of lost. It’s an effortlessness that I certainly wish that I had (laughs).

Mike Catherwood: You really didn’t know what he looked like. I mean, his hair covered his face, and he always had the signature top hat. But it fit the band so well. He was so perfect for that time and that place.

Lars Ulrich: Well, Izzy was always the secret weapon. Because Izzy wrote more songs than you thought, and wrote more great riffs than you thought.

Mike Catherwood: He was, like, a refreshing guy to see in a band, because he was a classical rhythm guitar player, playing chords, and helped structure in and fill out songs, and things like that.

Neil Zlozower: Izzy was a quiet guy. He really never indulged in the fame and stardom of Guns N’ Roses. He really was, I think, more of a songwriting type of person. I think he kept mostly to himself.

Bryn Bridenthal: Duff McKagan was the punk soul of the band. He was also a peacemaker, because he grew up the youngest of – I think it was eight kids. He learned how to compromise.

Mike Catherwood: He’s one of the best pick-style rock ‘n’ roll bass players there is out there, period.

Steven: And he was always, like, the coolest guy, he always had girls… I mean, I looked up to him - not just because he’s 7 feet tall.    

Arlett Vereecke: Steven was a perfect drummer for Appetite. I hear the small kit, and he just cut it.

Lars Ulrich: It was a kick and snare on the hi-hat and one cymbal on the floor tom, and it was all about the groove, and all about the balance, and all about just locking in with Duff.

Mike Catherwood: He just seemed like the nice guy that he got mixed up with the wrong crowd, you know? (laughs)

[Break]

Mike Catherwood: The cartoonish character that has been created around Axl Rose, because of his antics, overshadows the fact that he’s a great, great lead singer, a phenomenal vocalist, and one of the greatest onstage performers that you will ever see in rock ‘n’ roll.

Bryn Bridenthal: The kinds of traits that make a great frontman don’t make, oftentimes, a happy person or a person easy to deal with.

Joe Perry: I think he’s, like, one of those guys that’s one in a million. They just don’t come along every day.

Arlett Vereecke: I mean, I don’t know anybody who gives that much, every show, like Axl did. You know, he was nervous every time and insecure, and it all came out on stage.

Lars Ulrich: What I love about Axl is that there’s always that element of what makes rock ‘n’ roll exciting, which is so lacking these days, and which is that you never know what’s going to happen next.

Voice-over: If unpredictability equals excitement, then Guns N’ Roses had more excitement than they could handle. In their early days, none of them had a regular place to sleep or enough money for food. One of the advantages they found of being in a rock band on Sunset Boulevard in the 80s was that they met a lot of strippers.

Steven: They took care of us, supported us. I don’t think we could have actually made it, because, I mean, we were living in a studio, no bathroom… It was, like, a 12 by 12 room behind Guitar Center.

Robert John: It was pretty raunchy. They had no money, so it was usually like, you’d go in there… I would come in there because I worked construction back then, and I would come in there at, like, 3:30 in the afternoon, and I’d open up the door and it’d be pitch-dark (laughs). There’d just be bodies on all over the floor. You didn’t know, band members, chicks, whatever.

Mike Catherwood: These were not fake-it-till-you-make-it type of guys. These were just like the runaways you see in Hollywood Boulevard. These were legit dudes. And they didn’t really know anything else except for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Voice-over: Guns N’ Roses needed a record contract. Through word of mouth, their club performances started to generate a lot of buzz.

Vicky Hamilton: People knew, even before there was a record deal. They were, like, packing the clubs…

Stephen Davis: They started to get a reputation around Los Angeles, but it was a very negative reputation.

Voice-over: GN’R had attracted a following, delivering the type of down-and-dirty rock that was everything their polished hairband counterparts were incapable of. By 1986, the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses had made a name for themselves around the L.A. music scene. But the members were still struggling musicians willing to do just about anything and stay anywhere in order to get by, including their original manager Vicky Hamilton’s apartment.

Vicky Hamilton: Well, a couple of nights ended up being, like, six months of them in and out of my apartment. First it was just Axl on the couch, and then later it ended up being Slash and Izzy, and Steven also, because the police kept on circling the rehearsal space, and I think there was, like, then six of us living in an one-bedroom apartment.

Steven: We destroyed that apartment. I mean, the last day we stayed there, me and Axl got in a fight and he threw me - he pushed me into this fire extinguisher, and that glass broke. And I grabbed him and pushed it down on the coffee table, which is all glass, and it exploded.

Vicky Hamilton: Yeah, there was kind of a love/hate tension between them always. I think that really happens in the best of bands.

Stephen Davis: After Guns really got established as a five-piece band and started to rule the Strip, there was a feeding frenzy.

Vicky Hamilton: It was really when they played the Troubadour and there was, I think, maybe 20 A&R people there. It was really kind of funny, because most of the A&R people were out on the sidewalk, because it was so loud.

Voice-over: At the show was an executive by the name of Tom Zutaut from Geffen Records.

Stephen Davis: It was a good label for Guns to be on, because they had very talented people, and they were willing to spend a lot of money and a lot of time to develop a band.

Vicky Hamilton: Tom Zutaut said to me, “If that guy can really sing, I’ll sign them.” I was like, “Oh well, he can really sing, don’t worry,” and I handed him the demo. And he called me the next day and said, “Get them in my office.”

Steven: We were angry, determined, and needed to have it done our way. And David Geffen came in and said, “Just do whatever the hell you want.”

Voice-over: As founder of Geffen Records, David Geffen had built his company on a small roster of promising talent.

Vicky Hamilton: The day that we signed the deal with Geffen Records, we were an hour-and-a-half late to sign the contract, because Axl could not find his contact lenses, and he got really mad and ran out of the house. We found them in a pair of pants that he had had on, like, three days prior or whatever. Then we couldn’t find Axl, so Slash was like, “Vicky, come here, you won’t believe it.” I walk outside the apartment’s door and I look up on top of the Whisky and there is Axl, sitting, like, in a yoga sort of medicative position. I’m like, “Come on, Axl, we gotta go down and sign the contract” (laughs).

Mike Catherwood: I think Axl is legitimately crazy. I mean, I don’t think it’s an act. But you can’t deny his appeal.

[Footage from concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, USA, July 19, 1991

Axl: I guess being a fucking psycho basket case helps my career (laughs).]

Voice-over: After the signing, Geffen Records rented the band a house so they could have a place to live and to continue writing new material. The band trashed the house causing some $22,000 worth of damage.

Arlett Vereecke: Nobody wanted to deal with this band, because they were so… you know, they looked like outlaws, they acted like outlaws. They actually were very sweet, but they looked apart, so everybody stayed away from them.

Voice-over: In the spring of 1987, Guns N’ Roses finally headed to the recording studio.

Duff: In the studio the vibe was amazing. I mean, I can’t say it enough times that we were such a close-knit group of guys. All the other stuff aside - you know, the booze, the strippers, and all that stuff - whenever it was time for, like, our band, for music, for the band to be a band, all that stuff just went by the wayside.

Voice-over: The album, Appetite for Destruction, was finally released on July 21st, 1987. But five months later it had only sold 200,000 copies. Their first single, Welcome to the Jungle, received minimal radio play; and MTV would not air the music video, because they claimed it was too violent.

Neil Zlozower: Appetite for Destruction came out and no one picked up on it. That album wasn’t like it came out and went right to number 1. That album worked, and it worked…

Voice-over: GN’R’s live shows, on the other hand, were anything but disappointing.

Robert John: They’re one of the best bands I’ve ever photographed live, because it’s just the energy on stage and the chemistry. You know, it just works. And it’s not choreographed, you know what I mean? But it looks choreographed sometimes, because they work so well together.  

Vicky Hamilton: They started out opening for Aerosmith and it got to the point where the promoters were demanding that Guns N’ Roses be the headliner on the tour.

Joe Perry: You see that slow building. You know, at the first show there’s a few people who know who they are, the next show there’s more people out there, and by the end of the tour there’s a lot of people that are coming to see them. And it’s kind of like one of those things where you go, “Don’t forget these guys, because it’s only gonna happen once.”

Voice-over: With a repertoire of songs and a celebrated live show, Guns N’ Roses had come into their own. But unless they could figure out a way to sell more records, the band would not be on top for long.

[Break]

Voice-over: After two years together, Guns N’ Roses finally released their debut album on July 21st, 1987. But the first single, Welcome to the Jungle, wasn’t getting the results their record label had hoped it would. To make matters worse, MTV wouldn’t play any of GN’R’s music videos. Fortunately for the band, young record mogul David Geffen intervened.

Stephen Davis: David Geffen started calling the head of Time Warner and the head of MTV personally, saying, “You’ve got to put this on the air.”

Marc Canter: Basically, David Geffen begged them to play it. And they said, “Okay, we’ll play them one time. We’re gonna play Jungle on a Sunday night in the least desirable spot at 6:00 in the morning, New York time.” So they played it once and their switchboards blew up. People went nuts, “What is that? Play that again.” And within, I think, a day or two, they were in the top 10 on rotation.

Voice-over: With Welcome to the Jungle getting a positive response, the softer, more melodic Sweet Child O’ Mine music video was filmed and added to MTV’s on-air rotation.

Vicky Hamilton: Sweet Child O’ Mine is where the band started to really pick up a national sort of girl following, because it wasn’t, like, angry; it was, like, the soft side of angry.

Bryn Bridenthal: I think it was delivering that song to a broader audience that really started the explosion.

Duff: And it became, you know, not just in the United States or North America - or the UK and Japan and North America… it became a worldwide thing, where everybody knew what this record was.

Vicky Hamilton: There was nothing on the market that sounded like that record in that time period. You know, it was all happy party music, and Guns was like… aargh!

Mike Catherwood: The songs, beginning to end, on Appetite for Destruction are undeniable. If you're gonna take a song about urban angst, Welcome to the Jungle is as good a song as there is about it. If you’re gonna take a love song, put Sweet Child O’ Mine up against anything Lionel Richie’s ever wrote; it’s just as good as a love song.  

Voice-over: Over a year after its release, Appetite for Destruction finally hit number 1, where it stayed for five weeks. The band’s popularity skyrocketed, not only in the U.S., but around the world. On August 20th, 1988, GN’R played the notorious Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in the UK, where they shared the bill with groups Kiss and David Lee Roth.

Stephen Davis: They start to play and 100,000 kids, who are on this hill, rush to the stage.

[Footage from Donington]

Stephen Davis: And unbeknownst to the band, two or three kids went down right in the sort of mosh pit and were basically trampled to death. Axl had stopped the show twice, because he looked down and he didn’t like what was happening in front of him. They tried to stop the show, but the kids just kept going crazy. Later on that night, the band were drinking in the pub at their hotel, and the manager looked glum. And Slash was, “What’s the problem? We just had this great show.” And they said, “Well, two kids died during your show.” I think Slash said something like, “Well, we went from the highest of the high to as low as you can possibly get as working in band.”  

Voice-over: The media largely blamed the band for the tragedy, though they were completely exonerated in the official report. As a result, the English press bestowed upon them the title “The world’s most dangerous band.” In reality, the most danger they imposed was to themselves. Drug and alcohol use had reached a new high for most of the band members.

Vicky Hamilton: Guns N’ Roses was definitely party animals. I mean, even before they had the success, I was already driving Izzy to rehab. So there was, you know, the addictive personalities within the band.

Arlett Vereecke: They woke up with the shakes, you know? So, in order to get rid of the shakes, they started drinking. So a case of beer during the day and a bottle of Jack Daniels was nothing to them. And then they went out after that.

Vicky Hamilton: I think that Guns N’ Roses thought that the success would bring them happiness. But, as we all know, money doesn’t bring happiness. So it’s like they were still trying to fill the hole with other things, which became more partying, more girls, more drugs…

Voice-over: Though Axl had his own issues. He was never noted for his over-the-top drug abuse, and he became fed up as heroin use escalated among his bandmates. While opening for the Rolling Stones, he called out the band on stage and threatened that, if the drug use didn’t stop, it would be the last Guns N’ Roses show. The group responded and promised to clean up their act. Scrambling to take advantage of the success of Appetite, Geffen Records decided to keep the band busy by recording an extended play album with four new songs. They called it GN’R Lies. Geffen Records released GN’R Lies on November 29, 1988 and Guns N’ Roses’ success helped propel it to number 2 on the charts. One song off of GN’R Lies was a track called One in a Million. The lyrics set off a hailstorm from the press, as they contained what many thought were derogatory racial remarks and rants against homosexuals.

Stephen Davis: One in a Million, which was on the second side of GN’R Lies, is this song about racism and homophobia. And Axl’s guitar player is half black. Slash is half black, half Jewish. His father was an immigrant.

Arlett Vereecke: It was not meant towards Slash or to black people or whatever. It was never intended that way. It was interpreted that way.

Bryn Bridenthal: So then he got drawn into this whole explanation, which was really unfortunate, because I think that’s where he got labeled as somebody that he isn’t.

Voice-over: The controversy died down after the band performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert for AIDS awareness in April of 1992. Axl sang a duet with one of his musical idols, Elton John on the Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody.  

Arlett Vereecke: And to do that with Elton John was, of course, a nice closure – you know, because Elton was behind it; and he’s obviously gay.  

Voice-over: The band headed back to the studio to record their full-length follow-up to Appetite for Destruction. But with all of their newfound commercial success and rock star status, would they be able to come up with the kind of gritty material that filled their platinum-selling debut album?

[Break]

Voice-over: After the monstrous success of Appetite for Destruction, it was time to record the band’s second full-length studio album. But now, with so much exposure and fame, new pressures were put on the band by themselves and the outside for a follow-up recording that would exceed expectations.

Joe Perry: They want another Welcome to the Jungle, but they don’t want one that sounds just like Welcome to the Jungle.

Lars Ulrich: Whenever you do the first record, you have your whole career to write your first record. You know, there’s no benchmark, there’s nothing that’s been said before.

Voice-over: The band entered the studio in 1990 to begin what would become the Use Your Illusions recordings.

Bryn Bridenthal: So, I think with the first album things were more primal, and with the Illusions they were more complex.

Duff: Appetite - nobody knew who we were and we would collect McDonald’s rub-off coupons to eat. Illusions? We all had our own houses, we had drug dealers on call, security guys… There’s a world of difference.

Mike Catherwood: Now they have toured the entire world. They are international superstars. Naturally, they’re gonna have to explore different routes and different avenues, musically.

Marc Canter: Musically, Axl wanted to bury Appetite. It’s not that he hated Appetite; he just wanted to show the world that he’s got something else, which is way above it – you know, it’s to the next level.

Arlett Vereecke: Now there was money at stake. You know, they made such an impact with Appetite. It had to be right. So Axl, who is a perfectionist, was not going to go in the studio and just sing for the hell of it. So, if he said, “I’m not singing for the next four weeks,” you had to wait for the next four weeks.

Robert John: It seemed very tense to me during that period, because that’s when problems were going on with Steven…

Stephen Davis: In 1990 they were trying to make their album, and Steven Adler was a heroin addict and he couldn’t track the record, he couldn’t lay down his drum tracks.

Vicky Hamilton: It was shocking to me when they fired Steven for a heroin problem, because, you know, during the days that they were living with me, Steven was possibly the straightest one in the band. I think his ego was crushed. I mean, I think he, at that point, did a major downward spiral and tried to bury the pain in alcohol and drugs.

Steven: I was so proud to be a part of them – you know, the group – and a part of their lives. So that’s what really hurts, that they disappeared and, all of a sudden, I was alone.

Voice-over: Unfortunately, in 1996 Steven Adler suffered a minor stroke after a drug overdose, leaving his speech impaired. Adler would be the first to go from the original classic GN’R lineup. After his ousting on July 11, 1990, the group called up Matt Sorum, who had been playing with a band called the Cult.

Matt: And I got a call. Slash said, “Hey man, it’s Slash. We saw you play the other night. We love your drumming, me and Duff. We’d like you to come jam with us.” I said, “Well, what’s happened with Steven Adler?” They said, “Well, we decided to let him go. We want to get a new drummer.”

Voice-over: The follow-up to Appetite for Destruction hit the street on September 17, 1991. But, unlike most new discs, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II were two separate albums released simultaneously.

Bryn Bridenthal: They very quickly sold more than 5 million records each. That was huge.  

Stephen Davis: Guns N’ Roses went out on the road with their new drummer, Matt Sorum, even before Use Your Illusion came out, and they stayed on the road for three years. I think they went around the world twice.

Voice-over: Unfortunately, the extremely successful tour began to be overshadowed by on stage rants by Axl and late starts.

Vicky Hamilton: Even when they were playing in the clubs, he would show up late. I don't know if it was more of a thing of perfection or just he knew that they would wait.

Mike Cathewood: It's legendary how Axl sometimes wouldn't want to play. Sometimes he would stop playing two or three songs in. That's not all that interesting when you're playing in front of 300 people, but that's pretty insane when you think about they're filling stadiums full of 40,000 people and the guy is having temper tantrums.

Matt: I was just to go out on stage, I'm getting ready and my adrenal glands are opening up. I'm feeling it - you know, the crowd's there. That's how it went down. And we didn't even know what time it was gonna be.

Voice-over: One tantrum at a show on July 2nd, 1991, near St. Louis, would become infamous.

Robert John: Well, this guy was, like, videotaping right in the front row, okay? Axl, you know, said something to the security guy. The security guy wasn't gonna do anything about it, so he finally said, “Hey, you know what?” and he jumped in.

Matt: And the next thing I know, I see Axl flying off the stage, and I see all these black feathers flying up. He got on stage, he said “Fuck the security,” he threw the mic down and then he ran off. I went into Axl's dressing room and I kind of said to him, “Hey man, what's up?” and he said, “I lost my contact [lens].”

Duff: You hear, like, the cheer go from the… all of a sudden it gets really dark, to this kind of growl. Not cool to hear when you're off stage and you were just a band up on stage.

Robert John: The band did try to go back on stage and play the show, but the fans didn't actually let them. I don't know if the fans knew that. They just started going crazy. I mean, they were taking chairs from the back of the audience - you know, the back of the venue - and bringing them up, handing them over to each other to throw up on stage. It was super destructive. I mean, I think all the PA system got destroyed, a lot of sound equipment, lights, mics… everything.

Voice-over: The incident resulted in 60 injuries, 16 arrests, $200,000 in damages to the brand new amphitheater, and the loss of much of Guns N’ Roses staging equipment. Axl was charged with having incited the riot, but police were unable to arrest him until almost a year later. Axl got two years’ probation and had to pay a $50,000 fine. Guns N’ Roses’ knack for attracting trouble did nothing to damage their image across the Atlantic, as they sold out shows all over Europe. But the toll of being in a group as popular as GN’R proved to be too much for its quietest member. After years of booze and drugs taking their toll, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin cleaned up his act and became sober.

Robert John: Izzy started looking like he was drifting a little bit.

Arlett Vereecke: He didn't want to do it at all. He had enough. He had enough with the waiting three hours for Axl to go on stage, and the band is ready, and everybody's drunk. And Izzy wasn't drinking, so coffee and tea is not gonna keep you happy for long. The fun part of it was getting lost.

Vicky Hamilton: I don't think that Izzy ever got the credit for what he put in songwriting-wise, so, you know, you take away that little piece of the magic. And then they fired Steven and there's another piece that goes away. To me the magic was those five guys.

Voice-over: Guitarist Gilby Clarke replaced Izzy Stradlin, and the tour rolled on gathering even more momentum when GN’R joined up with friends Metallica on July 17, 1992 to do a mini North American tour.

Lars Ulrich: I mean, it came together so effortless because it was just something that we both wanted, and something that was greater than either of us separately and it had never really been done. You know, you get the two biggest bands at the time in North America, each playing full headline sets, and we each had our own staging, we each had our own hoopla and yahoo, and all that stuff. And that was, obviously, something that was unprecedented.

Voice-over: On August 8th, 1992 both bands were scheduled to put on a show at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. During Metallica's set, frontman James Hetfield was badly burned after being too close to a pyrotechnics blast.

Lars Ulrich: So we had to cut our set short.

Vicky Hamilton: And this would have been where Guns N’ Roses could have, like, saved the day and done a major hours set or whatever.

Marc Canter: But something was going on with the system, with the PA system, and Axl couldn't hear himself, and he's screaming and he's hurting himself. He's gonna leave.

Lars Ulrich: Axl sort of cut their set short. And then, because of a short set from Metallica and a short set from Guns, there were 50,000 or 60,000 paying customers in Montreal who were not particularly happy about that.

Voice-over: Rioters overturned cars, smashed windows, looted local stores and set fires. Local authorities were barely able to bring the mob under control. To this day, Axl is still criticized for not stepping up and saving the day. But despite the mayhem in Quebec, the tour was a big financial success.

Stephen Davis: The Use Your Illusion tour got very, very bloated. Axl had taken on psychotherapists on tour with him, he had spiritual advisors, they had masseurs, hairdressers, stylists…

Robert John: To me, it got a little ridiculous. And then there was even more people added to the stage.

Duff: It got so big, the machine was so big, and I felt pushed along by this - you know, 25 Mack Trucks that wouldn't stop. And there was no way out. We couldn't go and play theaters. We couldn’t; the band was too big.

Robert John: The high point for me on the Use Your Illusion tour? Ending it? (laughs) It was so long.

Voice-over: The tour set attendance records and was one of the longest concert tours in rock history. Over 28 months, the band played almost 200 shows on a roll. Guns N’ roses returned to the studio to record a new album. But it was clear that something was wrong.

[Break]

Voice-over: After gaining worldwide success with fans and critics alike, the hard rock group Guns N’ Roses began considering what musical direction they would explore next. But the band had already started eroding with the loss of two members of the classic lineup. On November 23rd, 1993, the group released their follow-up to the financially successful Use Your Illusion records.

Vicky Hamilton: The Spaghetti Incident was a record that they put together, and the packaging had all of the band's favorite punk rock covers.

Voice-over: The group had managed to get the new recording out, but anxiety levels had risen among the members.

Mike Cathewood: The tension between the people making this album was palpable to someone listening to the album. These are people that are at wit's end trying desperately to make music together.

Arlett Vereecke: Things aren’t working out and you have no friends left, really. You just have drug dealers, and alcohol… You know, it was just stress all along, so all they did was drugs.

Duff: There was no guidebook on what was gonna happen to your band when you blow up, when you get as big as we did. And I self-medicated myself - really good.

Vicky Hamilton: Axl made them sign over the name to him and that was, like, the beginning of the end. The band was just like, you know, “This is no longer our band, it's the Axl Rose show,” so…

Voice-over: Slash quit the band for good in October of 1996. Gilby Clarke, the replacement for rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, had already been fired by Axl, because he felt Gilby's songwriting skills weren't up to snuff. Drummer Matt Sorum was fired from the group following an argument with Axl in mid-1997. Duff McKagan, the bass player and last original GN’R member other than Axl, became sober after his pancreas exploded from acute pancreatitis. That, combined with his wife becoming pregnant, made Duff decide it was time for a life change.

Duff: My time had come. That was a simple choice for me. It wasn't really musical or anything, you know.

Stephen Davis: No band has ever failed so badly at being great. Because they were the biggest band in the world, they were the world's most dangerous band. And what did they do with it?

Robert John: If they hadn't imploded, they would be like the Stones. I think they would have been one of those bands that would have just kept going.

Vicky Hamilton: I don't think the rock scene has ever been the same since Guns N’ Roses, because no one's been able to capture the magic that those five people had.

Bryn Bridenthal: I always thought of the band as a fist. They didn't love each other that much necessarily, but it took all of them together to make that music.

Neil Zlozower: They changed the whole face of rock ‘n’ roll music.

Joe Perry: They had the right look, they made great videos, they had the great songs… The whole thing was working right. And they're a great band. That's as simple as that.

Lars Ulrich: It's all ultimately about songs - great songs that are almost bigger than the timeframe, they're bigger than the people that play them… We can all wish we had five of the great songs of all time.

Voice-over: History always repeats itself, and the former members of Guns N’ Roses once again found themselves circling each other on the music scene, playing with each other sporadically on side projects and special occasions. In 2002, Slash, Duff and Matt Sorum started a new band called Velvet Revolver.

Arlett Vereecke: They just wanted it. They just wanted to go so bad that it was a done deal before it was a done deal, basically.

Voice-over: After an exhaustive search for a lead singer, they decided on vocalist Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots, a frontman with his own onstage charisma, but also with the baggage of a heroin addiction. He was able to get clean with the help of Duff and the same program that he got sober on. With that hurdle overcome, Slash, Duff and Matt were back where they wanted to be.

Duff: We have really the illustrious catalogues of not only Guns, but Stone Temple Pilots to choose from and it's pretty awesome. The crowd reacts - you know, they go crazy.

Matt: After Guns N’ Roses, I didn't know what I was gonna do. There was a period there that was a little weird for all of us. I think that if you asked Slash that question, or Duff, they would probably tell you the same thing. And then to come back and be playing with each other again, you know, it's a real gift.

Voice-over: Velvet Revolver's debut album went to number 1, is double platinum, and the band won a Grammy award for the single Slither. The band Guns N’ Roses, still fronted by Axl Rose, continues to live on. Axl has been working on material for the next album, Chinese Democracy, since 1994.

Mike Catherwood: I've been hearing that Chinese Democracy will come out since I was in diapers, practically.

Lars Ulrich: I wait with baited breath just like everybody else does. And, listen, I can relate to - I mean, the record is gonna come out when Axl wants it to come out.

Vicky Hamilton: If Axl never puts out Chinese Democracy, we'll never know whether it's brilliant or not, and I think that's what keeps him from doing it - especially on the heels of the success of Velvet Revolver. He sees his past bandmates having success.

Arlett Vereecke: I heard a rough demo. And I have to say, it was so good to hear his voice, and it sounded killer.

Voice-over: So the big question is, would the classic members of GN’R ever get past their differences and reunite?

Vicky Hamilton: The kids are just waiting for the five of them to get back together again and do a recording. You know, personally I don't think it'll ever happen. But, who knows, maybe if they, like, go broke, they'll consider it (laughs).

Robert John: Or just leave it alone. You know it, was cool, and maybe if they reunite it's gonna destroy the whole thing.

Steven: I’m leaving that decision up to Axl. You know, it ultimately is his decision.

Voice-over: Today Steven Adler is once again laying down a heavy backbeat on drums and garnering rave reviews in his own band, Adler’s Appetite.

Stephen Davis: Guns N’ Roses today is a great rock band putting on great rock shows. A lot of people don't like the fact that only one original member, W. Axl Rose, is in this band and that the other guys are master musicians or journeymen musicians - there are no other stars on stage.

Mike Catherwood: Very recently, Guns N’ Roses was slated to play, to headline a huge concert that this station, KROQ in Los Angeles, puts on every year. So, about 15 or 20 minutes after the last band plays, Guns N’ Roses, the band, shows up; Axl is nowhere to be found. KROQ management is furiously on the phone with Axl Rose’s management: “He's in the air right now. Is there any chance he can get a police escort?” And it wasn't even as if there was any question about it. There is superstars, then there is Axl Rose. 30 or 40 minutes later, after the crowd is sure that they're not gonna see Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose burns into the backstage area. And he walks out, he lights up a cigarette, he smokes it, he starts talking to himself, he throws it down, and he goes out and commences to destroy the crowd. It was right on the verge. I mean, the stitches were about to break, but somehow, instead of it falling over into complete chaos, that night it leaned back over to utter perfection. And if it didn’t once in a while fall into that destructive area, where things go totally wrong, I don’t think we’d be sitting here talking about them today.
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