On September 17, 1991, Guns N’ Roses released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, their last albums of original material to date (we’re not counting 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident? because it was a covers album … and also because it’s kind of lousy). There is a pretty good chance that you did not read early reviews of either Illusion album on a blog, because the World Wide Web was only one month old at the time. You probably didn’t send your friend a text about how awesome “November Rain” was, because the first person-to-person SMS message wouldn’t be made for more than two years. And you most certainly didn’t import either album onto your iPod, because MP3 encoding was still nearly three years away (and the iPod another 10).
Suffice to say, the last time we had W. Axl Rose in our lives, the world was a very different place.
That will all change Sunday, when GN’R’s long-awaited Chinese Democracy comes to screaming life. And, so, in celebration of what is undoubtedly the year’s biggest rock event — and to point out just how long we’ve been waiting — we’ve compiled a time capsule of sorts, a snapshot of the day the Use Your Illusion albums were released. It was a time when Axl was king, Miley was just a glimmer in her father’s eye, and George W Bush was the owner of the Texas Rangers. It was a different world, indeed.
» On the date Use Your Illusion I & II were released, Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind was the #1 album in the country and Color Me Badd’s “I Adore Mi Amore” sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations” was at #2). “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” was the #1 movie at the box office.
» Only two-thirds of the Jonas Brothers were alive on the day the Illusion LPs were released. Miley Cyrus wasn’t born yet, nor were Demi Lovato or Selena Gomez. Christina Aguilera was 10, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were 9. Chris Brown was 2 years old (but he could probably already dance), as were Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Tokio Hotel’s Tom and Bill Kaulitz. Jordin Sparks, Taylor Swift and Emma Watson were all 1.
» On September 17, 1991, Barack Obama was the president of The Harvard Law Review. John McCain was still serving his first term in the U.S. Senate.
» Pearl Jam’s Ten had been in stores for nearly a month, while Nirvana’s Nevermind was still a week away from being released. Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger would hit stores the following month, while the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream wouldn’t materialize for nearly two years. The inaugural Lollapalooza festival — featuring Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails and Ice-T — had just wrapped a 26-date run in Enumclaw, Washington.
» MC Hammer’s Too Legit to Quit would be released the following month, as would Vanilla Ice’s “Rebel Without a Cause” update “Cool as Ice.”
» On this week’s episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the students of West Beverly High are still atwitter over the arrival of mysterious new student Emily Valentine. In two months, Valentine will invite Brandon and the gang to an illegal “underground” dance party, where she will spike B’s drink with a drug called “U4EA” and attempt to make out with him. Brandon will be too wasted to reciprocate (and drive), so he will leave his car at the club, where it will be trashed by vandals. This was surprisingly compelling in 1991.
» The Sega Genesis rides high thanks to the success of “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Following the success of the just-released GameBoy, Nintendo unveils its 16-bit system, the Super NES, bundled with a copy of “Super Mario World.” The first incarnation of Sony’s PlayStation was still more than three years away.
» The nation rejoices as President George H.W. Bush proclaims September to be “National Rice Month,” in order to “promote greater awareness of the versatility and value of rice and to celebrate America’s status as a major exporter of rice for both commercial and humanitarian purposes.” Somewhere, his son thinks, “Man, being president is easy,” and ponders a run at the White House.
» Tommy Hilfiger, inspired by the success of his menswear collection, begins plans to take his company public. Nearly 15 years later, Hilfiger and Rose would engage in an awesome (sorta) karate brawl at New York City nightclub Plumm after Rose allegedly moved the designer’s girlfriend’s drink. After a few tense moments, Hilfiger is led away — reportedly “kicking and screaming” — by his own security guards while Rose laughed. Axl is awesome.
» On September 17, 1991, there are an estimated 252 million people living in the United States. There are an estimated 5.3 billion people living on planet Earth. Nearly all of those people buy Use Your Illusion. As of this month, the Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. population is now 305 million, while the world population has been estimated at around 6.7 billion people. Not many of those people still buy CDs, which does not exactly bode well for the success of Chinese Democracy.