The on-stage fight between Guns N’ Roses and The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones

Supporting The Rolling Stones is a rite of passage for emerging artists destined for stardom. Prince, Metallica, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are among the well-known artists who have opened for the Stones. When Guns N’ Roses came to town, it was an opportunity to shine on the biggest stage. But it ended up being career-defining for all the wrong reasons.

In 1989, Guns N’ Roses firmly held The Rolling Stones’ title as the most dangerous band on the planet. Similarly to the Stones’ heyday, their concerts had become renowned for the possibility of a riot erupting in the crowd. And chaos followed them everywhere. Guns N’ Roses embodied the rock ‘n’ roll spirit. And within two years, they’d gone from playing dingy clubs to luxurious arenas.

When an exciting new band enters the scene, The Rolling Stones like to put them to the test. They did so by seeing how they perform in a hostile live environment. Many artists have failed to impress their audiences. And after the success of Appetite For Destruction, it was time for Guns N’ Roses to see if they could meet the challenge.

Most acts jumped through hoops to open for The Rolling Stones. But Guns N’ Roses manager Alan Niven initially turned down an offer of $50,000 per show for four shows at Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum. The Stones returned with an offer of $500,000 for the run of dates. It was countered with a $1m price tag by Guns N’ Roses, and the English band eventually caved.

During the first night of the shows, an argument broke out among the band members, and Guns N’ Roses disbanded. It was the band’s first performance in eight months, and during their absence from the stage, they had fallen into the traps of addiction. Their problems had taken a toll on their relationship, as evidenced at the Memorial Coliseum.

Singer Axl Rose was in a bad headspace and should not have been allowed to perform. When the band arrived at the venue, he was not there. So their manager coerced him into joining the rest of Guns N’ Roses. He did so by sending fake police officers to his house and escorting him to the Los Angeles location.

Rose was in a foul mood before they took the stage after fellow support act Living Colour discussed the racist language used in Guns N’ Roses’ ‘One In A Million‘. It was applauded by the audience. Rose addressed the controversy during her set. He told the audience: “If you still want to call me a racist, you can shove your head up your fuckin’ ass.”

Then, while playing ‘Mr. Brownstone’, Rose bizarrely announced the band’s breakup to the audience. “I hate to do this onstage, but I tried every other fucking way,” he said. “And unless certain members of this band get their shit together, these will be the last Guns N’ Roses shows you’ll ever see.” ‘Cause I’m tired of too many people in this organization dancing with Mr. Goddamn Brownstone.

Slash reflected on his time with Louder Sound. He said, “As everyone knows, we did some shows opening for The Rolling Stones in 1989. And they were pretty infamous. We split up on stage the first night. We kind of got it back together the second night. But we were still at odds with each other, and then we had a magic gig on the third show.”

Meanwhile, in his book It’s So Easy and Other Lies, Duff McKagan wrote, “I shrank, I was so fucking embarrassed.” When Axl expressed his concerns publicly, the days of being a gang – us against the world – were over. We finished the rest of the show. But it was a half-hearted effort at best.  Afterward, and really for the remainder of our career, we just went our separate ways. That night officially rang the bell for the end of an era in GNR.”

The incident was unsettling for everyone involved especially because it occurred in front of The Rolling Stones. They somehow managed to complete the run of dates at the Memorial Coliseum. However, the writing was on the wall. And their relationship got worse until Slash and McKagan decided they could no longer be members of the band.

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