GNR’s Use Your Illusion is turning 20

This year has seen the 20th anniversaries of both Metallica’s Black album and Nirvana’s Nevermind.

However, it’s also the 20th anniversary of Guns N’ Roses long awaited follow up to Appetite For Destruction, the Use Your Illusion albums, which hit record stores on September 17, 1991. 

As with the Black album, Tower Records opened at midnight for fans who wanted to have it first, and Slash was behind Tower’s two way mirror, watching everyone march in and buy it.

Both albums sold about 1.5 million copies the first day, and domestically the albums would sell over seven million copies, but the Use Your Illusion albums didn’t have the incredible second life Appetite had, which continued to sell about 200,000 copies a year years after its release.

Axl famously told MTV he wanted to bury Appetite with their follow up, remarks he now claims were taken out of context, but with Appetite being such an enormous hit, the Illusion albums, no matter how good, would ever out do it or out sell it. As a result, Illusion was overproduced and overpolished, missing the raw sound and energy of Appetite.

The consensus among a lot of fans today is if you cut down the bloat, Illusion would have made a good solid album. There’s definitely songs that are pompous and overblown (the cover art is especially pretentious), but there’s good material in there too, and again, the good stuff would have made one good album.

GNR released two albums at once, partly because the band wasn’t sure if there’d ever be another album, and sure enough, there wasn’t. 

The “GNR” of today is one of the longest running jokes in the music business, really the Axl solo band masquerading as GNR, a wobbly monument to Axl’s ego, and a smoke and mirrors routine that grows less and less convincing with every gig.

A GNR reunion is very unlikely, and even if the original members got back together, the magic that made the band special is long gone. The band’s legacy will always be Appetite, which captured the band at the peak of its power, and a sad reminder of what could have, should have, would have been.