In retrospect, the much revered "classic" lineup of Guns N' Roses was together a relatively short time, with the first significant changes in the band coming in the early '90s, but even with the initial alterations to the group, it was still one helluva ride the band was enjoying after monstrous success of their debut album Appetite for Destruction and the follow-up compilation Lies.
While it could have been easy to capitalize on the early successes and churn out another album quickly, the band instead chose to double down on their work and release an ambitious two-volume collection on Sept. 17, 1991 called Use Your Illusion.
Frontman Axl Rose told Rolling Stone in 1991 that the project was well thought-out and a calculated career move, choosing to challenge themselves to do something special rather than taking the easy road.
"People want something, and they want it as soon as they can get it," Rose says. "Needy people. And I'm the same way, but I want it to be right — I don't want it to be half-assed. Since we put out Appetite for Destruction, I've watched a lot of bands put out two to four albums, and who cares? They went out, they did a big tour, they were big rock stars for that period of time. That's what everybody's used to now -- the record companies push that. But I want no part of that. We weren't just throwing something together to be rock stars. We wanted to put something together that meant everything to us."
But getting there was no easy task. The band had a tumultuous split with drummer Steven Adler after his hard-partying ways became too much for the band to ignore. Adler would later file suit against the group. Guns N' Roses also bid adieu to manager Alan Niven amongst other key members of their crew.
Rose stated, "There's a lot of desire to keep what we have together. I mean, we already lost one guy. Actually, we lost a lot of people. It would've been nice to stay with Alan [Niven]. It would've been nice to work with certain photographers, certain security, road crew, stagehands.... Whether you're glad you're in a situation or not, there's always a part of you that goes, 'I wish I could've been happy there, just stayed happy somehow.'"
Guns N' Roses, "You Could Be Mine" — Live at Rock in Rio (1991)
But as one chapter closed, another began. In 1990, keyboardist Dizzy Reed was invited to join the group. And with Adler on the way out, the group needed a new drummer and found their man in Matt Sorum, whom the band had seen drumming with The Cult. "Having a keyboard player in the band was something they talked to me about a long time ago," Reed stated. "I never really thought it would happen."
But Reed got the call at just the right time as he was about to be thrown out of his apartment right as he got the invite. As for Sorum, he took over behind the kit for a majority of the songs, though Adler still received credit on the song "Civil War."
With the new lineup intact, Guns N' Roses started putting together the disc in 1990, spending nearly a year on the recording. The band made use of numerous studios, including A&M, Record Plant, Studio 56, Image Recording, Conway Studios and Metalworks Recording Studios.
Guns N' Roses, "Civil War"