If you asked me who my favourite band of all time was I would say Guns N’ Roses without hesitation. There were periods when I perhaps listened to The Rolling Stones more, or I would have said other bands were my hot band of the moment, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Live, Oasis or The Killers. Or even The Eagles or N.W.A. I’ve got a pretty eclectic taste. But Guns N’ Roses are the ones that have been with me the whole time, have captured my imagine most and that I have definitely felt the most connection with. They were the soundtrack to my adolescent years growing up. And boy I can’t think of a better soundtrack for a teenager.

I never thought there would be any chance of Guns N’ Roses getting back together. Certainly not the full Appetite line-up, but the main GnR for me is even just Axl and Slash. If they’re on stage together then I can consider them Guns N’ Roses. Not just Axl with his backing band, as it has been the last 10 years or so. So it was fantastic to see that Axl, Slash and Duff played a gig in L.A. last year. The future looked hopeful. I somehow missed the whole announcement about them going on tour though. Luckily I’m an O2 customer and I received a text asking me if I wanted priority access to purchase Guns N’ Roses tickets the next for the upcoming show in London. I couldn’t believe it. Guns N’ Roses with Axl, Slash and Duff playing in London. I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see them. I bought my tickets the next morning and I’m seeing them on Friday of this week. 16th June. To say I’m excited is an understatement. In honour of this moment I thought I would dedicate a week on the blog to the band that have given me so much joy and entertainment over the years. Let #GnRWeek begin!

Guns N' Roses

Throughout the week I’ll be reviewing the albums, music videos, several books, documentaries and interviews, and also a review of the show itself. Whilst preparing for this week I’ve read all the books I’ve wanted to read for ages and never got round to, learnt a lot more about the band I love, discovered rare demos and unreleased tracks and more. Later today I’ll also be uploading a Guns N’ Roses infographic timeline that I made that helps you get a gist of just how quickly these guys took over the world and then were gone.

That’s the thing about Guns N’ Roses. They weren’t around for long, at their prime. And yet their music lives on in a huge way. That’s perhaps part of their allure. That first album was totally lightning in a bottle. And then that lineup was no more. The second double album was fantastic as well, with a slightly different lineup, and then they burnt themselves out.

The three main reasons for Guns N’ Roses’ downfall as I see it are 1) drug abuse, particularly heroin; Steven Adler ended up making drugs a bigger priority than his music, Slash came very close but managed to always keep music the priority and he sorted himself out eventually, and Izzy also went so far that when he scared himself enough to have to get sober it was at a time when the rest of the band were still partying to excess and there was no way he could be around them (as well as not liking Axl’s new dictatorsip). So drugs basically were a big factor in pushing two of them out. 2) Axl’s ego. It’s evident that as the success of the band grew, so did Axl’s ego. He became more and more removed from the group and from the team mentality, and he did some very questionable things in terms of how he treated band members and the fans. 3) Communication. No-one in the band really communicated to each other about the issues that were boiling up. They’ve all admitted this in their books. They were young men in their late twenties who hadn’t learnt the necessary communication skills to address the issues they were going through. If it all happened now I’m sure they would have the life skills to handle the volatile dynamics better.

Part of me thinks it would be great for the band to have stuck together longer and made more music together. But another part of me thinks that perhaps it’s a part of the mystery and what makes the idea of them so special, that they shone as brightly as they did and burnt out just as quickly. If they had stuck together then they might have become uncool at some point. But having read several books on the band it’s just sad to hear how negative and stressful things were in the band behind the scenes all throughout the Illusion recordings and tour. It kind of puts a slightly sour taste on that whole double album. Not enough to spoil my enjoyment of that music but it’s just a shame to hear how the post-Appetite years were so tough for them all. If nothing else it just highlights even more how special that Appetite album is. The most successful debut album ever. Every band member playing an equal part in the music.

The stories of how the band got together and fought tooth and nail from the absolute bottom rung of the gutter to become the biggest band in the world in less than four years is incredible reading. I’m very excited to hear that there might be a movie being made about it. More of that in a post later this week.

Guns N' Roses

One of the main things I respect most about them is their rawness and honesty. They weren’t a fake hair metal band or glam rock band. They were totally themselves. No-one dressed them or styled them. What you saw was what you got. And they’re such a mix of personalities and styles. They’re all larger than life personalities and yet they felt real. Each band member stood out and was memorable. Plus they all had cool names. Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy and erm… Steven. They felt dangerous, cool, entertaining, fascinating, and accessible all at once.

But perhaps the most impressive thing was how well and how quickly they could write good songs. Many of the songs on Appetite were songs that Izzy, Duff, Slash or Axl brought to the table themselves and then completed with the band. This shows the breadth of songwriting ability. But also some songs were written together in about 2 hours with them all in a room, or even in the back of a van! They had this connection when they were all together which they said they felt after two chords of their first ever rehearsal. You can hear that raw energy on Appetite. It’s just such a good first record. Every song is great.

And they were ground-breaking in many ways. They brought a new sound of rock to a genre that was getting softer and more glam all the time. They made it raw and punky again. They made it real. Their debut album broke loads of records including being the most successful debut album of all time. And their Use Your Illusion Tour was the longest tour ever, at two and a half years. This band made history.

So this week I’ll delve into the history of Guns N’ Roses, into the band members, and into the music. Hopefully you’ll join me, and if you can add any insights into the band, to add to the notes, then please do comment on any of the articles.

Welcome to the jungle, baby.