It was the season of the blockbuster. Between August 12 and November 26 1991, a whole slew of acts released albums that were supposed to sell millions of copies in the run-up to Christmas. Metallica, Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Garth Brooks, MC Hammer, and U2 - all were competing for the attention of the record-buying public at the same time. But perhaps the most attention-seeking act of all was Guns N Roses. Their albums Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, released on the same day, were both 75-minute sprawlers with practically the same cover design - an act of colossal arrogance. On one level, it worked. The albums claimed the top two chart positions, and ultimately sold 7 million copies each in the US alone. On another level, it was a disaster. This was an album that Axl Rose has been unable to follow up in fifteen years. It signaled the end of Guns N Roses, of heavy metal on the Sunset Strip, and the entire 1980s model of blockbuster pop/rock promotion. Use Your Illusion marked the end of rock as mass culture. In this book, Eric Weisbard shows how the album has matured into a work whose baroque excesses now have something to teach us about pop and the platforms it raises and lowers, about a man who suddenly found himself praised to the firmament for every character trait that had hitherto marked him as an irredeemable loser.
Award-winning narrator Oliver Wyman sounds exactly like a cooler, older friend who knows a great deal more than you do, and listeners will instinctively hang on to every word of his performance of Eric Weisbard's dissection of Use Your Illusion I and II. Wyman's engaging narration is threaded with skepticism as Weisbard is not quite a fan of the band, but Wyman never crosses into sneering, and even lingers over stories about rock star antics with relish. Despite not being an admirer of the music, Weisbard does convincingly make a case for the double album's importance as a turning point in pop music history.
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