History of Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses was officially formed in 1985 when members of two bands decided to form a new group. The name comes from these 2 bands: Hollywood Rose was a band Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin' were in. In 1985 Tracii Guns from L.A. Guns joined them and that's when GNR was born. Shortly after that, Tracii Guns was out, Duff joined Guns N' Roses, and soon after that, Slash and Steven Adler also joined. The Appetite for Destruction version of the band started to exist in the middle of 1985.
Early picture of Guns N' Roses
At the beginning, things were not easy for Guns N' Roses, their first tour to Seattle was not a success and in Los Angeles they were all sharing a very small apartment that they called the "hell house". The money was not there but the creativity was. They quickly composed a lot of their big hits around that time, including Don't Cry and Welcome to the Jungle. They started to gain popularity and played clubs such as the Troubadour and the Roxy in late 1985 and early 1986.
After a while they caught the attention of the record companies but these people were a bit scared to sign the band because of their tendency to party and consume large amounts of drugs and alcohol. But in Spring 1986 Geffen Records takes the chance and offer them a contract. Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff and Steven started recording material for their first album. At the end of the year they released 10,000 copies of an EP called "Live like a suicide" featuring 4 songs: Reckless life, Nice Boys, Move to the city, and Mama Kin. This album was not live though, they simply added crowd sounds to make it sound like it was live. This release is very popular with collectors and you will need to spend a lot of money if you want to own one of these. You can find them from time to time on eBay.com.
"Live like a suicide", released in 1986
In the summer of 1987, Guns N' Roses' "Appetite For Destruction" album is released, not without some controversy ("controversy", remember that word, it will come up frequently!). The image on the album cover featuring a rape scene is judged too offensive and many retailers refused to sell the album for that reason. Geffen therefore decided to change it for the cross logo on a black background (this logo is actually a copy of one of Axl's tattoos; a tattoo that he later altered to "remove" Slash & co.). Once again the original cover became a collector item but it's more common and affordable than "Live like a suicide"
Original version of "Appetite For Destruction" (banned cover)
Replacement version of "Appetite For Destruction" (in use since 1987)
After the release of "Appetite for Destruction", Guns N' Roses go on the road and they start to have some success, but it is going slow and nobody had any idea of what would happen to them later. They released a few singles, made a video for "welcome to the jungle", they opened for some big rock bands such as Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden. Things were going well but they were not very famous. However, when the song "Sweet Child O'Mine" came out, Guns N' Roses popularity EXPLODED. "Appetite for Destruction" quickly entered the top-10 and stayed #1 for a long time. They were selling millions and millions of copies of their record. In the second half of 1988 when they became big, they were on tour with Aerosmith and a lot of people were more interested by the opening act GNR than Aerosmith. "Appetite" was such a success that it broke a new record for the best selling debut album of all time.
From that moment Guns N' Roses became rock legends and they were everywhere, all over MTV, front pages of magazines, and they were the hottest band to see. By the end of 1988 they released a small album featuring the 4 tracks previously released on "Live like a suicide" + 4 new accoustic tracks: Patience, Used to love her, You're Crazy, and One in a Million. This album immediately sold millions of copies and GNR became the only band with 2 albums in the Billboard top-5 simultaneously (They did it again in 1991).
Once again, some controversy, Axl used the words "nigger" and "faggots" in the song "One in a million" which caused a lot of bad publicity, but there's no such thing as "bad publicity" when you're in the music business! GNR were loved and hated and everybody was paying attention to them, which helped record sales and popularity.
Then came 1989, when the band almost broke up. In that year GNR took some time off the road and started working on the next album, but things deteriorated, band members were consuming large amounts of drugs and alcohol, Slash was addicted to heroin, Steven adler also, Duff and Izzy were heavily into drugs and alcohol as well. The recording and rehearsals suffered from that, Axl had a tendency to isolate himself from other band members, little progress was being made. In the fall of '89 they were offered to open 4 shows for the Rolling Stones at the Los Angeles Forum. This almost turned into a drama when Axl started the first show by saying this was the last Guns N' Roses show, complaining about drug abuse of the other band members. He finally changed his mind and they played the 3 remaining shows.
1990 was not much better, no live performance (Except one appearance at a festival), no album. Then they were getting ready to record "Use Your Illusion" but they were not happy with Steven Adler's performance and they fired him for drug problems. He was replaced by Matt Sorum who decided to abandon "The Cult" to try the Guns n' Roses experience. Another band member also joined the band: Dizzy Reed, an old friend of the band who played keyboard. This new line-up performed for the first time in early 1991 at the "Rock in Rio II" festival, they played 2 nights in front of 145,000 people each night!
"Use Your Illusion" took a long time to come out and fans were anxious to hear it. The band had so much material that they decided to release 2 albums instead of just one. The band went on their first big tour in May 1991 even if the album was not ready yet. They were playing stadiums and arenas across the USA, all sold out.
In July 1991 a famous incident occured at the St-Louis concert. Axl Rose was not happy by the security people's job and during Rocket Queen he asked them to take a camera away from a fan in the first rows. The security guys didn't do anything and Axl said "I'll take it god damnit!" and he jumped into the crowd to solve the problem and hit the fan. He then returned on stage, asked the band to stop playing and told the crowd: "Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!" and the show was over. A violent riot followed that event, causing injuries and a lot of damage.
In august 1991 they played their longest show ever in Los Angeles. Later that month "Use Your Illusion 1" and "Use your illusion 2" both came out simultaneously. GNR fans bought millions of copies and both album were on top of the charts. GNR toured in Europe during that time.
Then Izzy Stradlin', who was now sober, decided he didn't want to be part of Guns n' Roses anymore. The band replaced him by Gilby Clarke who had to learn dozens of GNR songs in a short time. After a short break, the band resumed the tour in New England. In addition to Gilby Clarke on guitar, the band also hired some horn musicians and backup vocalists for the concerts. This band went on the road for more than a year non stop.
In 1992, GNR's popularity was out of control. They were the biggest band on the planet. They were so popular that stadiums were often not big enough and they had to play race tracks! They toured in the USA, Japan, Mexico, Europe, South America and Australia. They also headlined a short stadium tour with Metallica. They used some of their days off to record several punk cover tunes that were released in 1993 in an album called "The Spaghetti Incident?".
The biggest hits of the 90's were Civil War, You Could Be Mine, Don't Cry, November Rain, and Estranged, the last 3 were accompanied by extremely expensive music videos.
In March 1993 they returned on the road with a more modest band (they got rid of the back up signers and horns) and toured in USA, Europe and South America. Their last show ever was on July 17, 1993. After that 2+ year world tour their plan was to take some time off and start working on another album after that, but that never really worked out and the band eventually broke up.
The Spaghetti Incident album didn't contain any original material and the sales were not as high at their previous albums. In 1994 they released a cover of the stones success "Sympathy for the Devil" for the movie "interview with a vampire".
After that, things turned bad. The band never really worked on a new album. Axl seemed to become more and more recluse. Slash decided to start a temporary solo project called "Slash's Snakepit" (Matt Sorum, Gilby Clarke and Dizzy Reed also participated to that). Snakepit released an album and went on tour in 1995. After that Slash returned to GNR to work on the new album but the relationship with Axl was not working anymore, so Slash officially announced he was leaving in 1996. Duff and Matt Sorum quickly followed. Gilby was out too.
Since then Axl Rose is apparently working on the "next album" but no release date has been announced (Well many dates have been announced in the past but they were all wrong). In 2000-2001 Axl performed 2 shows with the band he still insist to call "Guns N' Roses" even though he's the only remaining original member. They played mostly old GNR stuff and several new songs which were very different and not all that great. In 2002 the band did a short tour in the USA with dissapointing crowds, they canceled the tour in the middle of it. The lead guitarist at that time was a strange guy named "Buckethead" who's apparently out of the picture as well by now.
Other GNR members have their own projects since they left GNR:
Izzy released his first solo album in 1992, he has many others out since then. He did some smaller shows. He sometimes appeared with Slash live but he remains mostly recluse.
Duff released a solo project during the big GNR period. After he left GNR he went back to college, he played in a band called Ten Minute Warning and he finally re-joined Slash and Matt in Velvet Revolver
Gilby Clarke also released several solo albums. Surprisingly, Axl Rose showed up at one of his shows in 1999 and sang with him.
Steven Adler is also still playing. He has a band called "Steven's Appetite", they tour small clubs and play a lot of GNR.
Slash had several projects: Snakepit 94-95, Blues Ball 96-98, A new Snakepit from 1999-2001 and Velvet Revolver today.
So this is a little history of GNR from my point of view. To learn more about their history, there is several good books around, check them out. To learn more about their concerts, check out my bootleg section, I describe a lot of their shows so you can have an idea of what it was like.