1989 hadn't been good to Guns N' Roses.
Axl Rose had sent much of the year publicly defending the band’s song One In A Million against accusations of homophobia and racism, while behind the scenes things were falling apart.
Axl was missing rehearsals, Izzy Stradlin had been arrested for urinating in the aisle during a flight to LA before being punched by Motley Crue singer Vince Neil at the MTV awards, and heroin was a growing problem.
Then the Rolling Stones came calling, offering the band the main support slot on their US dates.
Feeling that Guns N’ Roses wouldn’t be able to complete an entire tour, the band’s then-manager Alan Niven negotiated a million dollar fee for a four night stint at the LA Coliseum.
280,000 tickets were snapped up, and by the day of the show ticket brokers were selling single seats for up to $700.
As showtime approached, the tension grew: not only was there the usual air of danger around Guns N’ Roses, but the press had been amplifying the Stones/Roses rivalry, suggesting it was time for the old guard to pass the torch onto the new.
Only problem? Axl Rose, disenchanted by his bandmates’ behaviour, was nowhere to be found.
Alan Niven takes up the story:
“The day of the first show [October 18], Brian Ahern [the Stones’ production manager] comes to me and he goes: “Your guy’s not here. Tell me what I’m supposed to do.”
I said: “Do you have a contact in the LAPD who is an absolutely no-questions-asked guy?”
And he said: “I do.”
So the guy came in and I told him: “I’m going to give you an address.”
And it was Axl’s apartment. I said: “I want you to immediately send two no-questions-asked uniforms to this address, get the occupants out of that condominium in any which way they can, and bring them right here – in handcuffs if necessary.”
“They went and got him, and the band arrived on stage a mere twenty minutes late. I’m standing in the backstage feeling pretty damn clever. And that’s right at the moment that Axl announces this is going to be the last show and he’s going to retire.”