Most rock fans know about L.A. Guns, but what some may not know is their involvement in the formation of Guns N’ Roses. The first version of L.A. Guns was formed in 1983 by drummer Rob Gardner and guitarist Tracii Guns. Bass guitarist Ole Beich and singer Mike Jagosz were soon added to the lineup. The group recorded their first EP, Collectors Edition No. 1, before Jagosz was replaced by Axl Rose in 1984.
The group later became known as Guns N’ Roses (combining the L.A. Guns name with the name of Rose’s previous band Hollywood Rose). The first version of GNR consisted of Guns, Rose, Beich, Gardner and guitarist Izzy Stradlin. Beich was later replaced on bass guitar by Duff McKagan. Guns later left the group and was replaced by Slash. During the group’s first tour, Gardner also left and was replaced behind the drum kit by Steven Adler. This became the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup.
In 1985, Tracii Guns reformed L.A. Guns with drummer Nickey Alexander, multi-instrumentalist Mick Cripps and singer Paul Black. The group signed with Polygram Records after writing new music and performing several shows. Black was eventually replaced by singer Phil Lewis, and bass guitarist Kelly Nickels joined the group before their first album was released.
L.A. Guns’ self titled album debuted in January 1988. After the album was recorded, drummer Nickey Alexander was replaced by Steve Riley. The album reached the top 50 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and the group toured briefly in support of it, before heading back to the studio to record their follow up. Their second album, Cocked & Loaded, came out in August 1989 and went on to be a platinum-selling album. Their third album, Hollywood Vampires, was released in June 1991 and was another top 50 hit. The group continued touring heavily behind each release. Steve Riley was dismissed from the band in 1992 after the group’s European tour.
The band decided to wait out the rise in popularity of the grunge movement before releasing additional new material. During the downtime, Tracii Guns participated in the supergroup Contraband. L.A. Guns regrouped in 1994, adding Michael Gersema on drums. The band’s fourth album, Vicious Circle, came out in October but failed to chart. Riley was brought back on drums during the tour for the album. Lewis and Cripps decided to leave the band, and were replaced by Chris Van Dahl and Johnny Cripps, respectively. Polygram dropped L.A. Guns from their label after disappointing sales for Vicious Circle. The group continued on as a quartet when Nickels left the band, and Crypt moved from rhythm guitar to bass guitar.
L.A. Guns released their first album with Van Dahl on vocals entitled American Hardcore in August 1996 through CMC International. It also failed to chart. Ralph Saenz was hired to be the new singer for the band’s EP Wasted, which was released in September 1998. A year later, Jizzy Pearl was the next lead vocalist for L.A. Guns. The group released their sixth studio album, Shrinking Violet, via Perris Records that June before going on tour as a supporting act for Poison.
In November, a hits compilation with a few new songs called Greatest Hits and Black Beauties was released. The band welcomed Mick Cripps, Phil Riley and Kelly Nickels back into the fold as they toured behind the compilation. L.A. Guns’ first live album, Live: A Night On The Strip came out in October. In 2000, the band recorded a new version of Cocked & Loaded called Cocked & Re-Loaded. Nickels left the band before their summer tour, and was replaced on bass guitar by Muddy.
L.A. Guns released their seventh studio album, Man In The Moon, in April 2001. The group also added Keff Ratcliffe on guitar. Ratcliffe’s stay in the band lasted less than a year, as he departed along with Cripps. With Adam Hamilton on bass, L.A. Guns recorded their eighth studio album, Waking The Dead, which came out in August 2002. This would be the last L.A. Guns album that Tracii Guns would play on for over a decade.
Tracii left L.A. Guns in October 2002 to concentrate on the supergroup Brides of Destruction that he was in with Motley Crue member Nikki Sixx. The L.A. Guns lineup of Lewis, Hamilton, Riley, Muscat and new guitarist Kerri Kelli went on tour in support of Waking The Dead in 2003. L.A. Guns’ first cover album, Rips The Covers Off, was released in April 2004 with contributions from new guitarist Stacey Blades. Their ninth studio album, Tales From The Strip, debuted in August 2005. Another live album, Loud And Dangerous: Live from Hollywood, was released in September. Their tenth album, Hollywood Forever, came out in June 2012 with Scott Grilffin on bass guitar.
In the meantime, Tracii Guns was busy. After putting Brides of Destruction on hiatus in 2006, he formed the Tracii Guns band with Jeremy Guns and former L.A. Guns band members Nickey Alexander and Paul Black. Since Guns still had the rights to Guns’ version of the group underwent several lineup changes over the next decade and recorded an album in 2008, although that material still has yet to be officially released.
Guns announced that he was disbanding his version of L.A. Guns in 2012. Four years later, Lewis and Guns appeared onstage together for several shows in the US and South America for the first time since 2002. Lewis joined a version of L.A. Guns with Tracii Guns the following year, leaving Steve Riley’s version of the band. The Lewis and Guns version of the band released two more studio albums: The Missing Peace in October 2017 and The Devil You Know in March 2019.
Here are some of the most memorable L.A. Guns Songs.
# 10 – I Wanna Be Your Man
We open our Top 10 L.A. Guns songs list with a track from an album that makes many appearances on this list. This Cocked & Loaded song has no innuendos. It’s a very straightforward anthem, and a kind of love song with a twist. It’s also been a fan favorite for years.
# 9 – Over The Edge
Released on the Hollywood Vampires album, this L.A. Guns song about heartbreak has really resonated with their fans. The theme of love, loss and despair has been cathartic, and has also inspired some of their friends and fans to get back on their feet again.
# 8 – Hellraisers Ball
The creative lyrics and catchy rhythms to the title track from a 2008 import live album make this one of L.A. Guns most unique tracks. It was recorded during the band’s 2003 European tour and has a very clean sound. It’s been recognized as one of their best live songs ever.
# 7 – Rip And Tear
A destructive ditty from Cocked & Loaded that perfectly encapsulates the band’s wild side. It’s a party song from the band’s classic lineup that really shows off their musical talent and chemistry. Another fan favorite from their live shows.
# 6 – Bitch Is Back
Another powerful single that captures the raw power of the band in its prime. This song from the band’s self-titled debut is known for the strong guitar work, creative lyrics and hilarious music video. Always worth a listen or two if you’ve had a frustrating day.
# 5 – Sleazy Come Easy Go
A song from Cocked & Loadedthat gives the listener insight into a less than perfect romantic relationship. It’s not the best obviously, but it’s all about “doing time for your baby.” A fun song that’s gotten a fair amount of airplay on rock radio.
# 4 – Never Enough
Another Cocked & Loadedclassic! This time, L.A. Guns focused on a woman who was never quite satisfied from her man’s efforts. An exhausting situation that many people can relate to, and one of many well-loved songs from this album.
# 3 – Kiss My Love Goodbye
This is probably the most recognized track from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires. A breakup song for the ages, perfect for those who grew tired of their partner’s lackluster efforts to keep love alive. The chorus will stay in your head for days.
# 2 – Sex Action
This track from the L.A. Guns album also has no hidden meanings. This was one of the band’s first radio hits, and is still one of their most requested songs at concerts. The simple yet effective message helped bring LA Guns to the forefront of the 80’s rock and metal scene.
# 1 – The Ballad of Jayne
Unquestionably the best loved L.A. Guns song of all time. The song from Cocked & Loadedwas written about the popular actress Jayne Mansfield, whose life was tragically cut short by a car accident at age 34. The song laments her loss, and is still considered one of the best power ballads of all time.
Even though the lineup changes and two different versions of L.A. Guns may have been bewildering to rock fans at times, the group has continued to write music, record albums and tour ever since their inception. They’ve taken breaks, but they’ve never called it quits. L.A. Guns is currently on the road and always puts on entertaining shows, no matter how large or small of a venue they play. Catch them live when they’re in town, and you’ll experience a few hours of great music and musicianship.