Newest band member takes Guns N' Roses from discord to harmony

June 20, 1991|By Chicago Tribune

In 1989, "Appetite for Destruction" wasn't just the title of Guns N' Roses' No. 1 album. It was turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While the band opened a series of outdoor shows that year in Los Angeles for the Rolling Stones, singer W. Axl Rose chastised his fellow band members for abusing drugs and announced on stage that if they didn't clean up their act, the band would break up.

Last night, when the Los Angeles bad boys were scheduled to take the stage at the Capital Center, they were wearing a few scars from that year of battles with drugs, drink, fame and the media.

And they were also introducing a new band member who helped them pull out of it, drummer Matt Sorum, formerly of the Cult.

"From what people tell me, I've helped the band get back on its feet, and that makes me feel good," he says. "I'm just glad the band is back out there."

The group first attempted to record its upcoming album in Chicago in 1989. But those sessions went nowhere and the band returned to Los Angeles in disarray. But before leaving the Midwest, guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagen took in a Cult show at Alpine Valley Music Theatre and were impressed by Mr. Sorum, a former Los Angeles session musician.

"That's when I first met the guys and they were in kind of a state," Mr. Sorum recalls. "It [fame] got thrown on them in a major way. They came from out of the clubs to selling millions of records and they didn't have any time to adjust."

Mr. Sorum replaced Steven Adler, who had been with the band since its inception in Los Angeles in 1985, when all five band members lived together in a shabby apartment, writing songs and scraping up Tuesday night gigs.

But while the other band members battled to control their drinking and drug habits, Mr. Adler's condition deteriorated to the point where he was having difficulty playing. He reportedly lives in Los Angeles.

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