Guns N' Roses: No shows and bomb scares on the chaotic Use Your Illusion Tour

Axl Rose has had enough. It’s June 3, 1992 and we’re in Hannover at the Niedersachsen Stadium. He’s sitting on the drum riser, a sweaty, seething 60,000 strong stadium rock crowd swarming in front of him.

The band tore on to stage (on time, for the first time on their massive Use Your Illusion tour), ripped through three songs, but now something’s not right. The petulant singer doesn’t say one word to the assembled throng, and he’s sitting down. Not the usual behaviour for a man who ordinarily races around like a maniac.

Slash, Duff, Matt and Gilby all share confused glances. They’re running around, doing their best to cover up, galloping around the stage. The monitors are checked. The Teleprompter is checked. And rechecked. Nothing’s wrong. Except the singer’s behaviour. It’s all really strange.

Axl, meanwhile, doesn’t move. Then he does. He just wanders to the front of the stage, climbs into the security pit, looks at the audience, then returns to the drum riser and sits down again. And then starts to sing. But not for long…

Blame Bob Dylan. If he hadn’t written Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, GN’R would never have covered it, and Axl wouldn’t have berated the edgy Hannover crowd for not singing loudly enough. And then perhaps he wouldn’t have introduced Sweet Child O’ Mine as “a song about getting fucked up the ass by a coke bottle”. But that’s exactly what he does. And then he storms off.

Incidents like these characterised Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion tour. It wasn’t an isolated episode, either. It would get weirder. GN’R were suffering from a media backlash after the massive success of Appetite For Destruction. And Axl was getting more and more paranoid. The GN’R on the Illusion tour wasn’t the same one we’d seen storm the Marquee in ’87 or stun the Donington crowd in ’88.

Think about it, a 12-piece Guns N’ Roses? It doesn’t make sense does it? Even now, when Gun N’ Roses means whatever Axl Rose wants it to mean, he’ll be stretching credulity if he walks on stage at this year’s Download Festival with a dozen musicians in his band.

But the Guns N’ Roses that assembled in Dublin in mid-May 1992 for the start of a 20-date European tour consisted of 12 musicians. It was the culmination of the band’s transition from hedonistic heroes to stadium rockers.

It had been a traumatic adjustment costing two of the original members: drummer Steven Adler was fired from the band at the end of 1990 because, unlike the others, he did not cure his heroin addiction. A year later guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit because he could no longer cope with a “cleaned-up” Guns N’ Roses – even though he too had cleaned up.

Slash at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, 1992

Slash at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, 1992 (Image credit: Getty Images)

They had been replaced by former Cult drummer Matt Sorum, who had experience of playing big gigs, and guitarist Gilby Clarke who did not have big show experience but had played in various Los Angeles bands like Candy and Kill For Thrills and came out of the same gritty club circuit that had spawned GN’R, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot and the rest.

To this reconstituted band had been added keyboard player Dizzy Reed, a female brass trio, a couple of backing singers (also girls) and Ted Andreakis who was billed as an “emulator” but also played harmonica and keyboards.

It was Slash who had been mainly responsible for putting together the Guns N’ Roses big band. “Around the time Gilby joined I was looking for some horn players to fill out songs like November Rain and get them to sound a bit more like the record,” he said in a TV interview.

“Axl really got into that idea too. I didn’t want anything corny like three guys in tuxedos all moving in unison, so I got some chicks to do it. But that hasn’t changed the way we play,” he added. “It’s as chaotic as it’s always been.”

Pressed about tensions within the band Slash replied, “This band’s always been tense because, you know, this isn’t like a day job. Most bands these days could go out and do their show in their sleep. We go out there all stirred up. We care about every show we do, so if something happens during a particular show then yeah, it can get pretty tense. The way we treat it is to go out and do the best show we possibly can. It’s not pre-meditated, we just go for it.”

Anyone thinking that a 12-piece band couldn’t “just go for it” was reckoning without Guns N’ Roses attitude. For a start there was no set list. The opening number wasn’t decided until a minute or two before they hit the stage. That kind of spontaneity might be fine and dandy in a small club packed with adoring fans but in front of 50,000-100,000 people? Not to mention the lighting guy controlling 900 lights and half a dozen guys operating follow-spotlights precariously perched above the stage, each waiting for instructions.

And then there was the erratic behaviour of Axl Rose. You couldn’t predict what time he and the band would come on stage – although you could generally guarantee that it wouldn’t be within 30 minutes of the scheduled time. You couldn’t predict what he’d do when he got there either: what he’d say or how he’d react to the music, the audience, anything…

No wonder the road crew were always fully focussed as showtime-plus-30 approached. Most bands leave nothing to chance when he comes to stadium shows – even The Rolling Stones have used backing tapes. But Guns N’ Roses deliberately put their stadium shows on a knife edge. That meant the shows could be stunning. By the same token they could also be shambolic. But then Guns N’ Roses knew no other way.

Not that the critics saw it that way. To them, the band they’d championed had sold out. Even worse, they’d become hugely popular. “Just another stadium act, up there with the fatted turkeys,” according to Melody Maker. “A saddening musical mess,” said Kerrang!.

Get in the ring, Axl comes out swinging at Wembley Stadium

Get in the ring, Axl comes out swinging at Wembley Stadium (Image credit: Getty Images)

But then Guns N’ Roses had gone to war with the press and the ‘build-‘em-up, slag-‘em-off’ mentality. Demanding copy approval was guaranteed to rile any journalist, but it was another part of the Guns N’ Roses attitude. They’d spelt it out on Get In The Ring on their Use Your Illusion II album. For the crowds who flocked to see them, however, the air of excitement in the (frequently extended) build-up to the show told its own story.

Security, or Axl’s paranoia, had reached ridiculous heights. He wanted control. He demanded complete control. Legal documents flew about backstage – disclaimers, gag orders, the lot. And these weren’t just for those nearest and dearest to the band. No one escaped unscathed. Not the crew, not the caterers, not the bus drivers, not the support band and their associates. No-one. Nearly a decade and a half later, people who were on the tour only agreed to speak with Classic Rock under the shield of strict anonymity, such was the fear of the wrath of God instilled in them. But it’s time to break the silence.

The Use Your Illusion tour had started in May 1991, four months before the Use Your Illusion albums were released. It would carry on for the next 28 months with 128 shows in 27 countries in front of seven million people.

For the first few weeks the shows ran smoothly, apart from the late starts, but at St Louis, Missouri in early July Axl yelled at security to remove a camera from a fan near the stage and when nothing happened he leapt into the crowd to deal with the offender himself. The resulting riot left 50 people injured and Axl facing assault charges.

Another riot was narrowly avoided a week later in Englewood, Colorado when Axl took exception to a heckler. And later that same month at Inglewood, California police sensibly tore up a traffic ticket they’d issued after Axl’s limousine made an illegal left turn outside the Forum and he threatened to cancel the show with 19,000 people already inside.

In contrast, their Wembley Stadium at the end of August under a baking sun was a relatively restrained affair, although the jobsworths at Brent Council had done their best by demanding that the band desist from swearing on stage. That resulted in posters around London proclaiming ‘Guns N’ Fucking Roses. Wembley Fucking Stadium. Sold Fucking Out’. The language from the stage was equally blunt.

But the joke had worn too thin for Izzy Stradlin who had already taken to travelling separately from the rest of the group. By the time the two separate Use Your Illusion albums were released in September he’d gone AWOL, failing to show up for video shoots. A few weeks later it was confirmed that he was leaving.

Slash made the call to Gilby Clarke. “I knew Gilby before Guns N’ Roses even started,” he explained. “He was playing in the same clubs that Hollywood Rose [Axl’s pre-GN’R group] and bands I was in played at. But I hadn’t seen him in all those years.

Welcome to the jungle. new boy Gilby Clarke shot in Tokyo in 1992

Welcome to the jungle. new boy Gilby Clarke shot in Tokyo in 1992 (Image credit: Getty Images)

“His name was brought up by a couple of people and I thought ‘Yeah’. In fact he was the only person we auditioned. I brought him into the studio with us and we jammed and it worked, just like that.”

Clarke confirmed that story while admitting that he’d surreptitiously put himself in the frame.

“I’d heard rumours that something was up,” he said. “And I’d called a friend of mine who’d worked with the band and said, ‘If these guys are looking for someone then put my name in the pot’. And one day I got home and there was the call.”

But wasn’t he concerned that he could be joining a band on the brink of destruction? “Yeah, but that’s the credit you have to give this band: all the things they’ve been through and still to be doing all this. For the first week I was coming in every day and not knowing if I was coming back tomorrow. I just had to put everything else to one side and concentrate on learning 40-odd songs.”

The 12-piece Guns N’ Roses made their debut at Worcester, Massachusetts, in early December followed by three nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden. They flew to Japan for three shows that were filmed for a video and made their first foray into South America with a concert in Mexico City at the start of April.

Later that month they flew over for the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, an unusual move firstly because the band were not best known for playing tribute shows of any description, and secondly because the gay community had taken umbrage with Axl’s less than sympathetic lyrics on the One In A Million song from the GN’R Lies album.

Anyway the wind blows... Elton and Axl duet for Freddie at Wembley in 1992

Anyway the wind blows... Elton and Axl duet for Freddie at Wembley in 1992 (Image credit: Getty Images)

But this was not about sexual preference, it was about Queen. As Slash explained, “We grew up with Queen. They were one of the main bands we were into at the start. So when they asked us to play we jumped at the chance. Then we had this whole gay activist thing going against us but we just decided to do it anyway.”

The band played Paradise City and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door before Axl duetted with Elton John on a version of Bohemian Rhapsody that was one of the highlights of the show and then got to front Queen for We Will Rock You. Axl, Slash and Duff then joined in the grand finale, We Are The Champions.

So it was a relatively relaxed-looking band that arrived in Dublin to start the European tour. Axl even managed a smile for the photographer who was brave enough to greet him at the airport.

Faith No More, who’d been frequently named as one of Guns N’ Roses’ favourite bands, were the chosen support band on the tour, along with Soundgarden. “The band felt almost honoured to be asked and it was seen as a great opportunity to play to a whole load of people in Europe,” a member of their road crew (let’s call him Mr X) told Classic Rock.

“But it didn’t really work out that way. Most of the kids had just come to see Guns N’ Roses and didn’t pay any attention to us. And for the amount of time that we were out there we didn’t really play that many gigs. We always seemed to be hanging around, waiting a couple of days or more for the next gig.

“I remember being told that some of the band were still in a fragile condition. But that didn’t surprise me with everything they’d been through in the last couple of years. And then losing Steven Adler and Izzy – that must have been hard for them.

“Slash was fine, though. Thriving on it. He carried a bottle of Jack Daniel’s with him wherever he went. It was his medication. But he was always nice and friendly whenever you came across him.

“Duff was on vodka and I think he was finding it harder. That’s why he had his girlfriend, Linda, with him on the tour. They got engaged midway through the tour and they were really sweet together.

“But we scarcely saw Axl. In fact I don’t think many people saw Axl when he wasn’t on stage. He was closeted away and there was this whole entourage looking after him. He had a personal assistant. And the personal assistant had an assistant. There was also a chiropractor and a hypnotherapist. And then there was his sister, Amy. There were a lot of people around him.”

If Axl was incommunicado, Slash and Duff were happy to talk to the media. And they weren’t hiding behind phrases like “musical differences” when it came to the departure of Steven and Izzy.

“Steven Adler just kept on lying,” Duff explained. “He kept saying he’d given up. I’d already been round to his dealer’s house and threatened to kill him if he sold Steven any more drugs. And one night I went round to Steven’s house and pressed the redial button on his phone. And guess where it went? So that was that.”

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Izzy’s departure had also rankled, but in a very different way. “He went too hardcore I think,” said Duff. “He couldn’t just have a couple of beers. He couldn’t be around it at all and that was sad. God bless him, that’s all I’ve got to say.”

It was an 11-piece band that showed up for a two-hour sound check the day before the opening date of the tour at Slane Castle, a picturesque spot on a bend in the river Boyne that provided a natural amphitheatre. No prizes for guessing who didn’t make it.

The 250,000-watt sound of the band could be heard in the nearby village of Slane which was already filling up with fans. Another source remembers passing through the village on the morning of the show.

“This little village had been completely taken over by thousands of kids in headbands and denim jackets,” he recalls. “Every now and again some little makeshift band would start up and people would cluster round. And then suddenly they’d get up and lead this big procession round the village and then down this little country lane towards the castle. Obviously loads of them were carrying cans but it was all really peaceful.”

Meanwhile the Irish tabloids had been doing their best to whip up a controversy, fearing for those good catholic Irish girls who might be induced to bare their breasts for the video cameras, following a growing American tradition that provided pre-show entertainment for the crowd on the giant screens as well as the band watching backstage.

A police chief was quoted as saying that they would be monitoring the situation closely. Of course. In fact there were over 800 policeman being drafted in for breast patrol and other more mundane tasks. Sadly they would see more hairy arses than tits as the crowd amused themselves by building human pyramids in front of the stage with the guy at the top getting the chance for a quick moon before the whole edifice collapsed.

The band arrived at the site by helicopter although Axl’s helicopter had still not left Dublin as showtime approached. Still, the rest of the band could console themselves with the crate of 40-year-old Irish whisky and barrel of Guinness that had been sent by U2 who were currently touring Europe with their Zooropa show.

Just over an hour late, the pent-up energy exploded on both sides of the stage as the band ripped into Nightrain and Mr Brownstone as Axl, clad in tight back shorts and a black jacket with emerald trimmings, raced from side to side of the 160ft-wide stage like a man possessed while Slash, wearing an emerald green shirt, Gilby and Duff checked out the various ramps and walkways around and above Matt’s drumkit.

Maybe the unusual experience of playing in daylight was having a benign effect on them (“Playing in sunshine – it’s a new concept,” remarked Axl); there was definitely a relaxed feel to the show. Axl attempted to make some Irish heritage connections on behalf of the band – “We have a McKagan in the band, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I’m half Irish myself, but you can’t tell, right?”

Later on after Duff had taken over his microphone for a version of the Misfits classic, Attitude, he unravelled a new microphone cover and rolled it on. “Much as I love Duff I would never share a condom with him,” he joked.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But the GN’R attitude was never far below the surface. “Here’s a nice pretty song,” said Axl after an impassioned performance of Don’t Cry. “It’s dedicated to all those who can’t keep their mouths out of your fucking business. Misery likes company so if you know someone like that, call them up and tell them from me that they are DOUBLE TALKIN’ JIVE MOTHERFUCKERS!” Cue the song.

Later on, in a rare moment of irony, Axl stamped his foot repeatedly, petulantly yelling “Gimme piano!” until it became apparent that he was standing on top of the instrument as it rose up from below the stage. He then proceeded to give a short recital, breaking into Black Sabbath’s It’s Alright as Duff sat on the edge of the stage, pummelling his bass with his fists until the song transformed itself into November Rain.

Not to be outdone, Slash topped and tailed Civil War with a blast of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child (Slight Return), allowing Axl the chance to nip down to a tiny dressing room below the drum riser and change into another pair of cycling shorts and jacket. Later on Slash turned the Theme From The Godfather into a solo tour de force as part of an instrumental jam that included a drum solo and, on a good night, a bass solo.

A couple of songs had fixed positions in the set: Mr Brownstone was invariably the second number and Knockin’ On Heavens Door routinely closed the show before the encores which always finished with Paradise City. But you never knew when the others would crop up. This was tough on the road crew who had giant inflatable beasts to blow up for Welcome To The Jungle and fireworks to let off during Live And Let Die. And the brass section would hang around under the stage on permanent stand-by, never knowing if they’d be needed for the next song.

At Slane Castle the band responded to U2’s liquid gift by playing a bit of One as the intro to Sweet Child O’ Mine. As Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door reached its peak Duff was so excited he leapt into the crowd and nearly knocked himself out with his radio pack as he tried to clamber back. As the last strains of Paradise City echoed across the Boyne valley Slash thanked the crowd for “making us so welcome. You’ve been fucking great.”

The band spent another couple of convivial days in Dublin, relaxing in the bars and clubs and watching the girls dressed up in their ball gowns going to the Trinity Ball. Slash in particular was enjoying himself. “I can always tell a drinking town when the people in the bar get drunk before I do,” he told reporters when they finally headed off to the next leg of the tour in Czechoslovakia.

Prague was a sobering contrast. The country was still emerging from 50 years of communist rule and its status as a stag weekend capital was many years away. At the ageing Strahov Stadium the road crew found the stage was only half built and were immediately called upon to put their motto – “make it happen” – into practice.

The Czech media were less interested in the sex and drugs and rock’n’roll than the high cost of tickets – around £15, way above the means of most kids. No wonder there was a market for cut-price forgeries although it was a bit stupid of the forger to advertise his wares on a university noticeboard complete with a phone number.

Meanwhile the hotel booked for the band had cancelled the reservation on discovering their identity. They were forced to relocate to a tourist hotel on the edge of town where such basic amenities as room service and a telephone switchboard were deemed surplus to requirements.

Axl checks on Matt Sorum's chops at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

Axl checks on Matt Sorum's chops at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Fortunately there was a newly opened McDonalds in town which was a lifeline, otherwise the band would have gone crazy,” a crew member recalls. “There was virtually a shuttle service operating.”

And it wasn’t just McD’s that was keeping the band busy. “A couple of the Guns N’ Roses guys found this strip club,” another source reveals. “They were absolutely fascinated by it because the strippers still had pubic hair.”

In the event the show drew a respectable 30,000 crowd. The band opened with It’s So Easy and Axl told the audience, “Some people talk about how hedonistic we are. Well, sometimes we just write songs about how really fucked up we are.”

Slash however got closer to the mark: “I guess you guys don’t know much English so I’ll just say fucking Hi!” Quite what Matt had done to be introduced as “a man made out of all the thick stuff in the bottom of your toilet” was never explained.

In Hungary there was a Hilton Hotel waiting for the band. Unfortunately they arrived at Budapest Airport just 20 minutes before they were due to play, having been held up at Prague Airport for four hours by a bomb scare. A police escort whisked the band’s motorcade to the Nep Stadium where 70,000 fans were waiting.

“It was kinda weird to finish our set and then be told that the headline band wasn’t even in the country,” Mr X tells us. “Still, it was something we’d get used to.”

Scarcely had Guns N’ Roses started their show before they had to compete with a massive thunderstorm that drenched first the crowd and then the band as water poured through the roof of the stage. As roadies frantically wiped the stage with towels between songs Axl remarked, “We’re going to be sponsoring a car wash. And we’ll all be topless.” The only dry place on stage was by Dizzy Reed’s keyboards and Axl called Duff and Gilby “pussies” for trying to take shelter there. Dizzy meanwhile tried to show solidarity with the others by pouring a bottle of beer over his head.

Midway through the show the crowd got an unexpected treat. “This is a song that Freddie Mercury asked us to sing to you,” Axl announced. “He couldn’t be here tonight, he had other plans, so we tried to learn it in the dressing room tonight.” He and Slash then played a Hungarian folk song, Tavasziszel (easier to sing than pronounce) that Queen had performed when they came to Budapest in 1985. As the crowd joined in Axl tossed the microphone at them and let them take over.

Back in the Western European comfort zone in Vienna, Axl was in playful form. “This is kinda tongue in cheek,” he mused, introducing Live And Let Die. “I wonder if Hitler ever sang this song to himself when he was a kid.” Always a bit of a risk, reminding the Viennese of their most infamous son, but he got away with it.

Vienna was where Guns N’ Roses and U2’s paths crossed on their respective European tours. U2 came to the GN’R show and afterwards Axl and Bono spent over an hour locked in conversation in a private backstage area. “They were sharing this private jet that was ferrying each of the bands around from place to place,” recalls a journalist who managed to get backstage.

Like butter wouldn't melt, a more reflective Axl Rose in 1991

Like butter wouldn't melt, a more reflective Axl Rose in 1991 (Image credit: Getty Images)

“There was definitely a bit of a mutual admiration society going on. Both bands were trying to challenge the whole idea of stadium rock. Most bands tend to behave like rock gods when they play stadiums – and with all those adoring masses in front of them it’s not hard to see why. But Axl and Bono were both trying to turn the whole stadium rock rock thing back on the audience, trying to show in their own different ways why it didn’t have to be like that. That’s what they had in common.”

When U2 played the same venue the following night Bono brought out Axl to sing an acoustic version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door with him, adding, “This song could be written for him”.

Back in town, Slash and Gilby were so outraged at being charged $300 for a bottle of champagne in a strip club they forgot to notice the state of the strippers’ pubes.

The next part of the tour was focussed on Germany. “The mood seemed to get a little darker at this point,” admits one of the GN’R entourage. “We got to Berlin and when we arrived at the Olympic Stadium where we were playing we could feel the bad vibes there. They were coming out of the walls of the place. Everyone felt it, even the bands. And then we discovered it was the place where [American black athlete] Jesse Owens had won the 100 metres back in 1936 and Hitler had stormed out in disgust.”

Axl caught the mood too. When someone threw a bottle on stage during Civil War, suddenly the spectre of those riotous American shows (and no shows) returned. “Fucking Asshole,” screamed Axl. “We can stop the show you know. It’s no problem. Fucking asshole.” He made to walk off but the band kept playing. Eventually he started singing again and calmed down with the aid of a cigarette and a rose that he wrapped around the microphone. At the end he even managed to incorporate a few lines from Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall into Paradise City.

At Stuttgart there was another incident that typified the Guns N’ Roses attitude. “I standing in the production office and at this point it’s not even an hour late so no one’s panicking,” divulges a source. “Somebody’s asking the sound guy out front what the NWA track he played just before the show a week or so ago was because Axl wants to hear it again. The sound guy says he hasn’t got it with him so what else would Axl like to hear?

“Next thing, there’s a car being organised to go back to the hotel and search the sound guy’s room for the NWA CD. So that takes another hour. But the amazing thing is that the song they played just before the band came on was Sid Vicious’ My Way. I don’t know whether they couldn’t find the CD or whether Axl changed his mind again.”

The tour was heading towards Paris where the show was going to be broadcast live on the American HBO channel. “This meant the show was going to have to start on time because there was no way an HBO audience was going to sit and stare at an empty stage for an hour or so,” another of FNM’s crew told us.

In Paris a day had been set aside to rehearse at the Hippodrome De Vincennes with the special guests who’d come in the bolster the HBO show, people like Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Lenny Kravtiz and Jeff Beck.

“I’m a huge Jeff Beck fan so I went down to have a look,” says a member of GNR’s crew. “And I watched Slash, Joe Perry and Jeff Beck jamming away on Train Kept A’ Rolling for nearly half an hour. Can you imagine? That for me was the musical highlight of the whole tour. But the next morning Jeff Beck has gone back to England, complaining of tinnitus.”

Axl's laundry lady worked overtime...

Axl's laundry lady worked overtime... (Image credit: Getty Images)

As well as Lenny, Joe and Steven, Slash’s girlfriend had also showed up so he was feeling good, but Axl’s girlfriend, model Stephanie Seymour, had not and he had not been sleeping well. In fact he had not been sleeping at all.

To the relief of everyone at HBO the show started on time, Lenny Kravtiz came out to play Mama Said and all went well until Axl, who was wearing his Nobody Knows I’m A Lesbian T-shirt, dedicated Double Talking Jive to Warren Beatty, “a man whose life is so empty he has to fuck around with other people minds and play fucking games.” The fact that Beatty was Stephanie’s previous boyfriend might have had something to do with it.

The rant seemed to clear Axl’s head and apart from describing November Rain as “a song about unrequited love” (Stephanie had of course been in the video) there were no more difficult moments for HBO – apart from the swearing which they’d presumably been warned about. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were saved for the encores and everyone – even Axl – joined in a storming versions of Mama Kin and Train Kept A’ Rolling.

Two free days in Paris before the next show in Manchester should have been enough to clear Axl’s sleepless head but instead things got worse. “I was told that Axl went to see his favourite statue, the Winged Victory, which is in the Louvre,” recalls Mr X. “But he didn’t disguise himself or anything so he ended up getting pestered by all these people.

“And then he agrees to go on a boat trip down the river Seine but on the way to the boat he nods off for a minute or so which is the worst thing that can happen when you haven’t slept for days. After about ten minutes on the boat he wants to get off but there’s nowhere for the boat to pull in. So he’s on the boat for another half hour before he can get off. And by then he’s real mad!”

The Manchester show was postponed the night before it was due to take place. Instead the band flew to London for their third appearance at Wembley Stadium within ten months, and the hottest yet in terms of performance and weather. Three thousand people were treated for heat exhaustion during the course of a very long day.

This time they repaid the favour to Queen, bringing Brian May on for the encores and playing Tie Your Mother Down and We Will Rock You. Earlier in the show they had also played Sail Away Sweet Sister (a May song from The Game) as an intro for Sweet Child O’ Mine, something they had been doing regularly on the tour.

The next day’s rescheduled Manchester show started nearly two hours late after the band took their time getting there but Gateshead a couple of days later was a lot livelier. After both shows the band flew back to the Conrad Hotel in London’s Chelsea Basin where they ended up staying for ten days.

“It was a real rock’n’roll hotel at that point,” an insider says. “There’s INXS hanging out in the bar with Slash and Duff and Dizzy and Matt and Duff’s planning to go into a studio nearby to do some stuff for his solo album. Axl is nowhere to be seen, obviously, but everyone’s laughing because apparently he’d demanded to be flown by helicopter to the Wembley show but there was nowhere for him to land there and the helicopter ended up dropping him off further away than when he’d started.

“Prince was also staying at the hotel because he was playing concerts at Earls Court nearby, and the hotel staff were saying they’d had to remove every piece of furniture from his suite and he’d had his own bed and everything – even the sheets – flown in from America. They’d also had to black out all the windows so that he wouldn’t see daylight and then he’d demanded that they open up the hair salon for him at two in the morning.”

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Guns N’ Roses tour resumed in Germany and it was a chance for Heathrow Airport customs officials to single out Axl’s luggage for the third degree for the second time in a month. He was so cross he made a statement: “To be singled out by someone who just wants to score a few points and have a story to tell his friends over a beer is really out of order,” he complained.

Their show at Wurzburg was accompanied by the full Wagnerian backdrop of thunder and lightning and the steam rising from the crowd made it hard for those at the back to see the stage. After the next day’s show in Basle, Switzerland, Duff developed flu symptoms and Axl had a sore throat. Copious medication got them both through the next show in Rotterdam, Holland, which started over two hours late. The authorities decided to abandon the curfew after Axl told the crowd, “You have a right to a complete show. You paid for it. If they cut the power, be my guests, do what you want.”

Afterwards Duff was officially declared ill and the following night’s show in Gent, Belgium, was cancelled. The band moved on to Milan, Italy, where Axl’s recovery was aided by the arrival of Stephanie Seymour. Meanwhile Slash and Gilby made a brief extra-curricular trip to Munich to take part in the filming of Michael Jackson’s video for Give In To Me.

After a rousing show in Turin the band and close entourage took a two-day break on a luxury cruiser in the Mediterranean before heading across to Seville in Spain where they could bask in a culture that didn’t bother with words like curfew. This turned out to be the last gig of the tour when the Madrid stadium they were due to play was suddenly closed by the authorities when the concrete structure was found to be at risk from aluminosis.

“By the end of the tour we were spending more time hanging around than working,” confides Mr X. “Faith No More were getting pissed at some of Axl’s antics which they thought were unprofessional.

“But that fact was that whatever it took to get the guy on stage, when he got there it was just mesmerising. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. I’ve never seen any band produce that kind of spontaneous excitement in a stadium before or since.”

Faith No More continued to support Guns N’ Roses on their American stadium tour with Metallica which started later in July although the scheduled was repeatedly interrupted by damage to Axl’s vocals cords and burns to James Hetfield’s arm.

In November Guns N’ Roses headed down to South America for a tour that was buffeted by torrential rain, collapsing stages and a military coup in Venezuela which started just as the band went on stage in a massive parking lot (nobody had been able to find a suitable venue). The band managed to get out but their equipment and half the road crew was left stranded at the airport.

Even Axl couldn’t compete with that.

This article originally appeared in Classic Rock #92.