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22 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses ‘Use Your Illusion I & II’ Released

Guns N' Roses

On Sept. 17, 1991, Guns N’ Roses ended a three-year period of silence in style, putting out two albums, ‘Use Your Illusion I’ and ‘Use Your Illusion II,’ simultaneously.

At the time, a wait that long between Guns N’ Roses albums – their last release had been 1988’s ‘G N’ R Lies’ – seemed like an eternity. But it seemed reasonable, given that they were breaking in a new drummer, Matt Sorum, and the advance word was that they were branching out into new sonic territories.

Thankfully, the scope of the group’s ambition was met by the consistency of the sprawling 30 tracks split between the two discs. The band frequently strayed from its hard-rock-with-the-occasional-acoustic-ballad roots to include everything from funk metal (‘Locomotive’) political commentary (‘Civil War’) to epic balladry (‘November Rain’ and ‘Don’t Cry’). To further cement their connection to their heroes, they also recorded covers of Paul McCartney‘s ‘Live and Let Die’ and Bob Dylan‘s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’

Because of the anticipation, record stores around the country opened at midnight in order to accommodate fans who wanted to hear the new music as soon as possible. When the dust settled, both ‘Use Your Illusion’ albums sold an amazing seven million copies.

However, closer inspection of the liner notes soon revealed that there were cracks within the band. Where every song on 1987’s ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was credited to the band in full, now all the tracks on both albums were credited to the individual musicians, with ‘Bad Apples’ listed as the closest thing to a full band collaboration.

Guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit the band shortly after the tour began, citing his desire to stay sober and difficulties with Axl Rose, and was replaced by Gilby Clarke. After the release of the underwhelming covers album ‘The Spaghetti Incident’ in 1993, Sorum, Slash and Duff McKagan followed suit, leaving Rose as the only original member and effectively breaking up the classic lineup of Guns N’ Roses.

Next: 25 Most Destructive Guns N' Roses Moments

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