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Guns N' Roses: History of the Hard Rock Band

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in 1985 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, Guns N' Roses made a name for themselves with their hard rock and heavy metal sound. The band also became famous for the behavior of its members, such as inciting riots during shows and substance abuse problems. Guns N' Roses' biggest hits include "Sweet Child o' Mine," "November Rain," and the cover of the Paul McCartney song "Live and Let Die". In this video, we take a look at the history of the American hard rock band Guns N' Roses.

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Hard rock band Guns N’ Roses formed in Los Angeles, California in 1985. The band went through a number of line-up changes before they were even signed to a label. However, the first constant Guns N’ Roses line-up consisted of Axl Rose on vocals, Slash on guitar, Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar, Duff McKagan on bass and Steve Adler on drums.

Debut and Number One Single

While playing club shows, the band released an EP. They were soon picked up by Geffen Records, and it was with that label they released their debut Appetite for Destruction in 1987. However, the hard rock and heavy metal effort took off slowly. It only really started to gain momentum after months of touring and the release of the second single “Sweet Child o’ Mine” in 1988. This song became their first and only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Soon after this success, Appetite for Destruction reached the first position on the American charts.

Next Album and Line-Up Changes

Later that year, the number-two effort G N’ R Lies was released. As they got ready to work on their next project, Guns N’ Roses underwent another line-up change: keyboardist Dizzy Reed joined the band while Adler’s drug problems resulted in his replacement by Matt Sorum.

“Use Your Illusion”

In 1991, the group released two albums simultaneously: Use Your Illusion I hit the second position and Use Your Illusion II hit the first position on the Billboard charts. Though still hard rock, the material on these releases contained more musical variety than their previous work, including epics and ballads. Blues, horns and even country influences could also be found. The top three hit “November Rain” was the most popular single from these records.


Guns N’ Roses then went on the “Use Your Illusion” tour. Though this lengthy concert series was a commercial success, it was also marred by several incidents. This included Rose’s unpredictable behavior – which sometimes provoked riots – and line-up changes, such as Stradlin’s departure and the hiring and eventual firing of guitarist Gilby Clarke.


Up next was 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident? The punk covers album reached the fourth spot on the Billboard charts. However, tensions continued between band members and this made recording new material a struggle. The band did manage to release some new work in the ‘90s in the form of contributions to movie soundtracks, like “Interview with the Vampire” and “End of Days.” The live compilation Live Era ’87-93 dropped in 1999.

Member Changes

The decade was also filled with many more member changes, such as the departures of Slash, Sorum and McKagan. Notable additions included bassist Tommy Stinson as well as guitarists Robin Finck and Buckethead. Rose was the only constant member through it all.

Live Shows in the 2000s

The band began playing live shows again in the new millennium. However, touring was not always riot-free and there was no new completed album in sight. Guns N’ Roses then decided to go on a break. During this time, Geffen released a greatest hits compilation.

Leaked New Material

Meanwhile, several Guns N’ Roses demos were leaked on the internet. Rumors surfaced that these tracks were from their next album, which was to be titled Chinese Democracy. Yet recording, production and release delays persisted, and personnel changes continued.

“Chinese Democracy”

In 2006, the band went back to playing shows and even performed new material. They spent the next year on album post-production. Chinese Democracy was finally released in 2008. The highly anticipated record premiered in the third position on the U.S. Billboard 200. The group spent the next few years touring in support of the record.

Musical Influence

Though they were criticized for their often wild and indifferent attitudes, substance abuse issues, and provocative lyrics, Guns N’ Roses were able to find success. Thanks to their blend of heavy metal and hard rock, they sold over a hundred million albums and continue to influence other artists across the globe.

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