It was the season of the blockbuster. Between August 12 and November 26 1991, a whole slew of acts released albums that were supposed to sell millions of copies in the run-up to Christmas. Metallica, Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Garth Brooks, MC Hammer, and U2 - all were competing for the attention of the record-buying public at the same time. But perhaps the most attention-seeking act of all was Guns N' Roses. Their albums "Use Your Illusion I & II", released on the same day, were both 75-minute sprawlers with practically the same cover design - an act of colossal arrogance. On one level, it worked. The albums claimed the top two chart positions and ultimately sold 7 million copies each in the US alone. On another level, it was a disaster. This was an album that Axl Rose has been unable to follow-up in fifteen years. It signalled the end of "Guns N' Roses", of heavy metal on the Sunset Strip and the entire 1980s model of blockbuster pop/rock promotion. "Use Your Illusion" marked the end of rock as mass culture.
In this book, Eric Weisbard shows how the album has matured into a work whose baroque excesses now have something to teach us about pop and the platforms it raises and lowers, about a man who suddenly found himself praised to the firmament for every character trait that had hitherto marked him as an irredeemable loser.
Eric Weisbard has been writing about music since 1989. He edited the Spin Alternative Record Guide and was a senior writer there for ten years. At Experience Music Project, the Seattle music museum, he put together the travelling exhibit "Disco: A Decade of Saturday Nights" and organized the annual pop music conference.