Few bands are as indicative of ’80s heavy metal as Guns N’ Roses. With perennial hits like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle,” their music is a large part of that era’s zeitgeist.
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Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, the group has incurred a number of line-up changes, break-ups, fallouts, and make-ups. What has remained steadfast though is their ability to deliver a piercing rock anthem that stands the test of time.
You know their music but do you know how they got their name? We’re going through the origins of Guns N’ Roses and their continued legacy below.
Behind the Band Name
Though Guns N’ Roses might sound like a name tailor-made for an L.A. rock band, the group found it completely by happenstance. It’s an amalgamation of two previous bands, Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns. But how did the two bands combine?
Hollywood Rose was formed and founded by Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, and Chris Weber in 1983, who played live shows with Rick Mars, Andrew Troxx, Johnny Kreis, and Steve Darrow. After various line-up changes took place over the next two years, Weber and Stradlin were replaced by Slash and Steven Adler.
The L.A. Guns was formed in 1983 by guitarist Tracii Guns and drummer Rob Gardner with singer Mike Jagosz and bassist Ole Beich. After recording one EP, Jagosz was replaced by Axl Rose. The two bands merged to become Guns N’ Roses soon after, cementing the enduring moniker of the group.
Guns N’ Roses wasn’t the only name to be thrown around though. Initial ideas rejected by the group were AIDS and Heads of Amazon – good choice fellas.
Finding The Classic Line-Up
The first line-up for Guns N’ Roses consisted of Axl Rose, Rob Garner, Izzy Stradlin, Tracii Guns and Ole Beich, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
Just after their first gig as a five-piece, Beich was promptly fired and replaced by Duff McKagan. Guns left after an argument with Rose, which led to Slash being tapped for the band. Not long after, Gardner quit and was replaced by another Hollywood Rose bandmate, Adler.
Finally, the group had their classic line-up and released their first album, Appetite For Destruction in 1987. Though their debut set them on the world’s stage, they further skyrocketed into fame with two albums, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, whose total circulation is estimated to be around 90 million copies.
Millions of records sold and countless tours later, in 2012, the group was given a place in the annals of rock history by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
(Photo by Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)