When Guns N’ Roses Got ‘Out There’ on the Furious ‘Perfect Crime’
Despite occasionally getting lumped in with their heavier peers, Guns N' Roses were never a metal band, owing a greater debt to blooze-rock bilge rats like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones than Judas Priest or Metallica. But on Use Your Illusion I, they threw their headbanger fans a bone with the furious, speed-metal maelstrom "Perfect Crime."
Clocking in at two minutes and 23 seconds — the shortest song on Use Your Illusion I — "Perfect Crime" wastes no time on pleasantries. Slash's machine-gun riffing blows the door off its hinges, clearing a path for Axl Rose's sandpapery screams and motormouthed raps. The dust settles briefly for a funky drum-and-bass breakdown; then Rose shouts an adenoidal eight-count, and Slash floors it with a dizzying solo full of skyscraping bends and cascading hammer-ons and pull-offs.
"Perfect Crime" saw GNR playing at their metal-thrashing maddest when it appeared on Use Your Illusion on Sept. 17, 1991, but the song actually predated the band's 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction. Guitarist Izzy Stradlin brought the song to the Appetite preproduction sessions with Mike Clink, where they also cooked up future Illusion single "You Could Be Mine." "We booked ourselves time at S.I.R. Studios, and with Mike at the board, the band felt free to be ourselves," Slash wrote in his 2007 memoir. "We weren't in there to write new material, but we were so comfortable that it just came to us."
Guns N' Roses debuted "Perfect Crime" on Halloween 1986 while opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at UCLA's Ackerman Hall. They played it one more time that year before retiring it until 1991, when they unearthed it at the Warfield in San Francisco during their first warm-up gig for the Use Your Illusion Tour. The band performed "Perfect Crime" at roughly 40 shows throughout the sprawling, two-and-a-half-year trek, sometimes using it as a blistering show opener.
Listen to Guns N' Roses' 'Perfect Crime'
Several live videos of "Perfect Crime" are still floating around the internet. The performances are, for better and for worse, brutal. One especially memorable performance from May 29, 1991, in Noblesville, Ind., shows Rose sprinting across the stage like a madman (while wearing a bulky leg cast, no less) and shouting the lyrics as if he had just finished gargling nails. Slash barrels through the solo, threatening to crash and burn at any second due to either the song's technical demands or his Herculean substance intake at the time.
The guitarist admitted in an April 1992 issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician that "Perfect Crime" was just one of many examples of the band's improved musicianship on the Use Your Illusion albums. "There’s a song called 'Perfect Crime,' which has got a pretty 'out there' solo in it," he said. "There's a lot more going on in my guitar playing than there used to be, and hopefully it'll always be like that, where I keep expanding."
Watch Guns N' Roses Play 'Perfect Crime' in Indiana, May 29, 1991
Guns N' Roses hired a documentary crew to conduct interviews and capture their assorted backstage debaucheries on the Use Your Illusion Tour, calling the project Perfect Crime. Much to the dismay of hardcore fans, though, the holy grail of behind-the-scenes GNR footage never saw the light of day. Guns N' Roses also tantalized fans by listing "Perfect Crime" on their alternate set lists throughout the Not in This Lifetime reunion tour, but they have yet to play the song live this century.
Perhaps it simply carries too much baggage. Guns N' Roses last played "Perfect Crime" on Aug. 8, 1992, in Montreal — the night of the infamous Montreal riot, where Rose walked offstage mid-set after Metallica had to cut their performance short due to a pyrotechnic accident that left frontman James Hetfield covered in second- and third-degree burns. Concertgoers promptly rioted, racking up nearly half a million dollars in damages and earning GNR a lifelong ban from Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
It was the furthest possible thing from a "perfect crime," and the Montreal riot further tarnished Guns N' Roses' already-miserable reputation on the calamitous Use Your Illusion Tour. If there was a silver lining to the whole debacle, it's that jilted concertgoers got to witness GNR play their heaviest song one last time before retiring it seemingly for good.