How Guns N’ Roses Added Muscle to Izzy Stradlin’s ‘Dust N’ Bones’
On Matt Sorum's first day as Guns N' Roses' drummer, he got an eye-opening look at the band's creative process as it worked on the song "Dust N' Bones."
Recruited to join the songwriting sessions for the Use Your Illusion albums in May 1990 after founding drummer Steven Adler's addiction-related dismissal, Sorum met Slash, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin at a rehearsal studio in North Hollywood. They immediately began fleshing out the acoustic demos Stradlin had brought with him. One of those songs was a skeletal version of "Dust N' Bones."
"After we finished listening, the four of us went onstage - which was really more of a raised platform in the middle of the room - and went through the chords for one of Izzy's pieces, electrifying it," Sorum recalled in his book Double Talkin' Jive: True Rock 'n' Roll Stories From the Drummer of Guns N' Roses, the Cult and Velvet Revolver. "I noticed that Slash and Duff built on the foundations and did something to the chord changes to come up with an ensemble riff. They copied one other, essentially, on guitar and bass - with Izzy's roots rock rawness going on over the top. It struck me suddenly that this was precisely how the GNR sound was made. What filled the studio at the moment really was the band's sound."
Sorum was formally asked to join Guns N' Roses the next day, and his arrival helped kick-start their previously fitful attempts to come up with songs for the proper studio follow-up to the band's star-making 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction. The revamped lineup, which now included keyboardist Dizzy Reed, entered the studio in June 1990 with 36 new songs. But their work was far from over; it would be another 15 months before the twin Use Your Illusion albums would finally be released in September 1991.
Hear Guns N' Roses' 'Dust N' Bones'
"Dust N' Bones" would be the second song heard on Use Your Illusion I, and marked the first time Stradlin, not Axl Rose, handled lead vocals. But the frontman's distinct howl can clearly be heard in the background throughout the Rolling Stones-style track.
Unlike the shared songwriting credits on Appetite and the acoustic studio half of 1988's G N' R Lies, individual band members were credited for each of the Use Your Illusion songs, with Slash appearing as a "Dust N' Bones" cowriter alongside Stradlin and McKagan.
In a 1991 interview with Q (via Rock N' Roll True Stories), Slash talked about the effect drugs had on his songwriting at the time. "I wrote some really cool shit when I was high," he noted. "There's a song called 'Coma,' a long song, really heavy, and I wrote that loaded. ... And then me and Izzy wrote a song called 'Dust N' Bones' in a similar kind of state. Whatever you're going through, your material is supposed to be some sort of mirror of your experience."
Rose was particularly amused by the lyrics Stradlin came up with for the song, which the band performed regularly onstage before the guitarist quit the group in November 1991, just two months after the release of the Illusion albums.
"Izzy has this, like, very wry sense of humor," Rose told Kerrang! in an April 1990 interview, during which he was asked about songs on the still in-progress album. "The rhythm reminds me of something like 'Cherokee People' ["Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)"] by Paul Revere and the Raiders, only really weird and rocked out. It's a weird song. But then ... it is by Izzy, what can I tell you?"