Appetite for Destruction (the band's major label debut, which has sold 18 million copies in the U-S) released in 1987 and the band immediately became HUGE. Between then and 1991, when Use Your Illusion I and II were released (last original material until 2008), the band could do little wrong.
Slowly, or quickly, the wheels fell off. Before the decade was out, lead singer Axl Rose was the sole original member.
For many years, Axl would go into hiding, reappear for a second, then be gone again. Rumors of this new album, Chinese Democracy, continued to surface and swirl.
The in-progress project became a joke.
Then it became a legend.
But the legend died.
Chinese Democracy could easily have gone down in the rock pantheon as one of the greatest albums that never even was.
Over this past summer (2008), when it started sounding like the album really was going to be released (thanks Dr. Pepper), I really started thinking about how that would ruin everything about it. This album had become huge, and few really knew anything about it. Sure, songs had leaked here and there over the years, but for the most part, no one knew about it. We knew it existed on some dark, cutting room floor, but I think we wanted it to stay there. Now I know we needed it to stay there.
The rise to superstardom that GNR experienced rarely happens. Sure, pop stars flash and seem to become big. But, 18 months later, no one cares.
Guns N' Roses is one of those cultural phenomenons that is tough to explain. Sure, we could analyze 37 reasons why it worked, but the point is, it did. The band nailed it. They rocked it out so freakin' hard that few subsequent bands, ever, will top what started on that little strip in Hollywood.
Sometimes the memory of what was is meant to not be outdone.
Chinese Democracy should have stayed home.