Use Your Illusion I

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Use Your Illusion I
Studio album by Guns N' Roses
Released September 17, 1991 (1991-09-17)
Recorded January 13, 1990–August 3, 1991 at A&M Studios, Record Plant Studios, Studio 56, Image Recording, Conway Studios, Metalworks Recording Studios, Skip Saylor Recording (album mixing)
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal, blues rock, art rock
Length 75:56
Label Geffen
Producer Mike Clink, Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses chronology
G N' R Lies
Use Your Illusion I
Use Your Illusion II
Singles from Use Your Illusion I
  1. "Don't Cry"
    Released: September 17, 1991 (1991-09-17)
  2. "Live and Let Die"
    Released: December 1991 (1991-12)
  3. "November Rain"
    Released: February 1992 (1992-02)
  4. "The Garden"
    Released: 1992 (1992)
  5. "Garden of Eden"
    Released: May 24, 1993 (1993-05-24)
  6. "Dead Horse"
    Released: 1993 (1993)

Use Your Illusion I is the third studio album by the American rock band Guns N' Roses. It was the first of two albums released in conjunction with the Use Your Illusion Tour, the other being Use Your Illusion II. The two are thus sometimes considered a double album - in fact both were double albums consisting of 2 vinyl records each (Warman's Records Field Guide) . The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, selling 685,000 copies in its first week, behind Use Your Illusion II's first week sales of 770,000.[1] Use Your Illusion I has sold 5,502,000 units in the U.S. as of 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[2] Each of the Use Your Illusion albums have been certified 7× Platinum by the RIAA. It was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992.[3]


The Use Your Illusion albums represent a turning point in the sound of Guns N' Roses. Although the band did not abandon the aggressive hard-rock sound they had become known for with 1987's Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illusion I demonstrated a new-found musical maturity, incorporating elements of blues, classical music, heavy metal, punk rock, and classic rock and roll. This is exemplified by the use of piano on several tracks of this album by lead singer Axl Rose and keyboardist Dizzy Reed, as well as on Use Your Illusion II. Use Your Illusion I contains two of the three songs, "November Rain" and "Don't Cry", whose videos are generally regarded by fans as a trilogy.[citation needed] The third song, "Estranged", can be found on Use Your Illusion II.

Another factor in the different sound to this album compared to the band's earlier work is the addition of former The Cult drummer Matt Sorum, who replaced member Steven Adler. Adler was earlier fired from the group due to a serious heroin addiction.[4][5] Guitarist Izzy Stradlin said of the change, "Adler's sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel. When that was gone, it was just... unbelievable, weird. Nothing worked. I would have preferred to continue with Steve, but we'd had two years off and we couldn't wait any longer."[6]

A number of songs on the album were written in the band's early days. They were not included on Appetite for Destruction but can be found on the so-called 'Rumbo Tapes', a popular bootleg album of early demo tapes. "Back Off Bitch", "Bad Obsession", "Don't Cry" (referred to by Rose during the ensuing tour as 'the first song [they] ever wrote together'), "November Rain", and "The Garden" are considered part of this group. There's also a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings' "Live and Let Die".

Besides stylistic differences, another new aspect seen in Use Your Illusion I was longer songs. "November Rain", an epic ballad, is nearly nine minutes long, and "Coma" is more than 10 minutes long. Another change was the presence of tracks sung by other members of the band (even though certain songs from Appetite for Destruction and G N' R Lies featured other members on duet vocals): lead vocals on "Dust N' Bones", "You Ain't the First" and "Double Talkin' Jive" are performed by rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin. In addition, "14 Years" and "So Fine" from Use Your Illusion II were sung by Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan, respectively.

The band had some difficulty achieving the final sound of the album, especially during the mixing stages of the production of both albums. According to a 1991 cover story by Rolling Stone magazine, after mixing 21 tracks with engineer/producer Bob Clearmountain, the band decided to scrap the mixes and start from scratch with engineer Bill Price of Sex Pistols fame.[7]

Slash has stated that a great deal of the material for the album was written on acoustic guitars in a couple of nights at his house (the Walnut House), after several months of non-productivity.[8]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[9]
Entertainment Weekly A[10]
Q 4/5 stars[11]
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention)[12]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[13]
RS Album Guide 5/5 stars[14]
Classic Rock positive[15]

Released on midnight of September 17, 1991, the Use Your Illusion albums were among the most anticipated in rock history. Predictions in the industry were of sales reaching the likes of Michael Jackson's Thriller and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., this despite the fact that major stores K-Mart and Walmart refused to stock the albums due to the profanity present. Estimates suggested that over 500,000 copies of the two albums were sold in just 2 hours.[16] Both albums ultimately underperformed expectations domestically but were still commercially successful, with Use Your Illusion I selling 5,502,000 and both being certified 7x Platinum by the RIAA.[17][18] Use Your Illusion I debuted below Use Your Illusion II mainly due to the fact that the second album contained the main lead single of the two albums "You Could Be Mine".

Reception to Use Your Illusion I was mainly positive, and it is regarded as the more hard-rocking album of the two due in part to the influence of Izzy Stradlin.[9] Critics praised the highlights of the album such as "November Rain" and "Coma", the closing track, but criticized the amount of filler on the album. Asked if the wait was worth it, David Fricke of Rolling Stone noted "yes".[13]


Both albums' covers are the work of Estonian-American artist Mark Kostabi.[19] They consist of detail from Raphael's painting The School of Athens. The highlighted figure, unlike many of those in the painting, has not been identified with any specific philosopher.

The only difference in the artwork between the albums is the color scheme used for each album. Use Your Illusion I uses red and yellow while Use Your Illusion II uses blue and purple.

The original painting was titled by Paul Kostabi , Use Your Illusion and also became the title of both albums.

Song information[edit]

"Right Next Door to Hell"[edit]

This song is a product of discord between Axl and his West Hollywood high rise neighbor, Gabriella Kantor. Kantor had Rose arrested and sued Rose, claiming he hit her with a wine bottle. He denied the charges and labeled her a "fanatical fan". The condo was eventually given away in MTV's "Evict Axl" contest.[20] Timo Caltia (real name Timo Kaltio), who participated in the writing of this song, is a Finnish guitarist, songwriter and guitar-tech expert who once worked with Hanoi Rocks. He'd played a chorus riff of the song at his home while Stradlin was visiting.


"Dust N' Bones"[edit]

This is the second track on the album and was written by Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan. It's the first song on the album sung by Stradlin and the first to feature Dizzy Reed. It also includes a guitar with talkbox. Personnel as listed in album linear notes:

Drums / Percussion - Matt
Bass - Duff
Lead and Rhythm Guitars / Voice Box - Slash
Vocals / Rhythm Guitar - Izzy
Piano / Organ - Dizzy Reed
Background Vocals - Axl, Slash, Duff

Live and Let Die[edit]

"Live and Let Die" was released as the second single from Use Your Illusion I album and the fourth out of all the Use Your Illusion singles. A music video was made in November 1991 featuring the band playing live on stage and showing old pictures. The video was also made shortly before Izzy Stradlin's departure and it was the last video where he appears. It charted at 20 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The song was nominated for "Best Hard Rock Performance" during the 1993 Grammy Awards.


Don’t Cry[edit]

"Don't Cry" is a power ballad and two versions were released simultaneously on different albums. The version with the original lyrics is featured here on Use Your Illusion I, while the version with the alternate lyrics is the 13th track on Use Your Illusion II. Only the vocal tracks differ, and even then only in the verses; however, in those verses, not only are the words entirely different, but the meter and melody are also slightly different. There is also a third version, officially released only on the single for the song, which was recorded during Appetite for Destruction sessions in 1986.

Axl has stated that the song was written about a girl named Monique Lewis (the face tattooed on Axl’s right bicep.) She was romantically involved with both Axl and Izzy at different times.


"Perfect Crime"[edit]

The fifth track on the album and was written by Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose.


"You Ain't the First"[edit]

"You Ain't the First" is the sixth track on the album. Unlike most tracks on the album, electric guitars are nowhere to be found in the song – instead, acoustic guitars are used, similar to side two of G N' R Lies, and also giving the song a folk rock feel, which is added to by the tambourine (played by Tim Doyle). The song is also notable for being the only song in the band's catalogue that is entirely in waltz time and it is the only song to feature three singers: Izzy Stradlin, Axl Rose and Shannon Hoon.[21]


"Bad Obsession"[edit]

"Bad Obsession" is track seven on the album. It was written by Izzy Stradlin and West Arkeen. The song is about tackling drug abuse and addiction, which had haunted the band since before they had become famous. Michael Monroe, lead singer of Hanoi Rocks and a big influence on Guns N' Roses, plays the harmonica and tenor saxophone on the studio version, which is 5:28 long. A live version from the Tokyo Dome was featured on the Use Your Illusion 1 DVD as song number six and Axl Rose takes a dig at Izzy by saying "This a song that we wrote about one year before Mr. Brownstone with the help of our friend West Arkeen and some guy that just, I don't know, his name just escapes me," referencing, Izzy Stradlin.


"Back Off Bitch"[edit]

This is track eight on Use Your Illusion I. However, it was written before the band's 1987 debut album, Appetite for Destruction. In a 1992 interview with Rolling Stone, Axl said that "Back Off Bitch" was a "10-year old song" at the time. Therefore, it can be assumed that the song predates the formation of the group. The song was also played during Guns N' Roses concerts before the release of Appetite for Destruction. “Back Off Bitch” was written partially about Axl’s girlfriend, Gina Siler, who moved with him to Los Angeles in 1982, and eventually kicked him out in 1983, due to his anger issues. The song was performed live several times in 1986[22] before the release of Appetite for Destruction but never made the album. It was also demoed several times by the band during this period.[23] This is one of very few Guns N' Roses songs to feature Izzy Stradlin playing a longer guitar solo. This solo opens the album version. The solo is more complex than the intro played on earlier live versions.


"Double Talkin' Jive"[edit]

This is the ninth track on the album, written and sung by Stradlin. At the end of the song Slash performs an extended Flamenco-style guitar solo. Interestingly, live performances of this song were stretched from its original three-minute length to more than eight minutes long. The opening line of the song "Found a head and an arm in a garbage can" refers to body parts Stradlin actually found in a dumpster in the vicinity of the studio. Axl would sing this song live even when Izzy was still present in the band in 1991.


November Rain[edit]

"November Rain" is a power ballad, written by lead singer Axl Rose and released as a single in June 1992. It appears on the album Use Your Illusion I. It features a sweeping orchestral backing and is one of Guns N' Roses' longest songs, and the longest song in history to enter the top ten of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Guns N' Roses performed this song with Elton John on piano at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.

Axl Rose mentioned during the “Making F@kin’ Estranged,” that “‘November Rain’ is song about being in the state of not having to deal with unrequited love.” It was strongly influenced by Axl’s girlfriend at the time, Erin Everly.


The Garden[edit]

"The Garden" was released in 1991. It features alternating lead vocals between Axl Rose and Alice Cooper. Izzy Stradlin is absent on "The Garden."


"Garden of Eden"[edit]

"Garden of Eden"
VHS single by Guns N' Roses
Released May 24, 1993
Format VHS single
Recorded 1990–1991
Genre Heavy metal
Length 2:42
Label Geffen

According to Slash, the song, which appears as track 12, was written while the band was rehearsing for an extended period of time in Chicago.[24] There is a music video of the song, filmed in one static take (shot through a fish eye lens) which features a close-up of Rose singing into a ribbon microphone with the band playing behind him, whilst keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Teddy Andreadis (who played the harmonica for the band during the Use Your Illusion Tour) are seen dancing in the far background. There are two versions of the video, both made in 1992. One version has strips of paper flying through the air, and is mostly found on music video sites like Yahoo! Music. The other version has lyrics onscreen, complete with a "follow-the-bouncing-ball", but with no paper flying around. This is the version that is on the Guns N' Roses music video compilation Welcome to the Videos. On May 24, 1993 (the same day of release as The "Civil War" EP), the song was released as a VHS video single entitled Garden Of Eden: Strictly Limited Edition, featuring the 'follow-the-bouncing-ball' version of the video.


"Don't Damn Me"[edit]

"Don't Damn Me" is the 13th track on the album, and is the only song from the album that's never been played live.[25]


"Bad Apples"[edit]

"Bad Apples" is the 14th track on the album, and has only been performed live twice.[26] According to Slash, the song was written while the band was rehearsing for an extended period of time in Chicago.[24]


Dead Horse[edit]

"Dead Horse" starts out with an acoustic section, which features a guitar riff written by lead vocalist Axl Rose. The electric guitars soon come in for the heavier section which dominates the song. After the final climactic chorus, the opening section is reprised for another bar. The song ends with an audio effect featuring the song being fast-forwarded.



"Coma" is a song by American rock band Guns N' Roses. It appears on the 1991 album Use Your Illusion I. At 10 minutes, 13 seconds it is the longest track released by the band, even though it lacks choruses.

Slash states that he wrote the music to this song in a house he and Izzy Stradlin rented in Hollywood Hills, following the Appetite for Destruction tours.


Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Right Next Door to Hell"   Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Timo Caltia 3:02
2. "Dust N' Bones"   Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Slash 4:58
3. "Live and Let Die" (Paul McCartney & Wings cover) Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney 3:04
4. "Don't Cry" (original version) Stradlin, Rose 4:44
5. "Perfect Crime"   Slash, Stradlin, Rose 2:23
6. "You Ain't the First"   Stradlin 2:36
7. "Bad Obsession"   Stradlin, West Arkeen 5:28
8. "Back Off Bitch"   Rose, Slash, Paul Huge, Chris Weber[20] 5:03
9. "Double Talkin' Jive"   Stradlin 3:23
10. "November Rain"   Rose 8:57
11. "The Garden" (featuring Alice Cooper and Shannon Hoon) Arkeen, Del James, Rose 5:22
12. "Garden of Eden"   Slash, Rose 2:41
13. "Don't Damn Me"   Slash, Dave Lank, Rose 5:18
14. "Bad Apples"   Stradlin, McKagan, Slash, Rose 4:28
15. "Dead Horse"   Rose 4:17
16. "Coma"   Slash, Rose 10:13
Total length:

Certifications and Sales[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Argentina (CAPIF)[21] 5× Platinum 300,000x
Austria (IFPI Austria)[22] 2× Platinum 100,000x
Brazil (ABPD)[23] Platinum 250,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[24] Diamond 1,000,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[25] Platinum 67,662[25]
France (SNEP)[26] Platinum 436,600[27]
Germany (BVMI)[28] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[29] 2× Platinum 400,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[30] Platinum+Gold 350,000^
Sweden (GLF)[31] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[32] 2× Platinum 100,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[34] 7× Platinum 7,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


Chart Peak
U.S. Billboard 200[35] 2
UK Albums Chart[36] 2
Australian ARIA Albums Chart[37] 2
New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart[37] 2
Switzerland[37] 3
Canada 1
Austria[37] 2
Sweden[37] 3
Norway[37] 3
France 18

End of decade charts[edit]

Chart (1990–1999) Position
U.S. Billboard 200[38] 71


Guns N' Roses
Session musicians
Additional personnel


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