Using My Illusions

I took this picture in Las Vegas at the beginning of this year. It demonstrates the awesome
staying power of Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion albums… and trampy wedding dresses.
Stephanie Seymour would be proud.
Mike recently pointed out that September 17th was the 20th anniversary of Guns N’ Roses’ albums Use Your Illusion I and II. Rather than wallowing in self-pity because I’m getting older, and rather than mourning and my lost childhood/ youth/ innocence/ hair, I decided to be positive and say what I like best about these memorable albums. But just as a disclaimer, I still prefer Appetite. As long as we’re clear on that, I can talk about how great the Illusions are.
Use Your Illusion I
I guess I was introduced to these albums a bit late, since I bought them when I was in Germany as an exchange student in 1998. I know I’d heard some of the songs before, but I was pretty late getting on the album train, and most of the music I had until about 1993 was on cassettes that I recorded while listening to radio. We didn’t have cable, and the internet didn’t exist yet in any comprehensible form, either. We had to work hard for our entertainment in the early 90s.
In any case, I believe I bought these two albums at a Saturn store in Hannover, Germany in 1998, and listened to them over and over on my Discman. At first I preferred UYI II over I, but within a few years I’d switched and started to prefer I. It’s hard to argue with; It’s got “November Rain,” the better version of “Don’t Cry,” and the lyrics “I ain’t superstitious but I know when something’s wrong” (from Garden of Eden“). I also had a long period where I was into “Bad Apples,” calling it the “quintessential distilled version of a GNR song” or some such nonsense. It is a good and underrated song, though. But the best point on the album is certainly on “November Rain.”
At seven minutes and nine seconds into the song, Slash begins the first note of his second solo in this song. Based on that one note, around 10 years ago I came up with a theory based on the excellence of that note. The theory is called, simply, “The 7:09 Theory.” I’ve also been known to shoot my mouth off and say that this is “the greatest moment ever in music” and that “everything before it led up to it, and everything after this note was just music going downhill.” Sure, I’ll stand by those statements.
Use Your Illusion II
As I said before, I’ve gone back and forth regarding which of these albums I like better, and I’m currently in a II phase. It’s just got such a jam-packed opening (“Civil War,” “14 Years,” “Yesterdays,” and even “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”), the likes of which is unlikely to be found on another album (except maybe U2’s The Joshua Tree, but the three songs there sound too similar anyhow). Plus, it’s also got the under-appreciated songs “Breakdown” and “Locomotive,” as well as “Estranged,” which, despite its weird, dolphin-infested video, is a great song. The only down note seems to be “My World,” but since it’s such a bizarre track, we can almost write it off as an Axl rant instead of an actual GNR song.
II doesn’t have anything as memorable as 7:09 into “November Rain,” but it does have one thing that I think is really great, weird, and hilarious. On the song “Pretty Tied Up,” which is possibly about a dominatrix, the perils of rock n’ roll decadence, and/or finding money in the street, there’s a strange line near the end of the song. After Axl sings “It’s days like this that push me over the brinks,” a deeper voice comes on and says “Kool Ranch Dressing.” That didn’t make sense when I first heard it, so I looked to the lyrics sheet in the liner notes. On the lyrics, it said “Cool and stressing” but then literally underneath that, it said “(Pronounced: Kool Ranch Dressing)”. I just remember reading that on a train from Hannover to Munich and being blown away, since neither the original line, nor the attempt to explain the “correct” pronunciation, made any sense whatsoever. Obviously, I was dealing with Advanced Rock Music. And it’s been a great ride ever since.
So, that’s it for now. If you liked or like those albums, feel free to go to the comments section to chime in. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back in 2031 for the 40th anniversary blog post!
And OK, sure, why not:
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One thought on “Using My Illusions

  1. I think Chuck Klosterman made the definitive commentary on the “Estranged” video in his book “Fargo Rock City”:

    (from p. 224-225):
    “In perhaps the most blatant abuse of stardom ever attempted in a rock video, the turning point of ‘Estranged” takes place on a rented ocean liner. Axl leaps off the mammoth ship and thrashes in the rough sea. Gilby Clarke tries to rescue him (apparently, Clarke was only added to the GNR lineup to rescue Rose from sea-faring disasters). Clarke fails. Axl is going to die…until he is saved by dolphins.
    I find it necessary to admit that long before this video was ever conceived I had a substantial prejudice against dolphins. They are my least favorite member of the animal kingdom. Everyone seems to think dolphins are cute and ‘intelligent,’ but they’re best described as ugly and impractical. I don’t want to come across as insensitive, but show me a person whose intelligence equates to that of a dolphin and I will show you a fucking retard. In my opinion, they are the most overrated mammals on the planet. Thus, I hated the conclusion of this video with a passion that I usually reserve for highway patrolmen, inner-city panhandlers, and the WNBA.”

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