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2001.06.20 - Guitar One - Guns N' Roses: 10 Rockin' Riffs From Appetite, Lies, Illusion I-II

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2001.06.20 - Guitar One - Guns N' Roses: 10 Rockin' Riffs From Appetite, Lies, Illusion I-II Empty 2001.06.20 - Guitar One - Guns N' Roses: 10 Rockin' Riffs From Appetite, Lies, Illusion I-II

Post by Blackstar on Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:16 pm

Guns N' Roses
10 Rockin' Riffs From Appetite, Lies, Illusion I-II


By Dale Turner

In 1987, at the heigt of the "hair metal" movement, a Los Angeles quintet called Guns N' Roses - Axl Rose (vocals), Slash (guitar), Izzy Stradlin' (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass), and Steven Adler (drums) - emerged almost out of the blue to bring an entire music scene to it's knewws. Their full-length debut, Appetite for Destruction (Geffen), stayed at #1 on the Billboard charts for five straight weeks, and GN'R were crowned the new kings of rock.

Guns' reign would be marked by trying times. In just a few short years, the band's legendary lifestyle would take its toll. By the early '90s, GN'R would experience everything from fistfights to full-blown riots. Soon, frustrations over the band's musical direction would prompt the departure or dismissal of most of its founding members. Today, all that's left of the original GN'R is frontman Axl Rose.

While the world eagerly awaits the release of Rose's forthcoming record, Chinese Democracy, the first GN'R release of new material in nearly eight years, let's walk on the wild side a moment and relive Guns' glory days.

"Welcome to the Jungle"
Appetite for Destruction


Already Los Angeles-area legends by the time they signed with Geffen Records in 1986, Guns N' Roses first recorded effort, a limited-edition (10,000 printed), four-song EP called Live?!*@Like a Suicide (which featured two originals and covers of Aerosmith and Rose Tattoo songs) netted the band their first taste of nationwide exposure. But the buzz Live generated would pale in comparison to the band's full-length debut, Appetite for Destruction. The album, so named for a disturbing painting by Los Angeles artist Robert Williams (a controversial "raping robot" image featured on the record's original cover, later relegated to the album's inner sleeve) was released July 31, 1987, and initially hit a sales plateau of 200,000 copies. That is, until label head David Geffen convinced MTV to give the band's "Welcome to the Jungle" video a spin. As a favor to Geffen, MTV debuted the "Welcome to the Jungle" video at the ridiculous hour of 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning and, literally overnight, a new era in hard rock was ushered in.

"'Welcome to the Jungle,'" as Slash explained in a recent Guitar One interview, "is the best example of a hands-down, definitive Guns N' Roses song. It was the first song I ever wrote with Axl. There was just that little guitar intro line, then the riff (Fig.1], then the next change, and that was it. We were rehearsing one afternoon and Axl got turned on to it. Then the whole band got involved, and the next thing you know, it became a song. It was written in about 15 minutes," Axl completed the lyrics while in Seattle, in part illustrating how L.A. looked through his own eyes in comparison to the smaller northwest city. The following year, "Welcome to the Jungle" (which reached #7 on Billboard) would earn GN'R their first MTV Video Music Award, for Best New Artist Video.

"Mr. Brownstone"
Appetite for Destruction


"Mr. Brownstone" kicks off with a percussive groove historically referred to as the "Bo Diddley beat," followed by Slash and Izzy's sinewy single-note riff [Fig.2]. It's a timeless fan favorite, and Slash, with his current band, Snakepit, plays the song live to this day. When the media caught wind of "Mr. Brownstone" - a song apparently written from the perspective of an individual with a heroin habit - the band drew harsh criticism for what was perceived as their promotion of drug use. The track also helped fuel rumors that some of GN'R's members were battling addiction themselves. These rumors were substantiated during the band's tour with the Rolling Stones in 1989, when a highly agitated Axl stated from the stage that he was "sick and tired" of too many people in his organization "dancing with Mr. Brownstone." He then declared that unless they cleaned up their act, GN'R was "over."

"Nightrain"
Appetite for Destruction


Even before they were a household name, the reputation GN'R had as "party animals" preceded them. In the early days, when the entire band - virtually penniless - lived in a tiny apartment in Hollywood, their evening ritual consisted of consuming mass quantities of cheap wine called Nightrain. The pulverizing effect the booze had on the boys would eventually be immortalized in the form of Appetite's third track, "Nightrain" [Fig.3]. (Think: "Loaded like a freight train...I'm on the Nightrain.") Despite the fact the song barely cracked the Billboard Top 100 (it peaked at #93), it was a staple in the band's live shows for years, and is widely regarded as "classic GN'R."

"Paradise City"
Appetite for Destruction


"Paradise City" [Fig.4] originated from a chord cycle bassist Duff McKagan (who writes on guitar) penned during a bout of loneliness he suffered after moving to Los Angeles. According to Slash, McKagan's chord passage took it's first step up the evolutionary ladder during a road trip along the California coast. "We were in the van," Slash recalls, "coming back from San Fransisco to L.A., and we just started playing the basic chords - it was on accoustic at the time. Then we got into this 'Take me down to the paradise city, where the girls are fat and they got big titties' thing. I think initially it started out with 'the grass is green,' and I thought, 'That's lame!' But we ended up keeping the 'grass is green' thing. The 'big titty' thing was just my own problem [laughs]."

"Paradise City" shot to Billboard's Top 10, resting at the #5 spot, and earned Guns N' Roses an award for Best Heavy Metal Song at the American Music Awards in January 1989. When the band accepted their award, a visibly intoxicated Slash and Duff erred on air, allowing a few curse words to escape their lips during the live broadcast. As a result, subsequent broadcasts of the American Music Awards were transmitted with a five-second delay, for censorship purposes.

"Sweet Child O' Mine"
Appetite for Destruction


Would you believe GN'R's first and only #1 hit was written as a joke? Though lyrically "Sweet Child O' Mine" is regarded by Axl Rose as his "first positive love song" (a story about his girlfriend at the time), when Slash and company conveived the actual music, it was viewed by some as a "throwaway" cut for the album, and a direct reflection of Slash and Izzy's pitiful housing conditions. "The band was signed already," Slash explains, "and the rest of the band had moved on to greener pastures, living with some girls or something. But where Izzy and I lived, we had no electricity and no hot water. It was a house some manager - with whom we had no intentions of working - rented us, which we destroyed completely. And on an evening everybody happened to be there, I was sitting in front of the broken down fireplace going [sings opening bars of Fig.5]. It was literally a joke! The next thing you know, Izzy started playing the basic chords, Axl got inspired and started singing, and it became a whole song." The track, hich nabbed, GN'R another MTV Video Music Award, this time for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video, has since been covered by a handful of artists, including Sheryl Crow.

"Patience"
GN'R Lies


About a year and a half into GN'R's massive road trip in support of Appetite, Geffen repackaged the band's long-out-of-print 1986 Live EP, coupled it with four new acoustic-based songs, and released it just in time for Christmas 1988 as GN'R Lies. Having more than one record on the shelf at this point in the band's career not only helped boost the band's momentum, it also helped further showcase the band's diversity. In fact, it could be said that the album's lone ballad, "Patience" [Fig.6], helped perpetuate the escalating "unplugged" craze - a phenomenon that would blossom considerably by 1990. "Patience" provided GN'R with yet another Top 10 smash, reaching #4 on Billboard.

"Used to Love Her"
GN'R Lies


Of course, what's a Guns N' Roses record without a little controversy? In addition to the highly controversial track "One in a Million," which contained racial and sexual-persuasion epithets, a song called "Used to Love Her" [Fig.7] caused a stir on its own. Apparently, the cut was conceived after Izzy Stradlin' heard a song on the radio depicting a male protagonist complaining about how bad his "woman" was treating him. Izzy became so frustrated over the character's endless wallowing that he and his bandmates decided to write a new version of that type of song, deriving its chorus from the lyric "I used to love her, but I had to kill her." With or without the aid of the aforementioned "controversy," GN'R Lies went on to sell more than five million copies in the U.S. alone.

"You Could Be Mine"
Terminator 2: Judgment Day/Use Your Illusion II


In late 1990, GN'R entered the studio to work on Appetite's full-length follow-up. Unfortunately, they would do so without one of its founding members; drummer Steven Adler, long an alleged heroin abuser, had been fired. The Cult's Matt Sorum became GN'R's new drummer. Meanwhile, in an effort to help realize Axl Rose's ever-ambitious arrangement ideas, keyboardist Darren "Dizzy" Reed was recruited. Other instruments - sitar, banjo, and horns - would also be used during the sessions, hinting that an abrupt departure from the traditional "stripped-down" GN'R sound was on the horizon.

The massive record that resulted from the band's lengthy recording process was a combination of brand-new material and revamped versions of songs leftover from the Appetite sessions. In fact, there were so many tracks, the band opted for the unthinkable: they released all of them on two separate discs, Use Your Illusion I and II. When they were released in September, 1991, Use Your Illusion I and II entered the Billboard charts at the #1 and #2 spots.

One of the reasons the Use Your Illusion records were met with such widespread consumer demand right out of the gate was the anticipation created by the set's advance single, an Izzy Stradlin' - penned holdover from the Appetite days called "You Could Be Mine" [Fig.8]. The song, which appeared in the Schwarzenegger blockbuster, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (but is not included on the film's soundtrack) earlier that summer, became a Top 40 hit and was also included on the Use Your Illusion II record.

"Don't Cry"
Use Your Illusion I


In a recent interview with Geffen A&R; man Tom Zutaut, it was revealed that the night before GN'R launched their Use Your Illusion tour, Axl Rose refused to join the band on the road unless he was given sole ownership of the name Guns N' Roses. Fearing they'd lose millions by skipping such a highly anticipated tour, the band relented, and Axl retained sole ownership of the band's moniker.

When the tour finally began, Rose's behavior became even more erratic, his "tardiness" occasionally forcing shows to start between two and three hours late, drawing the band's "play time" past the curfews of various venues. Every instance the band went beyond the curfew, they'd be fined - a monetary figure that had accumulated to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In November 1991, Izzy Stradlin' decided that he'd had enough and resigned. He was replaced by former Kill For Thrills guitarist Gilby Clarke.

Meanwhile, GN'R's new single "Don't Cry" [Fig.9] - the first song GN'R ever wrote together, pre-dating the Appetite sessions - was hovering in Top 10 territory. Interestingly, two versions of this track appeared on Use Your Illusion: one referred to as "Don't Cry (original)" on Illusion I, another referred to as "Don't Cry (Alt. Lyrics)" on Illusion II.

"Civil War"
Use Your Illusion II


The Use Your Illusion tour would last 2 1/2 years. During that time, Axl reportedly had a separate dressing room, and GN'R seemed to edge closer and closer toward disintegration. When Guns was on tour with Metallica in the summer of 1992, a pyrotechnics mishap at a Montreal show severely burned James Hetfield's arm, forcing Metallica to abandon their set. GN'R took the stage, only to leave 15 minutes later after Axl, frustrated with the venue's monitor system, walked off. A massive riot ensued.

In May 1993, the Civil War EP was released. The disc contained not only "Civil War" [Fig.10], an earlier single from Use Your Illusion II, but also a revealing interview with Slash. The release also marked the end of the Use Your Illusion tour.

Approximately six months after the band returned home, on November 23, 1993, Geffen released a GN'R collection of covers (one of which was contributed by convicted killer Charles Manson) called The Spaghetti Incident? Although no tour was announced in support of the new record, no one would've ever guessed it would be more than seven years before Guns N' Roses would perform onstage again. By that time (January 1, 2001, at the Hard Rock Cafe' in Las Vegas), all that would remain of the original lineup would be the band's frontman, Axl Rose.

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Source:
https://web.archive.org/web/20021119003410/http://www.gnrunlimited.com/articles/g1-6-01.html
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