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Music

Guns N' Roses first choice to replace guitarist Izzy Stradlin

Guns N’ Roses are one of the most unmistakable rock bands on the planet. Be it Axl Rose’s high pitched wails, Slash’s incredible guitar work or the pummeling basslines of Duff McKagan, there are many considerable aspects that have endeared Guns N’ Roses to fans for well over 30 years, including the angle with which Slash’s top hat perches on his head. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘Paradise City’, ‘November Rain’, the list of classic songs they’ve given us is endless. 

However, Guns N’ Roses are not simply famous for their hard-rocking songs. During the late 1980s and early ’90s, a time when they were at the peak of their powers, the band also gained notoriety for their hard-partying antics and excess.

Taking the wild spirit of ’80s hair metal bands like Mötley Crüe and fusing it with the swaggering rock of Lynyrd Skynrd, Guns N’ Roses confirmed themselves as one of the most relentless groups of hellraisers since The Rolling Stones set the bar high in the late ’60s. 

There was no off switch both on and off the stage, and like with every band that pushes themselves to the limits, this had consequences. One of the most significant outcomes of this lifestyle was that iconic rhythm guitarist, Izzy Stradlin, had become disillusioned with the whole thing and needed to get out.

After the Use Your Illusion tour in 1991, Stradlin knew his time was up. He told Rolling Stone in 1998: “Once I quit drugs, I couldn’t help looking around and asking myself, ‘Is this all there is?’ I was just tired of it; I needed to get out”. Expanding on this sentiment, Stradlin said in 1992: “When you’re fucked up, you’re more likely to put up with things you wouldn’t normally put up with”.

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After Stradlin’s departure, Guns N’ Roses were left with a huge problem, as he had left a void that was nigh on impossible to fill. Luckily though, Los Angeles was teeming with great guitarists at the time, and they could have their pick of the bunch. This was not the time for relaxation, though. Time was against them, and they had just three weeks to find a replacement for Stradlin, otherwise, they would be forced to cancel several shows. 

The guitar hero that the band desperately wanted was Dave Navarro from alt-metal legends Jane’s Addiction. One of the hottest guitarists around, whose shredding was way ahead of what Stradlin could do, he undoubtedly would’ve augmented Guns N’ Roses’ sound, and taken it in a different direction. However, it wasn’t meant to be. This was ’90s L.A., you’d be hard-pressed to find a successful musician who wasn’t strung out. 

Allegedly, the band made four attempts to have Navarro jam with Slash, but he never turned up. Looking back on the period, Slash said that Navarro just “couldn’t get it together”. A replacement for Stradlin was eventually found in Gilby Clarke, who Slash also later credited with saving the band, although this is hotly contested by fans. 

It’s a shame that Dave Navarro didn’t join Guns N’ Roses, but in the end, the band found precisely what they were looking for in Gilby Clarke, a foil for Slash. You could argue that Navarro may have outshined Slash if he’d have joined, and I’m sure that their legions of diehard fans wouldn’t have appreciated that.

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