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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.



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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:53 am

AUGUST 6-17, 1988

The next show of the tour with Aerosmith was at the Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, USA (August 6). According to Izzy, the band had to cut the set short when fans stormed the stage:

There was nearly a riot. I get off on that kind of vibe, where everything's just about ready to crack. When there's 25,000 people and they have, like, three security guys. God, it was intense, man. It was just on that fucking edge of 25,000 people coming down to the stage.

Schenectady Gazette, in their review of the concert would contrarily imply that the band finished the set:

By the time the band launched into their closing anthem, "Welcome to the Jungle", the area in front of the stage had broken out into a full-scale melee, with dozens of fans rushing forward and trying to climb on-stage. As the band left the stage at the end of the song, Rose grabbed the microphone and dressed down the stage-climbers with, "It took me ten years to get up here. You don't get five minutes for free.

The followed shows at the Orange County Fairgrounds, Middletown, USA (August 7) and at the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, Weedsport, USA (August 9). Axl would refer to the show in Weedsport as "just, like, psycho" [Rolling Stone, November 1988].

The band then travelled to the Pine Knob Music Theatre, Clarkston, USA for three shows (August 11, 12 and 13). According to Rolling Stone Magazine, the last of these shows went so poorly that the band ended it five minutes early and they fired the sound mixer and bus driver as a result [Rolling Stone, November 17, 1988].

A few days later, the band would play on Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, on August 16 where footage for the music video to Paradise City was recorded.

In an interview published on August 17, Axl would talk about an upcoming show at Madison Square Garden in New York that would happen on August 16 and mention that it might be moved to a bigger venue, perhaps Giants Stadium - which of course happened:

They're going back and forth on a Garden date with Aerosmith. Y'know, I realized it after I told all those people we'd be there Aug. 16. Then I realized it wasn't even firm. We will be with Aerosmith — another huge inspirational band to us, by the way—but they're trying to get a bigger venue than The Garden. Maybe Giant Stadium. We did three shows in Boston and pulled about 45,000 people, so if they can get one big night in New York, they'll do it.

This tour was a huge thing to Slash:

Man, if I was a kid and going to see a concert that would be the fucking one! I’m really looking forward to it. . . There’s one gig we’re playing on that tour, at the Giants Stadium in New York - it’s Aero­smith, Deep Purple and us. Fucking monster gig!
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993
; interview from June 1988

And afterwards:

We played Giants Stadium on that tour, with Deep Purple on the bill. That stadium is so huge and we had so much room on that stage that we could really run around; we were always good at that. We did a forty-five-minute set and we played "Paradise City" twice because we were shooting it for a video. The crowd just freaked. That stadium can hold eighty thousand, and even though it wasn't completely full, we'd never played to a crowd that large. The energy was incredible. It was one of those moments when I truly realized how popular we were becoming in the "real" world. It was a moment of clarity.
Slash's autobiography, p 233

Playing with Aerosmith and Deep Purple at Giants Stadium [was the most rawk experience of my life]. Guns were just beginning to break, and the place just turned upside down. But man, my whole life has been pretty rawk!

Talking about the white leather jacket Axl wore on stage:

That's how Axl is different. The band was all given leather, black leather jackets and Axl said, "I want a white one." So you know, Axl is the Mac, you know. [...] I got Slash's jacket, by the way, that same jacket. And it says Slash on it. He gave it to me because he actually didn't want it. [...] I think the reason why he didn't want it is because he didn't want to be, like, part of the gang where it was "Slash" on his jacket. He'd wear it if it didn't say Slash, but because they put his name on it now he doesn't want it. You know, that's how Slash is, he's very humble about-

Live at Giants Stadium
August 16, 1988

Slash got it wrong in his biography, they did not play Paradise City twice at Giants Stadium.

Izzy would later reminisce about playing at Giants Stadium, but mistakenly say the opened for Black Sabbath:

But I can remember at a point on the East Coast, when we were playing before Black Sabbath at Giants Stadium, I think it was, and we go to the opening - you know, Welcome to the Jungle, I think it was at the top, and people are running to the stage and you’re watching them run. Then a funny thing started happening. People started jumping off or climbing. They were trying to climb down the water pipes from the second tier down onto the main football field. And these water pipes were busting, and as they were busting, you know, currents of water were spraying all over the place, kids are falling, the pipes are falling, and they’ll hit the ground, boom. Then they get up and the security guard sees them and they’re chasing them. It was like this bizarre football game. And it was really – it’s fans running to the front of the stage, but it was wild, you know?

Raz Cue came out to see this show and was not impressed:

I arrived to my luxury box just as the boys kicked in with "It's So Easy." A oppressively hot and muggy day meant Axl must've been burning up in his leather outfit, but was forced to stick it out for at least a couple of tunes so they could capture enough live footage for the "Paradise City" video. Axl constantly viped away sweat and picked hair from teeth after every headbang, It was after this show that a hat, bandana, or some sort of headband became a staple of his stage wear. It's something I realized when watching images shot three days later - the black-and-white footage of the sea of pulsating humanity during the song's double-time part - at Castle Donnington, England. I have no way of knowing for sure, but the Giants Stadium gig might have been the first time Guns N' Roses ever played a stadium. It was for sure the first time I heard "Used To Love Her." Either way, the band rocked a good set, but not even close to the best show I had seen from them.
Raz Cue, "The Days of Guns, & Raz's", 2015, p. 266

While in New Jersey, Axl had a little tumble with a coffee table:

Axl threw a coffee table out of a hotel window in New Jersey. It's easy to see when he's feeling stressed. We just leave him alone.

The followed a show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, USA (August 17) before the band would head to England to play at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Tue Apr 09, 2024 8:20 am; edited 10 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:54 am

AUGUST 20, 1988

It was when we played Castle Donington in 1988 things got serious. Fourth on the bill, we walk out after a shitty sound check in the rain. There was no sign it was going to be the event it turned into. Then, suddenly, a sea of people are all jumping in time. It was overwhelming. But then, to take the whole euphoric moment and have it flushed down the toilet, we discover afterwards that two guys were trampled to death in the surge.



In August 1988, the band took a break from the ongoing, and successful, Aerosmith tour to return to England to play at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donington. The show happened on August 20.

Slash and Duff were excited:

Going back and doing Donington is the greatest, though. We’ve been told they’re expecting maybe 100,000 people. That’s just like the most important gig... Do you know how we’re doing it? We’re doing the Aerosmith tour, I told you, right? Well, we’re taking Concorde, playing Donington, then flying back. We’re flying back commercial, but we’re going business class,’ he said with undisguised glee.

See, Alan our manager is a really good manager, and the cool thing about him is he has a tendency every so often to break down and get indulgent. Like get drunk and suddenly decide to take a limo on to the next place. We need that kind of vibe. Just let’s throw all the money into the pot and let’s just go!
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from June 1988

Oh, man, that should be the coolest! Originally, the idea was for us to come back to Britain and tour with Metallica in September or October. But it seems kind of redundant to keep on touring off the back of this one album. So when the chance to play at Donington came up we just grabbed at it! I'm told they're expecting a really big crowd this year, too, so that should be awesome. I tell ya, this is such an important gig for us. I've always loved playing in Britain, fuckin' loved it! […] Also, have you heard how we're doing it? We're scheduled to play a gig with Aerosmith, then jump on Concorde and fly straight to the show at Donington. Then after we've finished playing, we're straight back on a 'plane and back out on the road in the States again with Aerosmith! Fuckin' bang, bang, bang! […] We don't need the money. We just wanna make sure we play our part in making Donington this year a real motherfucker of a gig.  […]There's the pinnacle of what this is all about for me right there...

About a week after the sheet-cake ceremony [for reaching no. 1 on Billboard for Appetite], we flew to England again to play the outdoor Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington. This was the kind of thing you heard about other band playing - big bands, household names, not grubby kids a year or two removed from living in a back-alley storage space and treating their venereal diseases with fucking fish food.
Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 136-137

The band flew supersonic Concorde to get to England:

Too small. Nice, though. We crossed over fuckin’ Texas in about five minutes flat, and on the plane it’s almost festive, everyone’s like, yeeaaahhhhh... here we go! Then they have these, like, high-class meals, right? Which is just expensive microwaved shit - it's the worst! But you get all this food and they treat you very nicely and stuff. And the thing is it was only like a three-hour flight, so we were there in no time. I just drank - to compensate for the shitty food.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

I think we flew in the Concorde from, like, Washington to London. You know, just a tiny little plane, and you’re there three hours later and you’re like, “Hey, that was fast.”

This was by far the largest show the band had done, playing for 107,000 festival goers.

Slash would recount going back to England:

The whole going to England thing was... weird. I was put into a situation where I was away from the rest of band, doing things like press and radio. Apart from when we were actually on stage, the only real time I spent at the gig was at soundcheck. The rest of the time I was busy either screwing or doing interviews, so I didn’t leave the hotel room...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

Poster for the Monster of Rock tour


Guns N' Roses was near the bottom of the bill and played early in the day.

What’s kind of lost is that people think Guns n’ Roses headlined Donington. We played at noon. We were really low on the bill and we were just happy to be here.
Classic Rock Magazine, June 2013

Axl and Lemmy backstage

Tragedy occurred when two fans, Alan Dick and Landon Siggers, died during GN'R's set, their deaths likely the result of asphyxiation and crushing when the audience pushed towards the stage.

Izzy would describe what went down and claim he had tried to get the band to stop the show but that they wouldn't:

That was... very strange. I mean, I saw it all go down. I stopped the gig three times. Kids were lookin' at me, givin' me this real intense look, like "something really, really bad is going down." You could read it all in their faces. I tried to stop the band... like three times... but they just kept playing, y'know on and on. Then I turned around and I could see the bodies being pulled out.

Later, Slash, Steven and Duff would on the contrary say they did stop the show a couple of times:

Well, it got a little bit out of hand and, I don’t know, we stopped cos we had to stop. ‘We just looked out and it was like, oh fuck... From where we were standing, which was right above it, it looked really hectic. You couldn’t tell what happened exactly but there’s a certain amount of force which goes into the first ten rows. You could see that surge when we came on, you could see the force. And they’re just people… We stopped because we were scared.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

We stopped the show a couple of times at Donnington - a big racetrack in England - when things started getting out of hand. It was people as far as you could see. It rained; people would fall over and asphyxiate in the mud. We didn't know that a couple of people died untill after the show.

Looking out on the sea of faces on August 20, 1988, I realized I'd never ever seen a crowd that size, much less stood in front of one. The festival had been going for a few years, but this was the biggest one so far - 107,000 in attendance. It was stormy, and the lawn - the infield of a racetrack - was thick with mud. Wind swirled. The PA had problems and a giant video screen blew over. We were near the bottom of the bill and played early in the day. When we started laying, tens of thousands of people surged forward. 'Shit almighty, people really want to see us. This is fucking crazy.' As fans swarmed toward the stage, I could see people getting pushed around, losing their footing. "Back up!" Axl screamed at the crowd. Security stopped the show during the third song to fish a few people out of the scrum. But they were also occupied dealing with the video screen that had collapsed in the wind., People refused to get out from under it - it was still showing the video feed. We continued playing after getting the okay from security. When we played 'Paradise City' the crowd surged forward again, a writhing mass of bodies, singing, screaming, nodding. Suddenly I could see kids piled on top of other kids, horizontal in the mud. It looked like some kids might be getting hurt. 'Should I jump in and try to do something?' I was too scared. We stopped playing again. "Don't fucking kill each other," Axl said to the crowd. This pause lasted about twenty minutes. Dozens of people were pulled out of the mud by security, Then once again we were told we could resume playing and finish our set.
Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 136-137

In the middle of the afternoon we hit the stage. It was a madhouse. Over a hundred thousand kids were cramming against the front. The racetrack were selling these big thirty-two-ounce beers. The kids were drinking, and they weren't about to go through this whole fucking crowd just to urinate at a stall, so they pissed in the bottles. Before we went on, we were standing at the side of the stage looking at the size of the crowd.

Suddenly, we saw what looked like a swarm of giant locusts flying through the air; they were actually hundreds of these plastic bottles of urine soaring over the crowd. We were like, "What the fuck?" Bam, pop! People were getting hit in the head and splattered with pee. But it wasn't going to change anything. We had gotten spit on, we had bottles of booze and beet thrown at us, and we had gotten in shoving matches with fans and other bands, so what's a little projectile piss?

I was surprised to see so many Guns N' Roses banners waving in the crowd. By the time we went on there were 120,000 people screaming and jumping up and down. It was really an impressive sight for us all. Everyone was so out of control, and we had to stop the show several times because people kept rushing the stage. Axl asked the crowd to settle down and back up. People were getting crushed at the front of the stage.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 168-170

That the band stopped the show would be confirmed by Mick Wall [Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993].

Promoter Maurice Jones would recount the tragedy:

I saw the whole thing happen. The problems were created by idiots, absolute idiots. They were pushing stage right and the crowd compressed. They just couldn’t go any further, then about fifteen feet from the stage, a hole in the crowd opened and people went down. I went down to the front of the stage and I saw First Aid people and the doctors working and I felt so useless... I can’t describe how it felt. I saw five bodies on the ground and I knew somebody was dead.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993

Just minutes after the show, Duff would be interviewed about how it had been and indicate that he thought people might have died:

I think our performance is kind of secondary to what's happening in the crowd. They have casualties here. Were you out there at all? I think I saw a casualty happen. It was really weird. It was really strange. We had to stop the show. The P.A. system is kind of screwed up and you don't get time to have a good sound check so we couldn't really hear ourselves but we pulled it off. I think we did a good show. But I'm still stunned at the size of the audience and what was happening up front. It was real scary. We all went like, "woah!" [...] It was kids piled on kids horizontal on the ground. They were unconscious. And more people kept on falling on them. I saw them! It took about 20 minutes to get everybody out. We stopped the show and they finally pulled the last couple of people out and I think they were dead. It was really weird. I saw no life in those bodies at all. [...] ['Patience's] on the EP. The crowd needed to settle down and that's a song that says, "ok, everybody relax and listen."


A few hours after the show while still not informed there had been casualties, Slash would do an interview:

Don't get me wrong, we hate to see violence, people getting hurt, and we feel sorry for the kids that are right there in the middle of it. But a rowdy crowd, a crowd that knows how to rock, is the best. It makes you feel great that people can get that into it and the kind of energy level we're talking about is good for the band.

That's why we like playing in England. The whole situation is heavier here, work is harder to get, money's tight, opportunities are fewer than they are in the States. So the kids need to have that one release from a rock 'n' roll show. They'll die for it.

Then, some hours later, as the band was celebrating, Niven gave them the awful news:

Like, let’s clear this up. We didn’t find out two kids had actually died during our set until we got back to the hotel that night. Alan [Niven] was really bummed out about something and I sort of sat down with him and he told me about it. It just destroyed the whole thing for me...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

At that show we experienced a frenzied reaction like nothing we'd seen before. The festival broke attendance records that year, surpassing the hundred-thousand mark. There couldn't have been a better place for us to record live footage...except for the fact that two people were trampled to death at the front of the stage during our set. The audience was crazy, just this sea of surging people. Axl stopped the set a number of times in an effort to control the crowd, but there was no calming them down. We had no idea that anyone was actually hurt let alone killed; after we'd done the gig and were celebrating in a nearby pub, Alan came in completely distraught and gave us the news. It was horrible; none of us knew what to do: something that had been a cause for celebration a moment before had become a tragedy.At that show we experienced a frenzied reaction like nothing we'd seen before. The festival broke attendance records that year, surpassing the hundred-thousand mark. There couldn't have been a better place for us to record live footage...except for the fact that two people were trampled to death at the front of the stage during our set. The audience was crazy, just this sea of surging people. Axl stopped the set a number of times in an effort to control the crowd, but there was no calming them down. We had no idea that anyone was actually hurt let alone killed; after we'd done the gig and were celebrating in a nearby pub, Alan came in completely distraught and gave us the news. It was horrible; none of us knew what to do: something that had been a cause for celebration a moment before had become a tragedy.
Slash's autobiography, 2007

It's hard for me to talk about it. We went back to the hotel, had dinner, and learnt about the deaths when we were in the bar. We've sort of been attacked for it, as if we were directly responsible, but with all those people — 100,000 — and the mud, y'know, no one thing can be blamed. Everybody was there for a release, to get away from their jobs, their parents, their problems, to get drunk and have a good time, but then you have this insane inconsideration for others. That ruined what it was supposed to be about — for everybody.

The Donington gig was our third major open air appearance and there were riots at both the other two. We just go out there and play, try to generate some excitement, but when it gets out of hand, when it fucks up the kids, you get to the point where you don't want to go out and play those kind of gigs.

Only later did we hear the news: two fans had died, suffocated beneath other fans in the mud. 'Oh, fuck, no, no, no, no.' Those two fans, Alan Dick and Landon Siggers, had just come to see a rock concert. They had tried to see us, to sing with us. And now they were dead. All I could think about were their final moments of anguish, the horror they must have faced as they struggled to breathe in the knee-deep mud and other fans fell on top of them. 'Oh, God, no. I wish we'd never played this fucking show.' I wanted to apologize to their families.
Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 136-137

Steven would claim they first heard the tragic news when flying back to USA:

It wasn't until the next day, after we flew the Concorde back to the U.S., that we were told that two kids were killed during our set. They were trampled to death.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 168-170

Mick Wall would write that the UK newspapers went sensationalistic about the incident:

Despite the swift issuing of a statement by Chief Superintendent Dennis Clarke, of the West Midlands police division, in which he described the crowd at Donington that year as ‘otherwise superb’ and announced that there had in fact been no arrests, reaction in Britain’s notoriously tacky tabloid press was predictably over the top and the more scurrilous Sunday editions published the following day ran sensationalistic, wholly inaccurate stories claiming, amongst other things, that the stage collapsed and that Guns N’ Roses had refused to stop playing even after being informed of the plight of the injured fans.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993

Promoter Maurice Jones would concur:

We even had very well known and supposedly responsible news­papers saying the stage had collapsed. The stage didn’t collapse and was never in any danger of doing so! The one thing I did learn from all this, was never trust a reporter. A lot of the press had absolutely no respect whatsoever for the kids who had died and I thought it was completely disgusting...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993


In 2018, Doug Goldstein would talk about how Axl seek advice from Dave Lee Roth about coping with the deaths, but that Roth trivialized the matter:

I knew during the show, I knew when it was happening, but I didn’t tell the guys, because it crippled Axl [Rose]. When we got back to the hotel David Lee Roth was staying there and he was at the bar, and Axl said: ‘Can you introduce me to him? I want to talk to him.’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure. Dave, this is Axl.’ ‘Hey man, how you doing? Diamond Dave! Sit down!’ So Axl said, ‘How do you deal with stuff like that when it happens?’ He goes, ‘Aw fuck man, you’re in the U.K. 10 people die every time they hold a soccer match. Fuck it! It’s rock and roll!’ Axl just said, ‘Really? I’m sorry, I don’t really want to sit here anymore.’ He went back to his room. He was disgusted at Dave, and I was kind of embarrassed that I introduced them. To each his own I guess. Everybody has their own way of getting through things.

Slash, though, would refuse to feel responsible for what had occurred:

Not personally, no. The way I see it is - too many people in one place, there’s no security, there’s no nothing. It’s not like doing, say, 80,000 people at Giants Stadium in New York, where there’s a line of security at the front and there’s a line of security that goes all the way around the entire thing. Donington is just like a stage and a huge field, and 100,000 people is a fuckin’ lot of people. When we get back I’ll show you the video. We have a new video coming out - it’s from Giants Stadium and Donington and you can see the difference.

Donington’s just like, here’s the tickets, have a great time... What bums me out the most is whoever it was who was standing on top of somebody - you can’t stand on somebody and not know they’re there! They were so self-involved and selfish that they had to be as close to the stage as possible, and somebody was gonna suffer for it and have to lay under their feet in ten inches of mud. That’s what really sucked about it. It was front row security, then a huge fuckin’ field - further than we could see - and a bunch of kids who wanted to go out and see a good rock show. The craziest ones are always gonna be the ones in the first fuckin’ twenty rows - they’re the diehards. But you don’t fuckin’ have that much disregard for human life that you just have to see a show no matter what the repercussions are or what happens to somebody else during it...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

We didn't tell people to smash each other. We didn't tell people, 'Drink so much alcohol that you can't fucking stand up.' I don't feel responsible in those ways.

Duff, on the other hand, would not so quickly dismiss personal responsibility. He would also indicate that the tragedy had weighed so heavily on Slash and Izzy that it helped to explain their drug addictions:

The band were really brought down by the event. And we did try to stop the craziness down the front by changing our set, slowing things down, I actually don’t know it the accident was our fault or not. If someone were to ask me face-to-face whether Guns n’ Roses were to blame, I couldn’t say with any conviction that we’re not. I don’t think we can be held responsible, but I’d have to think very hard before giving an answer. Maybe we have to take some of the blame. After all, we were onstage when those kids died, and had Guns n’ Roses not existed then perhaps the tragedy wouldn’t have occurred.

It weighs very heavily on us and whatever anyone else may write or say about the incident can’t make us feel any worse. Quite honestly, we couldn’t give a fuck about the media trying to make us the scapegoats. That thing will haunt me forever anyway.

It’s strange, but tragedy and pain do seem to dog our career, A lot of weird shit happens to this band. We seem to attract it. I dunno, I can’t help wondering if the reason why Slash and Izzy were so strung out on certain ‘substances’ recently (they’re now cleaned out and revved up) was their way of attempting to hide and numb the pain they felt.

When asked if they would consider returning to Donington:

I don’t know. It was a big fuckin’ rush for us to be asked to play it. But we won’t be able to do it next year, anyway. If it was the year after, maybe, and it was a good time, I’d like to do it. But if we were headlining I’d change a few things. […] I would change the way the whole thing’s run... Not the whole thing, but I’d change the way it’s set up. You’ve got to compile areas of people into sections and try to do your best to patrol them. A heavy duty English crowd - that’s impossible, I know, but if you’re gonna do it you might as well make the attempt at it. There’s a lot of money made from that gig and the promoter can afford it, right? ’Cos Don­ington next time... a lot of kids are gonna be scared of going. I mean, the kids that died, chances are they hitch-hiked from some way out place and saved up for a month to go; their parents probably didn’t want them to go but they had to go, you know how it is... And then they lose their lives in, like, fifteen minutes at some rock festival - which, all in all, is a really insignificant event. And it’s their entire existence gone! It just bums me out.

I’ve been worrying about whether we should write something to their parents or not. Nothing that comes out of our mouths is gonna sound right, though - some simple rock band they don’t even know, that are responsible, as far as they’re concerned, for the demise of their children...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

Years later, Duff would again express strong feelings about the tragedy, and emphasize that they did stop the show and tried to prevent the casualties, again apparently in contrast to Izzy's recount above:

Well, obviously that’s totally the other side of the com, but yeah, that was a fucked thing… It makes me cry - every day, if I think about it.

[…] Saw the whole fuckin’ event, man! I saw it going down. And we stopped, man. We stopped and screamed, “Back the fuck up!” ’cos we saw the kids going under... “Back the fuck up! Back the fuck up!” And the mud was this thick, it was about a foot deep and we saw the kids go under and then some other people came over them. They couldn’t tell they were stepping on people they thought it was just mud. And, man, we were like, this is our fault, man... But we were frantic - back up, back up! I was there and I was watching it and there just seemed like nothing we could do except scream at them. I was ready to jump into the crowd, but I was scared to die myself. Maybe that’s chickenshit...

[…] I tell you, Mick, it really crushed us all. It really crushed us all. We went back to the hotel that night and we were watching the fuckin’ news - they didn’t know who the kids were yet but one of them had this tattoo. We were just... At first I felt that it was totally our fault for months and months. I probably will for the rest of my life.

[…] look at it this way, if we weren’t there then maybe it wouldn’t have happened. So I’ve got that to live with for the rest of my life. I don’t think it was our fault, in so much as we didn’t say step on these two guys. But then again... if we weren’t there, Mick, if we hadn’t caught the plane and missed the gig, maybe two guys would still be living today. That is a big fuckin’ responsibility, man. There’s a lot of shit that goes on, a lot of responsibility, that just fucks with our heads. I'm still learning how to deal with it, you know? Like, I ride a mountain bike now and I try to, er, just keep my head straight. I hang out with Slash and I... er... it’s difficult, man. It’s hard. I went through a lot of shit in my head about Donington. It just gets difficult sometimes...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from January 1990

After Castle Donnington I felt, and still feel, somehow responsible for the deaths of those two kids. If we wouldn't have been there playing…

It really screws with your head. He drove to the show with his friends, they were having a good time, they got in and he didn’t walk out.
VH1 Documentary, July 5, 2004; from earlier unknown interview

The band was upset about it. They wondered what kind of security they had at a gig if people could be crushed.

Slash would also express strong emotions about the event:

Those fans dying at Donnington has stayed with me, for sure. We were so excited to be playing there, but of course the phrase 'bittersweet' is way too light to cover it. We'd come off stage on a total high, feeling complete elation at the reception we'd got, and then we went to some pub near the venue, some hotel, and our manager Alan Niven told us what had happened and it was numbing. It just erased everything. I still think about it to this day. Two kids who had got up that morning to go to a rock concert...
The Truth, Mojo, June 2008

And so we finished the gig, our manager didn’t tell us about it, so we met up at a pub later on. And I found him at the bar sort of crying, and he told me about that. It’s like, that was when the reality kicked in, that you can get to this all-time high, something that you can’t compare to anything, and then have a go to an all-time low.

I didn’t really know Monsters Of Rock, which was what they called the Donington event back then. We got the gig and helicoptered out to soundcheck and it didn’t sound all that great. So I remember not being all that into it. Then the next day we go up there and I didn’t really have any expectations, but there was a lot of fucking people. The reaction the second we walked out on stage was unbelievable. So we had this amazing 40-minute set, or whatever it was, and it was really a huge high point. Then afterwards, we went to this bar, drinking – this little hotel we were at – I don’t remember if we were sleeping there, or why we were there, but there were tons of kids there and it was a scene in itself. I ran into our tour manager at the bar and he was crying. That’s when I found out that two kids had been trampled to death when we were playing. There was a bizarre shift from complete euphoria to going to this depressed state. The positive memory of the gig got washed away. It was heavy. [...] How do you come back from that? How do you handle it? What’s your attitude going to be tomorrow, and the next day after, considering this just happened? Because it happened on our watch. It took a while to get over that.

Steven would also refer to it as the worst show he had while in GN'R:

Donnington was the worst show we've ever played. You don't know what's happening so you can't stop it.
The Days of Wine and Roses, Classic Rock, April 2005

I was shell-shocked. Numb. I couldn't believe it. Of course, the media blamed the band, fueling our notorious bad-boy image. And we were just starting to get a broader, more friendly public image going when this happened. [...]

To this day, the Donnington tragedy still haunts me like a nightmare.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 168-170

I didn’t see it happen, I didn’t even know it was happening. Of course it’s a shock. I was so depressed about it. That show sucked. I remember it being so cold, it was just terrible. Not one of our better times, we stopped the show a bunch of times to try and get people to calm down.  The best time I had there was hanging out with Lars from Metallica. But when someone loses their life at a rock n’ roll show it’s always going to be devastating.

Slash put it best when he said that the sense of freewheeling carefreedom dissipated after that moment. It was a heartbreaking day. You don’t go play rock shows for this to happen. Rock and roll is the highest means of celebrating the significance, relevance and vitality of every soul. You don’t want to come home grieving for ones lost.


it was likely during the band's travel to England for the Donington show, that Slash heard the phrase "It's Five O' Clock Somewhere" which would end up being the title of the first Snakepit record in 1995:

When we went to England, I think It was Donington, we were going to the airport and I was in a really bad mood. I went to the bar at the hotel and I said, "I know it's only 10 o'clock in the morning, but can I have a Jack and coke?" He said "It's five o'clock somewhere." and I've lived by that over since. The whole reason behind the title is it's really wide open. It's five o'clock somewhere, there's something happening going on.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:54 am


On August 24, 25, and 26 the band did three shows in Mansfield, MA, and while spending time in Boston, Aerosmith invited the band out on a cruise [RIP Magazine, February 1989].

By August 1988, the band had been touring for 14 months and they were starting to feel exhausted:

They didn't expect us to last a week! Touring really doesn't faze you. If you get twisted backstage, the walk to the bus is only a few yards, y'know? But, yeah, if you get twisted every night, you start draggin'.

Touring has its downfalls. It's a distorted kind of reality but, I swear to God, that 45 minutes makes it all worth it. When you're not touring you're always looking for something to fulfil that buzz.

Doug Goldstein was also feeling exhausted:

I basically live in hell when I’m on the road with the guys, because something's always happening that’s major shit.

[Talking about the band trashing hotel rooms at this tour]: [Hotel rooms were trashed] all the time. I told the guys, ‘I really appreciate what you've done. I’ve been touring for seven years now. In one year’s time you've managed to destroy every relationship I've put together over the past seven years!’ […] When I met the crew, they’d already been out with the band. They saw me and thought I was going to get eaten alive—I was wearing Bermuda shorts and a polo shirt.

After Boston the band travelled to the Buckeye Lake Music Center, Newark, USA (August 28); Pocono Downs, Wilkes-Barre, USA (August 30); Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, USA (August 31); Starwood Amphitheatre, Antioch, USA (September 2); St. Louis Arena, St. Louis, USA (September 3); Concord Pavilion, Concord, USA (September 8); and Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, USA (September 10).

August 28, 1988

Review in The Pittsburgh Press
September 1, 1988

Before the September 8 show in Concord, the band did an appearance on MTV Video Music Awards on September 7:

When GN’R played the first time on MTV, we were the first rock ‘n’ roll band to go up there and play actually with just our own equipment.  Because normally the formula was, you go up, you have a backing track with drums, bass and guitar and you put a real lead vocal on. And we were like, “No fucking way.” (laughs) So we were the first band to actually go up there and play live. So I know how hard that can be, because you really – it’s TV, it’s not like playing in a stadium.

Izzy would later mention that they had tried to score heroin while in Mountain View but got scammed:

We always had a problem when we played here before, 'cos we'd try to cop this China White heroin and end up paying ungodly prices for fuckin' nothing.

Then the band travelled to Compton Terrace, Chandler, USA (September 12).

Review from Arizona Republic
September 14, 1988

The tour ended with two shows at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on September 14 and 15. During the first of these shows, Steven would pull a prank on Aerosmith. As the band played 'Dude Looks Like A Lady' Steven would scoot across the stage on a motorized skateboard. Garde would recall the incident:

[Steven] had that innocent look on his face, of a mischievous little child who’s not doing anything terrible, who’s definitely doing something he thinks everyone is going to laugh at [chuckling]. And everyone did. It was a real ‘Little Rascals' move.'

As customary, Aerosmith would prank the opener band on the last show, and they did this by dressing up as monkeys for Welcome to the Jungle, as Robert John would recall it:

I think one of the funniest things was during the last show with Aerosmith. They were playing 'Welcome to the Jungle,' and the guys in Aerosmith dressed up in ape costumes. There was a guy dressed like Tarzan, and there was a rope tied to the rafters, and when they started that song, he came swinging down. Then there were apes all over the stage, with bananas. It was great. It was so funny.

Kirkland remembers the prank:

I looked up and saw Axl being very professional, but cracking the biggest grin. After the gorillas left, Axl went to the mic stand and said, ‘Just remember, they have to play next!'

But GN'R did not prank Aerosmith, instead they came on stage to play Mama Kin with the band [RIP Magazine, February 1989].

Axl and Steven Tyler
September 15, 1988

Dave Dominguez, who would later be one of the engineers working on Chinese Democracy, attended one of the shows in Costa Mesa:

And I saw them with Aerosmith at the Amphitheater in Orange County, I forget what it was called, near the fairgrounds. And I would say 90% of the people there in Southern California were there to see GN'R, not Aerosmith.

After the tour, a gift waited for the GN'R crew:

They [Aerosmith] had bought me, Alan and the guys a set of Halliburton luggage. That’s the luggage of rock. It’s amazing stuff and very expensive. That’s the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me or the band in my time with them. They gave us an Aerosmith jacket that had our name on it. I almost started crying. I went to say thank you to Steven Tyler, and I was in tears. They [GNR] were so blown away by it. To get something from people you admire, you know.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:55 am


[...] we had that fresh, shiny vibe where everybody had to see us.


Despite the exhaustion, GN'R would fondly look back at the Aerosmith tour:

[...] we just finished touring with Aerosmith. It was the best tour we've ever done. [The band would in fact do another leg of the tour in August and September 1988, maybe Slash did not know at the time of this interview] It was so much fun that it was like a dream come true. And we got along with them! Y'know, sometimes you have tours you don't really enjoy but you just go out and play. This was one of those tours where we felt comfortable and had a ball. We looked forward to the shows no matter what city. It was great. All the shows sold out. We sold tons of merchandise and all that other business stuff.

Great. [...] It was killer. [...] It was one of those things, that was nice to be respected by a band that's been around that long, you know. They watched us, we watched them. We hung out. We had a really good time. It was one of the best tours we've ever had.

Well, I mean, the Aerosmith tour was a big thing for us, because, you know, it was like the kind of band that we grew up with, and so on and so forth. Next time we go out, we’ve been contemplating going out and doing a headlining thing.

It was great.

It was great, some funny shit happened on that tour. Those guys are all clean now - Joe, especially - and they stay in one central place and do four or five gigs, then move on to another part. But they always have one central base. Even so, they were exposed to us for a lot of the time and they hung out with us.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

[When asked about the drinking]: I tipped it all in a cup. That was still in my walking around with a bottle of Jack stage, so I used to tip it in a cup before we hung out. So it was cool, you know. Although there was one point where Steven Tyler came into my dressing room - I have a dressing room apart from the rest of the guys to do my guitar stuff - and I had one empty bottle of Jack and one half full one in there. Anyway, I left the room for a while and when I came back Steven was in there, looking at tapes and stuff. I said hi, you know. He said, “You drink all that today?” I said, yeah. He just gave me this look and didn’t say anything. He started to then stopped... that’s the way the whole tour was as far as that kinda shit goes. Anybody who wanted to go to him for help, though, he was always available. But he didn’t push it. Like, Steven [Adler], who was a little bit disillusioned about - just about everything in general. He talked to Tyler about it and he gave him some good advice. In other words, he’s been there. They all have. And yet they were so much fun to be with. Oh, we had a ball! We got up and played together here in LA - we did "Mama Kin” together. And they used to stand at the side of the stage and check out our set just about every night... […] it was weird. Also ’cos of the similarities - especially, like, me and Joe. Then all of a sudden to look up and see Joe standing there with Steven - it was just... wow, you know?
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

[Being asked if they were intimidated from opening for a band that was so similar]: We thought about it. But the band just decided to really hang on to just being us, regardless of the similarities. So we never had any problems. We never really got too intimidated. I mean, I am a fan. We used to watch them from the soundboard every night. There was a lot of personal stuff happened, too, between the band, which I can’t really get into... It was just like no other tour that we’d done as far as being close to the people you’re touring with.

The only other band we’ve been that close to is Motley... I used to hang out with Nikki and Tommy. But this was different because it was like, we managed to earn a little bit of their respect just for being a half-decent rock ’n’ roll band. Just going out there to kick some ass, regardless. That was the one thing that they really appreciated. I was doing one of those slow blues guitar picking things one night and afterwards Steven took me aside and said, “That was amazing!” That really made me feel great. I mean, seriously. That and a couple of other things he did, which I won’t mention.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

Aw, man, it was great... Some funny shit went down on that Aerosmith tour. We were so similar, and yet we made such a contrast. They're all 'straight' now; clean. And their whole operation runs like clockwork; they stay in one place for four or five gigs, then when the tour moves a little further up the road they move to another place and make that their base for the next five gigs, or whatever. The whole thing is kept well under control... Which is exactly the opposite, of course, from the way we usually get things done. we travel the whole time, and very little of what we do is done, uh, straight... But it didn't seem to matter. They were exposed to us the whole time, and we got to hang out together a lot. Which was really cool, because those guys have all been heroes of mine since I was a kid and first started listening to rock 'n' roll. […] It was nice, too, because we were told by the people that worked for them that they would never go to the side of the stage and watch any of the bands that opened for them, usually. But for us they were there just about every night. There was always one or two of them there, and sometimes even the whole band. […]The first time I looked over and saw them all standing there watching us play, yeah, that fucked with me. It was weird… All of a sudden I look over and Joe's standing there watching me, and I almost froze. It was like, 'Wow! What do I do now?" In the end, it was a real family vibe going on between the two bands. They used to watch us, we used to watch them, and the rest of the time we'd hang out together. We managed to earn a little respect just by being a half-decent rock 'n' roll band, just really going out there and fuckin' trying to kick some ass, regardless. I did a guitar solo one night - one of those finger-pickin' slow blues things - and after the show, Tyler got me to one side and said, 'That was amazing!'. I just stood there and said, 'Well, thanks', and couldn't think of anything else to say. I was blown away. Seriously, that's something I'll never forget... That, and a couple of other things he did, which I won't mention because it would get us both into too much trouble....

[Being asked why they did so well in Circus Magazine's Readers Poll]: I bet a lot of it had to do with the Aerosmith tour we completed in September. There we were again, for the third time, in every major city on a great tour. I think that probably left a good taste in a lot of people's mouths.

[The tour was] far and away the best. Far and away. It’s the best tour I’ve ever been on as far as everybody just really, really meshing together.

[…] touring with Aerosmith was really a pleasure. They helped us out as much as they could. They knew that we were going completely over the top for the first half of the show, and that they'd have to justify themselves later in the night. The challenge didn't bother them — not at all.

[Being asked if the guys in Aerosmith preached to them about the evils of drink and drugs]: No, not once. They don't do any of that shit any more, but it hasn't turned them into preachers. I used to drink around them all the time and nobody said anything - though I did use a cup! But that was when I was still carrying a bottle of Jack around with me the whole time. […] There was one time when Steven [Tyler] came into the room I used to use for tuning my guitar. I'd stepped out of the room for a minute and when I got back there was Tyler standing there looking through my tapes and stuff. I had one empty, one half-empty, and one full bottle of Jack lying around in there. Anyway, I walked in and we started talking. And he says, 'Did you drink all that today?' And I was, like, yeah, I did. And he just gave me this look. He started to say something, but then he changed his mind. He's been through some scenes of his own, I guess. […] I remember Steven [Adler], our drummer, was very disillusioned about just about everything at one point, and he sat down and talked to Tyler about it, and Tyler gave him some sound advice.

Then we toured with Aerosmith and it was like, thank God we got to meet some people that weren't fucked up! It influenced me big time. Oh, yeah, Cos Tyler and those guys, they were always like my rock idols. Growing up in Indiana, I loved fucking Aerosmith, man. Smoke a joint, listen to the first record... […] when we toured with them I'd go out to watch and they'd sound fucking amazing! I thought, we're gonna have to really pull this shit together to keep up. Cos they were right, you know? And with us, even then, it was like the music was already taking a back seat to all the other shit...

That was just a good time for us because it was when… we had been touring, and touring, and touring for well over a year on Appetite For Destruction and it took that long for the record to break. Aerosmith were gracious enough to have us open for them and we were a relative unknown. We were on our third single, which was Sweet Child O’ Mine - we'd already released Welcome to the Jungle single and video, Paradise City, and then Sweet Child O’ Mine. It was during the second or third week of this Aerosmith tour that our third single came out. Our usual 70 people were up front - you know, out of 17,000 - and those were our fans and we knew it. You know, we knew we weren't gonna – it wouldn’t apply to everybody that was there. But the next week there were 700 people that were, you know, raising their fist to us, and the next week there were 7,000. And, to us, to see that - you know, from one week to the next, and the week after that it was all 17,000 people with Guns N’ Roses banners and everybody standing up when we came on. And it was absolutely magical, that week when everybody was standing, when we we'd finally broken through our single and our record went to number 1 in America, which, you know, it’s the biggest thing you can do.

I think at the last the last gig of that tour they had us come on and play with them, and Steven Tyler said, “Rock ‘n’ roll has a grandfather and their name is Rolling Stones, and they had a son and their name is Aerosmith, and Aerosmith has now had a son and they’re Guns N’ Roses.”

That tour was crazy. First of all, there were a lot of nerves around the Aerosmith camp, not from the band themselves but from the people around them. They didn't want their cleaned up band, their newly cleaned up band, associating too closely with us, in case they slipped back into their old ways. So our dressing room would always be at the opposite end of the building to theirs. But Aerosmith themselves were great to us, treated us well. And we had a lot of respect for that band, so it wasn't really a problem. I wouldn't be wandering into their dressing room with my open bottle of Jack Daniel's or anything. And I remember playing and seeing Joe Perry watching me from the side of the stage, with a smile on his face, watching this wiry topless kid running around all over the place. That tour was the first time that we'd walk onstage - and I'm talking about playing to at least 20,000 people a night - and every single person in the crowd would know every word to all of our songs. It felt like we'd arrived.

It was pretty surreal for a while there, when that did start happening. Because in the beginning of this Aerosmith tour we had our hardcore, like, 70 fans up front. And then, we had just released, um, Sweet Child - I guess - and it went from 70, like, in one week... It really happened like this, like 70 from one week to 700 the next week... To 7,000, then to 17,000, like the whole place came early to see the opening band, which was us, with banners and everybody singing the words of the songs.

Guns was a pretty rowdy bunch of guys, and Aerosmith kept their distance. We didn't really hang out, because they had this no-alcohol, no-chemical rule: if you were near them you weren't allowed to have any booze on you, you couldn't be all fucked up. But I did get to know the guys. They became really good friends.

Axl and Steven Tyler

Also Aerosmith seems to have grown fond of Guns N' Roses:

It’s real easy for a band to go out, and buy the image, and watch other bands performing and kind of mimic it and pick it up. But these guys seem to have it, you know, right down the bone.
MTV, August 1988

They remind me of Aerosmith in the early years a whole lot. A real rock band. They're not trendy at all. They do what they want to do. They have the attitude. The kids really eat that up. It's a rock 'n' roll attitude. It's a Rolling Stones attitude.

Alan Niven would speculate on why Aerosmith liked Guns N' Roses:

Yeah, and the guys in Aerosmith, too, took a big shine to GN’R. And I think part of that shine was that they were having to make these incredibly saccharine and processed records for Geffen under John Kalodner, and I think part of them looked with envy at GNR, who were not being forced to do that and who were going out there and being a very raw and visceral band, which once Aerosmith were themselves to a degree. And I think they looked at that and said, you know, “They're our little brothers in a way”. There was a really good relationship between both bands.

Joe Perry would shed lights on dealing with Axl:

We didn’t have to deal with him. His road manager had to deal with him. They were always nice around us.

Tim Collins, Aerosmith's manager:

Guns N’ Roses was, temporarily, bigger than my band. They just exploded. It was a really intense period for everyone. So after a while, we let them [Guns] come over and say hello [to Aerosmith]—if they [Guns] weren’t fucked up, or strung out. But they were respectful toward what we were trying to do, so it was all very low-key. They drank and smoked on their side, and when they came over, they left their stuff in their area.
Stephen Davies, Watch You Bleed: The Saga Of Guns N' Roses, 2008

Axl seemed to be sober, but wasn’t claiming to be. He came over the most, and Steven [Tyler] befriended him, in a way. Axl already knew me, so sometimes we would take Axl’s psychic temperature— what we called his ‘weather report’—which could most often be described as ‘agitated depression.’ You couldn’t help feel for him. I probably knew at the time, through the management grapevine, that he had been diagnosed as manic depressive, and was supposed to be on medication—a mood stabilizer.

Anyway, Steven would talk to Axl about things that Axl found interesting or helpful. Then, almost invariably, Alan Niven would come over, speak with Axl about some problem, ratchet up the stress, and Axl would throw him out. I felt sorry for [Niven], though; he was working with a singer who had a serious mental illness, but who was also a genius. I could empathize with that.
Stephen Davies, Watch You Bleed: The Saga Of Guns N' Roses, 2008

Roger Glover, the bassist for Deep Purple who was on the bill with Aerosmith and Guns N' Roses on August 16, 1988, would illicit laughter with his sardonic assessment of the newcomers, "Well, they seem to be doing it all wrong right from the start" [MTV, August 1988].

In 2008, Slash would say Aerosmith took his BMX bike away:

Guns N' Roses was opening for Aerosmith, I think this was in 1988 or '89. I used to take my bike on the road and Aerosmith had one of the cool stages with the ramps that go up and around the back of the drums and all this kind of stuff. So I take my bike up there and I'd jump off the ramps and jump off the stage and in the seats and do — all with a bottle of vodka in one hand. Then three weeks into the tour, all of a sudden, one morning I went to get my bike off the truck and I want disappeared. It was gone. Where'd my bike go? Nobody ever told me, I figured out they took it... I think the Aerosmith people said, you know that's a risk. If the band — because we were selling a lot of tickets for Aerosmith at that point. And if something happened, the tour would have been canceled. So they said common sense take the bike away. I was too drunk to really realize it was gone and I just moved on, you know?

The tour was also well-received in the media:

In concert together, Aerosmith were by far the more polished performers. But Guns N' Roses were thrashing out the dramas of their lives, and Axl's Janis Joplin-like stage presence connected on a deeper emotional level. By tour's end they were the opening act in name only, drawing half the crowds and running away with the T-shirt concessions.

The tour may be over, but the memories will linger on forever. Those fans lucky enough to catch one of the Aerosmith/Guns N’ Roses concerts witnessed rock history in the making.

The success would also be reflected financially, when it became one of the two hottest-ticket-in-town draws of the year - only Def Leppard's tour did comparable business in America [Kerrang! December 1988].

And Keith Garde, from Aerosmith management, would praise Doug Goldstein for the work he did:

Doug has to be credited as a major player in the success of the tour. He’s unusual for a tour manager. He didn’t seem to wear down and become intolerable.

After the Aerosmith tour the band had planned an European tour with Metallica [MTV Headbanger's Ball, April 1988], but they decided to take a break, according to Izzy to preserve Axl's voice [Sounds Magazine, August 1988]. The band wouldn't tour again until December 1988 when they travelled to Japan.

In 2017 and 2018, Alan Niven would look back at the tour as his highlights with Guns N' Roses:

And, of course, Aerosmith at that time were all rehab fellas, you know, so, in the ordinary circumstances, the likelihood of Tim Collins taking on GN’R to open for guys that he had rigid control over to keep them from their habits was very slight. But we were label mates, and I went to Eddie Rosenblatt and I said, “We need the Aerosmith tour and you've got to deliver it for us.” And David Geffen and Eddie Rosenblatt basically beat Tim Collins up and insisted that he take out GN’R, so thank you David and Eddie. And off we went on the Aerosmith tour, which Axl did not want to do at the time. However, from my perspective of my involvement with the band, that tour is the highlight of my experience with the band. That was the highest moment, the magic of, and the incredible response being manifest by the audience. I used to feel bad for Aerosmith having to follow GN’R on stage, because GN’R would suck all the energy out of huge audiences before they hit the stage. But that was an incredible tour and it remains in my memory as the highlight of my experience with the band.

And, you know, the irony of ironies is, if you were to ask me over a bourbon, quietly, I'd say the magic moment for me with Guns N' Roses was that Aerosmith tour. That's when they were most consistently fabulous on stage. [...]  They were opening for Aerosmith, they had an incredible reaction from the fanbase because the record was exploding, which gave them incredible confidence in their performances. And quite frankly I felt sorry for Aerosmith having to follow them every night on that tour. But that to me is the high-water mark of the original and actual Guns N' Roses, the Aerosmith tour. They were consistently wonderful.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:55 am


While doing the Marquee shows in England in 1987, Slash met a girl called Sally [Blast! January 1989] who would become his girlfriend. Sally would later move to Los Angeles, but in late 1988, the relationship had ended:

I mean, when I was in England the first time when we played those Marquee dates, right? Remember that girl I met? […] Me and her have been going out since then. And she lives here now, you know, in the States, I've lived with her for a while. She's still here. And we're not really going out anymore because I have a hard time with keeping a girlfriend if they get to be too possessive then it gets me a little weird. But she's here, you know. And the only reason I got involved with her is because she didn't give a shit who I was and didn't really know. I mean, she knew who Guns N' Roses was, but she didn't really know who I was. And that's how we met. And that's why we stayed together, you know.

[Being asked if he had a girlfriend]: Ah, not really, no. The situation with women, of course, that’s all fucked up, too. The girls you tend to run into - the ones that are only interested in you ’cos you’re in a band - they tend to be pretty erm... pretty low, I think. I don’t know.


I'd like to have one with the right person. Somebody who had their own career and had their own life. My old girlfriend ended up being so dependent on me, I couldn’t take it. It got to the point where her dependency on me sort of drove me out. Then when we split up I realised that everybody else is sort of ... I don’t know, you need to find someone really special and it’s just not that easy. Basically, in the kind of places I would be known to frequent, the kind of girls there are just more of the same. It’s depressing. There’s just a bleak kind of aura around them...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989


Despite this, at the MTV Music Awards on September 7, 1988, Slash met Traci Lords [L.A. Weekly, September 16, 1988] and they would start dating:

We got an award. You know, MTV gave us the award for the Best New Artist. So when I accepted the award, instead of going up and saying, "okay, I would like to thank everybody at the Academy for this and that and the other," I went up there with Traci Lord and she said, "Hi, I'm Traci Lords" and I said, "Hi, I'm Slash." And then I had her take the award and I split. [laughter] I met her that way. I took her to dinner and we've been hanging out and stuff.

Arlett Vereecke, the band's publicist and close friend of Slash, was not in favor of the relationship:

I didn't meet her, but I do know Slash was gonna record for her, God help us. And he was gonna go on a date with her and he said, "Oh, can you book me a limo?" I said, "What for?" He says, "I'm going on the date with Traci Guns," I said, "Well, how about a bicycle" [laughs]

In the quote above, Vereecke confused Tracii Guns with Traci Lords, but she was talking about the latter.

Slash and Traci Lords
September 7, 1988

In late 1988, Slash "lent his talents to a demo" by Lords [Nice Boys interview, January 1989]:

Like hers [=Lord's] is a disco record. I have sort of an affection for dance music, if it is more black-oriented, if it is real, you know, lots of bass and drums and real rhythmic, I love to play that kind of stuff. I like funk music and stuff like that. And so hers is like a disco record, it's not exactly what I am really into but at the same time I do like to play that sort of, you know, sort of black guitar playing. You know what I mean?

(Laughs) Yeah, I played on one of her songs, and then we broke up. I guess the album will come out one day.
Popular 1, February 1995; translated from Spanish

In December 1988, Slash had an apartment on Sunset Boulevard where we lived with a girlfriend called Kimberley [On The Streets, December 1988].


But by mid-1989 that relationship with Lords had turned sour:

We've since not gotten along at all and she changed her number and I changed mine.

Pornstars and musicians, what a great combo! (laughs) I guess it’s all a matter of ego: the bad boy and the hot chick, the sexy pornstar. It's good for a little while, but it doesn’t work after that.
Popular 1, February 1995; translated from Spanish


Years later, in 1993, when Slash was in a marriage with Renee, an interviewer would say "Hi" from Lords to Slash, prompting the following reply:

Traci Lords! God, my wife would love to hear that! [chuckles]. Yeah, I’d like to say hi to her, but that’s probably not a good idea.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:03 am


There was that rape charge. Three of us had supposedly O.D.’d. We had been busted in England on drug charges and been dropped from the label. I was supposedly this bisexual heroin addict who had AIDS and was into small animals. There’s been about a rumor a week with this band.

Everything that happens gets blown out of proportion in certain ways but it's got a basis in fact, something that got said or got done. Somebody OD'd or wrecked a car, had a rape charge or laid 10 girls in a row. Stories just start stretching all over the place. We got in a fight in Chicago at the Hyatt Regency. It was about a 60 person fight, cops and paddy wagons, security guards, guys in suits from a wedding who started throwing the first punches. They told us they knew it wasn't our fault. That's gonna get blown into like 300 people.

It could be said that we have a pretty nasty history. The thing is, I don't give a fuck about the image that everyone buys. It's all been blown out of proportion, the bad-boy' thing, how much we drink, how much drugs we do or don't do. It's boring. While everyone's talkin' about what we did or supposedly did yesterday, we're already working today on the music they're gonna hear tomorrow.


The band seemed to have enjoyed the initial press coverage, a true sign of success. Slash, though, was not comfortable in interviews, being naturally shy and an introvert. In the beginning he had to do interviews to create buzz, and he was also forced to by Alan Niven after being signed to Geffen:

I hate doing interviews. Because they’re boring. At this point in time we’re at the mercy of the press because we don’t have a record out, so as soon as we get a record out, the shoe goes on the other foot. Then we’re not going to brown-nose to the press anymore. That’s why we’re so docile in our interview. You can’t fuck around too much or people badmouth you. Our manager says, ‘Listen, Slash, if you do this and that and the other, I’m taking the van away from you, I’m taking this from you. You can’t go on living up to this reputation of yours.

Slash wasn't the only band members who wasn't naturally talkative, and Duff would later tell an anecdote about the band's first interview with local radio station KNAC when Izzy did drugs before the interview:

We went down to Long Beach, and uh, Izzy was never really, he’s never been, you know, to this day, he’s not a real talkative guy. Right before we went in, we went live on the air, and he did… he did something… something odd, that made him talk a lot. [Laughs] You know? Right before we went on-- and Izzy just went crazy! He talked the whole time, over the DJ, over us, over everybody… [Laughs] It was like, “Okay, which Izzy are we talking to? Which Izzy are we talking to now? Who are you?” And that was our first experience on KNAC and they thought it was just hilarious, you know? But I mean… in LA, they were really like, the first—well, I would say [as far as] the States--they were probably the first radio station to really get behind this band. Behind Guns ‘N Roses…


And, you know, the first to play us and talk about us and pump us up in LA, and people started to hear about it that way. I think hand in hand, you know, when GNR started to blow up, everybody -- I think, if not in the world, at least in the United States -- everybody started to hear about KNAC. You’d go to some place like Philadelphia and see people with KNAC shirts on, you know? So it was definitely a phenomenon, for a while. I wish it was still on the air.

The UK press was the first to start writing in-depth about the band with 'Live!? Live A Suicide' gaining some popularity there, motivating the band to travel to London in June 1987 for three gigs at the Marquee. This also gave the band the first experience with tabloid English newspapers who were more interested in shocking headlines than facts and the truth. One example is Axl and his alleged hatred of small dogs [see earlier chapter], another example is an article by Andy Secher in Hit Parader from December 1987 where Slash is quoted as saying the band had toured with Stryper [Hit Parader, December 1987]. The band never toured with Stryper although according to Steven's biography there had been plans to do that.

There was one [rumour] that said we were on tour with Stryper, and that we burned all their bibles onstage - we’ve never even been on tour with Stryper! Yet there was a whole article about it!

In the Hit Parader article, Andy Secher would quote Slash talking about the tour and how they had different religious views to Stryper.

Slash would later refer to this rumour as among the most bizarre:

The one that we played with Stryper, did a tour with Stryper, was pretty bizarre. I don’t know where that came from.

There was some stuff in Hit Parader about us touring with Stryper. We never toured with Stryper. Slash never said we toured with Stryper.

We never played a gig with Stryper. It says in Hit Parader, ques­tion: ‘So how was the tour with Stryper?’ Slash, answer: ‘Oh, it was great. If they knew what we were doing while they were up playing onstage, they would have a shitfit—stealing all their booze.’ It was just a false answer, like, ‘What would he say, I wonder.’ I guess you come to expect this kind of stuff.

Although Slash in the previous quote expresses bewilderment over where the Stryper rumour came from, the Hit Parader article and blatant falsifying of quotes is likely the reason why Secher would be called out in the song 'Get In The Ring' from 'Use Your Illusions' in 1991.

As the band grew in popularity, and 'Appetite' sold more and more, the press would love writing about them. They lived dangerously on the edge and many magazines would be more interested in stories about drugs, sex and violence than the band's music and live shows. In 1987 and 1988, the band was challenged by this tabloid interest from the press, fuelled by their own assuredly wild behavior which they often did little to hide during interviews, resulting in less attention to their music and ambitions as artists.

Already in October 1987 would Axl express a hope that in the future people would be more interested in the messages in their lyrics than the band's controversies:

I’m looking forward to the day when people will forget about the controversy, and anyone who listens to our music will sit and think: 'In the third verse you say such and such; what do you mean by that?' I'm happy that there are people who have this approach already from our first album, without having to wait for the second or the third one, like it has happened with many bands.
Popular 1, April 1988; translated from Spanish

Talking about doing interviews in the mid-1988:

Well, it's sort of weird because you start feeling like a pop star, you know? And you start going to newsstands to see what magazines you're in and shit. It's like a habit I got now. Every week, I go by this magazine stand I used to work at, and check out all the magazines to see which ones we're in. It's still like a novelty to me at this point, you know?
Creem Close-up Metal, October 1989; interview from mid-1988

At this stage they didn't have to do interviews to create a buzz any more, either, and especially Slash was more at liberty to not take interviews as serious any more, with a good example being the interview with NME from October 1987. At the same time this more seedy focus from the press helped fuel the band's "wild boys" image which would undoubtedly help sell records and tickets to live shows.

You know, I really liked it when the kids loved us and we were still sort of underground. Now it's gotten to the point where we're sort of a circus act for normal society to go, 'Look at them fall down. Isn't that cute?' Sometimes it just pisses me off. I always thought of us as basically nice guys who were over-exaggerated about. I mean, we don't rob banks, we don't beat up girls, we don't smash guitars over kids' heads in the front rows. I don't see why it's such a crime to be us.

In November 1987 Rolling Stone magazine published an article on the band and gave them the front page even though they had intended to use it for Aerosmith [MTV, October 1988]. To GN'R's consternation, the magazine described in detail the band's post-gig antics and wrote much less about the band's music:

Well, he was with us for three days. I mean, I like the guy. He was with us for three days. He saw, basically every side of us. But he kinda exploited just one side, which happens from like, after the gig till you go to sleep on the bus. That side, you know.

I mean, apparently with us, it's like, the main thing people wanna hear is how bad we are. This and that we did, and so and so did that. That's like, sort of novelty of Guns N' Roses, right. And so that's what... Rolling Stone just printed the stuff that's gonna make their magazine sell, basically.

Okay, here's what they did, and they really misled us, because they sent this guy out...Rob? Tannenbaum. And, uhm, spent three fucking days with us, day and night, right? He was asking questions about the music and this and that, which is the most important thing, it's our music… […] But we were trying to be... we fucking showed him a great time, we hung out and actually really became friends within those three days. And we really believed he was going to focus on the music of the band so when the article comes out really was disappointed because he focused on the drinking and the fucking and the sake...[…] I think the reason they write this shit, I mean, that's all that's been written about us, it's the's just, these guys fucking drink and do this in that, fine! […] You know, everybody in the fucking world drinks, almost, you know, so what? You know, so let's focus on the music, you know. That's what was promised to us and it didn't happen.

It’s kind of one-sided. ‘Okay, let’s exploit the dirty side, all the dark sides of this band,’ ya know? The writer was with us for three days. I mean, I liked the guy. He was with us for three days, he saw basically every side of us. But he kind of exploited just one side. Which happens from, like, after the gig until you go to sleep on the bus? That side.

Apparently, with us, it’s the main thing that people want to hear is how bad we are, and that’s the sort of novelty about Guns N’ Roses, right? And so, that’s what Rolling Stone just printed, the stuff that’s going to make the magazine sell, basically.

I mean, it was basically focused on Guns N’ Roses’ chemical intake, and violence, sex, groupies and all those sorts of things. The guy who wrote the article was on the road with us for a while on the Aerosmith tour, and there was a lot of other things going on. But he used quotes that were, like, just made in passing, just bits of conversation and somehow he managed to pull them out of context and put them in the article the way he wanted. It was just me going. “Oh, you know... blah blah blah”, it was a conversation, it wasn’t part of the interview. But he managed to take that and put it in the magazine. It was sort of a drag to read that and see how you can be had so easily. […] You can’t really trust them. You sort of, like, want to, you really want to. But when you’ve got a journalist with you and you’ve sort of taken him into your confidence and you’ve allowed him into your surroundings, it’s only because you think you can trust him, you think maybe he’s cool. So you expose stuff to him that normally you wouldn’t expose, and it’s a drag when one of those guys turns round and kicks you in the ass and makes you feel like a fool.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989

To make a mockery of the press, the band would design the layout of the EP G N' R Lies to look like a typical tabloid newspaper with fake stories about the band.

In 1988, the press would regularly report than one or more of the band members had died, likely fuelled by true reports of ODs and accidents [example in Los Angeles Times, December 1988].

Talking about some of the crazy rumours they had heard:

One time Geffen got a call from the Long Beach police department because they had a body in the morgue and it had been identified as Izzy. But the best story I heard was, after having to cancel a show in Phoenix, everyone there knew that the matter was that I died of AIDS.

That we abuse women, and that we are the total f?!kin’ dogs and stuff—like we have a chip on our shoulder, which isn’t true. I hate that shit. We never put across an image like that, I don’t think. I guess it’s very stereotyp­ical rock-and-roll-band-type stuff... that we drink a lot, we do this, we do that. Obvious­ly we f!?k girls all the time. We destroy hotel rooms. And some of it is true, but there’s no particular forte.

I saw this thing on MTV the other day. They did a ten-minute spot on the fact that I did not kill Axl... Axl is not dead! I went, what!? They ran these pictures on the screen: “AXL - NOT DEAD”... “JIMI HENDRIX - DEAD”. Then a picture of me and the band: “NOT DEAD” then “JIM MORRISON - DEAD”. Then they showed a picture of the band again: “NOT DEAD”. Then they showed a picture of Elvis - “DEAD?” with a question mark.

It was a classic! I mean, when it gets to that level, you just can’t take it seriously any more.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

You know, one of us dying or something I’ve heard before. [Like] when I flew off Laurel Canyon or Mulholland in a Mercedes in the middle of the night, while I was strung out on heroin, after finding out that my AIDS test was positive. That’s a good one.

Talking about journalists and specific magazines:

People Magazine wanted to do an article on how America is accepting us as sleazy as we are, so we turned 'em down. [...] The press... It’s like they expect us to live up to this reputation that they've tagged us with. Well, maybe deep down inside I might feel I have to, to some extent, still, none of us have ever tried to be anything that we weren't. We never wanted to be role models for anyone.

The press tries to glamorize us - they make it seem like we're always strung out or trashing a hotel or something, and that's not the case at all. I mean, we're worked really hard to get here, and they choose to ignore that aspect of the band. To me, destroying a hotel room is boring. It's a waste of time and money.

I don't like 90% of the writers out there. I don't trust 'em. I might slip and say one thing I shouldn't and two months later, I'll see an entire five-page article built around ten seconds of an hour-long interview. After this album, I'll let the other guys deal with the press.

It's not even that we're bored. But it's the stupid questions some people ask that have no-thing to do with us. The same stories are printed over and over. Kids aren't reading it anymore. They're just looking at the pictures. If you're doing a piece on any subject, the point is to bring out interesting stuff, right? Not to waste time going through the movements. It's the same with every profession—you always run into some moron with no sense of creativity who's just doing what his job implies so he can collect his check. I couldn't give a damn about the actual person interviewing me, but I do give a damn about what comes out in print as a result of a writer's attitude, or whether he relies on stupid material. Within five to 15 minutes, I can sense what the person is like. I don't go out of my way to be an asshole, but if there's a certain vibe, yeah, I'll give them a hard time.

They say we're shallow-minded, junkies, women abusers, because we don't try putting out heavy-duty conceptual stuff that's not worth talking about. We go, 'yeah, screw this.' We're a band. Go to the gig and find your own analyst. Some idiot girl in England thought 'Mr. Brownstone' was about groupies. We're not like that; were not macho chauvinists. We've all got girlfriends. We're honest. not a facade of rock 'n' roll to look good in magazines. People get ignorant preconceived notions of what our music represents, who we are as people. I instantly take offense in interviews to stupid-ass, shallow journalists, which is not fair to say about all the press-for instance, this interview is real different... but most of them are taking the same approach.

Though, the band would admit that many of the rumours contained a kernel of truth:

[People] hear about shit on the street. They would come to us about it. We’d deny most of it. It’s like half and half—half’s true and half's bullshit.

RIP Magazine would summarize the situation:

These guys have created more good ink for the rock scribes than any band since, dare I say, the holy Sex Pistols. Thing is, whereas many of the competition’s activities appear contrived (as in, the product of a publicist’s imagination), Guns N’ Roses’ seem to be for real. If it’s all an act, give these dudes some Oscars!

Speculating on how the false rumours starts:

Different people like to start different shit and feel they're in a position to get away with it, and if you don’t like it, well, then you’re not in their magazine. We’re really not in too big a position to bitch about it. I don’t know... wannabes... people who are jealous you’re in a band and they’re not. Or, you know what I’ve noticed? People in almost every field have to feel that they have one up on everybody around them. I’m not necessarily saying it about the press. People working with us as managers, tour managers, have to feel like they have one up on you. It’s like, ‘No, you’re working for me. I hired you because of your expertise in this field. It doesn't mean that it’s your show. It’s our show. We’re the band. We’re calling the shots, and we’ll work with you, but not like you’re the coolest motherf!?ker on the entire planet and I’m a peon!’

In late 1988, Slash would mention he had written a song called Not Dead Yet as a response to the press' constant rumours and negativity towards the band, and was trying to write the lyrics to it:

I've got a song that I'm trying to work the lyrics out to called Not Dead Yet, which is sort of like a stab at the people who told us that we couldn't pull it off. And, you know, we'd fall apart. And it sort of just like saying, you know, it's sort of like it's about how we've made it to this point and done everything that we've done. It's sort of like, fuck you to everybody that said we couldn't. But I'm trying to work the lyrics out enough so that I know that Axl will be able to sing them. […] It's just because, I mean, there was just so much bullshit. It was such a pain in the ass having to listen to all this crap, like this preoccupation with, you know, our lifestyles and this and that and the other, and people going, "ah, those guys", you know, everybody sitting around waiting for our demise, you know what I mean?

In 2017, Raz Cue who wrote a memoir with stories about the early days of GN'R, would mention how magazines had been copying each other's fake interviews and how such repetition made the fake stories into facts:

Okay, so, I mean, it's a lot of stuff. Like when I was a kid I used to read rock magazines like crazy, you know, like probably all of us did, and put the pictures up. You know, like, I had my Scorpions pictures and Judas Priest and all that stuff. And Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, like the whole wall was... you know, and I'd read the articles religiously. And then when the LA rock scene started, you know, like the Crew, I'm sorry, [?] the new generation was Motley Crue and Ratt, Quiet Riot. And I'd read all these... [?] and then when GN'R came out, like, I knew the guys and I would just read like everything. And then I started noticing, like, okay, like, I'd read like Hit Parader or whatever, or Circus, and it would be, like, the same interview, it wouldn't be an actual... I knew the guys didn't do that interview, it was just like it's second-hand information, and then one magazine will report what the other magazine said as if it was gospel and it's like, "I don't know, man" and then just over the years those stories became fact almost, you know.

Slash would be doing the brunt of the interview by late 1988:

Yeah, I do it. I’m up for it. If I don’t do it then I’ll just sit around and do drugs and get drunk. There’s also a feeling of if I don’t do it no one will.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

When asked if he was alluding to Axl:

Axl's very involved - he does it and gets really into it, then other times he doesn’t want to do it. He’s very emotional, so I’ll do it. But if he wants to he could be talking to fuckin’ somebody from Trouser Press for three hours... Axl does this, this and this - and this, this and this, Axl doesn’t do. It’s not any particular thing, it’s just what his frame of mind is.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

As for the other three band members:

Izzy doesn’t wanna do it. He wants to stay very much in the shadows. Steven doesn’t do a lot of stuff because it’s never been his role. Duff likes to do stuff, but right now Duff’s at a wedding so I do it because this is like twenty-five hours a day for me...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

Interview schedule from touring in Japan
December 8, 1988

In mid-1989, Axl would talk about the press and say the exaggerated stories just helped the band:

The press seems to be more interested in our off-stage activities than in the music itself! But a lot of the time, it's our own friends who start the ball rolling because we might tell them something that happened, they'll tell somebody else, who'll tell somebody, and by the time it reaches a journalist, it's been blown out of proportion. A lot of the stories really aren't much. We've had some run-ins with the cops, most people do, but because we're in Guns 'n' Roses, it's blown up to be something totally astounding. People think we're criminals, or something. […] We don't really are about these rumors. I heard we were all dying of AIDS, and the times I've heard that I'd died of a drug overdose, it's laughable. The way I figure it, these stories just make us seem more interesting than we are. It'll just encourage people to listen to the records or come and see our concerts; and when they do, the music's good enough to hook them right in. So let these people warn the kids away from us, they're just helping our cause!

In 2011, Axl would mention a weird rumour that was spread around the time Sweet Child O'Mine started to take off:

Back when Guns N' Roses, like when Sweet Child first took off, was it Kiss FM, was a big station in LA and their biggest DJ was talking about how I had... I heard him on, I came out of the Cathouse, I got in the car and he was talking about how I had the tattoo of California on the inside on one thigh and I don't know, Panama.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Sat Aug 12, 2023 6:38 pm; edited 7 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:04 am

SEPTEMBER 17, 1988

After the Aerosmith tour the original plan was to do a tour with Metallica in September or October [Kerrang! July 1988]. Instead they did a one-off festival with INXS as headliners at Texas Stadium in Irving, on September 17, 1988.

Poster for the festival

This would be a notorious show the band members would talk about for years:

We just did one date with [INXS] and, well, the gig itself was a disaster because it was in the Texas Stadium which has a big hole in the top and the hurricane Gilbert, or whatever it was, was forty miles south of us so it was pouring through the hole in the roof, and we were getting rained on, and the sound was crappy, you know.

We don't think that we've made any serious fuck-ups in the course of our career. There are things that we regret but we never talk about. Like playing with INXS, for instance. Why? Because they're assholes. They wouldn't let us turn up the sound, they wouldn't allow us a sound-check, and no lighting show.

[Looking at pictures in Robert John's photo book]: This picture, right here with Ax, was at the Texas Stadium - the Cowboy Place, Dallas Stadium, whatever – and it was at the very end of our first two year tour. It was the last show, and it was the worst show we ever played. INXS was headlining and we were playing before them. We were supposed to play for about an hour and a half, and we played for about 45 minutes. The sound was terrible, the crowd – the show itself, the lineup was Iggy Pop, Ziggy Marley, The Replacements, us and INXS. I mean, it was really screwed up, so the crowd was really confused in general. And we were terrible. Then, a few months later, I got a cassette in the mail, Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction broken in half. It was some former fan (laughs), who said after seeing us at the Texas Stadium that he would never listen to us again.

Two days after the end of the Aerosmith tour in September 1988, Guns played a strange festival type gig at the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Texas. INXS headlined and the opening band included the Smithereens, Ziggy Markey and Iggy [Pop]. I was excited to meet [Iggy]. After the show, Iggy and I both ended up at a party in the hotel suite of Michael Hutchence, the vocalist for INXS. I was nervous as hell to be in a room with Iggy, a guy who had inspired a dream that stuck with me for the rest of my life - a dream that cemented the direction of my life in many ways. So I commenced to get really fucked up. Michael Hutchence was already as famous for dating models and appearing in paparazzi photos as for singing "Need You Tonight," and I think Iggy felt as out of place as I did - so he joined me. We got fucked up together.
Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 136-137

The show was the absolute worst we ever played. For some reason, the guys just weren't into it and the reason was simple: they wanted to go home. [...] To add to our misery, it was raining that day. We were in Texas Stadium, a partially covered arena that had a huge opening over the playing field. From the stag, I could see rain pouring down on the crowd, but we were kept mostly dry, except when it would get gusty. It was the weirdest-looking setup. We played out set in record time. just wanting to get it over with.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 174-175

Guns n’ Roses playing Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 1989 [was the worst gig I ever did]. It was horrific. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and the band didn’t have enough experience to handle it properly. It was a huge disaster in front of 65,000 people. We fell apart on stage. It’s stuck with me ever since.

INXS were not impressed by Axl at all. Tim Fariss, the guitarist, and Michael Hutchence, the singer, would later say:

[Axl] wouldn't last ten minutes in a Melbourne bar. All that macho, tough guy shit. He'd get killed.
Q Magazine, January 1991

Axl's problem is that he's always looking for a fight. It's not just that he won't walk away, he actively looks for trouble. When Guns N' Roses were supporting us, his monitors weren't working properly so he came looking for me. He wanted to fight me! I was just thinking, Oh, Axl, grow up!
Q Magazine, January 1991


This show in Texas concluded touring until December 1988. The band would now return back home and release their new EP, Lies. The band needed a break from touring:

The promoters, the booking agency, they want us to keep going. We've been getting offers to headline the Forum, Madison Square Garden... but we knew this had to end. And Axl's voice is getting to the point where he can't keep going. Everybody's been having a good time. The thing is, we're burned out.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:04 am


When you consider the climate of Hollywood, where we were all living, that painting would have been one of the least shocking things going on. We'd seen some pretty, pretty hectic shit over the years. We just didn't really feel that that picture fell into that category.



The original cover art was a 1978 painting by the artist Robert Williams named "Appetite For Destruction" [Entertainment Weekly, July 14, 2017]. Not long after the release of Appetite for Destruction, the press caught up on the controversial artwork:

Let’s just hope Washington Wives’ leader Tipper Gore is sitting down when she gets a gander at the cover of “Appetite for Destruction,” the just-released debut album from Guns N’ Roses.

The quintet of L.A.-based enfants terrible, who are signed to Geffen Records, already have a reputation for wild ‘n’ wooly antics--both on and off stage. Now the group has an album jacket that should stir up even more notoriety.

The cartoon-style cover drawing, by artist Robert Williams, depicts a sexy, saddle-shoed damsel who has apparently been ravaged by a mechanical monster with bear-trap jaws and zoom-lens eyes. But it’s the graphic details--and how record buyers might interpret them--that may arouse the ire of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), otherwise known as the Washington Wives. The girl is drawn in a position of sexual submission, with her panties below her knees and her dress split open, clearly exposing a naked breast.

A feminist group in California would call the image a "glorification of rape" [Excerpt from the documentary "Robert Williams Mr. Bitchin'", 2013].

The original artwork, a painting by the artist Robert Williams, is open for interpretation. It is by most people thought to depict an avenging monster about to attack a robot that has molested a woman.

Appetite for Destruction
by Robert Williams


Axl was the one who found the painting and suggested it as the album cover:

It’s this picture of a big red monster jumping over a fence, in armor. There’s a lot of energy, and there’s like an old man robot, and his brain’s exploding, and he’s smashing little pink robots. I found the painting by accident in a book … It’s called Appetite for Destruction, which is also what we’re going to call the record. The picture is really strange; you can’t quite figure out what’s going on, and that always bothers you. But it captures the band. I submitted it to the band as a joke, and they all went “this is it.” The girl, her shirt’s open, she was abused by somebody; I don’t know if it’s the robot or the monster.

That's a drawing of a contemporary painter which we saw by chance reproduced on a postcard. We had to put a lot of pressure on the record label to get it printed, because they said it was a bit too controversial. Of course the meaning of it shouldn't be taken too seriously.

[Robert Williams]'s like a major underground comic's artist, and paints like one oil painting the size of a window a week! That painting was actually the size of a wall and sold in 1978 for like $10,000 and we leased it from him. But I found it on the cover of a book that he had put out, in a place called the Soap Plant in L.A. I found it and I thought "Wow, that is an intense picture, man." I'd never seen anything like it, and then I went back to buy it and it was gone.

Then I found it on a postcard, submitted it as a joke, and everybody liked it. I wanted it as the cover, but I thought we could never use it even though it was so intense. I just wanted to show everybody, and we all decided to use it. It was really weird that I found it on the cover of a book to begin with, because it's something that's out of print and it's a collector's item, and the Soap Plant shouldn't have had it to begin with. It goes for like $7,500 bucks now, and it was $11 dollars when I found it! When I met the artist and told him where I had found the book, he said it was impossible. So, it was really kinda like a coincidence that we found it. I think it was meant to be, cause even though it's been banned a lot of places, and Warner Brothers refused to print it, so we had to get an outside printer, but now they stockpile it in their warehouse because they get so many demands for it. Where at the time they were gonna make just a few, now and then. I feel that we've got this piece of art work, and some people just go "Wow, gnarly cover," but I think there's a lot of people out there that can really appreciate the artwork of it, and that's what I wanted to show them.

How it came about, it was a joke. Axl brought this postcard with that art by this painter, Robert Williams. And we didn’t really want a hassle over our album cover. It wasn’t, like, we wanted to get our picture on the cover of the album just so you can see yourself on the cover. We just don’t want a hassle over it. So, it’s like, okay, we’re all laughing, you know? Fine, record cover, let’s go; let’s get it over with. And, personally – I mean, myself, I don’t think any of us saw anything wrong with it.

On the first record, Appetite, that was Axl’s thing. He had a postcard that he had picked up at a place on Melrose Avenue. That was a cool funky little shop. They had postcards and just really - I’m trying to think of the name of it... but he picked up a posctard at this place, that Robert Williams painting, and then he showed everybody. We were like, “Hey, that’s cool. Let’s go with that” and then... The band, you know, we were pretty insular. We didn’t like other people mess around with anything, the music, the art... We were very tight with that kind of thing and we resented anybody else trying to get involved with that, and I think at the end it worked out better. I think it worked for us in the end.

I love the picture, but I kind of submitted it as a joke as it was so outrageous. And I was like, "You mean, you wanna use this? This is great!" So we then we just went for it. [...] I love the artwork and the talent that was involved in it and I think that since it was such an outrageous picture that, like, the skill and the talent involved in making it gets overlooked.

Axl showed me a card with the Williams painting and said, “You realize … this is the future,” then he pointed to the woman: “This is the victim; this is the media, and above them is the monster that the media creates.” He predicted, in 1986, that we were going to live in a world of “fake news,” where we’d feed on tragedy. It depicted human nature and the ugly need we have for an appetite for destruction. Axl told me that CNN was going to change the world by feeding that appetite. He saw the future in that painting, and because GNR had 100% creative control in their contract, the label had to use the artwork.

In 2011, Axl would explain that his original idea had been to use a picture of the Challenger spaceship exploding:

But the original cover, that we never made, was going to be the the Challenger exploding. [...] Because I figured it's on the cover of Time then we should be allowed to use it too and it wasn't meant derogatory but I just wanted our record to be... because that photograph just blew my mind. But they went, "Oh this is in bad taste." So I was like, "Okay well what about this one?" and I just kind of threw this postcard out and walked away [laughs].

In 2015, Tom Zutaut would tell an anecdote about talking to Axl about the artwork and what it meant to Axl:

[...] when I first met the band and they came to my house and we just listened to records and talked and, you know, CNN had just, like, gone on the air and, you know, this is where a guy like Axl, a real artist and he's smart and, you know, he said, you know, "I read this book by Marshall McLuhan, 'The Global Village'," and he said, you know, "CNN is gonna ruin the world," and I said, "Well, what do you mean?" and he said, "You know, I could show it to you in art," and that art is behind me [=Zutaut pointing to a slide of Appetite for Destruction behind him], he said, "You know, the robot is CNN, the girl is the people getting raped by the cameras and the robot, and the monster is the train wreck that's looming after CNN puts cameras in everybody's face." I didn't necessarily know what he was talking about but I went out and got the book and tried to read it and it actually makes a lot of sense to me because that's what's happening every day with the media in our lives.

After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting in contact with Williams to obtain permission to use the artwork, Axl and Niven eventually drove to meet him [Revolver, June 2001; Billboard, July 21, 2017]. Williams would describe meeting Axl:

I got confronted by this guy Axl Rose at my door. I thought he was just another gay transvestite when I first met him. [Guns N' Roses] were completely unheard of at the time. […] I told Axl he was going to get into trouble. I said 'yes,' but I knew there'd be a problem.

When these people originally approached me they were unheard of and I considered them to be just another punk rock band that comes to my door and wants artwork. [...] I gave him my best wishes, but I warned him that this was going to get him in a lot of trouble. And it got him in exactly the amount of trouble I thought it was going to get him into.

[The painting] ended up on a postcard somewhere, and Axl Rose walks down Melrose or somewhere and stumbles across that f—ing postcard, and this thing blows his mind. So he sets out to get in touch with me, and it took him a long time. No one had heard of the band before. It had no previous history.

So a car pulls up in front of my house, and this guy gets out, and this other guy gets out I thought was a girl. But it was actually Axl Rose. After I got to see he was a guy, he was a nice young fella. I always liked him. He’s very polite, shy, mild-mannered. [...] If you have the guts to put this on a f—ing album cover, man, I’m behind you.


In 2013, Alan Niven would talk about expecting controversy over the artwork and planned to change the artwork after 30,000 sold units:

And I got a phone call from Axl one day saying that he thought he had found something that would be good and I went over to his apartment and he had been down to a place called the Soap Factory on Melrose and he had this postcard and I took one look at it and I went, "That's fucking perfect!" and he looked at me and said, "I was joking... I think." No, he wasn't two minds about it, you know. Bless him, Axl can triple and double and quadruple think himself on his double thinking. The image was incredible and from a manipulative point of view one thing that was very obvious to me is it could easily and probably would be totally misread and everybody, and of course we're in America here and I'm not American, I'm English, so I tend to laugh at certain purincism [?], false appearances, in the American psyche and entertainment world, and what I clearly saw in this image was Karma about to descend on entertainment technology for being exploitive, especially of the female form. To me it was really clear. You know, Robert Williams was saying, "This is what Hollywood is and this is what Hollywood does to women," right? And here comes Karma. But I thought that was dead-on. And that's also where the name of the album came from because the piece of artwork was called Appetite for Destruction. And it was very obvious that we were going to have either false or genuine outrage over it.

And so it was decided that we'd do 30,000 units of that artwork for the album cover and 30,001 we shifted over to printing what became the cover after that. And we did all the artwork and we did all the printing and before the record was even released we knew at 30,000 we were gonna flip and we figured that was about where it would happen and, you know, turned out we were fairly on.

Williams, too, expected problems:

This was not for the general public. This was never to go in people’s homes. There is no sophistication in this f—ing picture. It’s an overdone cartoon for people who like underground comics and understand underground art. But that’s a very small audience. [...] [Axl's] agent called up and said, ‘We would be very interested in this picture.’ And I said, ‘Well, y’know, this is not a good idea. This is too violent. You’re gonna get in an awful lot of trouble.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you come by my house and we’ll go through a couple hundred slides and we’ll pick you something that might be a little more palatable?'


The band would defend the choice of artwork:

There was really no significant reasons, you know, except for that it was a cool painting. You know, there was no discriminatory thing with that, you know, as far as women are concerned, you know, and anything like that. It was just a painting that looked really cool, it looked really dynamic, and it was, like, who wanted to sit for two hours and think about what was gonna be the cover. And we saw the picture, “Oh, that’s fine, yeah, sure - let’s use that”. (Laughs). And then there’s this line “Appetite for Destruction” on the bottom. And we said, “We don’t have to think about the title, either! [?] It’s perfect.

The only compromise we’ve made was we had this original album cover that has gotten a lot of flack from women’s organizations. It’s robots and a half-naked girl. If somebody looks at it and decides those robots are raping that girl, they’ve got a sicker mind than we do.

The whole thing is, it’s just a piece of artwork.

Not to sound stupid or naive or whatever, or close-minded, we didn’t see any rape thing going on. It was, like, exactly what he said. It was a robot vendor getting robbed and she got knocked against the fence, you know? He couldn’t have just...[…] I mean, if you think we’re generally promoting rape - for someone seeing it like that, I could easily get on you for seeing it as a rape. You know, prove it was rape. Why do you think it was rape?

I think that since it was such an outrageous picture, that, like, the skill and the talent involved in making it gets overlooked. And I wanted to be a part of, like, showing people, 'No, this is art'

It was banned because of... People were saying that it was anti-feminist, that it promoted rape, you know, blah blah blah. So that’s why they banned it. No big deal. Then everybody went out trying to find copies of it. [...] They’re out there, too. I mean, they’re not hard to find. All the major-major record stores have them.

We didn't put that out to outrage people. I thought it was a very cool piece of art that would stand the test of time. I don't think it was encouraging sexual abuse at all. I think it's an idea in people's heads that she is attractive, a sexual fantasy. Like, this poor girl got abused and you're thinking about how your husband wants to fuck her so you're upset. People get scared of their own thoughts.

Although Duff wasn't always...forceful in his defense:

People look at that sexist, or anything. I mean, I guess I can see what they're saying.

Williams had to defend it, too:

None of the guys in this band were too articulate, so they would direct the media to me to defend the cover.

The s— hit the fan. It was an enormous sensation and there was a lot of problems with it. And I’m just sitting here saying, ‘Well, I told you so!’


But many people saw it differently and would accuse Guns N' Roses for being sexist and promoting rape. An example being Ann Simonton from Media Watch, a local Santa Cruz group set to "improve the images of women and children in the media" felt it differently and would target a local music store for selling the record, handing out a mock "gold record" to the store "for an exemplary record in pandering rape in our community" [Santa Criz Sentinel, October 25, 1988].

Slash would comment on the uproar:

There was a picture of a young woman lying on the ground obviously about to get raped by a robot. And just above, there's a hand which is about to crunch the robot up. That doesn't mean anything special. We liked the picture, that's all. But everyone came down on us and accused us of glorifying rape.

Robert Williams himself, would describe the painting this way:

Let me explain the painting to you. It has a red monster in it. The red monster is jumping over the fence. It is killing the robot, because the robot, in some way, violated the female vendor of small toy robots. […]  What we’ve got here, is we’ve got an example of music and art merging. This album cover was not a commissioned commercial job to go on the record and in the music. This was a separate piece of art from an earlier period. We’re dealing with culture. Music and art, two things that ran together with mutual interest.

This kid Axl Rose had seen that piece on the cover of my book Zombie Mystery Paintings. And they were just a little nothin' band that nobody had ever even heard of in their own town. And they had contacted someone up in San Francisco to get in touch with me. Somehow their manager, Al Niven, had gotten my number and called me up. I knew from the beginning what was gonna happen with this whole thing because I had been through it all before with the record companies. So, I told them to come over here to the house and look through all of my stuff to see if there was something that they maybe would like better. So they all came over here and looked through everything, and after all that looking, he said he still wanted "Appetite For Destruction." So, I said alright, but I warned them what was gonna happen with a cover like that. All of a sudden the band started catching flack. Well, actually they [the authorities] didn't want much to do with me. They weren't too concerned with me. It wasn't like the artists that had a lot to do with the underground bands, like the Grateful Dead. They were always real appreciative of their artists, but Guns N' Roses didn't have any f*cking interest in me one f*cking way or the other. You know, so I was just like out of the picture, except there started to be a lot write-ups about the album and about the cover. And I had someone over at Geffen call me and say, 'Well, these guys, they are not too f*cking ar-ticulate, would there be a chance of verbally defending the piece?' And I said, 'Damn, right. I f*cking painted it, I'll f*cking defend it.'

So, this got me on MTV a bunch of times and one thing or another, and then the PMRC, I guess is, well, I mean, that is bordering on witchcraft persecution or something, you know, but the PMRC got on this thing, and then I heard a couple of religious groups got on this goddamn album cover, and then finally, it took some while, but the feminists finally hit this thing. And there are about 6 or 7 groups in Northern California that hit this thing with both claws, both talons and they started in Santa Cruz and they picketed all the record stores that carried it and forced them all to not carry it except Tower Records. Tower Records refused to pull it, and then, they moved to Berkeley. They did the same thing to Berkeley. They took their thing to Berkeley and all the rest of the record stores just jerked it right off the shelf except for Tower Records. Then Tower Records called me and got a statement from me and it got really ugly. These f*cking women's things got this thing looking really ugly and they got real petty about it and they started using pressure at the Berkeley school and the school at Santa Cruz and the paper and got a real movement going, and then the women—it was the women who would come to my f*cking defense, and these women that would come to my defense, these gals would just tear them apart verbally in the papers. I really felt for these gals that had come to my defense. They were intelligent, articulate women and realized that these were just a bunch of f*cking broads that had complexes or something that f*cking needed a hobby or something.

So then they dropped the Guns 'N Roses thing and started attacking this pornographic video game thing. That got them off the hook. But they had caused a number of papers to call me up to get my explanation on this thing. You know, I defended it. I think as good as probably could be defense on the obvious. The goddamn picture—I don't know. My defense was that I can't be responsible for it being a f*cking monkey-see-monkey-do world, you know. That was my defense. My only other defense is that I tend to do pictures like this and if I'm a bad person, well, I just happen to be a bad f*cking person. Now, I've just copped to the fact that I'm a bad person in this respect. And it might now have been the discretest thing in the f*cking world for Guns 'N Roses to use as a f*cking album cover, but you know, I don't think it is a crime that they did this. The picture does create anxieties and it was designed to create anxieties and that's my defense.

But the people that didn't like it still didn't like it and the people that were supportive of it—it still didn't change anybody's mind. You know, everyone had already had their own conclusions drawn. Now, in my town, in L.A., there is a large faction that I didn't rub elbows with that are feminists. A lot of them I get along with and a lot of them hate my f*cking guts. And, uh, you know, I don't know what to tell you, you know? Of course it's a sensitive situation to me that I make certain women unhappy, but on the other hand, goddamn, you know, if you have to cowtoe to everyone who has some f*cking little anxiety over something, then, you know, its —they refuse to let my book down in Laith, the most liberal f*cking place in the world, Laith's Art Gallery and Bookstore, they refuse to, it's run by a feminist, she refused to have my books in there. And she didn't have a legal grounds to not have my books in there. She kept coming up with reasons, you know, and just puttin' it off week by week not letting my books get in the f*cking bookstore. It was a situation I face a lot. I don't know what to tell ya."

We’ve got a girl on the ground that sells toy robots that has been assaulted by another robot, and coming up over the fence is an avenging monster to get him. So this picture has vengeance and justice in it.

Warner Brothers was Guns N' Roses' parent label and they allegedly sent angry letters to have the cover replaced [Spin, May 1988].

[…] we got a few letters.

We got some complaints from people, organizations, as well as David Geffen.


Eventually, the artwork was replaced with one of Axl's cross tattoo.

Appetite for Destruction
alternative cover artwork

Geffen president Eddie Rosenblatt would explain the decisions:

We try to be supportive of all our bands here. So when Guns N’ Roses came to us with this painting--and explained to us what they feel it’s about--we wanted to get behind them. They see the artwork as a symbolic social statement, with the robot representing the industrial system that’s raping and polluting our environment.

We feel the cover’s completely in keeping with the band’s image. But since it’s open to interpretation, we wanted an alternative for people who might be offended. So we told the band we’ll put it out, but record store managers should have the option of stocking another version if they feel the cover might cause a problem

The band would comment on the decision:

Big deal. We liked the artwork, but it wasn't something that we felt so strongly about that we'd die for it. After the first few thousand copies, it was changed to our logo.

We fought against the switch just for the sake of fighting. We fought until it became senseless even to us. We figured we could make the Robert Williams picture bigger on the inside anyway.

In 2019, Alan Niven would talk about the Celtic cross image and say the purpose was to showcase all members equally:

Well, yeah, and I mean there was a there's a deliberation there. There was a reason why we designed the Celtic cross with the skulls on it. [...] Well, it was to make it seem just a little more accessible. I love the idea of you being able to identify everybody in a band, you know, John, Paul, George and Ringo, you know. It's the same concept and it draws people closer to a musical entity if you can identify with everybody. So there was that sense of, "Let's make everybody identifiable," or, "No one's more significant than the other."

Ad for the album displaying both covers
August 1987

Only 30,000 copies with the original artwork was produced [Endless Party Magazine, August 1987].

But hiding the controversial artwork in the inner sleeve was not good enough, though, and in October 1988 MTV would report that stores selling the record were picketed by people protesting against the "pro-rape" and "sexist" inner sleeve [MTV, October 1988], resulting in some stores refusing to sell the record [Rolling Stone, November 1988]. And in 1989, Circus Magazine would report that "New Iberia, Louisiana recently passed an emergency ordinance that would subject any retailers who display the album to both jail time and a fine. At press time, the town council was trying to make it a state-wide ordinance" [Circus Magazine, May 1989].

The band was incredulous to the controversy:

It had a picture of this chick flashin’ her panties at you. […] The next album should have someone giving the finger on it.

I can’t believe everyone made such a big deal out of a postcard.

I wouldn’t even call it a rape scene, you know? I mean (laughs), how can a robot... (chuckles), aw, forget it!
Rock Scene, December 1989; interview from May 1988

The artist of the new cover, Billy White, Jr. would later talk about how it came about:

One day Axl called and asked if i could draw him a tattoo, after he’d seen a drawing I’d done on my cousin’s wall. I said sure, and we talked. The cross and skulls that looked like the band was Axl’s idea, the rest was me. The knot work in the cross was a reference to Thin Lizzy, a band Axl and I both loved.

[The pencil sketch was] a rough draft that i got approval from Axl on to move forward.

Axl called again, and said [my design] was going to be on the cover of everything, because the Williams painting got rejected… I was okay with that!

Final artwork (left) and original drawing


Robert Williams would later complain about not being compensated fairly:

Let's just say I grabbed the soap on that deal.

They paid [licensing fees] as an unheard of punk rock band would’ve paid. Not a whole lot at all. They were just, to me, another garage band.

To which Slash would respond:

He can say that, but he got thrown into the center of that shit storm and he got a lot of attention for it. So he definitely benefited, one way or the other.


We ended up selling a million more copies because the original cover turned into a fuckin' collector's item. [The PMRC] was saying, 'Let's put the cookie jar a little bit higher,' and it just made our fans that much more determined to get the record. So there you go, Tipper, you stupid bitch.

Out of all the Gold or Platinum albums I received for that record, the only piece of parapernalia I've kept is a copy of that painting. It just sums up those times perfectly, the way that everything - and really, everything - was blown up bigger than life.

Axl found that, it was on like a little postcard on Melrose. It was the artist. So he loved the image. There was a couple few images that we had looked at and he found that one. He's like, he brought it to our little rehearsal, he's like, "Check this out." And Robert... What's... It's escaping me right... [...] Famous, like, you know, kind of hot rod artist and all that kind of stuff. Robert Williams. And it was one of his images and our record company contacted them and we, whatever, licensed the image or whatever you do. It was such a kind of a perfect image. It was like- [...] "Oh, there it is."

Williams would also look back at his art:

I’m proud of this. This isn’t the raciest thing I ever did by any means. This is kind of tame. I do artwork that you’d be nervous if you had it on the wall and your pastor came over.


Universal Music will re-release Guns N' Roses' classic debut album "Appetite For Destruction" on vinyl. The LP is due on Tuesday, September 09, 2008 and the cover features the controversial original artwork by Robert Williams. [...] Already a legend in its own meagre lifetime, this startling debut shrouded itself in controversy, from its original Robert Williams artwork to Axl Rose's unblinking accounts of LA's underbelly. This mawkish storytelling, combined with a brattish collective swagger and a surprisingly mature approach to their songs, guaranteed Guns N' Roses a speedy notoriety that was to serve their legend brilliantly. From the laconic 'Paradise City' to the achingly beautiful 'Sweet Child O' Mine', or the furious 'Welcome To The Jungle', the record brims with a brutal integrity. An album they could never surpass even if they had stayed together.

120 gram vinyl LP pressing of their genre-defining debut full-length album, originally released in 1987. The Lp cover features the controversial original artwork. **Please note that this vinyl pressing features 'For Promotional Use Only' printed on the artwork. 2007

German edition in its original sleeve design.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Fri Apr 12, 2024 6:52 pm; edited 23 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:05 am


We were signed by the same guy who originally signed Motley Crue to Elektra. And he told us to keep all the vulgar stuff in.


In addition to the controversy surrounding the choice of cover art for 'Appetite', the record had to have a warning sticker due to its mature lyrical content and swearing. This was the result of PRMC's ("Parents Music Resource Center") effort in the second half of the 1980s to prevent children from hearing music they considered violent, sexist or occult. PRMC was headed by four women well-connected to politicians at the time, including Tipper Gore, the wife of Al Gore. As a consequence of their efforts, the PRMC got record labels to voluntarily add a warning sticker to selected music albums.

PRMC album sticker

It really doesn’t affect us. I mean, we’ve had no PMRC problems. But the funny thing about all that is, you know, if PMRC makes a big deal about your record, it just sells more copies of your record.

The bigger the sticker, the more album sales.

And it’s not doing anything. It’s not stopping any sales of albums or stopping really any albums from coming out, you know, that I’ve heard of.

The sticker, the sticker are pointless. The sticker means nothing either way. And if I don't say the word 'fuck', or whatever, on the next record that is just because it wasn't put in that song. You know, it's nothing to do with… we don't write songs based on trying to get sales or anything else, we just write songs on how we feel and how we're writing that particular song. […] I would have said exactly what it says and everything on a big list, "This album contains the word 'fuck' at least 27 times."

The more stickers the PMRC puts on records, the more attention that’s thrown in that direction as far as rock ‘n’ roll bands - or even anything – is concerned. That’s the whole element of rock ‘n’ roll; it’s rebellion. The more you do that, the more they’re gonna buy it, the more interest is going to be – you know, is going to... whatever word I’m looking for, generated or whatever. It’s a real catch 22 for them. It’s amazing that they don’t see how stupid it is to try and put a wall up in front of something that they just have no control over. [...]  If I took an album cover and had a big red - or black album cover, or whatever, with big letters on it that said the f-word, and they put a sticker over it, everybody would buy it, you know? Everybody would buy it. They’d start getting t-shirts made like that. There’d be black t-shirts with a black sticker over it, right? No one would know what it said, but everybody would know what it meant, right?

The PMRC can't win - if there are warning stickers on albums, it's only going to sell more records. The whole rebellion thing is what makes everything so great. It keeps the wheels turning.

The sticker would also be attached to the 1991 'Use Your Illusion' albums, and now Axl was a litte bit more critical:

The only drawback we've had is due to Tipper Gore, and her work to have stickers placed on albums. That really hindered us, I believe. […] Her efforts really hurt our sales in the States. The whole stickering thing took its effect because major record chains like K-Mart and Walmart, which are 50 percent of a band's sales, won't even carry our albums. You've got to realize that certain income families don't let their kids shop just anywhere. When I was growing up, we were a K-Mart family, so I speak from experience. You could look wherever you wanted, but you bought things at K-Mart because it's a little cheaper. I think the fact that Tipper Gore is closer to power is something that we'll have to deal with. I think the Gores toned down their act in order to get the vote, but I haven't forgotten what she's done. She did achieve her goal-first albums had to be stickered, then stores wouldn't carry stickered albums

In 2017, Duff would argue that the stickers had only increased record sales:

But you know, yeah, that time, you know, with the stickers and all that back then. They still have stickers? [...] Yes, [Tipper Gore] was great. Al Gore's wife, Tipper Gore, was great for selling records back then. Her intent was to, like, kind of [stop] anything with coarse language on it or whatever it's subject matter. But those stickers, parental warning stickers, sold records for anybody who had that on their record.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:05 am


Man, once that shit started happening, it was like, forget it. Just hang on.


Axl seems to have thought about the progress of the band a lot, and would define success as making some kind of musical mark, hopefully achieving this with 'Appetite':

We want to be huge and be able to play the biggest places that we can. But as long as the record keeps up there and we keep playing with new bands and learning stuff it's okay not to be headlining right now. It doesn't really bother me. We could sell a few more copies, but it's happening just the way we want it to. I want to make a mark, so that no matter what happens to us, it won't fade away.

And his plan for success was as follows:

Don't give up, and make sure to cover all the bases. And try not to make too many enemies.

With 'Appetite' finally becoming a success in 1988, the band would enjoy having made it as musicians, and having made it on their terms:

Well, I could care less about Billboard and all those fancy numbers. Numbers don’t tell you if the kids love the music—just that they bought the album. As far as album sales go, we hoped it would go well. We’re very ecstatic that it’s doing well.


I guess if I really think about it, the album’s success is pretty bizarre. A band like ours right up there with those kinds of artists [Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Michael Jackson, George Michael]. (Pauses for a few seconds.) Yeah, that is pretty wild.
Rock Scene, December 1989; interview from May 1988

We get all these phone calls - yesterday it was 35,000 record sales, today it’s 91,000 sales and we just got a breaker on the single ... It freaks my ass out! So I guess you could say that we are turning into what you’d call a big band. I think the thing for me, though - what would really solidify it for me - would be to do the next record and see where that one goes. If we’ve done two albums and we’re still going on that steady uprise kinda thing, that would be cool. The material for the next record, by the way, is great...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from June 1988

[Talking about his reaction when Appetite sold a million copies]: At first, I didn’t really know. I'm pretty naive about all this stuff. I try to keep my wits about me in most things. But in this whole band there’s a certain naivety in the way we approach this whole business. When we went out in the beginning, it was like, we’re a rock band and we don’t know about any other shit. But we were playing so we knew how to book a gig. Then it was like, there’s all these record companies who want to sign us and our attitude was, well, fuck ’em. We’re only gonna sign to the one who gives us what we want.

So we went with Geffen and the next thing is we’re gonna go on tour, on the Cult tour. I was like, wow, the Cult tour! It must be huge! Then six months later we were going out headlining the same places those guys were when we were backing them. Then it was, ah, I guess they weren’t really all that big, were they? Now it’s moved up another gear again and recently we’ve had promoters coming up to us and saying, “You guys shouldn’t be opening for Iron Maiden, ’cos you could headline here. […] The concept of us headlining somewhere like the [13,000-capacity] LA Forum - I can’t swallow that. But the promoters risk a lot of money booking tours and if they want to do that maybe they know what they’re talking about, who knows?
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from June 1988

Up to this point, we’ve proven ourselves. A million and a half records gives us the stamp to say, 'Don’t fuck with us because we don’t have to listen.’ There are no standards by which the business can tell me to do this or that. That’s why I’m so proud. We’ve gotten as far as we have and did at least fifty percent more to stay true to ourselves than anyone else.

It's a great dream come true, it's like an ongoing memory. Every day I'll be able to say, `Yeah, I had a Number One record'. That isn't something that will die off or diminish.

We’re headlining places that I remember Aerosmith and AC/DC headlining when their best albums came out. And we’re playing those places now. It’s a trip!

You dream about it for so long, go through utter shit to get there. It doesn't matter what happens to the band now. Once you've got a No. 1, then everything is...well, it's not an anticlimax, but whatever happens now won't matter because nothing can take away that experience of going to No. 1. Even if the next album doesn't do anything, I can still say I had a No. 1 record.

I like being successful. I was always starving. On the other side. When it came to people with money, it was always "The rich? Fuck them!" But I left one group and joined another. I escaped from one group where I was looked down on for being a poor kid that doesn't know shit, and now I'm like, a rich, successful asshole. I don't like that. I'm still just me […].

I bought a house in Indiana in the late Eighties and I said, "Oh, I've made it now - my dad's out there, mowing my lawn on his riding lawn-mower!"

But Slash was quick to point out it wasn't going to change him:

But I’m not gonna take it to the point where it’s gonna have an effect on my personality. I'm not gonna let it turn me into one of those completely insecure rock star types who actually doesn’t know the limits of what a fucking pop star means. I deal with it my way, and my way is to treat it very fuckin’ vaguely. Like the money... I know it’s really nice to afford an apartment. I know how many records we’ve sold, I know all that shit 'cos I’m real business-oriented now. I know what I can and can’t do. […] I’m a basically happy person, anyway. Things still get fucked up and piss me off. But I don’t sit around getting depressed about it like a lot of people do. It’s like, I could be working at Tower Records again... I have nothing to complain about.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

And later he would downplay the feelings of success:

Erm... actually, it hasn’t really been a real high. The initial high was doing those first few tours, that was the best of it. Being off the road and realising you’re as successful as you are doesn't really make you feel... at least it doesn’t make me feel all that excited. Because to me it’s like, well, we’re off the road and now we have a lot of money and we can do whatever we want. Except there’s nothing that I want to do but fuckin’ play.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989

Well, I’ll tell you, there’s a weird thing that happens, for me, anyway. It’s like, certain compliments come from different people and l take them in different ways. Like getting voted best guitarist in a magazine like Kerrang! - that is like one of the all-time greatest compliments for me! I mean, that’s something that’s real, that you can see. Now Gibson say they want to put together a Slash model Les Paul, with a special Slash pick-up and shit like that. That, to me, is another amazing compliment. It actually means something to me, you know?    

But instead of letting it go to my head, the way that I feel about it is, like, I really don’t see my playing as really being worth that. I put it down to record sales and because it’s hip to like Guns N’ Roses at this time. It would be a real joke for me to go, “Oh, wow, I’m the best guitarist in the world!” ’cos that’s just not true. Although I do like the playing on Appetite, I think it does have some feel to it. I would hope I’m better now, though. Ultimately, when I get a real big compliment it gives me the energy and the motivation to play my ass off on the next record, so that I can at least prove to myself that I’m worthy of it. And also, to, er...

[…] It’s like, all this attention and energy devoted to one album, it’s scary. It’s almost like this one album has taken us as high as you can possibly go - on one fuckin’ record! So you've gotta fuckin' look out, you know? You can’t be complacent. I told Gibson I won’t let the guitar come out, or the pick-ups, until this next record is out and the tour starts. Because we could be given all this great stuff and not even come out with a second album. Then I’d feel like a real putz, wouldn’t I?
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:06 am


In July 1988, Circus Magazine would quote Izzy talking about longing back to the simpler life in Indiana:

Living in this city tends to be a bit claustrophobic. Now, when I think back on it, Lafayette. Indiana had some great things about it. You could disappear into the woods for two or three days. and nobody'd miss you. I used to love doing that... setting up a tent and camping out in the woods.

But when asked if he intended to move back, he denied it but suggested just moving out of Los Angeles:

Nah. But living in L.A. is too much of a mind-fuck. After this tour, hopefully I'll have enough [money) to move out at least as far as the city line.

But by September he had either moved or considered moving back to Indiana:

Away from just the insanity of Los Angeles. I'd been out there for six years trying to get a band together that we could work and try to make a living off of. It's six years of living in your car, sleeping on couches, sleeping wherever you can, no money for food. […] By the time we left L.A., we were the least-likely-to-succeed band. We came back a year-and-a-half later and all of a sudden everybody loved us. I was like, screw this. I want to go back to Lafayette and get myself together and take a break and just look around.

And at some point in the second half of 1988, Izzy bought a country home in Lafayette [Journal and Courier, February 21, 1993].

In 1998, Izzy would explain what he wanted to get away from was the drug scene in Los Angeles:

I needed to get out of L.A. for my own sanity. I was tired of the whole scene. I didn't move there as a junkie. I became one in L.A. It came with the turf. […] I moved back to Lafayette because I thought it would be harder to score. In the late '80s, you had to go to Indianapolis or Chicago. It helped being far away from that. But you've got to really want to stop. Back home, I would never have thought to use that (trash).

Izzy in 1988

The house Izzy bought in Lafayette was built in 1847 (or 1854, according to Journal and Courier, February 21, 1993) and was on the National Regis­ter of Historic Places [Journal and Courier, May 1991]. One of the grandchildren of the sellers, Boes, would recount the sale in Journal and Courier:

'My family thinks the house is a family jewel,' Boes said. 'My mom called and asked, ‘What’s a Guns and Roses?’' My dad asked whether we should sell. I said, ‘Does he have cash?’' At the closing, Izzy Stradlin came into the Stallard & Schuh offices in downtown Lafayette and sat across from Sheldon Pershing. 'Here he came with this hat, his face was gaunt and pale. He had the dangly earrings, a diamond in his nose,' Boes said. 'To you and I, your basic rock situation. But to grandpa, it looked like he just landed.' After the deeds were signed, Pershing turned to Stradlin and said, 'You ought to get something to eat. Now that you’ve got that house, get out and walk along that road, go fishing out back, get some sun.' Boes said, 'He meant it. He just didn’t think he looked well.' […] 'He’s a great neighbor,' Boes, whose parents live about a quarter-mile away, said. 'He’s never around.'

But Izzy couldn't get any peace in Indiana, either initially:

I had bought a house at home in Indiana, in the middle of nowhere. The cops grabbed some kids and said. Guys, we're going to tell you where one from Guns N' Roses lives. That's how they handle it. The only bad thing was that I immediately sold the place again. I have an instinct for it, if you want to make me a fool, I always react pretty quickly.

Actually, I figured I'd get a little peace out there. At first when I came back, it was really crazy. A lot of people going by the house, by my mom's house, knocking on the doors real late at night and all that stuff. I was like, 'this is no good'. I think the initial surprise of, 'Wow, he's back in town,' kind of thing got people going.

Still, he would claim that from '88/'89 he had basically moved from Los Angeles to Lafayette:

Actually, I figured I'd get a little peace out there. At first when I came back, it was really crazy. A lot of people going by the house, by my mom's house, knocking on the doors real late at night and all that stuff. I was like, 'this is no good'. I think the initial surprise of, 'Wow, he's back in town,' kind of thing got people going.


In the beginning of 1989, Izzy had also bought himself a place in the Valley [The Face, October 1989]. Possibly because of the troubles living in Lafayette or because he needed a base in Los Angeles for working with the band.

[Izzy]'s intense, the guy's way intense. He's put a driveway around his place, say, like five acres and this pond and he's got this driveway around it so immediately he goes on buys all these go-karts and stuff for all his friends so they can get drunk and all the neighbors are just like, "Oh." Every house around Izzy's house is for sale now [laughing]. And nobody can touch him, it's out of the city limits. They can't. You know, then they go outside and he shooting off his AK and it's pretty [?].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:07 am

NOVEMBER 29, 1988

Once Appetite started to rocket away from us, it was apparent that we’d be under incredible pressure to produce a follow-up. We all felt like it was a good idea to lessen the pressure by dropping something like Lies – not really a follow-up, but something that had quality to it and was a stopgap. I knew it would buy some time, and I was very aware it was going to take time for anybody in the band to deal with the success of that record.


Already in October 1987 would Axl mention their plans to release an acoustic EP late in 1988 [CGBG's Post-show interview, October 1987]. In the end, the band decided to package the acoustic tracks the band had recorded with their previous Live!?*@ Like A Suicide EP, creating a hybrid EP of both old and released electric songs and some new acoustic songs.

The new EP was named G N' R Lies: The Sex, the Drugs, the Violence, the Shocking Truth and it was released on November 29, 1988, coinciding with the success of Appetite.

Well, we have an EP out called Live Like A Suicide and it's four song EP, but what we're going to be doing now is releasing another EP called GN'R Lies and putting the two together, four on one side, four on the other. [Someone in the audience saying something] Yeah, the subtitle is The Sex, The Drugs, The Violence, The Shocking Truth, just because we really like that title.

G N' R Lies

According to Goldmine Magazine, this record did not count towards fulfilling the band's contract with Geffen Records and Geffen did not advertise or send our promotional copies whatsoever [Goldmine Magazine, May 1989].

Axl knew the songs would be controversial, that they would "freak people out" and decided to deal with it by writing a note of explanation/apology on the album cover [Musician, December 1988].

The president of Geffen Records, Eddie Rosenblatt, would comment on it this way: "We believe in free speech at this record company. We've stickered the record, which should serve as ample warning to concerned parents. But we can't speak for the artist. In fact, it's important to let our artists speak for themselves--and we hope their audience will judge them in the appropriate context" [Los Angeles Times, December 1988].

The EP debuted at no. 5 on this lists in mid-January 1989 [Goldmine Magazine, May 1989]. At one time Guns N' Roses had to records in top 5 simultaneously, Appetite and Lies, a feat "never equaled by the likes of Bon Jovi, Def Leppard . . . or even the Stones and Zeppelin" as well as starting a "trend of 'acoustic releases' from Hard Rockers" [RAW Magazine, May 1989].

Advert printed in Sounds Magazine
December 10, 1988


Slash and Duff would explain the name of the EP and its cover art this way:

It’s supposed to be like the Sunday Sport meets the Sun kinda thing, you know, with a Page Three girl on it and stuff.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

You know, that's pretty self-explanatory as well. It's like, the band's just sorta like, the center of attention, as far as, you know, sort of controversy in rock n' roll and stuff like that. And they make up all these stories. I found out today that I died again today. [...] And, you know, Axl dies all the time. There's all this crap going around. People love to make up stuff about you. I don't know why. We're the band that seems to be the center of all that attention. [...] Sort of a parody of our whole existence.

It's just like, us saying "Ok, you guys wanna blow this out of proportion? Let's totally blow it out of proportion". If you're gonna get that ridiculous about it.

Since the band is the center of attention as far as controversy in rock’n’roll, this EP is sort of a parody of our whole existence.

We did the cover for a good reason. We've been in the center of attention for so long. We've had so much hype and sensationalism centered on us over the last few years that it became really ridiculous. All of it was bullshit. We've heard that we've all died in car crashes, that we're all drug addicts and that we all have AIDS - and, of course, it's all untrue. This EP cover was our chance to turn it around and stick it back in everyone's face.

Izzy was not a huge fan of the EP:

This album was shit, this LIES album was shit. […] Before APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION was produced, we recorded 30 to 40 songs as demos. I'm not going to say that the demos were better than LIES stuff, but ... let's just forget about LIES, OK?


The band would stress that this EP shouldn't be looked upon as their second album but rather as something quick between Appetite and its follow-up:

[…] we did all of this in just an hour. We sit around when we get we're at home together, we drink and you know we have bongos and tambourines and all kinds of percussion stuff, acoustic guitars, we sit around at home, you know, get drunk and write stuff, so we say, "Hey, let's record some of this stuff, maybe the kids might like it." […] It's for the kids, the fans! But this is something, you know, we're hanging out, and we had no gigs, nothing up, and you know we were hanging around and said "Hey, let's just go in the studio and record this." [?] "Let's go and do it, see what happens." And that's what happened.

[…] we just did it in like two days. We recorded that. This is not our next album, you know, I must clarify that, it's just an in-between. The next album we'll start recording in January. That's when we're gonna to take a lot of time, months, okay? So this is do I word this, I don't wanna say it's filler because it's not, but it's just in between the two records, it's a different side of us.

This EP is just to hold everyone off until we get the next album done. Since this record's done so well, we stayed on tour longer than we expected. That pushed our recording plans back a bit. We want everyone to understand that this EP isn't our second album - it's just to fill the gap until that record's done. We've already gotten a lot of songs written for that one and they're really good. We think it's safe to say that we're gonna be around for a long time to come - no matter what everyone says about us.

The EP's not meant to be taken all that seriously. It's not done... It wasn't done expensively. It's not like, a major album. It's not anything... It's just like, a sort of filler. [...] I didn't think should go on the actual album. And we needed something to put out to fill the gap between the first record and the next one. It's really not that big a deal. [...] It's not meant to be taken as seriously as, say an album is taken. It's real sloppy, it's got us talking in the background, guitar picks dropping. You know, stuff like that. It's out of tune at a lot of places. It's just us sort of hanging out, getting drunk and playing.


One motive was to make the songs on Live Like A Suicide more accessible to the fans:

We wanted to put something out between the last tour and the next album. We heard that kids were having to pay $50 to $100 for original copies of our first EP, Live Like A Suicide. We also wanted to do some new songs that showed another side of us. So what we did on Lies was re-release the four songs that had been on Suicide, and we added four new songs that are very different from anything we've done before. These are songs we just felt like doing. This is a rock and roll band, but there are a lot of different influences within Guns N' Roses. We write a lot of our songs on acoustic guitar, so doing Lies seemed a natural thing for us.

Yeah, for the fans you know. And we saw the live stuff, the earlier stuff, being sold now -- because it was a limited release -- being sold in L.A. for 150 bucks a copy which is ridiculous. What fan of ours can afford that? So we re-released that and put out this new stuff which is just another side to us, we do play sometimes acoustic, we do acoustic shows, so and the daring part of, we've never really kind of clung to the commercial, I mean, we've never clung to that road that like Whitesnake say or something like that would take.

It was only because our first EP [‘Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide’] was selling for enormous amounts of money in record stores that we released it. If the kids wanted it, we’d give it to them for the right price. And we had some acoustic shit lying around, so we threw that in too.

Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide got the band its first attention in the UK. No one in the US even knew it existed until after Appetite came out, and then they were begging us to re-release it. We figured it made sense to combine these two EPs and put out an album: it’ll be easier to market, easier to sell; a lot of stores didn’t even stock EPs.

Another motive was to show the world a different side of themselves:

So now we have come to the point where the industry, we're accepted now in the industry, something we actually despise, but we can do, the success that we have gotten we can do really what we want to do now, you know. And which is both sides, you know, acoustic stuff, you know, I'm sure kids are interested if they're interested in the album they're gonna be interested in some acoustic stuff and how the songs are written and all that, and it's just, you know, it's not to be taken seriously.

In an article in Musician, it is implied that Axl in September was putting the final mikes on the acoustic tracks [Musician, December 1988].


Because of its controversy, and from a desire to create something "positive", Rolling Stone would in early 2000 claim that Axl would remove 'One in a Million' from future pressings of GN'R Lies [Rolling Stone, January 2000].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:07 am


Success is a double-edged sword and the band members had to adjust to being famous:

Sometimes it bothers me. You look in the mirror and go, 'I look like shit.' You walk out and there's three girls with cameras. They don't understand if you don't want your picture taken. At the same time, if they're not there you think, 'Am I doing something wrong?' I'm human. Sometimes you can deal with it, other times you can't—sometimes its great, other times it's annoying. Sometimes you avoid it be-cause you're in a bad mood and you don't want to tell someone to off.

You know, it’s getting hectic. You try to shake hands, and they’re trying to rip your bracelets off, pull you into the crowd [from the stage], rip your pants off and everything else. And it’s like, you’re try­ing to be nice, but at the same time, it’s really weird.

I went [back to Indiana] for Christmas, it was psycho. There were kids sleeping in cars outside my parents' house. People would call my grandma and pretend to be me to find me. They're changing the number.

What's different is now you got a lot more to lose. You have to live up to expectations.

It's weird to go out to a local club like the Cathouse or Bordellos just because you want to have a good time, and this guy comes and talks to you for one and a half hours, not because he enjoys your company or finds you've got something interesting to say, but because he can tell his friends he was hanging out with someone famous.

[It] gets weird. I don't really need to in LA, but I don't go out to clubs much - except to the Cathouse and to Bordello's, because I have police security there. The DJ and the owner of the club (Riki Rachtman) are looking out for me. […] That's one of the only places I really go. It's hard to go out, because everybody wants to talk to you and they all want an autograph. It's especially annoying when people are really drunk and talk for half-an-hour to an hour about something you're really not interested in, just because they're having their chance to talk to somebody they are into. You don't want to hurt their feelings, but at the same time you wanted to get out and have a good time and, instead, all of your time is taken up. It's kind of weird to know where your responsibilities end and where they begin.

Trying to handle success is a pain in the ass. It's really strange and takes some getting used to. I've never had my place to live before, never had to deal with the amount of money we've made and not get ripped off, never understood doing your taxes and all these things. I was hating it a few months ago, trying to get organized and trying to get a place to live and to get a grip on everything. But now things are coming together. I've wanted to be here my whole life.

[Talking about going back home to Indiana]: It gets a little bit out of hand. I can't really go any where. I just go to my friends' houses, but people I don't know show up wanting autographs. People that I used to go to school with, people that used to hate my guts, want me to invest money in this and that. People say shit like "Axl thinks he's too cool to party with us." But those people never wanted to party with me before, The people who are offended by this comment are the ones who should be.

I really only go to clubs where I know the people who work there, so I can have some privacy and hang out. It's hard when you go to a club with 600 people and you end up having to talk to 400 people. You have no time of your own to have fun. Maybe if I haven't gone out for a week, I'll go to the Cathouse, because I know some friends are gonna be there. I just want to be around my friends, even if we don't talk about anything. I just need it. You have all these people asking you for an autograph, and it gets kind of embarrassing. I don't want to be a prick to people and go, "Get away from me." But I don't enjoy going someplace and just signing autographs all the time. It comes with the fame, but sometimes it gets out of hand and people can be very rude and obnoxious about it. I've had people break into my hotel room with cameras, waking me up and taking photos. People find out where I live and show up at my building. I've never asked anyone for an autograph.

In 1991, a "band confidante" would tell Hit Parader that Axl had dealt with the celebrity status a lot better "than some of the other guys in the band":

They've learned to live in the limelight. It wasn't easy for Axl in the beginning when he suddenly was being hassled at clubs when he went out for the even­ing. He really didn't expect it or want it. Now he's more or less come to the realization that he's Axl Rose, rock star, whether he wants that kind of off-stage attention or not. It's just some­thing he’s got to live with. Actually, I think he’s handled it a lot better than some of the other guys in the band.


When this band got together everybody was basically starving.

We didn't own anything, you know. We didn't have cars, we didn't have anything, you know. It's like, "What? You mean I have to change the oil?! I mean, you know that but you never had one of your own. The maintenance is.... I mean, Slash calls me at times and go, "[?] I got this house and my refrigerator's leaking all over the place and I feel comfortable just leaving it that way but I know I can't do that cuz this is my house."

With the success, the band could escape their poverty. During the touring in 1987 and early 1988 they had lived out of their suitcases. Because of their explosive success, after ending the Iron Maiden tour in June 1988 the band was paid out $160,000 or "something like that" in total [Kerrang! July 1988]. And by August 1988 they had paid back Geffen what they were owed [Screamer, August 1988]. In Duff's biography, he indicates that they were handed their first check from record sales when they returned from tour: $80,000 each. Three weeks later they got another check [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 143].

According to Axl, the first band income went back into the band:

Most of the things that we want have some way of tying into the band, like a coat you could wear in a photo session or on stage, a CD player so you can lis-ten to other people's recordings. We haven't really seen any money since we got our first half of the advance. We got 35 grand. We split it up five ways and everybody just blew it.

In early 1988, Axl would be asked if the success wouldn't "destroy the gritty, tales-of-struggle edge that makes their music so compelling":

Maybe we could write about how hard it was to get to the other side of the limo, and the coke spilled all over the floor? You can always find some emotional experience that bothers you.

But as the band's success continued, Axl would look at investing his money in other things [RIP Magazine, June 1988], like properties:

[Talking about adapting to fame]: Right now it's hard. It's gonna take a little time living like a rat in the streets to being able to manage my accounts, find places to live, buy houses. I'm getting a place here and in the Midwest, and eventually I'd like to live in New York, and get ideas for songs on the street.

I want to move to New York, as soon as I can I'm gonna live there. I need someplace I can explore. It'll help my writing. And a lot of places are open at night.

While talking with Howard Stern, Axl also mentioned that he had wanted to get a place in New York since at least 1988 [Howard Stern, February 1989].


Axl would also start buying guns [RIP, April 1989] and a parcel of land in Wisconsin where he would build his "dream house" [Rolling Stone, August 1989]. After having proclaimed his love for Harley Davidson motorbikes in 1987 [Melody Maker, July 18, 1987], it is not clear whether he bought any after having gotten the means for it, but he did buy himself a nice car:

[My custom Corvette] got a Chevy engine, a four-cam that goes 180-plus miles an hour. I'll join a racetrack where they teach you how to drive fast. I like the idea of having a car where I won't be so eager to put my gun in the car and shoot somebody.

Axl's always wanted the good things in life. He's real big on cosmetics, clothes, cologne and stuff, and now he's able to get it. He can have a nice car, although he's always been a terrible driver. Now they can buy stuff they want.

His personal assistant, Colleeen Combs, would mention Axl's early cars:

Axl went through a couple of cars. There was a Corvette and a red monster truck with an insane stereo system that never worked right because it would drain the battery.


In October 1990, Axl both had a house up in the Hollywood Hills and a "luxury condominium" in a 12-story high-riser in West Hollywood just north of the Sunset Strip [MTV, October 1990; Los Angeles Times, October 1990], where he was living "right next door to hell." The flat was where he had his business, the house was where he wanted to have his family [MTV, October 1990]. He had acquired the flat in January 1989 [Los Angeles Times, October 1990]. The house in the Hollywood Hills was said to have cost $ 800,000 [Los Angeles Times, November 1990].

In 1993, Axl would be asked if he'd do anything differently if he could have foreseen his career:

I would have done it anyway. It would have been nice to have an idea of what success is all about. That way I could have prepared for it ahead of time, knowing what the downsides were actually going to be about. […] Alice Cooper once said, "Nothing could ever prepare you for fame." That's pretty true. If there was something that could give me more insight into how to handle fame, it might not have been so hard to try and survive it.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:08 am


After three months of downtime (with their last gig on September 17, 1988) the band travelled to Japan, Australia and New Zealand for five shows in December 1988. The tour in Japan had been planned for July 1988, but was postponed when Axl developed voice issues during the Iron Maiden tour [Blast! November 1988; Kerrang! June 1989].

Touring in Japan was a long-held dream to the band:

I’ve just been hearing all kind of stories about Japan. It’s been a dream of mine and Izzy’s since we were in, like, high school, junior high, to go to Japan with a band. You know, being a band and go to Japan, our band. I have no idea. I’m just hoping the sushi is better there than in California.

We are so excited. Me and Izzy have talked about going to Japan - me and Izzy's been together for the last 13 years - for the last 10 years. It's been a dream. Going to Japan and playing the songs in Japan. Our favorite records was 'Cheap Trick At Budokan' and 'Unleashed in the East' [Judas Priest], you know. You hear the screaming Japanese people and we go, "You know, we have to go there! We have to go!" Hopefully we will have the people be like that for us and we'll have fun with them. And I'm looking forward to all he sushi. [...] We can find some opium den [and learn some, and have some oriental girls can teach us some things American girls don't know.

We’ll start rehearsing to go to Japan and I’m sure we'll start jamming then, ’cos we have the place block-booked. So we'll jam a lot, play Japan - which I’m really looking forward to, we’re playing the Buddokan, which is pretty legendary.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

[…]I really wanna go. We've never been there before and we're, apparently, like really huge over there...

Now the Japanese tour is planned tentatively for December because we really do want to come to Japan. It’s a major, lifetime goal, and we’re doing anything we can do to get there.

Although Slash expected that they would be rusty after their recent downtime:

We're gonna go to Japan for the first gig and suck miserably. Isn't that terrible?


Before their flight to Japan, Alan Niven told the band members to get rid of any drugs they might have. Izzy responded by swallowing his stash allegedly sending him into a 36-hour coma that almost made the band have to cancel gigs [The Face, October 1989].

There was this one time, we’re at the airport, at LAX, and Izzy is showing me how he has hidden his smack in a small boom box in the battery compartment. I tell him to get rid of it now! He does. He comes back, he’s standing next to me, and we’re watching the swirl of passengers below – we were in a reserved area up top in the international building – and Izzy collapses. Yeah, he got rid of his shit – he swallowed it. He was “out” the whole flight, according to our tour manager, Doug Goldstein. I had to wait for Axl who did not show up for the flight. When Izzy woke up, he didn’t even know he was in Tokyo. He thought he was still in the Valley. Steven had to nudge him and say, “Does that look like the San Fernando Valley?”

We were on our way to Japan, and Izzy sidles up next to me and goes: “Dude, I got my stash. I’m set.” He’s got this little boom box, and he proceeds to show me where he’s hidden his heroin underneath the battery compartment. I’m looking at him, going: “You’re out of your tiny fucking mind. Get rid of that right fucking now!” So off he went and, yeah, he got rid of it all right. But for him, getting rid of it means ‘I’ll just have it all now’. He passed out on the floor and we had to carry him on to the flight. He was still out of it when they got to Japan. They had to wheel him through immigration in a cart. When he came to, he looked out the window and went: “Where the fuck am I?” He called Steven and said: “Where are we, man?” And Steven said: “Tokyo, dude!” And Izzy’s going: “We’re in Tokyo? Really?” I mean, he was out of it.

Izzy would in 1992 downplay what happened and claim it was due to Valium he took before the flight:

I slept a lot. That was a point where I drank a lot, I don’t remember anything about that flight, it’s strange. Next Monday, I’m going to find out what happened. I took 18 Valium before the flight, way too many, I slept all the way to Japan. I woke up and was in the waiting room. I guess that Slash told me we arrived. He helped me get off the plane.

In 2017, Arlett Vereecke, the band's publicist, would mention taking care of Izzy as he arrived in Japan:

Izzy was high as a kite, had no idea who I was. So I said, "Izzy, you have to come with me," he said, "Oh, who are you?" I said, "It doesn't matter, just come [?]. So I shoved him in a limo with me. And he said, "Oh where do we go?" And I said, "To the hotel." He said, "Oh, do I know you?" I said, "No you don't, not today." And then he said, "I have to puke," "Oh shit, not in the limo." So I'm trying to stop the limo, the guy doesn't speak English, so I'm opening the window and shove his head out. So the guy stopped. So we go to Tokyo, I said "Okay, I'm checking him and leave him in the hotel room." A day later he calls me at 5 in the morning, he said, "Hey, like, where am I?" I said, "Well, in Japan." He said, "Are you sure?" I said, "Look downstairs, there are little people, you'll see" [laughs] He said, "Oh, so what's the plan?" I said, "Well, the plan is I have two hours sleep as of now," and said, "Do you want to do interviews?" He said, "No. When is the show?" I said, "In three days," Izzy said, "I'll see you in three days," and I didn't see him until three days later. He just took the underground and left.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:08 am

DECEMBER 4-9, 1988

The four first shows in Japan happened on December 4 at the NKH Hall in Tokyo, December 5 at Festival Hall in Osaka and December 7 and 9 at Nakano Sunplaza in Tokyo.

Some of the shows in Japan were filmed potentially intended for a live release:

Right now it's just for our own benefit. We don't know what we're going to do with it. We're just filming and taping some stuff, because we think it's important to have it. We don't know if we'll find anything in there we want to use. It's not really a concern, it's just something we were finally able to afford to do. So we thought, 'Let's be smart. If we do film and tape it and there is anything good on tape, we might be able to use it.' But we really don't know.

But the tapes disappeared:

Mike Clink came out to oversee the recordings and we also shot some video footage. But a funny thing happened when the video stuff was put in for processing - the tapes from the Budokan show disappeared I’m sure that some backroom kid now has a hot video in his possession, so I guess bootleg copies of that show will soon be appearing...

Axl and Izzy in Japan
December 1988

Apparently, the December 9 show in Japan was not very good:

Axl actually apologized for "playing like shit" [...] at NHK.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 181-182

While in Japan, Slash would call Aerosmith's Joe Perry for advice on Izzy who was was in a bad way due to his addictions:

The only piece of real, sort of direct advice he ever gave me was way back in 1988, I think it was, when he told me. I called him up from Japan at one point to tell him that Izzy [Stradlin] was in a bad way. I think he thought I was talking about Izzy like I was talking about myself, but using Izzy. He was like, 'I'll tell you right now — he needs to get help, but then if you do that, don't come back to me if you fuck up. I'm not here for that. It's not a destination, it's a journey,' which is a classic Alcoholics Anonymous line. That's always sort of stuck with me. Other than that, Joe's not really what I would consider an advice-giver. That's one of the reasons I like him so much — he's a wealth of knowledge, but he's not sort of telling you what you should do.

The final Japanese show took place on December 10 at the Budokan in Tokyo. According to Steven, Axl's voice "raw":

We were exhausted, and Axl's voice was raw, but we rallied because it was our final show. [...] I got to do an extended drum solo during 'Rocket Queen,' and we closed with a fucking epic version of 'Paradise City'.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 181-182

During the tour in Japan in December 1988, Steven and Axl had an altercation after Steven had slept with a girl who slept with Axl the day after:

[...] she starts telling [Axl] that I was talking all kinds of shit about him. Why would I share negative stuff about him with some random girl I didn't even know? [...] So Axl comes up to me and says something like, "This here is my woman, ans she told me that you said I'm an asshole." I said, "Your woman? You just met her, Axl. We fucked last night. That's all. I didn't say shit to that bitch." The argument just kind of fizzled out at that point with Axl mumbling something as he walked off. [...] Unfortunately, incidents like this only served to weaken my relationship with Axl.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 180

According to Melody Maker in August 1991, at some point while in Japan, Axl would be "holed up in a Japanese hotel room refusing to speak to anyone for days on end, depositing furniture out the window" [Melody Maker, August 10, 1991]. In August 1991 the band had not visited Japan again, so thus rumor must be about the tour in December 1988. This rumor has not been corroborated by any other sources and could easily be false.

According to Blast Magazine, Duff broke his finger while in Japan and was wearing a cast as late as April 1989 [Blast! April 1989]. If so, how did he manage to get through the following shows in Australia and New Zealand?


As far as the country goes. I didn't really have time to get to see much, because I was too busy trying to make sure I could sing. Japan seems real fast-paced. Everybody is caught up with what big business is doing. […] The shows were great. The audiences were not that much different from the American ones, except that they're not allowed to leave their seats. But their response was great.

Well, the first time I ever went to Japan for a tour it was a total culture shock for me. At that point I thought that the rules were a little bit too strict; I thought their security was a little too restrictive, let's put it that way. But the audience was so loyal, and the fans were-and still are-so devoted and so into what you're doing from one step to the next, following your every move. They bought us toys; they made die-cast models of us, drawings of us, posters that they made at home. They really put effort into it-like something you'd put into a Christmas present for a loved one. Ever since the first trip, I've looked forward to going back.

Duff recalls that when returning from Japan he brought with him a camera he had received as a gift. He did not declare it at customs, and when the band was picked out for customs check and the camera was found and about to be confiscated, he smashed in on the ground in frustration. This was reported on his passport file [source?].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:09 am

DECEMBER 14-19, 1988

After landing in Australia, Duff would say the following about the prospect of playing their first shows in Oceania:

We can’t wait to play here. It’s gonna be like a stick of [fucking] dynamite. I've heard the audiences are wild.

The band allegedly tried to get Peter Wells, the guitarist from Rose Tattoo, to play with them while in Australia, and asked him three times but he declined the offers [Hot Metal, 1989].

The first Australian shows were on December 14 and 15 at the Entertainment Centre in Melbourne.

Duff would later talk about coming to Australia for the first time:

And Australia, well the first time we came down and played there in like ’88, it’s so far away for an American, and pretty fuckin’ exotic, you know. It was big. For us, a 2000-seater and there was a guy and he had the cross from the album cover Appetite For Destruction, tattooed on his back. When I come to Australia I still remember that one guy, and it sorta signified to me the commitment of that country to our band. Whether that’s an unfair thing or not, but it did. It made me think, “These guys are fucking hardcore.”

I remember the first time coming out there to play in ’88. [This was] before the internet so you don’t know how many people are gonna come to your show. I think the first place we played was in Sydney, and we played a bigger place than we usually played and it was sold out. We were like, ‘What the fuck!?’ And um, the people down there – I realised it instantly. I was into Australian bands like The Saints, starting back then, your [Radio] Birdman, Rose Tattoo, of course, The Angels and AC/DC, of course. So getting down there was kinda gettin’ down to hallowed ground for me and then seeing these fans – and they were snarling rock fans, like, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be!’ And some guy came up to me and he was like, ‘Check it out!’ and he was kind of freakin’ out and he took off his shirt and he had a whole back piece of our record cover. And I’m like, ‘Okay. Well, the Aussies: they’re hardcore.’

Steven would reminisce:

Tours in Japan usually lead to Australia, and that's what ours did. Three days after Budokan we performed the first of two shows at the entertainment Center in Melbourne. It was a huge outdoor arena. The first performance was a sellout. The second was at about two-thirds capacity. I recall those shows fondly because I was able to hone my drum solo until it sounded really tight, light, and playful at first, and then very explosive. We never really planned stuff like that, and I think the solo just grew out of the middle of the song [Rocket Queen] where Duff slapped a cool bass riff and I followed with a flurry of drumming. No one broke back in, so I kept playing, and each performance I'd carve out a little more solo time.
Steven's autobiography, "My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, p. 182

The band then travelled to Sydney for a show on December 17 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

According to Australian Record Collector, the band had to leave Australia early due to "an onstage rumble involving Axl" [ Australian Record Collector, September 1994]. Whether this meant an early departure after the Sydney show on December 17 to get to their Auckland, New Zealand gig (Dec 19), or an early departure after the Auckland show, is not clear. Juke Magazine in July 1989 also mentions an "incident" that supposedly happened during the Australia touring [Juke Magazine, July 1989]. In Q Magazine in 1991, it is claimed "there were arrests" for "for causing a public offense with their lyrics" [Q Magazine, July 1991]. Select Magazine would likely refer to this "While the band are in Australia a warrant is issued for Axl’s arrest after his introduction to ‘Mr Brownstone' is misconstrued as condoning drug use. The band escape the clutches of the law by legging it to New Zealand" [Select, February 1991]. This would be corroborated by the Sydney Morning Herald: "On Guns n' Roses first Australian tour in 1988, they came perilously close to feeling the wrath of then NSW Police Minister Ted Pickering. He was reported to be considering laying charges against Axl for his references to taking drugs and leading vulgar chants. Acting Premier Wal Murray was reportedly horrified" [Sydney Morning Herald, January 23, 1993].

The show in New Zealand took place at December 19 at the Big Top, Mount Smart in Auckland.

Looking back at the tour, Slash would later say he couldn't remember any of it, and mistakes it for having happened in 1989:

But the last time I was here, I can’t remember a fucking thing! […] drugs. […] Someone gave me a xeroxed copy of a photo I autographed, and I signed it as '89. so it must have been then. I was so spaced out. We’d nearly finished being on tour, and dabbled with this and that, but we were more or less clean the whole time... then we found all these junkies in Sydney, and got the taste back!.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:10 am


Success is a double-edged sword and the band had to adjust to being famous:

It’s hard to go to a concert and sit in your seats. I went to, uh... it was Aerosmith, and I didn’t go with my top – I went with my top hat, and so people instantly recognized me for that. It was the first time I got into a concert and sat in the seats since I’ve become, you know, the celebrity status or whatever you wanna call it, and I was just real naive about it and just went. And I got mobbed, you know. It was like, even during the Aerosmith show with the lights out people were still trying to get autographs and stuff - which is cool. And then I went and saw Poison and Dave Roth a little while back: the same thing, you know.

So far [the success] hasn’t changed me, personally, at all. Even my... how would I say it... It’s just I haven’t gotten any more materialistic just because I have more money to do that. It’s just not me. It’s like, I don’t see why I’d need anything more than a few shirts, a couple pairs of jeans and my guitars, you know? I mean, I’ve bought more equipment than I used to have, because I can afford it - or the band can afford it - but that’s for a certain cause. I don’t have an attitude about that either; that just, you know, goes without saying if you want to sound half decent. But, I mean, as far as me going out, flashing the fact that I have a million dollars, and buying, like, a Rolls Royce and a big house, and cruising, that’s not me at all. I’m probably looking at, like, getting an old Mustang or something, you know? [...] I haven’t even gotten an apartment. I haven’t lived anywhere since I left home (laughs) - when I was, like, 17 or 18, or whenever that was.

The only change is the over-exaggeration of each of us as a personality. Axl used to look 5'8". Now he's eight feet tall. It surrounds us all the time.

I mean for a bunch of kids to come off Sunset Boulevard and then end up on the road and then turn into like one of the biggest bands in the country, you know, which wasn't overnight but the actual success part happens so quick that it was such a mindblower. And especially when we got off the road and you're recognized everywhere and you go on to a record store, you go to a gas station, people recognize your new car, you know, and all that stuff. It's a real shock. I mean, it definitely, you know, set one over on me. Threw me for a loop.

A guy in the South Bay is going around posing as me. He's been doing it for the last few months. He was trying to trade off melted gold coins as gold pieces and all this stuff. He's been going to the beach, as stupid as it sounds, doing this whole big Slash act.

[Talking about the fame]: […] there are little problems here and there as far as trying to maintain any animosity (ed: I think he means 'anonymity'), but otherwise, no, not much of a change. You get recognized a lot more.

The only problem that I'm having with being here is that I can't go out really, at this point, because the band got to a certain popularity where if I go to, say, a club, you know, everybody's staring at you and everybody comes up to you or they want autographs. And it's sort of, like, you can't really just hang out at and have a drink, you know what I mean? And, like, talk to a friend because everybody's buzzing around you.

What we used to be like as a band was very detached, not really responsible for anyone but ourselves. We just toured and toured, and that was fine. We lived out of our duffel bags. But when we got off the road, and the record went through the roof, I mean, that was a major change for everybody, and everybody has their own way of dealing with it. For me, it was to fall into doing a lot of drugs and drinking and just clouding the whole thing over and jamming. I would spend all my time playing my guitar and getting stoned. For Steven, it was sort of the same, but he likes to party and hang out and have fun more than me. Izzy’s sort of similar to me. Axl would find these fantastical situations that only Axl could find. Only Duff’s remained rooted to a married, domestic kind of lifestyle.

[…] and then we got so f**kin’ immensely popular that we hated it, cos all of a sudden our lives changed, and that had a big effect on us. […] When your mother starts wearing Guns T-shirts, you know there’s something wrong. […] But the point of what I’m saying is, there was that whole change in our personal lives, which people may or may not be interested in, but it was really serious. There was a lot of — well, I’m surprised we’re all still here! Cos there was a lot of stuff to swallow, to establish a sense of security or to be able to deal with money or houses and all that crap, which we’ve never been interested in in the first place. After the tour they basically dropped us off at the airport and it was like, ‘Well, touring’s done, guys. Go make another record’. We went through a lot of emotional and personal changes.

We can’t walk down the street any more, or f**kin’ pop into a liquor store, without getting hassled. I guess it’s like a classic scenario, almost a cliché. I suppose every big band’s gone through it. And people who are just rock fans or people who would love to be in our shoes, or in any successful band’s shoes, are sitting there going, ‘Well, that’s a small price to pay’ - which to tell you the truth it is, because we get to do what we wanna do, we have control of our own career as far as our music goes, and we don’t bend to anyone else’s standards. […] Basically we have the optimum lifestyle. But the price that you pay for it takes a helluva lot out of you, just in your personal life, that people don’t really realize.

[…] I was in New York doing the final mastering for the record [=Use Your Illusions] about a week or so ago and I just decided when I left the studio to walk back and it was really nice, it was nightime and it was just cool walking back to the hotel without people bugging me and shit. I get to the fucking hotel, it's like we're the fucking Beatles. There's a hundred somewhat people I wasn't even expecting, so these things still pop up, it never ceases to amaze me that it just keeps going. All these people outside the hotel and then one of them turned around and the whole mob turned around and the whole place blew up and I had to run into the hotel and through all the people who were grabbing me and stuff and it blew my fucking mind.

I bought a house. I went through the closest thing to what you'd call suicidal depression after I'd laid in my bed in my house by myself, staring at the ceiling for days on end, not knowing what the fuck to do with myself. I couldn't hang out on the street like I normally did, because everybody looked at me differently, treated me differently, and I didn't like it. It was really hard.


The band would also be increasingly frustrated with the public considering them caricatures of themselves [Musician, December 1988], and where any normality of their lives would be unreported by the media, because it doesn't sell:

The fact is, we're all really sensitive people. And that's probably why, for one, I drink so much, why Axl flies off the handle and has these fits of depression. Because we're still living life, and sometimes that's hard to deal with. There's no big macho sense in this band. Duff's married; Axl's got a girlfriend he loves very much. Maybe sometimes we have relationships or other things that just drive us crazy. No one wants to know about that, though. Because at this point, it's not 'Guns N' Roses' for any of that to happen.

Because the band are sort of like cartoon characters now, you know, people come up to me and it’s like, “Hey dude, drink this beer... do something crazy!" They're constantly trying to grab at you, you know, sit down with you and be your best buddy for five seconds. It’s just really awkward. I find that going out to clubs - which is something I used to do every single night and get trashed - isn’t something I can really do and enjoy any more.

It’s actually at the point where I go to a club and end up leaving totally depressed. It really brings me down. Everybody wants to have your undivided attention, and if you don’t give it then they act like you’re an asshole - turned into this big rock star now, you know... It's something everybody goes through, though, I think. You just can’t do it, you know? And it’s like, they never wanted my attention before... It’s really a pretty traumatic experience.

I just don’t really go out. There has been a real downside to all this. I don’t go out much, I don’t have that many close friends, and the few close friends I do have, the times I actually see 'em are few and far between. It gets to be a little bit lonely after a while...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989


The band's problems with the police also didn't subside as they became famous and rich:

We've had a real serious problem with cops since a long time ago and now they're out to get us. They've caught two of us so far and they transferred the one cop that ever stood up for us! I have to take a cab to (the nightclub) Rainbow at night! I drive a Jeep Cherokee around the day, so I look very domestic. I've got black windows so no one can really see me. I don't want to end up getting busted and not even knowing why.

[Talking about his first apartment in 1988]: The cops have already started comin’ by.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

Although to be fair, the police came to his apartment when neighbour complained about Slash playing Motorhead loudly at 5 am [Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988].


Slash would also comment upon the increasing popularity making it hard to have normal relations:

And then the other problem I'm having was, like, this new, you know, with this new status that we've achieved, is that if you have to give up like any kind of half decent love life, I mean, you can't go out and meet a chick that you really think you might like because the only reason she's really interested in you, chances are, is because, you know, because you're in a band, and because, you know, I'm in the band that I'm in. That sort of gets to be a drag because, you know, I'm getting sick of going out and getting laid just for getting laid basically [chuckles].


We all grew up on the streets. That's where we feel home at home. What are we gonna do with a lot of money?

With the success, the band could escape their poverty. During the touring in 1987 and early 1988 they had lived out of their suitcases. Because of their explosive success, after ending the Iron Maiden tour in June 1988 the band was paid out $160,000 or "something like that" in total [Kerrang! July 1988]. And by August 1988 they had paid back Geffen what they were owed [Screamer, August 1988]. In Duff's biography, he indicates that they were handed their first check from record sales when they returned from tour: $80,000 each. Three weeks later they got another check [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 143].

In mid-1988 Slash would be asked if they were started to see some money coming in, but would reply that he still lived very frugally:

We just got our first big royalty cheque the other day. It’s the first real money we’ve seen, though it’s nowhere near as much as you might think. But now I’ve got it I don’t know what to do with it. Money has never been... There was a period after my mom and my dad divorced when she was going out with David Bowie. She was making all his clothes, and I hated it because he took the place of my dad. I was sort of young... Anyway, he [Bowie] had a little rented white Mercedes and this huge fuckin’ house up in Bel Air that he rented while he was in LA. At that time when I didn’t know fuck all about anything. I’d be thinking, what the fuck is this? Why do you have to have a big house? All the to-do he would put into everything was just ridiculous.

At this point in time I can borrow enough money to take limos everywhere or buy a Jaguar. But it’s like, what the fuck for? I don’t see any reason to flaunt it because you’re successful and you’re a so-called rock star.


It doesn’t buy you freedom at all. It brings responsibility, and you have to start making choices you were never asked to make before. Because you’ve got money now, if you have any brains at all you put it somewhere. If you don’t put it somewhere and rock out and spend it all then it’s just another obstacle because you’re gonna go broke again...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from June 1988

I mean, look at me - T-shirt, jeans, boots, that’s me, that’s all there is, that’s all there’s ever gonna be. I don’t even like the idea of going into a fuckin’ dressing room and changing into different clothes just to go on stage and play. Gimme a roof over my head and something to drink and I’ve got everything I need. What difference is this money going to make?
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993
; interview from June 1988

It is coming in now, but I’ve never had any money, so for me to, like, buckle down and say “Well, let’s go get a couple of grand to go do...” – I mean, like, I’m going to New York for a week and I got the cheapest possible flight, right? And I’m spending $600 in its entirety, for the whole thing. I’m crashing at someone’s house and that’s an expenditure for me. That’s, like, (whispers) “I can’t (?), well, I guess I can do it.”

The noticeable difference in mine is I have a... you know, supply of cigarettes and booze and stuff. [laughs] I got a place finally. I mean, there's differences.

I mean I've never even had a car before. I'd never bought a car before. And so actually being able to go out and buy a car, you know, it was pretty cool.

In October 1988 he was interviewed again while being in-between tours, and when asked that surely this was the time to enjoy the money coming in, Slash responded:

I don’t know... you’re talking about things... possessions. I mean, I didn’t even have anywhere to live until, like, two weeks ago...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988


He had expressed a desire to buy himself a home previously [RIP Magazine, June 1988], but had claimed that while not on tour to prefer to just "live around" because he had no home [Superstar Facts & Pix, No. 16, 1988]. He would also claim to have had no ambition of owning a home except to "get a house and build a jungle round it" [L.A. Rocks, August 1986]. In mid-1988 he still didn't have a home and would claim to have been homeless since leaving his home at the age of 17-18 [Creem Close-Up Metal, October 1989; interview from mid-1988] Still, as evidenced from the quote above, in October 1988, Slash had finally found himself his own place. According to one source he had bought an apartment on Sunset Boulevard [On The Street, December 1988]:

It’s just this funky little apartment, nothing fancy - furnished. It’s got this fuckin’ couch and refrigerator and stuff - it’s my first real apartment on my own. And if I can afford to have a place of my own then I should have one. I can’t live off everybody else forever. I can’t just keep being this total fuckin’ gypsy. […] I’m settling down. No, really. I’ve got a microwave, and I go to the market and buy those microwave burritos, hot dogs, hamburgers... everything. Everything goes in the microwave. Except the vodka - that goes in the freezer.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

It's five minutes drive from the Roxy and the Rainbow and all those other cheap dives I often find myself in. And if I get too out of it to drive myself home I can always roll myself down the hill… Other than that, it's just a little apartment already furnished. It came with this fuckin' couch and cheap table and a refrigerator and stuff - like one of everything. It's the first apartment I ever lived in that actually belongs to me… It's a whole new experience. I can't live off everybody else forever; if I can afford to have a place. I can't just keep being, like, a total fuckin' gypsy all my life….

In Musician, December 1988, it is said that Slash was merely renting the apartment, and that the apartment was nearby Ronnie Stalnaker, Slash's friend and part of the crew [Musician, December 1988]. He would still consider himself "Mr. Hotel Guy" and only claimed to have gotten the apartment "solely because it looked like a hotel room" [Musician, December 1990].

Axl would mention visiting the apartment and also that Slash was at the moment dating famous porn star Traci Lords [Howard Stern, February 1989]. See later chapter for more on Slash and Lords.

In 1991, he would describe this apartment as "the cheapest apartment I could find off of Sunset Boulevard" and that it basically was just a place to party [Q Magazine, July 1991]. He would also say he rented it because it "reminded me of a hotel room" [The Age/Independent on Sunday, August 1991].

In early 1989 he still said he hadn't bought anything, although he had likely downpaid some debt he had had [RIP Magazine, June 1988]:

My bank account has no bearing on my life. I never had money and when I get some, it just sits there. I haven't bought a car or an apartment. I own four pairs of jeans and some T-shirts.

In October 1988 he would also talk about wanting to buy a house:

So anyway, I got a place, it’s cheap. Next I'm gonna buy a house and stuff... […] So yeah, I'm gonna buy a house...
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

He would also mention that he wouldn't be buying a car because he wasn't responsible with them:

I don’t think I'm gonna buy a car for a while, though. I'm too psychotic with them. I lost somebody’s car the other night,’ he said with a straight face. 'I was over at somebody’s house and I borrowed their car to get home. But I parked it somewhere and I don’t remember where it is. I lost it. It was towed away or something - gone. […] It’s like, cars, man, I get drunk and I just don’t know. I still haven’t learned.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from October 1988

This is interesting because back in early 1988 he had said the one thing he wanted to buy when he got money was a "decent car" [RIP Magazine, June 1988]. In addition, in 1995 when asked about the most expensive thing he had bought, Slash would mention a Porsche he likely bought not long after receiving revenues from the success of 'Appetite' and thus around the same time he would claim not to want to buy a car:

Buying a Porsche when I was stoned out of my mind one afternoon on a whim, and I drove there to buy it in a limo! That was when I used to live with Arlett [Vereecke] and I was all fucked up. That’s about as Spinal Tap as I’ve gotten to date! I’ve still got the car though, and it’s been in storage ever since.

Possible he never really drove the car but had it stored as an investment.

Slash soon decided to abandon the aforementioned apartment:

What happened was, the last time I saw you I had an apartment, but that got so hectic and crazy that I ended up having to sort of sneak out of there... I had the cops there every day, and a lot of heavy traffic, and it was just a bad scene after a while, y'know? Everybody knew where it was... SO I snuck out of there, then I spent a little bit of time sleeping on people's couches again.

In 1991 Slash would say his addiction had got out of hand while staying in his apartment, so he got clean and moved [Q Magazine, July 1991].


Slash also started to invest his money:

Now I have two cars in the garage that I never drive either [laughs]. A 'vette and a Porsche. They're solely for investment purposes. I mean, I got this house 'cause I needed an investment. Which is the most depressing thought. You're buying all this stuff just to sell it when you need to. All the investments I've made are to save my ass when I fuck up.

He would also remark that he could do without fame and wealth, but not music and the band:

Nothing in what I got out of Guns N’ Roses monetarily or fame-wise, I could really give a shit about. It was, and is always, the band. If my ability to play guitar suddenly left me, or if something happened to Axl, Duff, Izzy or Steve, and GN’R suddenly ended, I’d be in serious f?!king trouble, because I depend on them. I depend on them to be part of the group that makes us special... that keeps my life going.

In September 1991 he would describe the difference between himself and Axl when dealing with prosperity:

Axel [sic] might have been prepared for [wealth and success] — I think he was the most stable throughout because his sights are different than mine. He is more or less a frontman/star character, he enjoys what fame and fortune bring him. Not that he takes advantage of it in the sense that he's like a fucking pop star or anything, but he set his sights at achieving the fame we've gotten to whereas me being the guitar player, having a completely different kind of personality, I was just a rock'n'roll guitar player as far as I was concerned, I just wanted to make it to the next gig. […] I didn't have any material possessions really except one duffle bag with clothes, I was completely content with living that way. Whereas Axel [sic] has taken whatever money he's made and buys nice things with it. I really still to this day don't buy anything except the things I need like a stereo or booze or guitars or something like that. I don't have, like, expensive furniture, there's not a whole hell of a lot going on materially with me so I didn't really give a shit about the whole stardom thing so it threw me.

Yet, he did not miss poverty:

There's two sides to that coin because if we weren't as successful as we are now the parts I would miss would be headlining these huge places and getting a chance to play in front of a lot of people and really get off on it. So if I was still playing at the fucking Troubadour I'd probably be working at trying to get to the next level. So being here is great, it's just you have to deal with what comes with it and I guess when you look at it realistically it's a small price to pay for being able to go out and play in front of 30,000 people. And so I'm not complaining. It was a weird adjustment when it really did come down, all of a sudden there we were. On top of that people think it's sort of glamorous and they put you on a pedestal and you're supposed to go out and perform like one of those fucking windup monkeys. And we're not like that —  everybody's real volatile and emotional and human. And nobody really gives a shit about that side of it, especially in the industry. So it's weird to be a big band and then at the same time feel so fucking vulnerable, and have people up your ass all the time.


I don’t want to speak on the other guys’ behalf, but I went from a gypsy troubadour-type kid without anything, through touring with Guns and all those experiences just basically living on the road and never really living anywhere else, and then just sort of thrown into superstardom and not knowing how to handle that. Not having any domestic skills for living at home. Just not knowing which way to turn and not knowing whether I was happy or not.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Sun Dec 31, 2023 2:09 pm; edited 4 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:11 am


Before the release of 'GN'R LIES' the song 'I Used To Love Her' was expected to cause controversy with its assumed misogynistic lyrics. The band, though, knew there was another on the record more likely to cause uproar:

[insert quote about OIAM before the release of LIES]

I hit L.A. with a backpack, a piece of steel in one hand and a can of maize in the other. And guys were trying to sell me joints everywhere, and some black guy turned me on to the bus station. So, I found the bus station. And there'll be a song about the bus station on our EP called "One In A Million".

And, as expected, immediately after the release of GN'R Lies, 'One In A Million' caused controversy due to Axl's lyrical content, both its perceived racist message, but also its homophobia, in particular through the lines "police and niggers, get out of my way" and "immigrants and faggots, don't make no sense to me."

Axl would try to defend or explain the song in various ways:


We were aware of what kind of flak we were going to get, which is why I put an apology right on the cover of the record. Living on the streets you go through a lot of hard times and a lot of my hard times were with people of different races or different beliefs. I haven't anything against those people. I'm not a racist. The songs are just (an account) of what happened to us. If you change the words or soften them, you change the truth.

I started writing about wanting to get out of LA , getting away for a little while. I'd been down to the downtown-L.A. Greyhound bus station. If you haven't been there, you can't say shit to me about what goes on and about my point of view. There are a large number of black men selling stolen jewelry, crack, heroin and pot, and most of the drugs are bogus. Rip-off artists selling parking spaces to parking lots that there's no charge for. Trying to misguide every kid that gets off the bus and doesn't quite know where he's at or where to go, trying to take the person for whatever they've got. That's how I hit town. The thing with 'One in a Million' is, basically, we're all one in a million, we're all here on this earth. We're one fish in a sea. Let's quit fucking with each other, fucking with me.

'One in a million' is about...... I went back and forth from Indiana eight times my first year in Hollywood. I wrote it about being dropped off at the bus station and everything that was going on. I'd never been in a city this big and was fortunate enough to have this black dude help me find my way. He guided me to the RTD station and showed me what bus to take, because I couldn't get a straight answer out of anybody. He wasn't after my money or anything. It was more like, "Here's a new kid in town, and he looks like he might get into trouble down here. Lemme help him get on his way." People kept coming up trying to sell me joints and stuff. In downtown L.A the joints are usually bogus, or they'll sell you drugs that can kill you. It's a really ugly scene. The song's not about him, but you could kinda say he was one in a million. When I sat down after walking in circles for three hours, the cops told me to get off the streets. The cops down there have seen so much slime that they figure if you have long hair, you're probably slime also. The black guys trying to sell you jewelry and drugs is where the line 'Police and niggers, get out of my way' comes from. I've seen these huge black dudes pull Bowie knives on people for their boom boxes and shit. It's ugly […] I don't have anything against someone coming here from another country and trying to better themselves. What I don't dig is some 7-11 worker acting as though you don't belong here, or acting like they don't understand you while they're trying to rip you off. [Axl mimics an Iranian] "Wot? I no understand you". I'm saying "I gave you a 20, and I want my $15 change!" I threatened to blow up their gas station, and then they gave me my change. I don't need that.

When I use the word immigrants, what I'm talking about is going to a 7-11 or Village pantries - a lot of people from countries like Iran, Pakistan, China, Japan et cetera, get jobs in these convenience stores and gas stations. Then they treat you as if you don't belong here. I've been chased out of a store with Slash by a six-foot-tall Iranian with a butcher knife because he didn't like the way we were dressed. Scared me to death. All I could see in my mind was a picture of my arm on the ground, blood going everywhere. When I get scared, I get mad. I grabbed the top of one of these big orange garbage cans and went back at him with this shield, going, "Come on!" I didn't want to back down from this guy. Anyway that's why I wrote about immigrants. Maybe I should have been more specific and said, "Joe Schmoladoo at the 7-11 and faggots make no sense to me." That's ridiculous! I summed it up simply and said, "Immigrants."

I'll get lambasted and filleted all over the place over that song. Dave Marsh will be writing about this 'We Are The World' consciousness, but Dave, I don't know where you were doing your 'We Are The World' consciousness, but we were getting robbed at knifepoint at that time in our lives. 'One In A Million' brought out the fact that racism does exist so let's do something about it. Since that song, a lot of people may hate Guns N' Roses, but they think about their racism now. And they weren't thinking about that during 'We Are the World.' 'We Are the World' was like a Hallmark card.

However that song makes them feel, they think that must be what the song means. If they hate blacks, and they hear my lines and hate blacks even more, I'm sorry, but that's not how l meant it. Our songs affect people, and that scares a lot of people. l think that song, more than any other song in a long time, brought certain issues to the surface and brought up discussion as to how fucked things really are. But when read somewhere that l said something last night before we performed "One in a Million," it pisses me off. We don't perform "One in a Million".


I used words like police and niggers because you're not allowed to use the word nigger. Why can black people go up to each other and say, "Nigger," but when a white guy does it all of a sudden it's a big put-down. I don't like boundaries of any kind. I don't like being told what I can and what I can't say. I used the word nigger because 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. Doesn't John Lennon have a song 'Woman Is the Nigger of the World'? There's a rap group, N.W.A., Niggers with Attitude. I mean, they're proud of that word. More power to them. Guns N' Roses ain't bad. . . . N.W.A. is baad! Mr. Bob Goldthwait said the only reason we put these lyrics on the record was because it would cause controversy and we'd sell a million albums. Fuck him! Why'd he put us in his skit? We don't just do something to get the controversy, the press.


To appreciate the humour in our work you gotta be able to relate to a lot of different things. And not everybody does. Not everybody can. With ‘One in a million’, I used a word - it’s part of the English language whether it’s a good word or not. It’s a derogatory word, it’s a negative word. It’s not meant to sum up the entire black race, but it was directed towards black people in those situations. I was robbed, I was ripped-off, I had my life threatened! And it’s like, I described it in one word. And not only that, but I wanted to see the effect of a racial joke. I wanted to see what effect that would have on the world. Slash was into it.... I mean, the song says « Don’t wanna buy none of your gold chains today ». Now a black person on the Oprah Winfrey show who goes « Oh, they’re putting down black people! » is going to fuckin’ take one of these guys at the bus stop home and feed him and take care of him and let him babysit the kids? They ain’t gonna be near the guy ! I don’t think every black person is a nigger. I don’t care. I consider myself kinda green and from another planet or something, you know? I’ve never felt I fit into any group, so to speak. A black person has this 300 years of whatever on his shoulders. OK. But I ain’t got nothing to do with that. It bores me too. There’s such a thing as too sensitive. You can watch a movie about someone blowing all the crap outta all these people, but you could be the most anti-violent person in the world. But you get off on this movie, like, yeah! He deserved it, you know, the bad guy got shot... Something I’ve noticed that’s really weird about ‘One in a million’ is the whole song coming together took me by surprise. I wrote the song as a joke. West (Arkeen, co-lyricist of ‘It’s so easy’ amongst other songs) just got robbed by two black guys on Christmas night, a few years back. He went out to play on Hollywood boulevard and he’s standing there playing in front of the band and he gets robbed at knife point for 78 cents. A couple of days later we’re all sittin’ around watchin’ TV - there’s Duff and West and a couple other guys - and we’re all bummed out, hungover and this and that. And I’m sitting there with no money, no job, feelin’ guilty for being at West’s house all the time suckin’ up the oxygen, you know? And I picked up this guitar, and I can only play like the top two strings, and I ended up fuckin’ around with this little riff. It was the only thing I could play on the guitar at the time. And then I started ad-libbing some words to it as a joke. And we had just watched Sam Kinison or somethin’ on the video, you know, and I guess the humour was just sorta leanin’ that way anyway or somethin’. I don’t know. But we just started writing this thing, and when I sang « police and niggers, that’s right », that was to fuck with West’s head, cos he couldn’t believe I would write that! And it came out like that....then later on the chorus came about because I was like getting really far away, like ‘Rocket man’, Elton John. I was thinking about my friends and family in Indiana, and I realized those people have no concept of who I am anymore. Even the ones I was close to. Since then I’ve flown people out here, had’em hang out here, I’ve paid for everything. But there was no joy in it for them. I was smashin’ shit, going fuckin’ crazy. And yet, trying to work. And they were going, « Man, I don’t wanna be a rocker any more, not if you go through this ». But at the same time, I brought’em out, you know, and we just hung out for a couple of months - wrote songs together, had serious talks, it was almost like bein’ on acid cos we’d talk about the family and life and stuff, and we’d get really heavy and get to know each all over again. It’s hard to try and replace eight years of knowing each other every day, and then all of a sudden I’m in this new world. Back there I was a street kid with a skateboard and no money dreamin’ ‘bout being in a rock band, and now all of a sudden I’m here. And it’s weird for them to see their friends putting up Axl posters, you know? And it’s weird for me too. So anyway, all of a sudden I came up with this chorus « You’re one in a million », you know, and « we tried to reach you but you were much too high .... »(...) So that’s like, « we tried to reach you but you were much too high », I was picturing ‘em trying to call me if, like, I disappeared or died or something. And « you’re one in a million », someone said that to me real sarcastically, it wasn’t like an ego thing. But that’s the good thing, you use that « I’m one in a million » positively to make yourself get things done. But originally, it was kinda like someone went, « Yeah, you’re just fuckin’ one in a million, aren’t ya? », and it stuck with me. Then we go in the studio, and Duff plays the guitar much more aggressively than I did. Slash made it too tight and concise, and I wanted it a bit rawer. Then Izzy comes up with this electric guitar thing. I was pushing him to come up with a cool tone, and all of a sudden he’s comin’up with this aggressive thing. It just happened. So suddenly it didn’t work to sing the song in a low funny voice any more. We tried and it didn’t work, didn’t sound right, it didn’t fit. And the guitar parts were so cool, I had to sing it like.....HURRHHHH ! so that I sound like I’m totally into this.

The word was used [bleep] on the record, but that didn’t necessarily mean all black people. It just, you know – it meant, basically, lowlifes, people that were stealing to supply their drug habits...

It was originally written as comedy. It was written watching Sam Kinison during one of his first specials. I was sitting around with friends, drunk, with no money. One of my friends had just gotten robbed for seventy-eight cents on Christmas by two black men.

l played it on guitar and it was done very slow and in a different tone of voice and done very humorously. Well, that didn't work out when we recorded it because I had Duff play it on guitar -- because he could play it better and in better time -- and Izzy put this other guitar thing to it, and it evolved into something of its own. We didn't plan that song to be as forceful as it was. We walked into the studio, and boom, it just happened.

Much later, Doug Goldstein would support this explanation:

He was making a joke about how stupid people were in Indiana, where he grew up. He was showing the phobias of a 17 year old boy arriving in Los Angeles and being afraid of minorities because he didn't know them in his homeland. I keep telling him to explain it, but he says, ‘Did people ask Picasso to explain his work? I'm an artist.’ He says that if Lennon had written that song, people would understand.


[…] the racist thing is just bullshit. I used a word that was taboo. And I used that word because it was taboo. I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism. […] The racist thing, that's just stupid. I can understand how people would think that, but that's not how I meant it. I believe that there's always gonna be some form of racism -- as much as we'd like there to be peace -- because people are different. Black culture is different. I work with a black man every day (Earl Gabbidon, Rose's bodyguard), and he's one of my best friends. There are things he's into that are definitely a "black thing." But I can like them. There are things that are that way. I think there always will be. […] It's that way with people who are of the same race or same gender. Maybe now and then they'll reach a point where something happens, and they bond, and they're really close. But they're always going to have their differences. The most important thing about "One in a Million" is that it got people to think about racism. A lot of people thought I was talking about entire races or sectors of people. I wasn't. And there was an apology on the record. The apology is not even written that well, but it's not on the cover of every record. And no one has acknowledged it yet. No one.

I don't trust the audience with the song. I don't want to do "One in a Million" on stage and know that there's a lot of people out there in the crowd who are prejudiced and it's gonna help fuel their fire. It's enough to handle the fact that it's on a record and people use it for their own anthems for their own prejudiced-ness. I question myself every day. Should l pull it? Should I leave it? Do l leave it for the sake of artistic integrity? Do I pull it, do I censor myself? But wait, I'm against censorship. It's a really hard issue to constantly deal with. The only way to deal with it is to communicate about it. l don't like the damage that that song does, l don't like the prejudiced-ness, l don't like the way the song fuels people's prejudiced-ness, and that's a problem for me. l made an apology on the cover of the record. Looking at it now, it's not the best apology, but it was the best apology l could make back then. l knew people were going to be offended, and it says my apology is to those who take offense. Or to who may be offended, whatever it says. I was trying to explain the reasons why I was expressing myself in this way and apologizing if it did offend people. The apology is on the cover of every record. it's not a sticker; it's part of the cover. It's stuck in there with all kinds of other things on the cover -- it's done like a National Enquirer thing. l wrote it myself and put it on there, it was my Idea, and it's like it's been refused to be acknowledged. "One in a Million" has been used continually against Guns N' Roses and against myself, no matter what l had to say about it.

Yes, [the reaction to the lyrics] definitely helped me to be able to change. I went out and got all kinds of video tapes and read books on racism. Books by Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. Reading them and studying, then after that l put on the tape and l realized, "Wow, I'm still proud of this song." That's strange. What does that mean? But l couldn't communicate as well as do now about it, so my frustration was just turned to anger. Then my anger would be used against me and my frustration would be used against me: "Look, he's throwing a tantrum."

My opinion is, the majority of the public can't be trusted with that song. It inspires thoughts and reactions that cause people to have to deal with their own feelings on racism, prejudice and sexuality.

l wrote a song that was very simple and vague. (...)l think I showed that quite well from where l was at. The song most definitely was a survival mechanism. It was a way for me to express my anger at how vulnerable l felt in certain situations that had gone down in my life. It's not a song l would write now. The song is very generic and generalized, and I apologized for that on the cover of the record. Going back and reading it, it wasn't the best apology but, at the time, it was the best apology I could make.

I'm on a fence with that song. It's a very powerful song. l feel, as far as artistic freedom and my responsibility to those beliefs, that the song should exist. That's the only reason l haven't pulled it off the shelves. Freedom and creativity should never be stifled. Had l known that people were going to get hurt because of this song, then l would have been wrong. l was definitely wrong in thinking that the public could handle it.


Before the fierce media reaction to the song toom place, the band played it live at least three times (October 30, 1987, at an acoustic gig at the CBGB's, USA; at the Limelight, USA, on January 31, 1988; and in Mears in July 30, 1988). Despite this, in early 1990, Duff would claim they had never played the song live:

We've never done it live, no.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from January 1990


The band members, who had recorded the song and played it live, reacted in various ways to the backlash.

Duff consistently defended the decision to include the song:

For a start, the “nigger” thing. Slash comes from a family that is half-black. My family is a quarter black... I mean, readers, listen to every lyric in the song! The song’s about Axl coming to LA for the first time on the fuckin’ bus. He was a fuckin’ green, wet-behind-the-ears white boy, and he was scared to fuckin’ death! That is what the song is about and that’s it, people can take it the way they want to. Of course, right now they’re gonna just fuckin’ slag us. I’d rather not get too much into it, though. If you can’t get anything out of it then don’t listen, is my message.

[…] I can understand some people taking offence to it, yeah. But, ultimately... why? All it is, is a tale about life actually in this fuckin’ town, downtown LA. OK, it’s a white guy telling the tale. So what? That's his story. All it is, is a white kid telling his tale. But I don’t want to say too much. Axl’s got such a reputation now that of course they’re gonna jump all over his ass - he said that dirty word, you know? I mean, check it out, I’ve been an uncle since I was two years old. My first nephew when I was two was black. It was my sister’s kid; she married a black guy. Now I have sixteen nephews and nieces and cousins and shit, lots of which are black, or part black.

I never heard the word "nigger" until I went to fuckin' school! Until I went to school I didn’t know there was a difference between black and white. Then at school you'd see them, the white kids giving a hard time to the black kids. Like, "Fuck you, nigger!"  I was like, "Fuck you, you white fuckin' asshole!" Like, why are you calling him a nigger? What does it mean? I couldn't see the difference. So I've always felt very strongly about this. We were in Australia and there's this big skinhead movement down there. Slash and I wanted to come out and make a press statement or something while we were there, against the skinheads...[…] they were against the Aborigines, and they were against the blacks, and shit. They're so racist you wouldn't believe it. Slash and I are so against that shit. And so is Axl, so is Axl. He’s not prejudiced at all. There is no prejudice in this band. The simple thing about this song is that it is just a tale of what happens to a fucking kid from Indiana - not from London, or San Francisco, but from out of nowhere to the big city - and being scared off his ass. He didn't know the right words to use. So that is all it’s about, man.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from January 1990

I think each individual has to interpret it as they like. As for me? I think it's kinda funny! It's real life, and this band has never minced words when it comes to real life. The song is basically Axl's view of coming to downtown L.A. for the first time. He was from Indiana, he was real green--and L.A. blew his mind. [...] You have to remember--we've lived all this stuff. When you saw these dirty white-trash (expletive) guys on Hollywood Boulevard--hey, that was us! [...] I'm sure it'll bother some people--and I can understand that. But the song is a way of describing what happened to us, not making any value judgments. [...] If you're just exposing aspects of life that are already out there, what's the problem with that? When I was 14, I thought Sid Vicious was cool, but I knew that didn't mean I had to OD on heroin. This is just our song--and we're not asking for everyone to like it. I don't think we have to be responsible for everybody else's opinion.

As criticism mounted, the other band members would some times distance themselves from the song, and blame it on Axl and his stubbornness, or defend Axl and point to artistic freedom of speech. Regardless of whether they defended the song or not, they would consistently put all the blame on Axl and trivialize their own responsibility as band members and musicians on the recording.

There's a line in that song where it says, “Police and niggers, get out of my way...” that I didn’t want Axl to sing, I didn’t want him to sing that but Axl’s the kind of person who will sing whatever it is he feels like singing. So I knew that it was gonna come out and it finally did come out. What that line was supposed to mean, though, was police and niggers, OK, but not necessarily talking about the black race. He wasn’t talking about black people so much, he was more or less talking about the sort of street thugs that you run into. Especially if you’re a naive mid-western kid coming into the city for the first time and there’s these guys trying to pawn this on you and push that on you...

It's a heavy, heavy, heavily intimidating thing for somebody like that. I’ve been living in Hollywood for so long I’m used to it, you know? But I didn’t want the song to be taken wrong, which always happens.

[…] in the context of the song those are the character’s true feelings - his mind is just blown away by what he sees. But there’s been a couple of instances where I've decided I was gonna do like an international press release to try and explain what some of this shit is about. Then I thought, no, fuck, that’s a waste of time...

But that kind of thing does bother me. Me, in particular. I mean, I’m part black. I don’t have anything against black individuals. One of the nice things about Guns N’ Roses is that we’ve always been a people’s band. We’ve never segregated the audience in our minds as white, black or green, you know? But with the release of "One in a Million” I think it did something that I don’t think was necessarily positive for the band, and it put us...

[…] whenever given the chance I try and say my piece about that, because it really isn’t... It doesn’t even have to be about blacks. The term ‘nigger’ goes for Chinese, Caucasians, Mexicans... blacks too, sure. But it’s just like a type of people that, you know, are street dealers and pushers. And that’s what it’s supposed to mean. It’s definitely something to attack us with. It’s a bona fide, real thing that they can actually say, you know, “Well, what about that?”
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989[/url]

[Being asked if it was okay on the grounds of artistic license]: Personally, no. I don’t think that that statement served any good. I think that should have been kept at bay altogether. But Axl has a strong feeling about it and he really wanted to say it. But then... God forbid that any of us should get arrested and end up in county jail. Can you imagine? "Yeah, that’s the guy who wrote that song!” You could be in some serious trouble with some of the guys in there. Much more trouble than just the cops.

Actually, that dawned on me a few days ago... We’re always in trouble with the police, that’s nothing new. And, you know, we’re not the only band to ever say something derogatory about the police. But there’s a point where you do things that make a statement, that are cool, and there’s another point where you do things that just aren’t necessary and you’re just asking for trouble. To ask for trouble and to intentionally put yourself in a position like that, to me, is not cool. As an artist you’re expected to make statements. But you’re supposed to make statements that make sense and come across clearly. You don’t want to make statements that are so, you know, so blatantly out of proportion, so blown out of proportion that it’s ridiculous, no subtlety in them at all.

My mom - who is black, right? - was in Europe and I talked to her on the phone a little while back, it was the first time we talked for ages. And I asked her if she’d heard the EP yet and she told me, no. But my little brother was out there, and when he came back he told me yeah, she had heard it. But she was so shocked that she didn’t know what to say to me on the phone. I thought about that and I thought, you know, I can understand that. So, ultimately, I can’t say... there’s nothing that I can say in the press that’s gonna cover it up.
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993; interview from March 1989[/url]

I have a big problem with that lyric. I've talked to Axl many times about his lyrics. 'You don't need to say that, Axl. You're a fuckin' immigrant yourself. Everyone's a fuckin' immigrant in America. Don't you see you're putting down the whole of fuckin' America? And if they faggots, well so what?' Axl... is very... confused. But I was pissed off. I was very against that shit going on our record. 'Why'd you have to say that, Axl. It's hard enough just gettin' by.' [Pauses] But at the same time, y'know, this is just fuckin' rock 'n' roll music. When it's fucked up, it's more interesting. Whoever said this was responsible music, y'know? We're not fuckin' role models. At all. But 'One in a Million' is just flat-out racist. Like that about niggers trying to sell you gold chains.

When Axl first addressed the critics, his foremost priority was for him to say what he wanted to say and let the consequences fall by the wayside. That’s art. Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in. With “One...,” three quarters of the people who bitched misinterpreted what we were saying. I saw it coming […] No one is ever going to be satisfied! And you know, it’s amazing how people let other people run their lives. It's almost like there’s a robot or computer, and it’s setting you up to live the perfect, proper life. It’s just not right. Everybody's human, and no matter how morally correct you are as a human being, you're still going to make mistakes, because you're en-titled to your opinion. Opinions are personal. That’s why I hate critics. It's like, “We’re going to take this away from you, and we’re gonna ban this." Oh, yeah? Who says? Everybody’s complaining. Everybody’s writing letters. It's just one big, confused mess. But we somehow rise above, right?

Everybody on the black side of my family was like, 'What is your' problem? My old girlfriend said, 'You could have stopped it.' What am I supposed to say? Axl and I don't stop each other from doing things. Hopefully, if something is really bad, you stop it yourself. It was something he really wanted to put out to explain his story, which is what the song is about. Axl is a naive while boy from Indiana who came to Hollywood, was brought up in a totally Caucasian society, and it was his way of saying how scared he was and this and that. Maybe somewhere in there he does harbor some sort of [bigoted) feelings because of the way he was brought up. At the same time, it wasn't malicious. I can't sit here with a clear conscience and say, 'It's okay that it came out.' I don't condone it. But it happened, and now Axl is being condemned for it, and he takes it really personally. All can say, really, is that it's a lesson learned.

The stuff people are saying about our religious beliefs, our stance on homosexuality and all that, it was just one song and the song had nothing to do with making any kind of a statement. We didn't try to put people into any kind of categories or...I don't really know how to explain it. We weren't pointing fingers or anything like that. It was a song about one night, and it was something that Axl wanted to have there without trying to sound the way it sounded.

We all think maybe it was a mistake having it released because of the way people have reacted to it. When I listen to it in front of someone else, there's no other way to interpret it. We stuck our foot in our great mouth with that one.

When Axl first came up with the song and really wanted to do it, I said I didn't think it was very cool... I don't regret doing 'One in a Million,' I just regret what we've been through because of it and the way people have perceived our personal feelings.

When Axl came up with it I was worried about recording the song. I wanted Axl to change the lyrics, because it would be seen by many as insulting. But hey, we did it, and I know Axl is talking about personal experiences and not being anti-black or anti-homosexual. So it should be looked at In this context. But we're being slammed for it. I do understand why some people object to those lyrics and I can't defend Axl for his language. But knowing where this came from, I appreciate he's not being racist or homophobic.

Living with that 'One In A Million' fall-out was heavy shit. I don't know if Axl learned anything from the experience - I would hope he did. Actually, Slash said the best things about that in some interview he did when he said that Axl's free expression was all well and good but he'd hate to think what would happen to any of the band if they got thrown in jail and had to explain the lyrics to the other guys doing time. 'Cos during that period I ended up in jail in Phoenix for a day. I found out. It was pretty fucked up.

It's only come up twice in the band's history where I had questions about whether a song's lyrics would be offensive. If it's like a little bit offensive and just makes the short hairs on the back of your neck stand up, that's all right. But there were only a couple that I thought might really be offensive. But, of course, we did them anyway. […] One of the songs was 'One in a Million.' But at this point, it's like so much water under the bridge, I don't want to get into it. We don't do it on purpose. We just write stuff that we feel like writing and it means something to us because it's all true to us. Therefore, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to write it and then put it out. […] I don't see why there should be any rules or regulations on it. If you don't want to buy it, don't buy it. If it bothers you that much, don't listen to it.

And then as far as the whole racist thing is concerned, it had nothing to do with racism, or us speaking out against blacks or anything. I'm half black, so I was like: "Ok, this is a good one." I knew when Axl wrote the lyrics and I knew the story that went with it. I knew when he put it down on paper, it was gonna be recorded, it wasn't going to come across positive. So I took that one with a grain of salt. We got a lot of flack for that.

Everyone has a right to their opinion. I think the whole story with One In A Million was kind of exaggerated. I think some people took it more seriously than they should, maybe because they were looking for an excuse to dislike the band even more - maybe because they were jealous of us. They took it too far. It happens with many bands - people take their lyrics more seriously than they should. They take everything literally, but it’s just songs. Of course, if you think that there’s a hidden message and you go kill someone, that’s wrong. As far as lyrics go, I think they relate to the person who sings them - in our case, Axl. A solo guitar is Slash's thing, a piano solo is my thing. The words are Axl’s job, so we don’t interfere.
Pop & Rock, June 1993; translated from Greek

And then as far as the whole racist thing is concerned, it had nothing to do with racism, or us speaking out against blacks or anything. I'm half-black, so I was like: "Ok, this is a good one. And we're definitely not homophobic. Axl's view doesn't maybe match with what you're "supposed" to think. But the experiences Axl had of gays when he came to Los Angeles for the first time, you can't take that away from him.

In 2015, Goldstein would talk about how the song had affected Slash:

Slash's mother, rest in peace, she was this incredibly beautiful African-American woman, as was his grandmother. And so, you know, I mean, Slash is put in this untenable position with One In A Million coming out, having to explain that to his own mother.


In the August edition of RIP Magazine Slash penned a letter as a response to a fan letter that had been published in the May issue:

To Tony W. of Fairfield, California, and whomever else it may concern:

I've never written to a publication before and never really expected to do so, but in this case I felt that it was well in order to make a sincere effort.

A letter printed in the Static section of the May issue of RIP caught my attention. The letter was written by Tony W. of Fairfield, California, and was more or less addressed to the rock and roll band Guns N' Roses. l am the lead guitarist and a cowriter for GNR, so it was fortunate that this particular issue came my way, especially since the bulk of GNR material that bypasses us is the usual carousing, chemical-abusing sexual highlights that comprise most of our pub­licity. This issue, though, contained a letter that shed some light on a more important subject. This was done by a legitimate fan of the band, rather than by an opinionated journalist with a quota to fill, thus deserving a response from someone in GNR without question!

All this aside, the purpose of Tony 's letter, I think, was to find out whether or not GNR is actually racist (referring to the content of one of our songs) or prejudiced. The song in question is off our EP, GNR Lies, and is called "One in a Million." The lyric that prompted Tony's curiosity as to our racial standing goes, "Police and niggers, get out of my way.” The term "niggers" being the case in question.

I think that down inside Tony knows the answer but it would satisfy a certain something to hear it from us. The answer is. NO! Not in any way is Guns N' Roses racist, prejudiced, bigoted or subject to any other title of racial discrimination. I cannot stress this strongly enough. I’m sorry that anyone would even start to think that about us in the first place, but I will add this much to em­phasize and clarify.

The word nigger, by way of original defi­nition (albeit slang), is a low-grade, lazy in­dividual. An individual with no regard for anyone else. Low-class upbringing and moral standards. Human trash, if you like, but not a label for any particular ethnic group. A nigger could be a Caucasian. Asian, Italian, Latin or Black. It is from this definition GNR used the word nigger, not from the stereotypical one that is exclusive to blacks only. It’s a drag that some asshole somewhere, sometime, decided long ago that the word nigger and its meaning was deserved by the Black race Now it’s a household word used by racist morons the world over. And since it’s been this way for so long, it seems there's not much to be done about it. Being part black myself, I take offense to hearing the word nigger as well.

Anyway, I'll briefly summarize “One in a Million," and you can decide for yourself what we’re getting at. "One in a Million" is Axl’s autobiographical look back to when he picked up his bags and hitchhiked from smalltown Lafayette, Indiana, to downtown Los Angeles. The harsh contrast of L.A.'s fast pace, concrete, dog-eat-dog motif to Axl's middle-class, conservative background created the verses for "One in a Million," with “I'm one in a million," echoing the aspi­rations of kids everywhere to become some­body in the entertainment biz, being the chorus. The combination of verse and cho­rus should spell out the point of the song. Axl's reference to niggers was directed towards the characters one would encoun­ter on the streets in downtown L.A., i.e. mug­gers, pimps, hookers, thieves, drug dealers, etc. . . . Not a common sight in Lafayette, for sure. But also very intimidating to a teenager coming from there and landing smack in the middle of LA. for the first time. Get the picture?

All the mentions of particular groups of people in this song are referring to the radi­cal extremes (ex.: "immigrants and faggots." etc.). Hollywood is a radical extreme in it­self. The words to "One in a Million” are not meant to insult. They are meant to verbal­ize the most decadent examples of every­day life in the big city.

In closing, I would like to add that the bot­tom line is, if anybody thought that we were bigots—DON'T. Nobody in this band is, nor is anyone in our whole organization. So if we offended anyone, it wasn't intentional.

Thanx for Listening,

P.S. This isn't an excuse, just fact.

In 2014, Tom Zutaut would look back at Axl refusing to apologize and Slash doing it:

Axl was not going to apologise for a factual story of what he experienced when he got off the bus. Slash apologised because there were very powerful people demanding an apology, and Slash, being half African American, was upset that people were offended.


As the band started touring the 'Use Your Illusion' records in 1991, there were rumors that the Ku Klux Klan would show up at the shows and claim that the band supported racism:

I mean, cuz we are the band that the Ku Klux Klan was supposed to be showing up at shows to pass up things. And it’s like, when a Ku Klux Klan guy is met, it’s like, “Out of here!” (points with his hand). […] Well, [the KKK] said they were going to and we were going to sue the Ku Klux Klan because they were trying to say we were supporting racism. And it’s like, they had a Grand Wizard and stuff. And it’s like, I fired off letters from the lawyers right away. I figure out, don’t even think about it, you know. You misinterpreted something I said. Don’t even think about it.

Axl would discuss KKK and David Duke while playing two shows in Dayton on January 13 and 14, 1992:

Now, I wanna ask your opinions about GN’R. I was reading in a magazine that we should have called these two new records “Our Hitler,” comparing me to Hitler; [that] I’m a troubled child and, basically, I’m Hitler, and if people listen they’ll all go to hell. What do you think of that? Being that we are the band that put out One in a Million, let me ask this question: how many redneck racist assholes do we have here tonight? And do you think that I’m a racist? Or a lot of you are just confused and you don’t know whether I am or not. I live in L.A., I’ve lived there for ten years. I’ve lived on the streets – I don’t anymore, but I used to. And, I mean, we hang out with people like Ice T and NWA. And it’s like, you can use whatever fucking language you want. I don’t need a bunch of jerkoff white fuckin’ people fuckin’ telling you I’m a racist cuz they don’t want our rock ‘n’ roll to exist. I had a meeting about a year-and-a-half ago with Arsenio Hall, cuz he was on TV calling me a racist and shit, and we went out and had a little talk. And he was like, 'The reason I’m having this talk is that I suddenly realized that the 70-80% of the white people in my organization were the ones telling me you’re a racist – not the black people that work with me.' It was the white people that didn’t want GN’R to be the fuck around.

But I read reviews on the albums and we got reviews describing us as – you know, that we should call the albums “Our Hitler” and, basically, we’re David Duke America’s house band. Fuck David Duke! And if you think that supporting something like David Duke is what we wrote a song like One in a Million about, then you can do yourself a favor, because you’re a real disillusioned motherfucker, and you outta just leave.

Later, Axl would discuss trying to engage the audience in the KKK rumours:

[Talking about trying to get a crowd reaction]: I approached it a bit differently when we did the first show in Dayton, Ohio. We'd been told we're the perfect house band for David Duke's America. And it's like, fuck David Duke, I don't like being associated with that. I asked the crowd: "Is that what you get out of this, that we're racists and you're supporting it? 'Cause if that's the case, I'm gonna go home. That's not why we're here." I asked the crowd about those things. I got some real interesting responses. The way they reacted was a little bit different than normal. There was silence in different places and cheering in others. You could tell that they were thinking for a minute.

Axl would revisit this theme on January 27 in San Diego:

You know, we just put out these records and I’ve read all kinds of reviews. I’ve been called everything. We should have called the record “Our Hitler;” that’s from a review I read. Yeah, I think Guns N’ Roses has a whole hell of a lot to do with Nazism and telling people what to do and killing [?], don’t you? They still don’t know what to make out of One in a Million. You know, it’s funny. The people mostly pissed off about what they call racism were the white people. There are a lot of white people that just don’t like rock ‘n’ roll in general, so, “Wait, now we’ve got a fucking target. They’re racist.” Is that what you people think we are and we mean? Is that all we are about? Because if it is, then we should probably go home. Because we get told that we should be – I think it was in Entertainment Weekly – “David Duke’s house band for America.” Fuck David Duke! The motherfucker [inaudible].

Axl would also talk about David Duke in interviews, like in an interview he did in September 1992:

When I read that Guns N' Roses could be David Duke's house band, that's wrong, and it hurts me. I'm not for David Duke. I don't know anything about the guy except that he was in the Klan, and that's f?!ked.


That's a song that the whole band says: 'Don't put that on there. You're white, you've got red hair, don't use it.' You know? 'Fuck you! I'm gonna do it cos I'm Axl!' OK, go ahead, it's your fucking head. Of course, you're guilty by association. [But] what are you gonna do? He's out of control and I'm just the fucking guitar player...

Axl's lyrics in 'One In A Million' immediately caught attention. The press labelled us things like David Duke's house band; I heard that the KKK - or some faction of the Klan at least - started using the song as a war cry. I stood by my original interpretation of the song and of Axl's intentions. Art gets misunderstood all the time. Still, I found myself uncomfortable as a result of this particular misunderstanding.
Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 145

When I first heard 'One In A Million', I asked Axl, 'What the fuck? Is this necessary?' He just said, 'Yeah, it's necessary. I'm letting my feelings out.'
The Days of Wine and Roses, Classic Rock, April 2005

That song was meant, to the best of my knowledge, as a third-person slant on how fucked-up America was in the '80s. I don't know. I wouldn't have used the words, but Axl has been known to be amazingly bold at times.
Reverb, July 2010

'One In A Million' featured the wildly controversial lyrics about "police and niggers" and "immigrants and faggots." I thought that it was a great song that needed strong words. It expressed a heavy sentiment that had to be delivered with no punches pulled. I knew that the words weren't directed to the majority of blacks, gays, or immigrants. It simply described the scumbags of the world. (...) The song explained the shit that Axl, a naive hick from Indiana, had gone through.
"My Appetite for Destruction", 2010, pp. 177

I come from a family that’s multi-racial, Slash is half-black, and “One In A Million,” from where I sat in 1988—and I was convinced of it and still am, and people look at me cross-eyed—to me it was a commentary on America from a third person, and I thought it was the most genius thing ever, and I thought it was pretty bold of Axl to take that stance. We weren’t the huge band we’d become when Lies came out, but people knew who we were, so we knew people were gonna hear this song, but it wasn’t done for the shock value. It was kind of just recorded and done and out, and we were moving on. David Geffen had us on this AIDS benefit in 1989 or ’90, and it was gonna be at Radio City Music Hall, and we were the headliner for this thing. And the Gay Alliance or Rainbow Coalition or something gave David Geffen so much grief that we were kicked off. And it was really like, “Are you fuckin’ serious?” And that’s when it first started to dawn. I remember taking a flight home to Seattle and there was an empty seat next to me, and the flight attendant sat down, and she was a black woman. She said, “So, are you in the band Guns N’ Roses?” “Yeah.” “Are you really a racist?” She wanted to sit down and talk to me and try and turn me from being a racist. She was a nice Seattle chick, and I was a nice Seattle guy, and I just shrank in my seat. I didn’t know what to say.
[The Onion A.V. Club, May 2011

You know what, in all honesty [the problems with Living Colour] stemmed from a lyric that Axl, being from the Midwest in the US, from Indiana, he said something I didn't agree with when we recorded the song, he said something about niggers and faggots and something like that and it was his introduction to Los Angeles downtown. And I know where he's coming from in some ways, but I also know where he's really coming from in another way - and it wasn't necessary to say it, because you would really have to know his background to understand where that's coming from. It generated a lot of bad blood. I mean, I got jumped in Chicago because of it. By a bunch of my brothers, you know - about three of them - and they cornered me in a mall, in the dark, and I was like - "Look -" and I told them the same thing I'm telling you, look, you got to understand the guy, and we parted on good terms, but I understood why he shouldn't have done it in the first place. […] I said, well, if you insist on doing this, it's your responsibility, but in the long run it turns out to be the band's responsibility. In essence, we didn't ever have a problem with Living Colour as far as I know.

It hit home with me on a bad level, because I’m half black for one, so when we started saying the word [bleep], it got me very unsettling (laughs).

I was offended. That was a brash, ignorant kind of statement Axl made. I knew where he was coming from, once he explained it, but that didn't validate it to make it worthy of putting on a record.

We had issues. But the more issues we had, the more adamant he was about putting the song on there. I was hugely embarrassed that it was on something that my name was on. It was a tough little period.

We were supposed to play David Geffen's big AIDS benefit in New York a couple months [after that song’s release]; we got pulled off of that. I remember getting on a plane flying back to Seattle, and an African American flight attendant came up and sat down next to me and said, ‘Do you really hate black people?’ I'm like, ‘Oh, f***.’ Part of my family is African American. [Guns N’ Roses guitarist] Slash is half [black]. So, people didn't put that together. Hopefully now, later, people can examine that song. And I think it's brilliant and super-brave of [GNR frontman] Axl [Rose] to step out and do that.

Arlett Vereecke:

Axl is definitely not homophobic. Axl is a lot more liberal than people give him credit for, trust me. And he’s a lot nicer. He can be difficult, but he also has a really nice side to him.

Doug Goldstein:

Yeah, and actually, literally, all [Axl] was trying to do is poke fun of a red - he was a redneck, homophobe, racist when he arrived in Los Angeles. And he was actually poking fun at that kind of mentality. He was like, "I can't believe I arrived in LA and I had all these preconceived notions about people that I knew nothing about." But instead of coming out and just putting it that fucking simply, he doesn't care what people think about it. He just doesn't fucking care. So I would beg him, "Please, you're killing me, tell your side of the story," and he go, "I'm not interested, if they can't figure that out, Doug, then fuck them. If they really think that's who I am then fuck them."

In 2019, Duff would describe the song as a "hardcore" way to speak out and that "nobody got [the song]":

We got kicked off an AIDS benefit. I remember taking a plane and an African American flight attendant sees the seat next to me was open, so she sat down. ‘Are you with Guns N’ Roses? Are you really racist about black people?’ And then there’s what Slash [who is biracial] went through, and part of my family is African American. I had to explain it to them.

One thing about Axl is if you’re going to try to compete with him intellectually, you’ve lost, because he’s a super smart guy. He’s a super sensitive dude who does his studies. When we did that song, I was still drinking but he was way ahead of us with his vision of, ‘Something’s gotta be said.’ That was the most hardcore way to say it. So flash-forward to now. So many people have misinterpreted that song that song that we [removed it]. … Nobody got it.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:11 am


Success is a double-edged sword and the band had to adjust to being famous:

When the tour ended [in 1988] everything was different. People who before, could care less about us, now came and said, “Hey guys, how are you doing?” It was kind of confusing, you came home and you asked “what changed? …of course, the album.” And the people when we went down the street, told us “how are you? Will you give me 10 bucks?” (laughs). One day, I met a guy who was doing something for MTV, I met him in a hotel; he told me he was in Ronnie Wood’s band. I told myself, “hey, everyone is my friend!” I was a big fan of Ronnie. I didn’t see that guy again for a week, he had given me his name, and that of his manager. One day, the guy showed up at my house, he got comfortable and drank all my whiskey, my vodka, and everything else. I received a phone call from the management company… and I told them that he was with me, I gave them his name… and the company told me “who’s that… never heard of the guy!” I came around at that moment… at that time I drank a lot and that made me lose my mind….

It was madness, really, it wasn’t so much work as a fucking great adventure and we were getting paid. Nobody knew if we were ever going to make a fucking dime, but it just kind of exploded. In the book Me, Alice by Alice Cooper there’s a chapter where he says, ‘No matter what you do in your life there’s nothing that can prepare you for the huge success that can happen when you have a record that goes number one’.

I read that in 1980, and I was living in my car at the time, but I remember thinking, ‘Okay, I’ll keep that in mind if it ever happens’. Then nine years went by and I caught myself sitting in this apartment one day with a 9mm pistol on my desk, a pile of coke, smoking heroin, and I was like, ‘This is fucked up, I’m definitely not prepared for this.’

I didn't really know what to expect; I just wanted to play in a rock band... We didn't even think that one day we would play outside of Los Angeles! And I can tell you that us being simple guys, which we were, there was absolutely no way we could prepare for success. The only rockstar thing we did was get wasted! We were really borderline regarding our lifestyle, so when we got famous it got worse. When we came back from tour, we all bought houses and we got wasted even more... But one day when I was probably sober, I told myself, "Izzy, something's wrong. We're screwing up!" It was around 1988 or 1989. I made the decision to come back to Indiana and see my old friends again... Before the tour, we didn't have any money. When we came back our bank accounts were full and everybody wanted to sell us drugs, guns; it was crazy.

We left [for touring in 1987], we were the least likely to succeed, probably the most hated and despised band – “junkies,” “faggots,” you name it. They didn’t like us. We had a good following, though. We went out, we toured – you know, fast forward, we leave ’85, ‘86, we leave on this tour, nobody knows us. We’re playing opening for Iron Maiden in Canada selling the passes out front; nobody knows who we are. We come back to L.A., I don’t know, 14 months later, [after touring] around the world a couple of times, and everybody wants to be our best friend. And you’re like, “Wow!” “Wow, things have changed drastically.” And then, of course, we all were in our twenties. We didn’t have any experience with this kind of thing. And, of course, that’s where drugs become popular, right?

In a way [the sucess came too fast], yes, because our lives were turned upside down in a few months. But you have to remember that we had worked long and hard for that, and I can tell you that some months, when I was struggling to make ends meet to pay a pittance of rent, I didn't think that success was "coming too fast". But when it happened to us, it was like a tidal wave. And it totally destroyed me.


With the success, the band could escape their poverty. During the touring in 1987 and early 1988 they had lived out of their suitcases. When asked about how they were doing in an interview released in June 1988, Izzy would say he didn't expect to see any money in a couple of years still:

Well, actually, I checked that out. Looks like another year or two [before we see money]. There’s a lot of expenses. It takes a long time to recoup. We spent a lot of money on our record.

Despite this, and probably because of their explosive success, after ending the Iron Maiden tour in June 1988 the band was paid out $160,000 or "something like that" in total [Kerrang! July 1988]. And by August 1988 they had paid back Geffen what they were owed [Screamer, August 1988]. In Duff's biography, he indicates that they were handed their first check from record sales when they returned from tour: $80,000 each. Three weeks later they got another check [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 143].

Raz Cue would mention hanging with Izzy after he had returned from touring in 1988 and how they got free drinks at the Troubadour:

I remember, you know, the thing when I realized like how huge they were is like when I just actually ran into Izzy on the street and we were a couple blocks from the Troubadour. It had to be like after the Appetite tour, everything was over. And so we pick up Izzy, we go to the Troubadour, and he's like, "Let's get some drinks," I'm like, "Okay," and then I'm like figuring that Izzy's gonna go buy drinks and he calls Eddie over, like the owner of the Troubadour, and said, "Hey Eddie, how about some drinks," it's like, "Oh, no problem, no problem, Izzy," it's like, "What do you guys want?" and it's like, "Man that guy, he's a businessman, at Troubadour you don't get free drinks," you know, and all of a sudden it's like this guy's, "How many people want free drinks?" It's like, "Man, this guy wants Izzy in his bar bad, he's gonna buy drinks for like..."

Izzy had expressed a desire to build a guitar collection (and who had to sell his Gibson Black Beauty in 1987 to pay the rent [Guitar World, March 1989]) and an underground studio, and buy guns to kill the animals in Slash's jungle [L.A. Rocks, August 1986]. And a home [RIP Magazine, June 1988], and at the end of touring in 1988 he bought an apartment:

When we finished touring, I managed to get an apartment two days before the tour ended because we were already in Los Angeles with Aerosmith or someone else…

He also bought a bed:

I enjoy life more now, I'm not so pissed off all the time. When you got no bread, drug problems, no money and winos in your alley throwing up, it does tend to aggravate you. It's much better now. I can live like a normal person. I mean, for the 10 years I lived here, I never had a bed. I just bought one - and it's a futon. I guess I'm used to lying on the floor.

Izzy and Alan Niven would occasionally travel to New Orleans together, and Niven would later recount an anecdote from one of these visits in 1989:

Money enables. One time in New Orleans, Iz and I were mistreated by some security guys in a bar. The next day I had 12 of the biggest bodies on the planet flown in from around the country and we went back to that bar and settled accounts. [...] Again, ridiculous, but also a real sweet payback for anyone wrongly abused.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:12 am


Immediately after its release, it was mainly the racist aspects of 'One in a Million' that was debated in the media and caused controversy. The homophobic slurs did not cause as much controversy at first, or it had to take a backseat while media focused on the perceived racism of the song. But when that discussion wound down, the band started to receive more criticism for the homophobic verses.

David Geffen, the head of Geffen Records, was himself gay and would be asked about whether Axl was a homophobe:

I don’t believe he is homophobic. I know him.
The Baltimore Sun, July 22, 1994

Alan Niven, after having been fired by Axl, would deny there was ever any friendship between Geffen and Axl:

David Geffen and Axl Rose? Oh, just ships in the night. Geffen is a very smart business man. He had no illusions whatsoever about Axl. Did he ever want to hang out with Axl? Oh, good God, no! Geffen is far too intelligent to care about sustaining some kind of rock credibility for himself by socializing with Axl Rose.


The quote above is telling about Axl's views on homosexuality and homosexuals at the time. While he would be bending over backwards to explain and defend the 'One In A Million' verses on blacks [see previous section], he had a harder time, or didn't want to, defend the homophobic portions of the song:

I don't know what to think about gays. They're in a world of their own. I'm not too happy about AIDS.

When I use the word immigrants, what I'm talking about is going to a 7-11 or Village pantries - a lot of people from countries like Iran, Pakistan, China, Japan et cetera, get jobs in these convenience stores and gas stations. Then they treat you as if you don't belong here. I've been chased out of a store with Slash by a six-foot-tall Iranian with a butcher knife because he didn't like the way we were dressed. Scared me to death. All I could see in my mind was a picture of my arm on the ground, blood going everywhere. When I get scared, I get mad. I grabbed the top of one of these big orange garbage cans and went back at him with this shield, going, "Come on!" I didn't want to back down from this guy. Anyway that's why I wrote about immigrants. Maybe I should have been more specific and said, "Joe Schmoladoo at the 7-11 and faggots make no sense to me." That's ridiculous! I summed it up simply and said, "Immigrants."

And he would explicitly state that he had an "attitude" towards homosexuals caused by a prior bad experience:

I've had some very bad experiences with homosexuals. When I was first coming to Los Angeles, I was about eighteen or nineteen. On my first hitchhiking ride, this guy told me I could crash at his hotel. I went to sleep and woke up while this guy was trying to rape me. I threw him down on the floor. He came at me again. I went running for the door. He came at me. I pinned him between the door and the wall. I had a straight razor, and I pulled the razor and said, "Don't ever touch me! Don't ever think about touching me! Don't touch yourself and think about me! Nothing!" Then I grabbed my stuff and split with no place to go, no sleep, in the middle of nowhere outside of St. Louis. That's why I have the attitude I have.

When pressed in whether he is anti-homosexual, he would state:

I'm proheterosexual. I can't get enough of women, and I don't see the same thing that other men can see in men. I'm not into gay or bisexual experiences. But that's hypocritical of me, because I'd rather see two women together than just about anything else. That happens to be my personal, favorite thing.

And when asked about his thoughts on gay-bashing and if he had ever beaten up someone because of their sexual orientation:

No! I never have. The most I do is, like, on the way to the Troubadour in "Boystown," on Santa Monica Boulevard, I'll yell out the car window, "Why don't you guys like pussy?" 'Cause I'm confused. I don't understand it. Anti-homosexual? I'm not against them doing what they want to do as long as it's not hurting anybody else and they're not forcing it upon me. I don't need them in my face or, pardon the pun, up my ass about it.

But Axl wasn't the only one who had expressed negativity towards gays:

We're not sexist, but that's no reason for the groupies who hang around backstage to start wanting respect. We treat them like shit because that's what they are. […] We're talking about groupies, not women in general. Anyway, one day one of those tramps is gonna catch AIDS from screwing some faggot and end up giving it to every group in town. That'll be the end of the rock scene in LA.

In June 1993 Slash would again deny they are homophobic and perhaps imply his own mother was gay:

I mean, as people, we're definitely not homophobic. You know, my mom… The closest I grew up around… You know, gay... I'm very fond of gay women. So, I mean, I'm not homophobic.


In a review of the band's show in Houston on January 9, 1992, the Houston Chronicle wrote that Axl "allegedly told 'Rolling Stone' magazine he liked to 'beat up faggots after a concert, to relieve stress' [Houston Chronicle, January 10, 1992]. It has not been possible to find the original source for this quote, and it is not found in any of the known Rolling Stone magazines. The conclusion that this is either entirely fictional or a misunderstood and tasteless joke.  


When invited to play at Freddie Mercury's tribute concert in April 1992 [see separate chapter], the band would again be targeted by anti-homophobia groups who would use the lyrics of 'One in a Million' and statements in interviews to protest against the band's inclusion on the lineup.

Around the same time Axl would discuss the allegations that he is homophobic and for the first time admit he had been wrong and imply his views on homosexuality had matured:

When I used the word faggots [in 'One in a Million'], I wasn't coming down on gays. I was coming down on an element of gays. I had just heard a story about a man who was released out of the L.A. county jail with AIDS and he was hooking. I've had my share of dealings with aggressive gays, and I was bothered by it. The Bible says, "Thou shalt not judge," and I guess I made a judgment call, and it was an insult.

Axl's would also argue that his problems with homosexuality came from being raped by his father when he was two years old:

Homophobic? I think I've got a problem, if my dad fucked me in the ass when I was two. I think I've got a problem about it.

I don't know, maybe l have a problem with homophobia. Maybe l was two years old and got fucked in the ass by my dad and it's caused a problem ever since, but other than that, l don't know if I have any homophobia. How was that? […] So anyway, homophobia? The song [=One in a Million] is very generic. it's very vague, it's very simple, it was meant to be that way, it was written that way. It was like, O.K., I'm writing this song as l want to -- l want this song to be like "Midnight Cowboy." That guy was very naive and involved in everything. The cowboy. My friend who got robbed, he was like Dustin Hoffman's character. l wanted the song to be written from that point of view. l wrote it to deal with my anger and my fear and my vulnerability in that situation, that l still felt uncomfortable with, that happened to me. That was the "police and niggers" line. But now we move on to another line that says, […] "Immigrants and faggots, 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 / and they talk so many goddamned ways / it's all Greek to me." […] The line about "faggots" was written after I heard a story from a sheriff about a man they had just arrested after just releasing from jail, and he had AIDS, and he was back out on Santa Monica Boulevard hooking. We were like, "Oh, my God." And this just happened to get stuck in the song, since we had a radical line like "police and niggers" -- we might as well go all the way now, we'll write something else just as obnoxious, because we were just writing off-color humor at the time. We were dealing with a situation that was really heavy, ugly, and scary, and so we were making light of it. l was being encouraged to write as l was writing. […] Then we move on to the gay issue. I hitchhiked a lot and I got hassled an awful lot. I was very naive, and very tired, and a guy picked me up and said l could crash at his hotel, and l woke up with the man trying to rape me. l almost killed this man, l was so frightened. l had a straight-edge razor and was freakin' out: Don't ever touch me again! Then the guy ran out the door. l was so scared and l felt so violated. l didn't know that l felt even more violated than l was in the situation because of what had gone on in my childhood and what l had pretty much buried-and didn't even remember.

People can do whatever they want to, but I'm more pro-hetro. I'm not knocking it -- I have friends that are gay. It's just that it's not my cup of tea, l guess. That's all. People can do what they want. l can sit and watch the Madonna movie and enjoy it very much and feel I'm learning something, and then I have other friends that can't handle it at all. […] I don't make any judgment, you know. Sometimes we can be stupid, like somebody rooting for their team and just going, "Oh, our team's the best." That song sounds like l am, because when we went in the studio it came out very forceful. l played it on guitar and it was done very slow and in a different tone of voice and done very humorously. Well, that didn't work out when we recorded it because I had Duff play it on guitar -- because he could play it better and in better time -- and Izzy put this other guitar thing to it, and it evolved into something of its own. We didn't plan that song to be as forceful as it was. We walked into the studio, and boom, it just happened.
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Apr 06, 2024 4:07 pm


With the success, the band could escape their poverty. During the touring in 1987 and early 1988 they had lived out of their suitcases. Because of their explosive success, after ending the Iron Maiden tour in June 1988 the band was paid out $160,000 or "something like that" in total [Kerrang! July 1988]. And by August 1988 they had paid back Geffen what they were owed [Screamer, August 1988]. In Duff's biography, he indicates that they were handed their first check from record sales when they returned from tour: $80,000 each. Three weeks later they got another check [Duff's autobiography, "It's So Easy", 2011, p. 143].

I can eat whatever I want.

I got a nice car, bitchin' car.
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