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Guns N' Roses Biography

Rebel rockers Guns n' Roses won over legions of white male rock fans in the late '80s with their gritty punk-meets-heavy-metal sound and bad boy antics (domestic assault, public indecency, property destruction, inciting riots) that often bordered on rock 'n' roll parody. The band formed in Hollywood in 1985 when Indiana transplants Axl Rose (b. William Bailey) and Izzy Stradlin (b. Jeff Isbell) hooked up with guitarist Slash (Saul Hudson), bassist Duff McKagen (Michael McKagen) and drummer Steve Adler. They took their name from two former bands Axl and Izzy had played in -- the L.A. Guns and the Hollywood Roses. After paying their dues in the gritty rock clubs of Hollywood, Guns n' Roses self-released an EP, 1985's Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, that caught the attention of Geffen A&R exec Tom Zutaut. Their debut for Geffen, Appetite For Destruction, was released in July 1987. Propelled by three Top 10 singles -- "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Paradise City" and "Welcome to the Jungle" -- Appetite For Destruction rose to the top of the album charts and went on to sell more than 20 million copies. The band spent most of '87 honing their live act, opening for the likes of Aerosmith, Motley Crue and the Cult. Geffen quickly followed up with 1988's G N' R Lies EP, which included songs from the first Gn'R EP mixed in with new acoustic material. Despite the controversial lyrics of songs like "One in a Million," a neo-racist denunciation of "niggers" and "faggots," G N' R Lies brought the band even greater success. When G N' R Lies hit No. 2 on the charts, Guns n' Roses became the only band in the '80s to have two albums chart in the Top 5 at the same time. But as their popularity grew, so did the swirl of controversy surrounding the band. At England's Monsters of Rock Tour, two fans were killed in the near-riotous crowd. Reports of heroin and alcohol abuse abounded, and came to light in several highly publicized incidents: Slash let loose a string of obscenities on live TV while accepting an American Music Award, Izzy was arrested for urinating in public on an airplane and Axl's three-week marriage to Erin Everly ended abruptly amidst charges of physical abuse. Ultimately it was Adler who was forced out of the band because of his heroin habit. In the fall of 1990, Guns n' Roses went back into the studio with new drummer Matt Sorum (formerly of the Cult) and keyboardist Dizzy Reed. After several long delays, the group emerged with two albums, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, released simultaneously in the fall of 1991. The albums, both mixed by Appetite... producer Mike Clink, debuted at No. 1 (Use Your Illusion II) and No. 2 (Use Your Illusion I) on the Billboard charts. But despite the group's then-promising future, Stradlin abruptly quit the band, unable to resolve his ongoing conflicts with Rose. With new guitarist Gilby Clarke, Guns n' Roses set out on a 28-month marathon world tour, including an appearance at the April '92 Freddie Mercury tribute concert in London which, via satellite, had the largest music audience in history. Back at home, the epic concept video for "November Rain" had become the No. 1 most requested video on MTV. Gn'R later picked up an MTV Video Award for "Best Cinematography" and the coveted MTV Vanguard, awarded for the group's body of work. The band's next release, a collection of punk covers called The Spaghetti Incident, came out in 1993. By this time, however, grunge had knocked heavy metal off the music radar and the rock 'n' roll excesses of bands like Guns 'n Roses seemed suddenly out of date. The Spaghetti Incident sold poorly and the band slowly disintegrated over the next few years, leaving Rose with sole ownership of the Guns n' Roses name. In late 1998 Rose entered the studio with guitarist Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails), bassist Tommy Stinson (Replacements), drummer Josh Freese (Vandals), guitarist Paul Huge and keyboardist Dizzy Reed to work on new Guns n' Roses material. -Christina Cramer
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