The classic lineup as signed to Geffen Records in 1986 consisted of vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler.
Today, Axl Rose is the only remaining original member, in a lineup that comprises Use Your Illusion–era keyboardist Dizzy Reed, lead guitarists DJ Ashba and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer, and keyboardist Chris Pitman.
Guns N’ Roses have been credited with reviving the mainstream popularity of rock music, at a time when popular music was dominated by dance music and pop metal.
Their late 1980s and early 1990s years have been described as the period in which they brought forth a “hedonistic rebelliousness” reminiscent of the early Rolling Stones, a reputation that had earned them the nickname “The World’s Most Dangerous Band”.
In June 1985, just four days after the lineup was finalized, the band embarked on a short, disorganized tour of the West Coast, from Sacramento, California, to McKagan’s hometown of Seattle, Washington.
The so-called “Hell Tour” cemented the band’s first stable lineup, with McKagan later commenting, “This trip had set a new benchmark for what we were capable of, what we could and would put ourselves through to achieve our goals as a band.”
In the U.S., “Welcome to the Jungle” was issued as the album’s first single, with an accompanying music video.
Initially, the album and single lingered for almost a year without performing well, but when Geffen founder David Geffen was asked to lend support to the band, he obliged by personally convincing MTV executives to play “Welcome to the Jungle” during their after-hours rotation.
Even though the video was initially only played once at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, heavy metal and hard rock fans took notice and soon began requesting the video and song en masse.
The song was written about Los Angeles, was written in Seattle and the music video took place in New York.
According to Rose, the inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man while they were coming out of a bus into New York.
The band’s first album, Appetite for Destruction was released on July 21, 1987.
The album underwent an artwork change after the original Robert Williams cover design (a surrealist scene in which a dagger-toothed monster vengefully attacks a robot rapist) spawned complaints from religious groups and caused some record stores to brown bag, obscure, or refuse to sell the album.
The revised cover was a design by Bill White, a tattoo artist, who had originally designed it for a tattoo Rose had got the previous year.
The design featured each of the five band members’ skulls layered on a cross.
Rose later insisted that the Gold and Platinum plaques issued by the RIAA be set using the original cover.
The artwork from the original cover can be found in the booklet of the CD release.
In the US, “Welcome to the Jungle” was issued as its first single with an accompanying music video.
Initially, the album and single lingered for almost a year without performing well, but when Geffen Records founder David Geffen was asked to lend support to the band, he obliged by personally convincing MTV executives to play “Welcome to the Jungle” during their after hours rotation.