Guns N’ Roses
Released on November, 29 1988
Sixteen months after Appetite For Destruction made its debut on the Billboard 100 and made Guns N’ Roses a household name, the rock band who would go on to become one of the biggest acts in the world released GN’R Lies. Whilst Appetite had been dripping with sleaze, liquor and decadence, Lies was a completely different beast.
The follow up record took many fans by surprise given that half of the 8 songs were acoustic numbers showing a different side to the untamed rockers. Lies was a response to an ever growing band that had scant material at the time to capitalize on Appetite’s success. With pressure mounting from record company Geffen to get some new material out there the band came up with a suggestion that made perfect sense.
Before Appetite For Destruction the bands very first release was the live EP titled: Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide which was originally released in December 1986. As per standard the EP contained four tracks which included three covers and one original song. “Reckless Life” known by many fans as a Guns song was indeed a Hollywood Rose creation. “Nice Boys” was a cover of Australian punk band Rose Tattoo of which Axl Rose was and still is a huge fan. “Move to the City” was the one original song co-written by long term friend Del James and the EP was rounded off by the Aerosmith classic “Mama Kin”.
The ‘Live’ EP was a little sneaky given that the record was actually recorded in a studio with pre-recorded fans screaming in the back ground. Note: Those fans making all of the noise were not Guns N’Roses ones, according to bassist Duff McKagan the screams were recorded from the then annual Texxas Jam in Dallas. With the EP being limited to just 10,000 copies the four track record started selling for serious money when Guns N’Roses made it big. It wouldn’t have been strange to see it change hands for over $100. Axl Rose who has always backed his fans over quality and content was outraged by this and suggested that these four tracks be available as part of an extended EP and thus GN’R Lies took shape.
To push the record to a near equilivant of a full album the band grouped together another four songs; “Patience”, “Used to Love her”, “You’re Crazy” and “One in a Million”. The songs were laced with beauty and….controversy. We couldn’t expect ‘the world’s most dangerous band’ to pull off a semi friendly acoustic record.
“Used to Love her” was seen by some critics as misogynistic with lyrics that included “I used to love her, but I had to kill her”. But guitarist Slash once commented that the song was not about a woman but about Axl’s dog! Most fans enjoyed the song and saw it for what it was black humour on the bands part. “You’re Crazy” had of course appeared on Appetite For Destruction but this version was a stripped down one. Producer Mike Clink who had a long association with the band described the recording of this song as one of the most beautiful experiences he had ever witnessed. “You’re Crazy” acoustic version became a regular set list song on the bands final leg of their Use Your Illusion tour some five years later.
But by far the most controversial song on the album was “One in a Million” which included lyrics such as: ‘Police and Niggers, that’s right get out of my way, don’t need to buy none of your gold chains today’. But it didn’t stop there as the song continued referencing in a negative form immigrants and gay people.
Inevitably the band came under fire from the press and from the music industry. Axl tried to defend the song, noting that he was not homophobic but was explaining his own life experiences. The song was played just two times before being retired in 1988 and has not been played live again. Such was the power of the band at that time that David Geffen who Guns N’ Roses were signed too and who was gay himself let it slide. The most ironic thing about the song is that without the lyrics it is a great tune, but was certainly pushing the envelope and not in the right way. The band tried to make amends a few years later when they played an historic gig at the Freddie Mercury Tribute at Wembley Stadium and Axl on more than one occasion teamed up with his hero Elton John.
Despite the controversy GN’R Lies also contained one of the epic rock songs of the 80s if not of all time. That song penned by guitarist Izzy Stradlin’ was “Patience”. It was a song that instantly gave the band from Los Angeles another million or so fans. Whilst some listeners were never going to get into tracks like “Out Ta Get Me”, “Patience” made the band way more accessible. The video for the song became a major hit and it was almost impossible not to have MTV on throughout the late 80s and not catch a glimpse of the video.
GN’R Lies then, was the bridge between Appetite and Use Your Illusion, a record that on reflection hinted at what would appear on the next album. The cover was a spoof of a newspaper tabloid- at the time the band were outraged about all of the media spin and lies about them, something they would experiment with more force on the Use Your Illusion albums with such songs as “Get in the Ring” and “Shotgun Blues”.
GN’R Lies spread like wildfire throughout 1989 when the band were mostly inactive, but the record kept them in the public’s eye until they ended that year having sold 5 million units of Lies and then supported their heroes The Rolling Stones to cap off a remarkable decade. After that they never looked back.
Written by David Bronstein