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Use Your Illusion I

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, punk 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 3, 1991 (1991-12-03)
  3. "November Rain"
    Released: February 18, 1992 (1992-02-18)

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 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]


  • Overview 1
  • Release and reception 2
  • Cover 3
  • Songs 4
  • Track listing 5
  • Personnel 6
  • Charts 7
    • End of decade charts 7.1
  • Certifications 8
  • References 9


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. 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 is also a cover of Paul McCartney and 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

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [9]
Entertainment Weekly A[10]
Q [11]
Robert Christgau [12]
Rolling Stone [13]
RS Album Guide [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 as Use Your Illusion and also became the title of both albums. The album's liner notes hide the message "Fuck You St. Louis" amongst the thank you notes, a reference to the band's controversial performance near there at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in July 1991 during the Use Your Illusion Tour.


"Right Next Door to Hell" 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. 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.

"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" 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.

"Bad Obsession" 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. 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 Stradlin.

"Back Off Bitch" was written before the band's 1987 debut album, Appetite for Destruction.[20] 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. It was also demoed several times by the band during this period.

At the end of "Double Talkin' Jive" 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.

"November Rain" is a power ballad, written by lead singer Axl Rose and released as a single in June 1992. 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.

"Garden of Eden" was written while the band was rehearsing for an extended period of time in Chicago. 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.

"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.

Track listing

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Right Next Door to Hell"   Izzy Stradlin, Timo Caltia, Axl Rose 3:02
2. "Dust N' Bones"   Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Slash 4:58
3. "Live and Let Die"   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, Paul Tobias 5:03
9. "Double Talkin' Jive"   Stradlin 3:23
10. "November Rain" (   ) Rose 8:57
11. "The Garden"   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:


Guns N' Roses
Session musicians
Additional personnel


Chart Peak
Australian Albums Chart[21] 2
Austrian Albums Chart[21] 2
Canadian Albums Chart 1
French Albums Chart[21] 18
New Zealand Albums Chart[21] 2
Norwegian Albums Chart[21] 3
Swedish Albums Chart[21] 3
Swiss Albums Chart[21] 3
UK Albums Chart[22] 2
U.S. Billboard 200[23] 2

End of decade charts

Chart (1990–1999) Position
U.S. Billboard 200[24] 71


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Argentina (CAPIF)[25] 5× Platinum 300,000x
Austria (IFPI Austria)[26] 2× Platinum 100,000x
Brazil (ABPD)[27] Platinum 250,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[28] Diamond 1,000,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[29] Platinum 67,662[29]
France (SNEP)[30] Platinum 436,600[31]
Germany (BVMI)[32] 2× Platinum 1,000,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[33] 2× Platinum 400,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[34] Platinum+Gold 350,000^
Sweden (GLF)[35] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[36] 2× Platinum 100,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[38] 7× Platinum 7,000,000^

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


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  4. ^ Davis, Stephen (2008). Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses. Gotham Publishing. p. 304.  
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  9. ^ a b
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  26. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Guns – Use Your Illusion 1" (in German).   Enter Guns in the field Interpret. Enter Use Your Illusion 1 in the field Titel. Select album in the field Format. Click Suchen
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  29. ^ a b "Guns N'Roses" (in Finnish).  
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  33. ^ "RIAJ > The Record > April 1994 > Page 5 > Certified Awards (February 1994)" (PDF).  
  34. ^ "Certificaciones – Guns" (in Spanish).  
  35. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish).  
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  37. ^ "British album certifications – Guns N' Roses – Use Your Illusion 1".   Enter Use Your Illusion 1 in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  38. ^ "American album certifications – Guns N' Roses – Use Your Illusion I".   If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
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