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The metal encyclopedia

Guns N' Roses is an American hard rock band from Los Angeles formed in 1985. The classic lineup, as signed to Geffen Records in 1986, consisted of vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. The current lineup consists of Rose, Slash, McKagan, keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese, guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. The band has released six studio albums, accumulating sales of more than 100 million records worldwide, including shipments of 45 million in the United States, making Guns N' Roses one of the world's best-selling bands of all time.

Guns N' Roses' debut album, Appetite for Destruction (1987), reached number one on the Billboard 200 a year after its release, on the strength of 

"Sweet Child o' Mine", the group's only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the US, as well as the eleventh 

best-selling album in the United States. The success of the debut was followed by the eight-song album G N' R Lies (1988) which reached number two on the Billboard 200. The twin albums Use Your Illusion I and 

Use Your Illusion II (1991) debuted at number two and number one on the Billboard 200 respectively and have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide, including 14 million units in the United States. The cover album "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993) was the band's last studio album to feature Slash and McKagan.

After more than a decade of work and several lineup changes, Guns N' Roses released the long-awaited album Chinese Democracy (2008) which, at an estimated $14 million in production costs, is the most expensive rock album to ever be produced in music history. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 but undersold industry expectations, despite mostly positive critical reception. Classic era members Slash and McKagan both rejoined the band in 2016.

Guns N' Roses has been credited with reviving the mainstream popularity of rock music, at a time when popular music was dominated by dance music  and glam metal. Its late 1980s and early 1990s years have been described as the period in which the group brought forth a "hedonistic rebelliousness" reminiscent of the early Rolling Stones, a reputation that had earned the group the nickname "the most dangerous band in the world". The band's classic lineup, along with later members Reed and drummer Matt Sorum, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, in its first year of eligibility.

Formation (1985-1986)

In 1984, Hollywood Rose member Izzy Stradlin was living with L.A. Guns  member Tracii Guns. When L.A. Guns needed a new vocalist, Stradlin suggested Hollywood Rose singer Axl Rose. Guns N' Roses was formed in March 1985 by Rose and rhythm guitarist Stradlin, along with lead guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner of L.A. Guns. The band coined its name by combining the names of both previous groups. Rejected names for the band included "Heads of Amazon" and "AIDS". After a short time, during which the band reportedly played two or three shows, Beich was fired and replaced by Duff McKagan. Tracii Guns left the band after an argument with Rose, leading to his replacement by Rose and Stradlin's one-time Hollywood Rose bandmate, Slash. Gardner quit soon after and was replaced by another former Hollywood Rose member, Steven Adler. Slash had also previously played with McKagan and Adler in Road Crew.

In June 1985, four days after the lineup was finalized, the band embarked on a short, disorganized tour of the West Coast, from Sacramento, California, to McKagan's hometown of Seattle, Washington. The so-called "Hell Tour" settled the band's first stable lineup, with McKagan later commenting, "This trip had set a new benchmark for what we were capable of, what we could and would put ourselves through to achieve our goals as a band."

Through the band's increasing presence on the Hollywood club scene – playing famed bars such as The Troubadour and The Roxy – Guns N' Roses drew the attention of major record labels. The group was signed by Geffen Records in March 1986, receiving a $75,000 advance. In December of that year, the group released the four-song EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, designed to keep interest in the band alive while the group withdrew from the club scene to work in the studio. The EP contained covers of Rose Tattoo's "Nice Boys" and Aerosmith's "Mama Kin", along with two original compositions: 

the punk-influenced "Reckless Life" and the classic rock-inspired "Move to the City." Although billed as a live recording, the four songs were taken from the band's demo tapes and overdubbed with crowd noise. Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide was released on the Geffen subsidiary Uzi Suicide, with production limited to 10,000 vinyl copies.

Breakthrough and mass popularity (1987–1989)

Appetite for Destruction

Guns N' Roses' debut album Appetite for Destruction was released July 21, 1987. The album underwent an artwork change after the original cover design by Robert Williams, which depicted a surrealist scene in which a dagger-toothed monster vengefully attacks a robot rapist, was deemed too controversial. The band stated the original artwork was "a symbolic social statement, with the robot representing the industrial system that's raping and polluting our environment." The revised cover was done by Andy Engell, based on a design by tattoo artist Bill White Jr., who had designed the artwork for a tattoo Rose had acquired the previous year. The artwork featured each of the five band members' skulls layered on a cross.

In the U.S., "Welcome to the Jungle" was issued as the album's first single, with an accompanying music video. Initially, the album and single lingered for almost a year without performing well, but when Geffen founder David Geffen  was asked to lend support to the band, he obliged, personally convincing MTV executives to play "Welcome to the Jungle" during the network's after-hours rotation. Even though the video was initially only played once at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, heavy metal and hard rock fans took notice and soon began requesting the video and song en masse. The song, written in Seattle, was about Los Angeles. The music video took place in New York. According to Rose, the inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man while they were coming out of a bus into New York. Trying to put a scare into the young runaways, the man yelled at them, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die!" The song was featured in the 1988 Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool, starring Clint Eastwood, and members of the band had a cameo appearance in the film.

"Sweet Child o' Mine" was the album's second U.S. single, a love song co-written by Rose as a poem for his then-girlfriend Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. Due to the growing grassroots success of the band and the cross-gender appeal of the song, "Sweet Child o' Mine" and its accompanying music video received heavy airplay on both radio and MTV, becoming a huge hit during the summer of 1988 and reaching the top of the charts in the U.S. Slash later commented, "I hated that song with a huge passion for the longest time, and it turned out to be our hugest hit, so it goes to show what I know." The song was released in Japan as part of the EP 

Live from the Jungle, which also featured a selection of live recordings from the band's June 1987 dates at London's The Marquee, the group's first shows outside the United States. The song is the highest charting Guns N' Roses song, and is the group's only to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

After the success of "Sweet Child o' Mine", "Welcome to the Jungle" was re-issued as a single and reached No. 7 in the U.S. By the time "Paradise City" and its video reached the airwaves, peaking at No. 5 in the U.S., Appetite for Destruction had reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. To date, the album has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units sold in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S, in addition to being the eleventh best-selling album in the United States.

Guns N' Roses toured extensively in support of the group's debut album, embarking on the 16-month-long Appetite for Destruction Tour. In addition to headlining dates in Europe and the U.S., the band opened North American shows for The CultMötley Crüe, and Alice Cooper throughout the second half of 1987. During the 1987 tour, drummer Steven Adler broke his hand in a fight, and was replaced for 8 shows by Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. Bassist Duff McKagan missed several shows in May 1988 to attend his wedding; 

Kid "Haggis" Chaos from The Cult filled in. Don Henley of The Eagles played drums for the band during the 1989 AMA show while Adler was in rehab.

The band proceeded to tour the United States, Australia and Japan, while serving as opening acts on North America shows by Iron Maiden  and AerosmithTim Collins, Aerosmith's then-manager, remarked, "By the end of the tour, Guns N' Roses were huge. They basically just exploded. We were all pissed that Rolling Stone showed up to do a story on Aerosmith, but Guns N' Roses ended up on the cover of the magazine. Suddenly, the opening act was bigger than we were."

G N' R Lies

Guns N' Roses' next album, G N' R Lies, was released in November 1988. It included the four recordings from the band's 1986 EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, as well as four new acoustic tracks. "Patience", the only single released from G N' R Lies, peaked at No. 4 in the U.S., while the album itself reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album cover, a parody of tabloid  newspapers, was modified after initial pressings to remove the headlines "Wife-beating has been around for 10,000 years" and "Ladies, welcome to the dark ages".

The song "One in a Million" raised accusations of racism and homophobia. Rose denied that he was a racist and defended his use of a racial slur, claiming that "it's a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black," although he later conceded that he had used the word as an insult towards black people who had tried to rob him. In response to the allegations of homophobia, Rose stated that he considered himself "pro-heterosexual" and blamed this attitude on "bad experiences" with gay men.

Guns N' Roses' late 1980s shows were often eventful for more than just the band's performance. During a November 1987 show in Atlanta, Rose assaulted a security guard and was held backstage by police, while his band mates continued playing with a roadie singing. Riots nearly broke out during two August 1988 shows in New York State. At England's Monsters of Rock  festival, held that same month, two fans were crushed to death during the group's set by the slam-dancing crowd. During the first of four October 1989 dates opening for the Rolling Stones at the L.A. Coliseum, Rose announced that the shows would be the group's last if certain members of the band did not stop "dancing with Mr. Brownstone," a reference to the band's 

song of the same name about heroin. Events such as these helped earn Guns N' Roses the moniker "The Most Dangerous Band in the World."

International success and band turmoil (1990–1993)

Use Your Illusion I and II

In 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio to begin recording the band's most ambitious undertaking yet. Drummer Steven Adler was briefly fired from the band over his drug use, but he was reinstated after signing a contract in which he vowed to stop taking drugs. During the recording session of 

"Civil War", Adler was unable to perform well due to his struggles with cocaine and heroin addiction, and his difficulties in the studio caused the band to do nearly 30 takes. Adler claimed at the time he was sick from taking opiate blockers to try to kick his addictions. Adler was fired on July 11, 1990 as a result, and later filed a lawsuit against the band. Adler recalled the reason for the lawsuit and recapped his firing in a 2005 interview:

Doug Goldstein called me into the office about two weeks later. He wanted me to sign some contracts. I was told that every time I did heroin, the band would fine me $2,000. There was a whole stack of papers, with colored paper clips everywhere for my signatures. What these contracts actually said was that the band were paying me $2,000 to leave. They were taking my royalties, all my writing credits. They didn't like me anymore and just wanted me gone. That's why I filed the lawsuit - to get all those things back.

Martin Chambers (Pretenders) and Adam Maples (Sea Hags) were considered for the vacant drum position. The position was filled by drummer Matt Sorum, who had played briefly with The Cult. Slash credited Sorum with preventing the band from breaking up at the time.

In response to an interviewer's suggestion that replacing Adler with Sorum had turned Guns N' Roses from a rock 'n' roll band into a heavy metal one, Stradlin responded, "Yeah, a big musical difference. The first time I realized what Steve did for the band was when he broke his hand in Michigan. Tried to punch through a wall and busted his hand. So we had Fred Coury come in from Cinderella for the Houston show. Fred played technically good and steady, but the songs sounded just awful. They were written with Steve playing the drums and his sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel. When that was gone, it was just ... unbelievable, weird. Nothing worked."

A few months prior, keyboardist Dizzy Reed became the sixth member of the group when he joined as a full-time member. Reed was previously bandmates with Matt Sorum in Johnny Crash. The band fired its manager, Alan Niven, replacing him with Doug Goldstein in May 1991. According to a 1991 cover story by Rolling Stone magazine, Rose forced the dismissal of Niven (against the wishes of some of his band-mates) by refusing to complete the albums until he was replaced.

With enough music for two albums, the band released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II on September 17, 1991. The tactic paid off when the albums debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 respectively in the Billboard charts, setting a record as the band became the only group to achieve this feat until hip-hop artist Nelly accomplished the same in 2004. The albums sold 770,000 units (Use Your Illusion II) and 685,000 units (Use Your Illusion I) in first week sales. Both albums spent 108 weeks on the chart. The two albums have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide, as well as 14 million sold in the United States.

Guns N' Roses accompanied the Use Your Illusion albums with many videos, including "Don't Cry", "November Rain" and "Estranged", some of the most expensive music videos ever made. The hit ballad "November Rain" (No. 3 US) became the most requested video on MTV, eventually winning the 1992 MTV Video Music Award for best cinematography. It is also the longest song in US chart history to reach the Top Ten, clocking in at 8:57. During the awards show, the band performed the song with Elton John accompanying on piano.

Both prior to and after the release of the albums, Guns N' Roses embarked on the 28-month-long Use Your Illusion Tour. It became famous for both its financial success and the many controversial incidents that occurred at the shows. The tour had 92 dates in 27 countries, with over seven million people attending concerts. It is considered the 'longest tour in rock history'.

Use Your Illusion Tour

The Use Your Illusion World Tour program included a guitar solo from Slash based on The Godfather theme, a piano-driven cover of "It's Alright" by 

Black Sabbath, and an extended jam on the classic rock-inspired "Move to the City", where the group showcased the ensemble of musicians assembled for the tour. 

Many of the successful performances during the tour were overshadowed in the press by riots, late starts, and outspoken rants by Rose. While the band's previous drug and alcohol issues were seemingly under control, Rose was often agitated by lax security, sound problems, and unwanted filming or recording of the performances. He also used the time between songs to fire off political statements or retorts against music critics or celebrity rivals.

On July 2, 1991, at the Riverport Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Missouri, just outside St. Louis, during a performance of "Rocket Queen", Rose discovered that a fan was filming the show with a camera. After asking the venue's security to take away the camera, Rose decided to take it himself, jumping into the audience and tackling the fan. He had a heated confrontation with the fan before physically assaulting him. After being pulled out of the audience by members of the crew, Rose said, "Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!", threw his microphone to the ground and stormed off the stage. The angry crowd rioted, injuring dozens. Footage was captured by Robert John, who was documenting the entire tour. Rose was wanted by the police for inciting the riot, but police were unable to arrest him until almost a year later, as the band went overseas to continue the tour. Charges were filed against Rose, but a judge ruled that he did not directly incite the riot. In his defense, Rose stated that the Guns N' Roses security team had made four separate requests to the venue's security staff to remove the camera, all of which were ignored, and that other members of the band had reported being hit by bottles launched from the audience, while the security staff was refusing to enforce a drinking limit. As a result, Use Your Illusion's liner notes featured a hidden message amidst the Thank You section: "Fuck You, St. Louis!"

Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin abruptly quit the band on November 7, 1991, after a repeat of the St. Louis incident nearly unfolded during a concert in Germany. Stradlin cited a combination of Rose's personal behavior, his mismanagement of the band, and difficulties being around Slash, Sorum, and McKagan, due to his new-found sobriety and their continuing alcohol and substance addictions. Stradlin later commented, "Once I quit drugs, I couldn't help looking around and asking myself, 'Is this all there is?' I was just tired of it; I needed to get out." Slash commented on finding a replacement, saying, "When Izzy left, we realized that we either had to find a new guitarist in three weeks or cancel a bunch of gigs. I had a piece of paper with about 30-odd candidates listed. Duff was looking around and Axl had his ideas, but nobody seemed right. For a while it looked like Dave Navarro from 

Jane's Addiction was going to join, but he couldn't get it together, so that never happened." Stradlin was eventually replaced by Los Angeles-based guitarist Gilby Clarke, whom Slash credited for saving the band.

During many shows throughout the tour, Rose introduced Clarke to the audience, and Slash and Clarke would then play "Wild Horses", a Rolling Stones cover. In late 1991, the band added a touring ensemble, which included a horns section and several background vocalists. In 1992, Clarke broke his arm in a motorcycle accident during the tour, and was replaced for several weeks by Stradlin.

In 1992, the band appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, performing a three-song set. Because of the controversial song 

"One in a Million", activist group ACT UP demanded that the band be dropped from the bill, and urged other artists to shun the group and the crowd to boo it. Members of Queen dismissed the activists, with guitarist Brian May stating "People seem so blind. Don't they realize that the mere fact that Guns N' Roses are here is the biggest statement that you could get?" Slash later performed "Tie Your Mother Down" with the remaining members of Queen and Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott, while Rose performed 

"We Will Rock You" and sang a duet with Elton John on "Bohemian Rhapsody".  Their personal set included "Paradise City" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". When the band returned to the US for the second leg of the Use Your Illusion Tour, Brian May opened the shows with The Brian May Band. Rose had originally wanted the grunge band (and Geffen labelmates) Nirvana to open the band's Use Your Illusion Tour, but frontman Kurt Cobain refused.

Later in the year, Guns N' Roses went on the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour, with American metal band Metallica, being supported by Faith No More, Motörhead, and Body Count. During a show in August 1992 at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Metallica frontman James Hetfield suffered second degree burns to his hands and face after malfunctions with a pyrotechnics blast. Metallica was forced to cancel the second hour of the show, but promised to return to the city for another performance. After a long delay, during which the audience became increasingly restless, Guns N' Roses took the stage. However, the shortened time between sets did not allow for adequate tuning of stage monitors, resulting in members of G N' R not being able to hear themselves. In addition, Rose claimed that his throat hurt, causing the band to leave the stage early. The cancellation led to another audience riot, with three police officers and 10 rioters injured. Police made at least a dozen arrests related to the incident.

The pyro incident and riot can be seen on video in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica. In a segment on the video, Hetfield mocked Rose and read his personal tour rider, making fun of various items on the list. Rose responded by addressing the crowd during a later concert, labeling Hetfield a racist for his decision to pull Body Count from the tour, and called him a 'stupid little cocksucker' while bashing the rest of the band. On VH1's Behind the Music  documentary about Metallica, Ulrich stated that "We couldn't relate to Axl and his attitude." Other members of Metallica and Rose himself both stated that the two groups 'never really gelled'.

In mid-1993, former drummer Steven Adler's lawsuit against the band was settled out of court; Adler received a back-payment check of $2,250,000 and 15% royalties for songs he recorded.

The Use Your Illusion tour ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 17, 1993. The tour set attendance records and lasted for 28 months, in which 194 shows were played. The show in Buenos Aires marked the last time that Sorum and Clarke would play a live show with Rose. It was also the last time Slash performed with Rose until rejoining the band in 2016.

"The Spaghetti Incident?"

On November 23, 1993, Guns N' Roses released a collection of punk and 

glam rock covers entitled "The Spaghetti Incident?" Izzy Stradlin's recorded guitar parts were replaced by Gilby Clarke. Many of the tracks were recorded during the same sessions as the Illusions albums, which were originally intended to produce 3 or 4 albums. Initially, the band was going to release a covers EP in 1992 or 1993, but decided on making a full album and recorded more songs. Bassist Duff McKagan sings on many of the album's tracks and Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe appears on "Ain't It Fun" as a guest vocalist. Slash described the recording of the album as "spontaneous and unpainted". The title of the album is an inside joke referring to a food fight that occurred between Axl Rose and Steven Adler. During his lawsuit against the band, Adler's attorney described the food fight as "the Spaghetti Incident". The meaning was explained by drummer Matt Sorum in a 1994 interview with Much Music and confirmed by Slash in his autobiography, Slash.

An unadvertised cover of the Charles Manson song "Look at Your Game, Girl" was included on the album. The track was kept secret, and was not included on advance tapes sent out to reviewers. Band manager Doug Goldstein stated "There is a bonus track on the album, but Axl wants it to speak for itself," and that "It wasn't done for the critics or anybody else. It was a bonus for the fans." The inclusion of the song caused controversy, with law-enforcement and victims-rights groups expressing outrage.

Rose claimed "the reason we didn't list that song on our album is we wanted to downplay it. We don't give any credit to Charles Manson on the album; it's like a hidden bonus truck [sic]." The band considered removing the song from new pressings of the album, and David Geffen stated in a phone interview, "I would hope that if Axl Rose had realized how offensive people would find this, he would not have ever recorded this song in the first place. The fact that Charles Manson would be earning money based on the fame he derived committing one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th Century is unthinkable to me". Slash mentioned that the song was "done with naive and innocent black humor on our part". Rose stated he would donate all performance royalties from the song to a nonprofit environmental organization. Slash stated that the group intended to remove the song before the band decided to keep it after learning that royalties from the song would be donated to the Bartek Frykowski, the son of Wojciech Frykowski, a victim of Manson during the 

Tate Murders. Geffen Records released a statement mentioning that the label's share of royalties would be donated to the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau. Years later, Rose said the song would be removed from new pressings of the album, claiming that critics and the media had misinterpreted his interest in Manson. Rose can be seen wearing a Manson shirt in the video for "Estranged" and during a concert in Milton Keynes, England, in 1993. Rose explained wearing the shirt as "trying to make a statement" because "a lot of people enjoy playing me as the bad guy and the crazy. Sorry, I'm not that guy. I'm nothing like him." Despite the statement that the track would be removed, "Look at Your Game, Girl" is still featured on pressings of the album.

The album debuted at number 4 on the Billboard charts, and sold 190,000 copies its first week. Despite initial success, "The Spaghetti Incident?" did not match the sales of the Illusion albums and its release consequently led to increased tension within the band.

Member departures and sporadic activity (1994–1999)

Interviews with Guns N' Roses band members suggest that between 1994 and 1996, the band sporadically began to write and record new material, most of which, according to Slash, had been written by Rose. Rose has stated the exact opposite in the open letter on the official Guns N' Roses website in 2008, saying that the album was mostly a "Slash album" and Rose was allowed very little input into the album. According to Matt Sorum, in 1996, the band had recorded 7 songs, with 7 more in the writing stages, and intended to release a single album with 10 or 12 songs, with a release date of Spring 1997. Sorum also mentioned that Slash's Snakepit's debut album, 

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, "could have been a Guns N' Roses album, but Axl didn't think it was good enough."

In May 1994, Gilby Clarke mentioned in an interview that there was "no 'next' Guns N' Roses album" adding, "We started working on one, and it got canned." Sorum described the would-be album as "not as sophisticated as Illusion, but not as wild as Appetite". The album was also described as consisting of "up-tempo rock songs" with "no ballads", according to Duff McKagan. In a 2002 interview, Rose complimented the guitar work Slash had layed down, saying it was the "best playing [he's] done at least since Illusions". Rose mentioned the material was scrapped due to the lack of collaboration between band members. He later told USA Today in a 2012 interview that he didn't write any music "for years" in the mid-1990s because of criticism from bandmates Slash and Duff McKagan, as well as ex-fiancee Stephanie Seymour.

In January 1994, Rose inducted Elton John into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and later that night performed a duet with Bruce Springsteen on a cover of The Beatles song "Come Together". It was Rose's final public performance for six years. Also in 1994, all of the members of the band at the time contributed to Gilby Clarke's debut album, Pawnshop Guitars.

In December 1994, Guns N' Roses released a cover recording of the 

Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil". The song appeared in the films 

Interview with the Vampire and Fallen. The song was also released separately as a single. Entertainment Weekly stated that the 'note-for-note remake works up a decent lather but seems utterly bankrupt'. It is the final Guns N' Roses track to feature Slash on lead guitar, Duff McKagan on bass, and Matt Sorum on drums. The song also featured Rose's childhood friend and Hollywood Rose collaborator Paul "Huge" Tobias on rhythm guitar. Tobias's presence on the track and in the band created tension, reportedly Slash had '(both) creative and personal differences' with Tobias. A 2001 interview revealed Slash told his bandmates in September 1996, "I'm going to confront it. Either Paul goes, or [I go]."

Gilby Clarke's contract was not renewed and he was gone from the band by 1995. Slash stated in his book that Rose fired Clarke without consulting anyone, claiming he was only a "hired hand". Clarke was not involved in the recording of 'Sympathy for the Devil', stating "I knew that that was the ending [of Clarke's involvement in Guns N' Roses] because nobody told me about it. Officially I was in the band at that time, and they did that song without me". Clarke also mentioned that before the final show of the Use Your Illusion Tour, Rose came up to him and told him "Hey, enjoy your last show". Clarke later sued the band over the use of his likeness in Guns N' Roses Pinball.

In 1996, Rose, Slash, McKagan, and former member Izzy Stradlin all appeared as guests on The Outpatience debut album Anxious Disease, a band featuring Guns N' Roses collaborator West Arkeen.

The recording of "Sympathy for the Devil", as well as tension between him and Rose, led Slash to quit the band officially in October 1996. Rose sent a fax notifying MTV of Slash's departure, with Slash responding "Axl and I have not been capable of seeing eye to eye on Guns N' Roses for some time. We tried to collaborate, but at this point, I'm no longer in the band." Slash also stated, "Axl's whole visionary style, as far as his input in Guns N' Roses, is completely different from mine. I just like to play guitar, write a good riff, go out there and play, as opposed to presenting an image."

Slash was replaced by Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Robin Finck in January 1997, who signed a two-year contract with the band in August 1997, making him an official member. Finck was originally recommended by Matt Sorum to Rose a year earlier as a possible second guitarist to complement Slash. Slash's departure was followed shortly thereafter by Matt Sorum in April 1997, who was fired by Rose after getting in an argument about Tobias's inclusion in the band. Sorum later stated Tobias was the "Yoko Ono of Guns N' Roses". McKagan was the last of the Appetite lineup to leave, resigning as bassist in August 1997. McKagan had recently become a father and wrote about his decision to leave in his autobiography, stating "Guns had been paying rent on studios for three years now—from 1994 to 1997—and still did not have a single song. The whole operation was so erratic that it didn't seem to fit with my hopes for parenthood, for stability." McKagan was replaced later that year by former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson. An actual break-up of Guns N' Roses never occurred, as new players were brought in as the old ones left. Rose reportedly purchased the full rights to the Guns N' Roses name in 1997. Slash claimed he and bandmates signed over the name in duress, stating "Axl refused to go onstage one night during the Use Your Illusion tour in 1992 unless the band signed away the name rights to the band. Unfortunately, we signed it. I didn't think he'd on stage otherwise." Rose denied the claim, saying "(it) Never happened, all made up, fallacy and fantasy. Not one single solitary thread of truth to it. Had that been the case I would've have been cremated years ago legally, could've cleaned me out for the name and damages. It's called under duress with extenuating circumstances."

Rose auditioned multiple potential band members, including Chris Vrenna

Zakk WyldeDave Abbruzzese, and Michael BlandRolling Stone reported in April 1997 that the lineup of Guns N' Roses was Rose, McKagan, Tobias, Finck & Vrenna.

Josh Freese was ultimately hired to replace Sorum on drums, joining in the summer of 1997. By the end of 1998, a new version of Guns N' Roses had emerged: vocalist Axl Rose, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Josh Freese, lead guitarist Robin Finck, rhythm guitarist Paul Tobias, keyboardist 

Dizzy Reed, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Pitman.

Geffen released an edited single disc version of the Illusion albums in 1998, entitled Use Your Illusion. In November 1999, the label released 

Live Era '87–'93, a collection of live performances from various concerts during the Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion tours. Former guitarist Slash described the selection of songs of the album as a "very mutual effort", further adding "the live album was one of the easiest projects we all worked on. I didn't actually see Axl, but we communicated via the powers that be."

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