25 Years Ago: Izzy Stradlin Leaves Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses were at their peak in 1991, having just released a pair of follow-up albums to their 1987 game-changing debut, Appetite for Destruction. Use Your Illusion I and II landed at the top of the charts in the top two positions (with II debuting at No. 1). But not everyone in the band was happy, particularly rhythm guitarist and co-founder Izzy Stradlin.
The first sign of trouble came in the video for “Don’t Cry,” which featured a sign that ominously read, “Where’s Izzy?” On Nov. 7, fans found out when an official announcement was released that said he had left the band. “I didn’t feel my opinions were really being taken seriously anymore,” Stradlin told Rolling Stone, adding that his absence in the costly “Don’t Cry” video was because “I didn’t have any say in it, and I didn’t want to be in it.”
But why he ended up leaving became a point of contention between Stradlin and the band. The generally accepted story that he had grown tired of the grinding tour schedule was bolstered in an interview Slash gave to MTV. “It got to the point where he didn’t want to be involved in the amount of work that it took, and the amount of stress and energy and sleepless nights it took, to keep it going so it didn’t fall apart,” the guitarist said. “So he just bailed – and we took that really personally.”
“I got no problem, really, with touring,” Stradlin told MTV in 1992. “I think I got a bad rap on all that.” “Well, what was the actual story then?” interviewer Kurt Loder asked. “I had a bus, they had a plane,” Stradlin replied, laughing, “And I beat ‘em to the gig. You get to the point where you’re like, “Am I gonna carry on like this, or am I not?” You know? So I said I’m not.”
The main problem, according to Stradlin, came down to building tensions with his childhood friend and GNR frontman Axl Rose. What was once a collaborative effort had slowly begun to resemble a tyranny led by the singer.
“I tried talking to him, during the Illusion albums: ‘If we had a schedule here, come in at a certain time … ‘ And he completely blew up at me: ‘There is no f—ing schedule,'” Stradlin told Rolling Stone. “There was one song on that record that I didn’t even know was on it until it came out, ‘My World.’ I gave it a listen and thought, ‘What the f— is this?’ But Axl made it clear that he was going to do things his way, and there was no space for debate. So I had to make it clear to everybody that that was the end of the line for me.”
It was hardly a clean break. Slash told MTV the following year, “I can admit that we hated Izzy. He didn’t quit directly; he sent a letter of resignation to the accountants and management and stuff.”
But there was no slowing down the Guns N’ Roses machine. Guitarist Gilby Clarke was quickly recruited to fill the spot for a tour that was preparing to enter its second leg in the U.S. and would continue for another year and a half.
Stradlin would return to the spotlight in 1992 with the release of his first solo album, Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. The record was rooted in the bluesy rock ‘n’ roll of his longtime musical heroes, the Rolling Stones, and left many fans wondering what the next Guns N’ Roses album would sound like missing one of their primary songwriters. The answer to that question wouldn’t come until many years later, when, in 2008, with Rose the only original member remaining, released the long-awaited Chinese Democracy.
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