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September Reign: Guns N’ Roses’ hit albums ‘Use Your Illusion I’ and ‘II’ celebrate 30th anniversary today

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Gefen Records/Universal Music

Thirty years ago today, September 17, Guns N’ Roses simultaneously released their third and fourth studio albums, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II.

With the band riding high after the massive success of its 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, and its popular 1988 follow-up, G N’ R LiesUse Your Illusion I and II debuted at #2 and #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Former GN’R drummer Matt Sorum, who joined the group just as they were starting to record the albums, tells ABC Audio that most of the band initially thought they were going to make a single record featuring 12 or 13 songs.

“We ended up recording 34, I believe,” Sorum recalls. “When we did that…[frontman] Axl [Rose] was the one that came in and said, ‘Let’s put it all out. I want to release it all.’ And we’re like, ‘What?!'”

Sorum says it also was Rose’s idea for the two albums to have identical covers, with the only difference being the color schemes — Use Your Illusion I is red and yellow and II is blue and purple.

Use Your Illusion I features two top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain,” which reached #3 and #10, respectively. Use Your Illusion II includes one Hot 100 hit, “You Could Be Mine,” which peaked at #29.

Each album features a well-known cover song — Paul McCartney & Wings‘ “Live and Let Die” and Bob Dylan‘s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” appear on I and II, respectively. GN’R’s version of “Live and Let Die” peaked at #33 on the Hot 100.

The albums both have gone on to be certified seven-times platinum by the RIAA for amassing seven million sales units.

Here’s the Use Your Illusion I track list:

“Right Next Door to Hell”
“Dust N’ Bones”
“Live and Let Die”
“Don’t Cry” (Original)
“Perfect Crime”
“You Ain’t the First”
“Bad Obsession”
“Back Off Bitch”
“Double Talkin’ Jive”
“November Rain”
“The Garden” — featuring Alice Cooper
“Garden of Eden”
“Don’t Damn Me”
“Bad Apples”
“Dead Horse”
“Coma”

And here’s the Use Your Illusion II track list:

“Civil War”
“14 Years”
“Yesterdays”
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
“Get in the Ring”
“Shotgun Blues”
“Breakdown”
“Pretty Tied Up” (“The Perils of Rock n’ Roll Decadence”)
“Locomotive” (“Complicity”)
“So Fine”
“Estranged”
“You Could Be Mine”
“Don’t Cry” (Alternate Lyrics)
“My World”

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