20 Things You Never Knew About Guns N’ Roses
Californian band Guns N’ Roses changed the face of rock music forever with the release of their 1987 album Appetite for Destruction. The album was an instant hit and went on to become one of the best-selling debut albums of all time.
Dubbed “the most dangerous band in the world” due to their trademark offensive behaviour, it’s fair to say that Guns N’ Roses are one of the most influential bands to come out of the 80s – if not the whole of the 20th century.
Here are 20 facts about this talented but volatile group.
20. They almost died in a car crash after their first tour
Starting out on your first tour together as a band is difficult for any group, as there are always a ton of kinks to work out.
With that said, Guns N’ Roses had an especially difficult time on their first tour, including breaking down on the road and having to abandon their gear in order to hitchhike to the next city.
Things didn’t get better for Guns N’ Roses after the tour ended, as they ended up in a serious car crash on their way back to Los Angeles.
The whole band was in bassist Duff McKagan’s Toyota Celica when another car collided with than at 60mph. Amazingly, everyone involved survived.
Drummer Steven Adler was the only band member who was injured, coming away from the accident with a broken ankle.
“Duff’s car was totalled and we could have been too,” guitarist Slash recalled in his 2007 autobiography. “That would have been a sick twist of fate: the band dying together after we’d just gotten together.”
19. Axl Rose was briefly imprisoned for throwing a wine bottle and piece of chicken at his neighbour
Axl Rose’s trouble with the law didn’t just happen at his band’s raucous performances.
His antics aren’t just limited to fighting security guards or challenging his own fans to fights, since he’s also got into trouble in more domestic settings.
On October 30th, 1990, lead singer Axl Rose was arrested for allegedly hurling an empty wine bottle and piece of chicken at his neighbour, Gabriella Kantor.
Rose spent four hours in jail before being released on $5,000 bail. “I live next door to a psycho,” Rose told a TV reporter following his release.
The case was ultimately dismissed, but Rose didn’t let things go. He wrote Right Next Door to Hell, which reflected on the experience, for Use Your Illusion I.
Rose has always denied the allegations and went as far as telling People in 1990 that “if I was going to hit her with a wine bottle, she wouldn’t have gotten up.”
18. Izzy Stradlin was arrested for urinating in a bin on a plane
With all the talk about Axl Rose’s personal antics, it can be easy to forget that most members of Guns N’ Roses got in trouble at least a few times.
In fact, the other members of the band have got into the kinds of scrapes that even Axl Rose has never been accused of.
For example, during a flight between LA and Indianapolis, the band’s guitarist Izzy Stradlin urinated in the plane’s galley.
Speaking about the incident in 2015, Stradlin said: “I was drunk in the middle of this bunch of senior citizen types […] I was drinking so much I had to take a p*ss.”
The people in the bathroom … man, it seemed like I waited an hour. So I p*ssed in the trash can instead.”
When the plane touched down, Stradlin was arrested on charges of public disturbance. “Next thing I know we’ve landed, I’m walking out and I see 10 policemen … And I remember thinking: ‘Uh-oh! I think I f***ed up again.'”
17. Slash once snuck his pet mountain lion into a hotel room
There are a few cliches about rockstars that you tend to hear over and over again, whether it’s that they throw televisions out of hotel room windows, or that they’re always inviting attractive fans backstage for elaborate after-parties.
One slightly less common idea about rockstars, which is still around enough to be recognisable, is the propensity for them to collect exotic and even dangerous animals. That cliche in particular turned out to be true about Slash.
In 1993, Slash moved into a new home in Los Angeles and began to fill it up with a whole host of exotic animals, including snakes, lizards and a mountain lion called Curtis.
However, in 1994 the Northridge earthquake meant that the guitarist was forced to evacuate his home. He obviously couldn’t take all of his animals with him, but he wasn’t about to leave his beloved mountain lion behind.
Slash checked into the Four Seasons in Marina Del Rey, and somehow managed to get Curtis into the hotel with him without any of the staff noticing.
Amazingly, the big cat managed to go undetected and stayed with Slash in his room until it was safe for the pair to return to their LA home.
16. Sweet Child o’ Mine was written in five minutes
Sweet Child o’ Mine might not necessarily be Guns N’ Roses’ most famous song, but it’s definitely up towards the top, and probably in the top three.
At present, the music video has over 1.1 billion views on YouTube, and the track has even been ranked as 76th greatest song of all time by music website Acclaimed Music.
With that said, far from being sweated over and strenuously worked on in a studio for months, McKagan revealed in 1998 that the song “was written in five minutes.”
Not only that, but most members of Guns N’ Roses at the time assumed that the track would be filler, and didn’t recognise anything memorable in it at all.
McKagan explained in an interview: “It was one of those songs, only three chords. You know that guitar lick Slash does at the beginning? It was kinda like a joke.”
He went on to say “We thought, ‘What is this song? It’s gonna be nothing, it’ll be filler on the record’.” Needless to say, the group couldn’t have been more wrong.
15. Duff McKagan enrolled in Economics at university because he couldn’t understand his growing finances
As well as a talented bassist, McKagan is an economics whizz. In 1994, high school dropout McKagan enrolled in a finance course at Santa Monica Community College.
Then in 2000, the bassist took his passion for numbers even further, when he enrolled at Seattle University to study Business and Economics.
McKagan explained in a 2011 interview that he was inspired to learn the principles of economics after being unable to understand his own finances.
He said: “I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know how much we had made or lost on the tour. As a 30-year-old millionaire, how do I admit to somebody that I don’t know what the f**k I’m doing?”
To this day, McKagan is the only member of the band, former or current, to have studied for and achieved a degree.
McKagan’s achievement becomes even more impressive when you realise that Izzy Stradlin was the only one of the original members to even graduate high school.
14. Before Guns N’ Roses, Stradlin and Rose took part in a medical study where they were paid to smoke cigarettes
Before Guns N’ Roses was formed, lead singer Rose and guitarist Stradlin were so broke that they took part in a medical study led by UCLA where they got paid to smoke cigarettes.
In a 2001 interview, Stradlin told the press how the two came to land such a quintessentially ‘rock n roll,’ and probably inadvisable, job.
Stradlin explained: ”One day I’m going through the paper and there’s an ad that says: ‘Smokers needed, $10 an hour.’”
He went on to say “So I said, ‘F**k, this seems like easy work. That’s all we do anyway.’ And so we called this place and they said, ‘Yeah come down.’”
Neither Axl Rose nor Izzy Stradlin ever discussed whether or not they regretted doing the trial, but it’s fair to assume they didn’t at the time.
Even so, doing medical trials that might damage your vocal cords isn’t advisable at the best of times, especially if you’re planning to make a career out of singing.
13. Rose once got into a fight with David Bowie, during which he vowed to kill him
In his younger days, David Bowie had a reputation for pursuing his friends’ girlfriends, and usually managed to win over whomever he set his eyes on – because he was Bowie.
With that said, there are always limits, and Bowie was foolish to try and woo Rose’s girlfriend Erin Everly in 1989.
When Rose found out that Bowie had his eyes on Everly, to say he hit the roof would be an understatement.
Bowie and Rose got into a fistfight which ended with the Guns N’ Roses singer screaming “I’m gonna kill you, tin man.”
Thankfully for rock and roll history, the two did eventually makeup. Speaking to Kerrang! in 1990, Rose recounted how they smoothed things over.
“Bowie and I had our differences,” said Rose. “And then we talked and went out to dinner and then went down the China club and stuff […] I like him a lot, yeah.”
12. Rose insisted on recording his vocals for Appetite for Destruction one line at a time
In January 1987, Guns N’ Roses headed to Daryl Dragon’s Rumbo Recorders in LA to record their debut album, Appetite for Destruction.
They spent two weeks recording and putting down the basic tracks, while the more complex overdubs took around a month to complete.
Rose’s vocals, however, took much longer to record and finalise, as the singer insisted on recording one line at a time.
Original drummer Adler wrote in his autobiography that Rose’s excessive perfectionism caused friction between himself and the rest of the group.
Rose’s dedication to getting his vocals exactly right only got more obsessive as his career progressed, and the annoyance it caused his bandmates increased in kind as well.
Of course, many bandmates did eventually leave the group as a result of Rose’s behaviour, and Adler seemed to see it coming.
11. Slash once ran naked and bleeding through a golf resort during a bad trip
Writing in his 2007 autobiography, Slash recounted a low point during his battle with substance abuse.
On one occasion while staying at a golf resort, the guitarist hallucinated that “predators” with “rubbery-looking dreadlocks” were chasing after him.
Slash punched through a glass door and fled his room to escape the imaginary danger, and he did this while completely naked.
Slash then proceeded to use a maid as a “human shield” before running through the lobby and hiding behind a lawnmower in the resort’s grounds.
Thankfully, he’s been sober since 2005 and has left these days far behind him, as have the other original bandmates who have struggled with narcotics in the past.
10. A roadie once had to sing in Axl Rose’s place during a gig after Rose was arrested backstage
It’s almost a cliche at this point to talk about rock stars misbehaving, but Axl Rose really is the king of tantrum-throwing frontmen.
Despite extreme parties and run-ins with the police almost seeming like a prerequisite for being in a rock band, the Guns N’ Roses singer seemed to get into more than his fair share of trouble.
For example, just two years after the band formed in 1985, Axl Rose was prevented from finishing up his gig in Atlanta by police.
The reason why was simple: Rose had wandered backstage in the middle of the set and got into a fistfight with a security guard.
The police were called, and Axl Rose was held backstage by police while the rest of the show happened without his help.
As a result, one of the band’s roadies – the people who carry their gear and travel with them from gig to gig – had to go onstage and attempt to sing vocals in Rose’s place. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know whether the watching crowd was happy with that arrangement.
9. Aerosmith had to stop hanging out with Guns N’ Roses in order to get sober
Guns N’ Roses might have developed a reputation for being the bad boys of rock and roll, but, before them, another band was becoming famous for their own legendary partying.
Aerosmith had participated in a fair few ragers in their time but, since they were formed in 1970, they were winding down the antics by the time Guns N’ Roses rolled around.
Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses shared a record label, so they partied together a lot, but Aerosmith eventually had to call it quits.
Wanting to get away from the drugs and alcohol, Aerosmith soon realised that if they wanted to stay sober, they had to stay away from Guns N’ Roses at all costs.
Aerosmith’s partying was so legendary that when it became clear that they’d decided partying with Guns N’ Roses was too much, Guns N’ Roses became known as “the most dangerous band in the world.”
To be fair though, Aerosmith may have had the right idea, since Guns N’ Roses’ life of excess eventually cost them many of their own members.
8. Guns N’ Roses was originally two separate bands
Most people know that the Roses in Guns N’ Roses comes from Axl Rose, rather than the other way around.
However, the fact that the Guns part of the name also comes from a former band member is much lesser-known.
When Guns N’ Roses formed in 1985, it had a line-up comprising of Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Ole Beich, Rob Gardner and Tracii Guns.
Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin were both originally part of the band Hollywood Rose, and Stradlin was roommates with Tracii Guns.
Tracii Guns was a member of LA Guns, and the two bands opted to combine their names and pool their members, dropping the place names and opting for Guns N’ Roses instead.
However, all the former members of LA Guns were eventually fired from or left Guns N’ Roses, and were replaced by Hollywood Rose members, making Guns N’ Roses essentially Hollywood Rose mark two.
7. Three of their music videos together function as a mini-movie
It’s pretty common for a song to be inspired by a book or movie, but what about a book being inspired by the lyrics to a song?
To make things even more complicated: what about a book being inspired by the lyrics to a song, only for the song’s music video to then take inspiration from a book?
As hard to follow as that situation sounds, that’s exactly what happened with Axl Rose and the music videos for Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II.
While Axl Rose was writing November Rain, his friend Del James asked to see the lyrics and was inspired; he went on to write the short story Without You as a response to the song.
When it later came time to make music videos for the album, Axl Rose decided that the videos for Don’t Cry, November Rain and Estranged should follow the events of the short story.
Rose even said that he intended the three music videos to function as a movie of the short story, and they do contain one overarching narrative, even if they have more guitar solos than the original book.
6. Axl Rose once caused a riot at one of his own shows
We’ve already discussed Axl Rose’s tendency to exhibit bad behaviour, with his misdemeanors often cutting his shows short or preventing him from getting on-stage at all.
One infamous example is what later became known as the St Louis incident, which occurred in 1991.
Axl Rose was midway through a performance of Rocket Queen when he spotted someone in the crowd taking pictures of the show.
Rose asked the security to confiscate the camera and, when they failed to do so, Rose jumped into the crowd himself and attempted to wrestle the camera away from the photographer.
Axl Rose lashed out at both the security guards and the audience, striking them until he was pulled out of the crowd by the crew. Rose then smashed his microphone on the ground and ended the gig, which incited a riot that led to the whole band touring overseas to avoid criminal charges.
When they next released an album, they included the words “f**k you St Louis” in the thank you notes, and they were banned from playing in the city until 2017.
5. November Rain is the longest song to ever crack the Billboard 100 top 10
Clocking in at just under nine minutes, November Rain is miles away from the typical three and a half, radio-ready pop song.
Its length meant that many people thought it wouldn’t do well in the charts, but it surprised everyone with its success.
November Rain actually managed to climb to number three on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the longest song to ever make it into the top ten.
That’s not the only record November Rain achieved either, as it was also the oldest music video to make it to a billion views on YouTube for a time.
Unfortunately for November Rain though, Bohemian Rhapsody hit a billion YouTube views in 2019, thanks to the success of the movie with which it shares its name.
The music video for November Rain is currently sitting at 1.4 billion views, with Bohemian Rhapsody just behind at 1.2 billion views.
4. They almost released a collaboration album with N.W.A.
It’s difficult to imagine Axl Rose managing to collaborate on a full-length album with anyone else, but it’s especially surprising that the act he almost worked with was N.W.A.
Many people were confused and surprised by the rumour of the two groups working together, in part due to a controversial statement issued by Rose in an interview following the release of his 1988 song One in a Million.
One in a Million was supposed to describe Rose’s experience of going to LA for the first time, but drew controversy thanks to its homophobic language and use of the N-word.
When asked about it, Rose first claimed that the N-word “didn’t necessarily mean black,” before insisting that it was unfair that the N.W.A. could use the word without controversy but he couldn’t.
Despite Axl Rose using N.W.A. as an excuse for why his lyrics were okay, the two groups got on very well, with N.W.A. member Eazy-E even recording a demo for the possible collaboration album.
Slash contributed his guitar skills to Eazy-E’s track Luv 4 Dem Gangsta’s, which appeared on the soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop III.
3. Two members of the band left over a Sympathy for the Devil cover
When a band is having difficulty working together and getting along, any little thing can be the catalyst for conflict.
However, when Guns N’ Roses agreed to cover a song for the soundtrack of Interview with the Vampire, they probably didn’t think it would be the end of the line for two of their members.
As overly dramatic as it might sound, it was a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil that caused two members of Guns N’ Roses to leave.
Gilby Clarke, who hadn’t even been in the band for very long at that point, claimed he hadn’t been asked to work on the song with the rest of the group. This led him to quit, believing that he had fallen out of favour with Rose and was on his way out of the band anyway.
As for Slash, he grew tired of Axl Rose’s endless vocal takes for the track, with Rose insisting he had to keep re-recording the guitar track until he sounded exactly like Keith Richards.
Rose’s perfectionism when it came to the cover was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Slash, who took it as a sign that he should finally leave the group.
2. Axl Rose once didn’t bother to show up as Alice Cooper’s opening act
Anyone reading this list will have realised by now that Axl Rose has always had a tendency to skip out on his shows or, at the very least, that he often shows up at least three hours late.
However, not even Rose’s fellow bandmates expected him to fail to show up when they were asked to open for Alice Cooper, since the so-called godfather of shock rock was such a big deal.
Despite the incredible honour of opening for Cooper, Axl Rose wasn’t only late, but he completely failed to show up.
The rest of Guns N’ Roses had to make the decision to go on stage without him, with McKagan and Stradlin improvising together on vocals instead.
Thankfully, Alice Cooper did forgive Axl Rose eventually and even contributed vocals to the Guns N’ Roses song The Garden.
Cooper lending his voice to the track was Slash’s idea, who believed that Rose’s vocal style on the song was mostly inspired by Cooper in the first place.
1. They’re responsible for the most expensive rock album ever made
The follow up to Guns N’ Roses double Use Your Illusion album was Chinese Democracy, a project which Axl Rose began working on immediately, but which took 14 whole years to release.
Axl Rose’s perfectionism, combined with the decade and a half the album spent in production, ramped up the costs to an unbelievable $14 million.
That hefty price tag made Chinese Democracy the most expensive album ever made, beating out Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and even Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
A lot of the costs were predictable ones, with the guitar techs taking home $6000 per month, and $50,000 being spent every month just on studio hire.
However, even the accountants at the studio couldn’t have predicted every cost, such as guitarist Buckethead demanding a chicken coop to be built inside the studio for him to record in.
Not only that, but the studio also had to foot the bill for Axl Rose’s personal guru to stay nearby, so he would be available to sign off on every track before it was declared finished.