When Guns N’ Roses Welcomed Gilby Clarke and a Horn Section on Stage
Guns N' Roses lost co-founding guitarist Izzy Stradlin partway through their 1991 tour — and tried to pull off a little addition through subtraction with the lineup adjustments that debuted during the shows following his departure.
On Dec. 5, 1991, the group resumed its tour without Stradlin, marking the first appearance of a revamped GNR that included new guitarist Gilby Clarke as well as an expanded 12-piece band that made room for multi-instrumentalist Ted Andreadis as well as a trio of background singers and a three-piece horn section, dubbed 976-Horns. Of course, Guns N' Roses being Guns N' Roses, there was an extra rock 'n' roll twist.
Saying they "pouted and posed like Motley Crue's backup singers," the New York Times observed the group's new additions bemusedly. "The band has also added two backup singers and three horn players, all women dressed in black lingerie," wrote critic Jon Pareles. "It's a horn section valued primarily for its G-strings."
The new-look lineup obviously added an extra splash of sonic color to their setlist, starting with the Dec. 5 stop in Worcester, Mass., but it was also symptomatic of a financial and creative bloat that was starting to overtake the band. Just a few years previous, they'd been living hand-to-mouth on the Sunset Strip; by 1991, they'd become one of the biggest bands on the planet, and they were taking full advantage of their success.
"These days tours are run with an iron fist. The smallest possible crew, no private plane. The idea is to come out with as much profit as possible. It was completely different back then," bassist Duff McKagan wrote later. "By the time Guns n’ Roses spent 28 months from 1991 to 1993 touring the Use Your Illusion albums, the tour staff sometimes approached 100 people. We were carrying not only backup girl singers, a horn section, and an extra keyboard player, but also chiropractors, masseuses, a singing coach, and a tattoo artist. Each of us had bodyguards and drivers. Money poured into nightly after-show theme parties."
"I'm getting more and more confused about who's who in Guns N' Roses," Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum was quoted as saying about the scene backstage on the tour. The GNR entourage, he quipped, had expanded to include everything from "a horn section [and] two chick backup singers" to "an airline pilot, a basketball coach, a coupla car mechanics. ... There were more strippers than road crew."
All that excess put a huge strain on GNR's bottom line — by McKagan's own estimation, the tour ended up taking two years to break even — and had the unfortunate effect of overshadowing the new sound the mid-tour additions brought to the group. Instead of pointing a new way forward for Guns N' Roses, that Dec. 5 show marked the beginning of the end; by the time the tour wrapped up in 1993, McKagan and Slash were on their way out — as was Clarke.