66 & 2/3–Use Your Illusion I and II (Part Three)

The floodgates finally opened: Thirty songs spaced over two packed-to-the-gills compact discs. Use Your Illusion I’s cover used the red-and-yellow motif of the original Mark Kostabi painting. Use Your Illusion II changed the color scheme to a cool blue-and-purple. The CD booklets were stuffed with photos, the vitriolic lyrics in microscopic sans-serif type, and detailed production and songwriting credits. Here’s the track list for the albums:

USE YOUR ILLUSION I

  1. Right Next Door To HellGnR--UseYourIllusion1
  2. Dust N’ Bones
  3. Live And Let Die
  4. Don’t Cry
  5. Perfect Crime
  6. You Ain’t The First
  7. Bad Obsession
  8. Back Off Bitch
  9. Double Talkin’ Jive
  10. November Rain
  11. The Garden
  12. Garden Of Eden
  13. Don’t Damn Me
  14. Bad Apples
  15. Dead Horse
  16. Coma

USE YOUR ILLUSION II

  1. Civil WarGunsnRosesUseYourIllusionII
  2. 14 Years
  3. Yesterdays
  4. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
  5. Get In The Ring
  6. Shotgun Blues
  7. Breakdown
  8. Pretty Tied Up
  9. Locomotive
  10. So Fine
  11. Estranged
  12. You Could Be Mine
  13. Don’t Cry (Alt. Lyrics)
  14. My World

GunsnRoses pinballThirty tracks of equal parts seething fury and overwrought sentiment hit the streets in the waning days of summer ‘91…(Five or six songs remained mysterious outtakes. “Ain’t Going Down” was the only original that has ever surfaced…on the official Guns N’ Roses pinball machine, if you please. Evidently some other songs were covers that came out on “The Spaghetti Incident?” in 1993.)

The albums shot immediately to #1 and #2 on the Billboard charts. Use Your Illusion II sold slightly better, which I still find hard to believe even though the evidence was right in front of my eyes on Release Day at the Wherehouse. Customers buying only one of the albums almost inevitably chose II. Perhaps because it contained the massive “You Could Be Mine” single, plus the previously released “Civil War” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (both of which got some radio airplay over the last year), so maybe the material was more of a known quantity. But it was also saddled with the odious “My World,” the embarrassing “Get In The Ring,” the inferior “alternate lyrics” version of “Don’t Cry,” the mawkish Duff McKagan-penned ballad “So Fine”…but I suppose people going to the cash register didn’t know that at the time.

The narrowing down began almost immediately. What are the “necessary” songs from the Use Your Illusions? Like almost everyone I knew, I only had a cassette player in my car. I put the entirety of I and II onto two separate tapes…then I did what everyone who has ever owned these albums did: I made a compilation of what I thought was the best stuff, and it was this third cassette that rarely left my player through the last half of ‘91 and the first half of ‘92.

[Years later, there actually was an “official” single-disc Use Your Illusion, supposedly compiled by Axl himself, consisting of profanity-free songs for the big box stores like Walmart and Kmart. Unfortunately, it’s a great example of how NOT to make a single-disc Illusion, including both versions of “Don’t Cry” at the expense of better (still profanity-free) songs.]

So…the 33⅓ author did it, several blogs have already done it, I remember most of my friends from that era doing it…

They all got it entirely wrong, botching the whole thing. The Holy Bee will now do it right.

Many people’s single-disc mixes included only twelve songs, making it a song-for-song match for Appetite For Destruction. Yes, the Use Your Illusions need to be cut down, but I don’t want them to be a mere shadow of their former selves. Grandiosity is what makes them fascinating. Therefore, I will cut only fourteen songs, leaving me sixteen, clocking in at about 88 minutes. This still stretches the limits of space available on a commercially released compact disc, but my pared-down Use Your Illusion would make an awesome double album on vinyl (which, remember, the individual Use Your Illusions were anyway), and would fit on a standard 90 minute blank tape. Perfect. (A few minutes too long for recording onto a blank CD, but we’re keeping our heads firmly in 1991…)

The Selection Process: I will be discarding fourteen songs, but it’s not enough to simply cut and let the remainder stay where they are. The running order will need to be completely re-shuffled to create a smooth, balanced and natural flow from one song to the next.

I have chunked the songs on Use Your Illusion I and II down into six general categories, and each category has to lose at least two songs (except where noted.)

The Epics

Multi-section, meandering, and colossally self-indulgent, these are what people remember from the time when the Use Your Illusions reigned supreme, and what they are talking about when they say the albums are an overbaked mess. The shortest of them comes in at just under five minutes, and the longest surpasses ten:  “Don’t Cry,” “November Rain,” “Coma,” “Civil War,” “Breakdown,” “Locomotive,” “Estranged.”

The Faster-Louder Punk Songs

Red-lined to the breaking point, these musical fastballs all kind of sound alike, and feature the band breathlessly tearing along in a highly-compressed jumble behind Axl’s speed-freak vocals, which tumble out at such a pace that they are an incomprehensible gabble (thank God for lyric sheets): “Right Next Door To Hell,” “Perfect Crime,” “Garden Of Eden,” “Shotgun Blues.”

The Stonesy Shuffles

Izzy Stradlin’s wheelhouse. Slower tempos, with a little R&B swing, Keith Richards-style rhythm guitar crunch, and barrelhouse piano. This is the only category to only lose one song, because I’m such a sucker for Stradlin and his admiration of the Stones: “Dust N’ Bones,” “Bad Obsession,” “Bad Apples,” “14 Years.”

The Appetites

Straightforward hard rockers (and one slower song) that sound like they could have been on Appetite For Destruction: “Back Off Bitch,” “Don’t Damn Me,” “Dead Horse,” “Yesterdays,” “Pretty Tied Up,” “You Could Be Mine.”

The Covers

“Live And Let Die” (Paul McCartney & Wings), “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan).

The Misfits

Experiments, oddities, and stuff that just plain doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else: “Double Talkin’ Jive,” “You Ain’t The First,” “The Garden,” “Get In The Ring,” “So Fine,” “Don’t Cry (Alt. Lyrics),” “My World.”

What Gets Cut:

We’ll start with the three easiest eliminations. “My World,” the appalling attempt by Axl to ape the industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, featuring his lame “rapping” and “programming,” and no other GN’R members. This was tagged on to the end of II without the knowledge of the others, and only the existence of the solipsistic, brain-dead, faux-poetic material excreted by The Doors prevents this from being the worst auditory experience foisted on a large audience by a major recording act attempting a “serious” artistic statement. (Substitute Creed or something if you still have a soft spot for The Doors from your high school pot-smoking days.)  “Get In The Ring” would be the second-worst. Over an uninspired, generic hard-rock backing, Axl abandons the slight melody early on to give a lengthy, spoken-word screed calling out by name several writers and music critics who have pissed him off, and threatening to publicly “kick their bitchy little ass(es).” (His idiotic “offer” was cheerfully accepted by several of them, even one who suggested a boxing match for charity. It never came to pass.) “Don’t Cry (Alt. Lyrics)”  in addition to different verses also has a few microscopic shifts in melody. The original version by general consensus is superior, making this version totally redundant.

For a band that has its share of gifted songwriters, cover versions are a waste of valuable real estate. I do enjoy both “Live And Let Die” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” and they were two of the biggest hits from the Illusions. “Live And Let Die” does not tinker with the original McCartney arrangement much, besides boosting the guitar presence, but “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” inflates Dylan’s dusty cowboy ramble into a full-on power ballad that’s more Bon Jovi than Woody Guthrie — and it had already been released for so long it was growing hair. Despite the pleasures to be found in each of these tracks, my mix will be all-original. Set the covers aside for onstage encores.

“Civil War” had also been out for over a year at this point. I’m booting it for its age in comparison to the rest of the recordings, and for its trite, heavy-handed, and obvious lyrics. Anti-war sentiments are always welcome, but do we really need to pontificate “what’s so civil ‘bout war anyway?”

“Coma” is a ten-minute sprawl that closes I, the longest song on both albums. The music by Slash doesn’t bother with a chorus, hook, climax, or point.

“Bad Apples” aims for a classic 70s Aerosmith vibe, but ends up sounding like a Motley Crue reject.

You’re not going to get a GN’R joint without at least a hint of misogyny, but there’s no need to take it as far as “Back Off Bitch.” Even apart from its ugly lyrical content, it’s a very second-rate song, and it seems the band knew it, having bounced it from consideration for every recording project yet attempted. If the Illusions hadn’t been a two-album project, it likely would have been left on the cutting room floor again. (Only regret — Izzy, who usually sticks to rhythm guitar, takes one of the solos on this one.)

“You Ain’t The First” is less a song than a genre exercise. The only all-acoustic song on either album, the track goes for mellow country-blues vibe, complete with a dobro, but is undercut by its lazy, half-formed lyrics. “Your head’s so far from the realness of truth” (?) bugged me when I was seventeen, and it hasn’t improved.

“Perfect Crime” is pretty solid, but it has a soundalike in the slightly-more unhinged “Shotgun Blues.” In the same loud-fast category, intrusive synthesizer “programming” (see “My World”) mars the otherwise acceptable “Garden Of Eden.” “Dead Horse” also has its strengths, but there’s not much about it that’s special enough to warrant inclusion at the expense of anything in my final track listing.

“So Fine” is Duff McKagan’s moment to shine. The song is his tribute to punk pioneer Johnny Thunders, but it’s plodding and over-sentimental, and he’s no great shakes as a lead vocalist. Should have been saved for his 1993 solo album, which was about as good as you would assume. (Yes, I bought it.)

Here, then, is the definitive Holy Bee USE YOUR ILLUSION SINGLE-DISC MIX:

  1. Right Next Door To HellUseYourIllusion (1)
  2. Double Talkin’ Jive
  3. The Garden
  4. Don’t Cry
  5. Shotgun Blues
  6. Bad Obsession
  7. Locomotive
  8. November Rain
  9. Pretty Tied Up
  10. Dust N’ Bones
  11. You Could Be Mine
  12. Don’t Damn Me
  13. 14 Years
  14. Breakdown
  15. Yesterdays
  16. Estranged

“Right Next Door To Hell” — After much soul-searching, I decided to preserve the original first number of Use Your Illusion I in the opening spot of my mix. The rumbling bass line that kicks off the track immediately sets a mood of tension and spring-loaded violence. When it’s joined by an ominous scraping of guitar strings and a few scattered cannon shots of tom-tom, the mood is ratcheted up to the breaking point. Then the main riff thunders in, the “bipolar,” possibly sociopathic, W. Axl Rose begins venting his bile-filled spleen, and the journey begins…

“Double Talkin’ Jive” — With its jungle drums, loping, lupine groove, and fragmentary lyrics, “Double Talkin’ Jive” is more of a sketch than a song, but succeeds on the merits of its menacing atmosphere. This Izzy Stradlin composition seems to tell the tale of an alienated, increasingly paranoid drug dealer making his collection rounds. The subject matter is pretty autobiographical (pre-fame Izzy made ends meet as a drug dealer, and he supposedly really did find a severed head and arm in a garbage can), and featured Izzy handling the lead vocals. The song staggers off-course in a confused haze, and fades into an acoustic Spanish flamenco solo from Slash.

“The Garden” — Upon initial release, “The Garden” was cited as one of the low points of I. Time has been kind to this art-metal oddity. The flamenco solo from the previous track flows nicely into the off-kilter acoustic intro to this one. Before the lyrics come in, you can hear a super-creepy little girl’s voice saying something like “no, I won’t” (for you ghost-hunter types, it sounds just like an EVP), then the song begins veering between its snarling, electro-clash verses (featuring guest vocalist Alice Cooper), and dreamy, textured “choruses” (or what passes for choruses). The closest GN’R ever got to psychedelia.

“Don’t Cry” — The shortest, and perhaps the best, of the “epics,” “Don’t Cry” makes its appearance here as the fourth-track clean-up batter, just as it did on the original release.

“Shotgun Blues” — GN’R biographer Mick Wall posited than the only difference between punk and Guns N’ Roses was the classic-rock soloing of Slash. I would say the Gunners’ powerful belief in limousines, entourages, and expensive cinematic videos sets them apart slightly from the accepted punk ethos…but musically, “Shotgun Blues” is an out-and-out punk song, here breaking the lingering mood set by “Don’t Cry”’s drawn-out final note. “You say I walk a line,” Axl offers, then spits “Fuck! They move it every time…”

“Bad Obsession” — From the floorboarded fury of “Shotgun Blues,” we dial down the intensity a little for this collection of old-school 70s licks. A wailing harmonica is provided by Matt Monroe of the underrated European glam band Hanoi Rocks, and Dizzy Reed finally gets to show off his chops as a true rock & roll pianist. The title and chorus were composed by Izzy in the wake of kicking drugs, and the verses are a collection of Axl’s usual preoccupations (people who’ve wronged him somehow, scheming, predatory women, etc.)

“Locomotive” — Plays to all the band’s strengths (which is something that the Illusion material doesn’t always do): a pair (or more) of chugging, syncopated rhythm guitars, mini-solos weaving in and out of the verses, making sophisticated musical techniques sound simple, with lyrics that are psychologically intense, and seem to go on to infinity. This is partnered with a new, and welcome, variation on the standard GN’R sound — a rubbery bottom end indicative of the subgenre of “funk metal.”

“November Rain” — The centerpiece of the original Use Your Illusion I, “November Rain” serves the same purpose here, at the halfway point. This song is every adjective ever used to describe the Use Your Ilusions.

“Pretty Tied Up” — As the extended coda to “November Rain” majestically fades into the ether, this song provides a jolt of adrenaline to kickstart the second half of my mix. Opening with a snarling guitar and a few notes from a coral sitar, the lyrics start to tell a typical tale of wretched excess…then take a left turn. As we’ve seen, Axl composed the lion’s share of the words, and it’s difficult to trace what lines or verses may have come from other members over the course of these songs’ long gestation. What everyone seems to agree on is that “Pretty Tied Up” was lyrically Izzy Stradlin’s brainchild. Axl couldn’t write a song with only two verses if his life depended on it. It begins with a verse about a submissively masochistic female “acquaintance,” but then abruptly shifts gears when it hits the second (and final) verse: “Once there was this rock n’ roll band rolling on the street/Time went by and it became a joke/We just needed more and more fulfilling/Time went by and it all went up in smoke.” In four economical lines, Stradlin summed up his disgust with what Guns N’ Roses had become, and accurately predicted an ignoble end, brought about by their own decadent ways.

“Dust N’ Bones” — Izzy’s second appearance as lead vocalist, although he’s swamped by Axl overdubbing a chorus of backing vocals in his various cracked personas, making it sound like a choir of mental patients has joined the recording session. The song swings ominously like a haunted grandfather clock, rather than pummeling the listener into submission from the opening note.

“You Could Be Mine” — Speaking of pummeling, the harder-faster stuff on the Illusions was often undercut by its ridiculousness…even to the band’s fans, Axl’s pugnaciousness had drifted into caricature, and no one took it seriously. On this Appetite outtake, however, the band retained the sense of genuine menace that permeated their debut album.

“Don’t Damn Me” — Axl’s response to the criticism of his 1988 homophobic/racist rant song “One In A Million.” Much more measured and mature, and musically far superior, than the infantile “Get In The Ring,” but still a dubious justification for being hateful, and light years away from anything resembling an apology: “So I send this song to the offended/I said what I meant and I never pretended/As so many others do intending just to please/If I damned your point of view could you turn the other cheek…”

“14 Years” — It sounds like a lament for a wrenching, emotionally abusive long-term romantic relationship that just won’t work, and it also sounds like its primary vocalist and author, Stradlin, was being very autobiographical — then you realize he was 28 at the time, so a fourteen-year relationship would have begun when he was…14. I suppose that’s in the realm of possibility, but…hmmmm.  Stradlin clarified the song years later: it was about his shaky friendship with the unstable Axl, whom he had known since freshman year. It all makes sense now.

“Breakdown” — OK, we’re barreling toward the conclusion of the mix now, so we will finish off with a 1-2-3 blitzkrieg of open-wound emotion. “Breakdown” opens as a country shuffle, before burning the barn and everything in it when it takes off. And for all the flack he sometimes takes for his tasteless and pompous lyrics, when Axl the Writer is on, he’s really on, as he demonstrates here. Maybe the best set of lyrics on a GN’R song (undercut by another stupid spoken-word coda from Our Hero, but it doesn’t ruin the whole song.)

“Yesterdays” — A short and (relatively) sweet ballad about nostalgia, a sort of “Son of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’” (“Daughter of”…?) — and how nostalgia sucks. The past is full of painful memories. “Yesterday’s…got nothin’ for me…”

“Estranged” — There could be no other closer, with the possible exception of “November Rain.” In between the gut-wrenching lyrics, there is an extended musical dialogue between Axl’s hammering piano chords and Slash’s guitar squeezing out some of the best stand-alone melodies he’s ever played. The song ends with the image of the singer, abandoned by all, staring down a massive (metaphorical, I suppose) storm that was about to engulf and destroy him.

What better way, after all they’ve done — good and bad — for a GN’R album to end?

Since I always try and cheat my own process, why not include a stand-alone single in the Use Your Illusion release program? If I can imagine a world where the Illusions are one album, I can easily imagine a world where additional material could hit the radio and MTV as a single. I think at some point during their twenty-eight-month tour, the market could have supported it. My choice:

Side A: “Live And Let Die” / Side B: “Garden Of Eden.”

Maybe throw “Perfect Crime” and/or “Dead Horse” on there if it’s a “maxi-single” with some extra space.

You really want a gutted, twelve-track version of the Illusions? Fine. Drop “Right Next Door To Hell,” “Shotgun Blues,” “Bad Obsession,” and “14 Years,” from the Holy Bee mix — but at your peril. Those are some bare bones, friend.

You know what wasn’t bare bones? The concerts. Yes, there were backing singers. Yes, there was a brass section. Yes, there were complicated special effects. They usually took the stage over two hours after the scheduled start time, and frequently pulled the plug early if Axl got a bee in his bonnet about something.

gilby

Gilby Clarke

Izzy Stradlin officially quit Guns N’ Roses on November 7, 1991, seven weeks after the release of the Illusions, citing “disagreement” with the band’s “artistic direction.” He went through the motions in concerts through the end of the summer ’91, but had long since stopped participating in recording sessions and video shoots. He was replaced by Gilby Clarke.

There were several videos associated with the Use Your Illusion songs, but the key ones were “The Trilogy” — Axl and Del James had concocted some kind of convoluted, rock-star ego trip “narrative,” based on a story of James’ titled “Without You.” The videos for “Don’t Cry,” “November Rain,” and “Estranged” when pieced together supposedly tell this cryptic tale, but no one could ever make heads or tails of them. They featured cars exploding over cliffs, swooping helicopter shots, random psychobabble therapy images, and tons of totally nonsensical melodrama. The first two videos co-starred Axl’s supermodel girlfriend Stephanie Seymour, but by the time they got around to filming the third part (“Estranged”), she had wisely packed her Gucci bags and moved on.

In fact, does anyone remember the “Estranged” video? Most of us Gen X’ers remember the “Don’t Cry” video, with doomed Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon sharing the mic with Axl, and the “Where’s Izzy?” sign, and we certainly remember the batshit-crazy “November Rain” wedding-themed video, but when I just now watched “Estranged” on YouTube, I don’t think I’d ever seen it before. Which proves my central thesis: by early 1993, the music world had moved on — very quickly. GN’R was passe before it had even finished promoting its new albums.

The videos did ensure the Gunners’ presence at the annual MTV Video Music Awards. This ceremony continues persisting in its inexplicable existence to this very day, despite the irony of MTV no longer showing videos. But once upon a time, it had some actual cultural relevance — never more so than the 1992 VMAs, one of the only times when the new voices of the rising alt-rock movement rubbed shoulders with the fading fossils of old-school rock for an extended period of time. (Prior to this night, Axl had been frequently photographed in a Nirvana baseball cap.) Both sides brought their A-game to the VMAs, and the result was a draw…at least onstage.

I taped the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards show when it aired live on September 9, and probably watched it semi-weekly for a year. Why? Check out this line-up of performers, a who’s who of everything the Holy Bee was listening to at the time, sharing a stage at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion for the first (and certainly last) time — The Black Crowes, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, U2 (via satellite), The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eric Clapton, and a show-closing number (“November Rain,” of course) by Guns N’ Roses. (Bobby Brown, En Vogue, Bryan Adams, and Elton John performed too, but were usually fast-forwarded.) If that’s not “1992” enough for you, the show was hosted by Dana Carvey, often made up as of one of his SNL characters, such as George Bush or Garth.

It was a total time capsule. I wish I still had the tape. But it was the beginning of the end for Guns N’ Roses. It is the Holy Bee’s theory that their slide can be pinpointed to one single confrontation between Axl and the new alt-rock power couple, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, just before the ceremony began. The story was widely publicized shortly after, and has become the stuff of (minor) rock legend

Axl arrived with his army of handlers and hangers-on… “Axl!” called Love from afar, being deliberately provocative as usual. “Axl! Will you be the godfather to our baby?!” Puzzled at first, Axl and his entourage headed over. Stephanie Seymour attempted to engage Love in conversation in the only way she knew how.

“Are you a model?” she asked, in all innocence.

“No,” came Love’s reply. “Are you a brain surgeon?”

Axl stepped in at this point and jabbed a finger at Cobain. “You shut your bitch up, or I’m taking you to the pavement!” (yes, all the witnesses concurred, he really talked like that.)

Cobain smirked, turned to Love, and deadpanned “Shut up, bitch.”

Everyone in the Cobain party laughed in Axl’s face at that point (yes, even the salt-of-the-earth unpretentious alternative rock folks had entourages, and were capable of impolite behavior). Axl fumed impotently, then stalked (slunk?) off.

The torch had been involuntarily passed at that moment in time. Axl’s and (by association) Guns N’ Roses’ spell was permanently broken on the early evening of September 9, 1992, even if no one knew it yet.

The rest is an extended epilogue…

Things rapidly unwound for the band when they finally came off the road in July 1993 after the two-year-plus tour…visiting some cities three times…noticing partly-empty venues in the last few months…the music-buying public’s taste had irrevocably changed…everyone wanted sincerity and political correctness from their famous musicians now…everyone was heartily tired of the bad behavior, the public wallowing in narcotic excess…the arrogance, the hubris…and if record sales were dwindling for GN’R and their ilk…and they were…no record label could afford the multimillion-dollar videos, the lavish accommodations on the company dime, the assault lawsuits, cleaning up all those goddamn messes these guys trailed in their wake all the time…

They couldn’t seem to write without Izzy, so we got “The Spaghetti Incident?,” a covers album of punk and proto-metal songs in November ‘93, a sure sign of desperation…Gilby Clarke was fired in the summer of 1994 for no particular reason…they managed one single recording that year, an anemic cover of “Sympathy For The Devil” for the Interview With The Vampire soundtrack…

I bought Izzy’s 1992 solo album…I bought Duff McKagan’s solo album…I bought Gilby Clarke’s solo album…by the time of 1995’s It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere by “Slash’s Snakepit,” I’d had enough…

After two years of total band inactivity, Slash turned in his resignation in 1996…after another fallow year, Duff followed suit…Matt Sorum was fired by Axl around the same time…leaving Axl, sole owner of the Guns N’ Roses name, to put together their next work of genius, sure to set the world on fire…the long-awaited album known as Chinese Democracy

Where Are They Now?

Slash defiantly clings to that old top hat and face-obscuring hair, and has settled into a role as a cartoon version of himself, a Professional Celebrity, popping up on talk shows, as a “special guest” at various concerts, and as a freelance guitarist-for-hire, playing his trademark solos on recordings by everyone from Carole King to Rihanna.

Duff McKagan quit his gallon-a-day vodka habit after his pancreas “exploded” (his description). He went back to college and earned a finance degree. He had invested $50,000 dollars in Microsoft and Starbucks in the early 90s on the advice of a Seattle friend. The recent payout is said to have topped $15 million.

Matt Sorum is currently the drummer for Royal Machines, an L.A. cover band also featuring Mark McGrath, and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction. Steven Adler was partially paralyzed by a drug-induced stroke in 1996, and continues to struggle with sobriety, appearing on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2011. His stints in rehab have continued through 2013.

Slash, Duff, and Matt formed Velvet Revolver in 2002, with Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, and released two albums. The prima donna Weiland was a little too Axlesque for everyone’s comfort, and the group went on turmoil-induced “hiatus” in 2008.

Izzy Stradlin lives in anonymity somewhere in Ventura County, occasionally self-releasing stripped-down Stones-inspired solo albums directly to iTunes. It is said he travels extensively, races sprint cars and motocross bikes, and surfs daily.

He declined to join Velvet Revolver, although he helped them write their first batch of songs.

41353

As one internet meme put it, apparently the jungle is full of pies.

W. Axl Rose, at 52, still hauls his version of Guns N’ Roses (no original members) out on tour every few years, accompanied by the ever-loyal Dizzy Reed, former Replacement Tommy Stinson on bass, and a rotating cast of disposable drummers and guitarists. (Izzy emerges out of the ether every few years to join them onstage for a show or two.) His bloated, Botoxed face can no longer twist itself into his familiar sneer, and the voice that was once the envy of everyone in rock is now a hollow croak. (Del James is the band’s current road manager. West Arkeen died of an overdose in 1997).

The faux-Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy finally came out in 2008.

No one cared.

“But now the damage’s done

And we’re back out on the run

Funny how everything was roses

When we held on to the guns…”

–“Breakdown”

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