July 24, 2010
By David Huff
L. A. Guns - Rock 'N America 2010
Appetite For Destruction on an Unsuspecting World
It’s ashame L.A. Guns never took off. Sure they had two gold albums and one platinum during their run in the ‘80s, but here’s the thing. Tracii Guns will always be a footnote to Guns N’Roses in the history books, and that just doesn’t seem fair for this gifted yet underrated guitarist.
As the rock world is quite familiar with now, L.A. Guns was formed in 1987 after guitarist Tracii Guns parted ways with singer Axl Rose in their group Guns N’ Roses. Axl kept the name and created a sensation. Tracii got lost in the enormous shadow his former group cast.
L.A. Guns showed promise in the beginning. Tracii teamed up with vocalist Phil Lewis, former W.A.S.P. drummer Steve Riley, bassist Kelly Nickles and guitarist Mick Cripps to release their self-titled 1988 debut a full seven months before Gn’R unleashed Appetite For Destruction on an unsuspecting world. Driven by the hit “Sex Action,” L.A. Guns quickly established themselves as a new breed of metal act emerging from the club circuits on Sunset Strip.
The following year, Guns hit the mark with its landmark release, Cocked and Loaded. Everything clicked on this album -- songs, production, musicianship -- as L.A. Guns delivered on the promise their debut had shown glimpses of. “Rip And Tear,” “Sleazy Come, Easy Go” and “The Ballad of Jayne” represented the group during their finest hour. Unfortunately, this epic piece of rock would be the last shining example of what could have been for this band. After an extensive tour, Tracii and his boys went into the studio to begin work on what many were hoping would be there breakout album.
The good times were not going to roll when the band’s Hollywood Vampires hit the streets. The music managed to hold their audience's attention when it was released, but it was unable to sustain any momentum. The group’s decision to lay low for four years until grunge had peaked and faded away proved to be disastrous. Vicious Circle proved to be just that. The band’s core group of followers applauded the effort, the mainstream metal market merely yawned. The weak selling album created doubt in the band, and several lineup changes began to unravel the cord that kept them together.
Both Mick Cripps and Phil Lewis left L.A. Guns following the Vicious Circle tour. Lewis was replaced by Chris Van Dahl, resulting in 1996’s American Hardcore. After a succession of new vocalists that included Ralph Saenz (on 1998's Wasted EP) and Love/Hate singer Jizzy Pearl, the band released Greatest Hits & Black Beauties in 1999. That same summer, the group released a Gilby Clarke-produced collection of new material, entitled Shrinking Violet, with Pearl as lead vocalist. For 2001's Man in the Moon (again produced by Clarke), Phil Lewis and Mick Cripps returned.
Tracii Guns, longing for some mainstream credibility once again, joined Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx in his side project, The Brides of Destruction, in 2003. His decision left L.A. Guns, in particular Steve Riley and Phil Lewis, in limbo. Instead of folding their tent, the pair moved forward under the L.A. Guns name. When Tracii Guns project failed to take off two years later, instead of rejoining his old band, he too decided to go solo but soon discovered that without L.A. before his last name, no on cared. That said, L.A. Guns Part Twoi was created with original vocalist Paul Black handling the singing chores. Could there be a 20-year reunion this summer of both Guns? It all depends upon who shoots off their mouth first.