Guns N' Roses was the most dangerous band in the world in the late 80s and early 90s. Led by singer Axl Rose and stylish guitarist Slash, they mixed the passion of blues, the heaviness of rock, and the attitude of punk, bringing forth a breath of fresh air to a music scene dominated by cheesy hair metal bands.
Their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, is the best selling debut of all-time. They outsold a headlining Aerosmith on their first major tour, released two double albums (Use Your Illusion I & II) simultaneously, and soon would play to audiences in excesses of 20,000 people.
However, cracks started forming in the band, as classic era drummer Steven Adler was fired from the band before the “Use Your Illusion” releases and founding rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin left abruptly during the ensuing tour. They were replaced by Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke, respectively, with keyboardist Dizzy Reed joining the band and expanding the group’s sound.
After releasing a punk-rock covers album (“The Spaghetti Incident?”) in 1993, progress on a follow-up album stalled due to creative differences between Rose and Slash. Tensions arose and personal conflicts caused the band to begin to fall apart. By 1998, only Rose and Reed remained in the band from the “Illusion”-era.
Several different lineups worked on the new album for over a decade; with musicians as diverse as punk bassist Tommy Stinson, virtuoso guitarist Buckethead, and several former touring members of Nine Inch Nails. The result, 2008’s Chinese Democracy, was met with positive reviews but undersold expectations.
Rose toured heavily from 2001 until 2014 with various musicians from the “Chinese” era, before Slash and bassist Duff McKagan rejoined the band in 2016, marking the first time those three played together since 1994. The current lineup includes Rose, Slash, McKagan, Reed, “Chinese Democracy”-era rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer, and new keyboardist Melissa Reese.
The group’s “Not In this Lifetime…” quasi-reunion tour became a massive success, grossing over $560 million by 2019, the third highest-grossing tour of all time.