L.A. Guns is an American rock band whose music is frequently associated with the L.A. glam metal scene which grew up around the Sunset Strip in the 1980s, in particular the sleaze rock subgenre. Guns N' Roses, which once featured three of the original L.A. Guns members, was the most prominent exponent of this subgenre, generally preferring an anti-social image to elaborate make-up and costumes. Today two bands share and tour using the L.A. Guns name: One is headed by Tracii Guns, the founder of the original band, and the other is headed by Phil Lewis, Tracii's hand-picked lead singer.
In 1983, Tracii Guns formed the band known as L.A. Guns with singer Michael Jagosz, bassist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner. Michael Jagosz was sent to prison for a short time and was replaced by singer Axl Rose. Axl soon quit to form Hollywood Rose and was replaced by Michael Jagosz after he had returned from his time in prison.
The second lineup of L.A. Guns was formed by Mau Maus and The Joneses drummer Paul Mars Black, who switched to lead vocals, and guitarist Mick Cripps, who switched to bass. They teamed up with drummer Nickey "Beat" Alexander, who was jamming with guitarist Tracii Guns. This lineup is considered to be the original version of the band. Originally this group was going to call itself Faster Pussycat, a name brought in by Paul Black and Mick Cripps. After much debate, this new group re-adopted the name L.A. Guns in order to utilize the backing and promotional material left over from the former lineup which had been disbanded for over a year. Tracii left L.A. Guns at the end of the year to play with a Penthouse Pet who was signed with Atlantic Records. He moved to New York and informed the band he would not be returning right before their record label showcase at the Troubadour in Hollywood. Guns N' Roses were called to fill in for the guitar-less L.A Guns and played to a sold out L.A. Guns crowd. Shortly after this show, GNR inked a record deal with Geffen Records.
Paul Black leads L.A. Guns (1985-1987)
After Tracii left the band Paul Black recruited ex-Dogs D'Amour singer, Robert Stoddard, to be the new guitarist. This lineup quickly picked up where they left off. They demoed and gigged in 1985 and 1986, with Black contributing most of the material that would be recorded on their debut album. Several record labels were already interested in signing this line-up but the band wanted a fuller sound. At the end of 1986, after his stint with the former Penthouse model fell apart, Tracii was brought back in to make L.A. Guns a five piece band for the first time. A record deal with Polygram Records was secured after Paul introduced a song called "Love and Hate". The label wanted this to be the first single. However, the new five piece line up would not survive.
Paul was replaced by Phil Lewis of the British band, Girl. Mick then switched back to guitar, replacing Robert, and former Faster Pussycat member Kelly Nickels was added on bass. L.A. Guns then recorded their eponymous first album, released in 1988 on Vertigo Records. The gold award debut album spawned the singles "One More Reason" and "Sex Action", both written by Black. "Sex Action" evolved from Black's earlier song "Love and Hate". Black also contributed "No Mercy", "Nothing To Lose", "Bitch is Back", "One Way Ticket", and "Winter's Fool" to the first record and "Never Enough", the first single off the 2nd album, Cocked and Loaded. Black also made many other contributions to the L.A. Guns repetoire which would later appear on a record called Black List, which features Black singing the original L.A. Guns songs with the original band, recorded during his time in the band.
Classic lineup (1988-1995)
On the first album's supporting tour, Nickey was replaced by former W.A.S.P. drummer Steve Riley, leaving only two original members. This lineup remained until 1992. In 1989, they released their second album Cocked & Loaded. It contained the smash radio and video hits, "Never Enough" and "The Ballad of Jayne", which helped the album reach gold, and eventually platinum status. This was the commercial peak of their career, a point that they would never, ever reach again. The album's song "Rip & Tear" was also a hit. The band also released two home videos coinciding with these two albums, One More Reason (1989) and Love, Peace, & Geese (1990) and participated in world-wide touring as headliners and as support for such acts as AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, and Ted Nugent.
During 1991, the band released their third album Hollywood Vampires on Polydor Records. The album did re-achieve the gold status of Cocked & Loaded and their debut album and did spawn a few hits such as "Kiss My Love Goodbye" and "It's Over Now" although it still wasn't as well noticed as the first two albums. In 1993, their first album finally reached gold status as well. Tracii Guns participated in the supergroup Contraband the same year. The L.A. Guns released a five song EP titled Cuts in 1992 and then in 1995 their fourth album Vicious Circle, drummer Michael "Bones" Gershima played on parts of these recording as this was around the time Phil Lewis fired drummer Steve Riley in January 1992. Riley later returned to the band for the successful Vicious Circle club tour. After this, the L.A. Guns were dropped from Polygram (Vertigo/Polydor) Records. Phil Lewis and Mick Cripps then left the band.
July 1996 saw Tracii Guns and Steve Riley recruit vocalist Chris Van Dahl and guitarist Johnny Crypt (ex-Ripper, aka Johnny Crystal) after seeing them perform with their band Boneyard. Six months into recording sessions, Kelly Nickels left the band and Johnny was asked to switch to the bass to avoid having to seek out and deal with yet another member. In 1996, the new L.A. Guns released their sixth record, titled American Hardcore. This new album built on the heavy music from Vicious Circle and projected a darker image for the band. They toured throughout 1996 and into 1997 when Tracii let Chris go in hopes of regaining Phil Lewis and the band's former glory. Phil refused, and so Chris was replaced by singer Ralph Saenz. Tracii, Steve, Johnny, and Ralph toured for the remainder of '97 and in early '98 released the six song EP Wasted.
Halfway through the band's 1998 Rock Never Stops tour, Ralph quit to form his own band, leaving Tracii to do another singer change. Joe Lesté from Bang Tango and Jizzy Pearl from Love/Hate were considered as candidates. Tracii and Steve picked Jizzy and quickly geared up to tour. L.A. Guns toured clubs with Jizzy in late 1998 and early 1999 when they released Shrinking Violet, produced by former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. This release was followed shortly by Crypt's departure.
Tracii and Steve had been talking with their former bandmates, Phil, Mick, and Kelly about a reunion album and tour. When Johnny found out about the reunion he left on February 6, 1999. The reunion album Greatest Hits and Black Beauties was released on Deadline Records around the same time as Shrinking Violet.
As of September 1, 1999, Jizzy and Chuck were fired from the band as the classic lineup of Tracii Guns, Steve Riley, Phil Lewis, Kelly Nickels, and Mick Cripps prepared to reunite. L.A. Guns set out on the reunion tour in October 1999 and recorded a live album in their hometown of Hollywood, enlisting Gilby Clarke as producer. The album, named Live: A Night on the Strip, was released the following year.
After the reunion, Mick and Kelly couldn't commit to the summer 2000 tour, so they were replaced by guitarist Brent Muscat and bassist Muddy, respectively. Ratt and L.A. Guns teamed up with Warrant for a remainder-of-the-summer tour, which L.A. Guns dropped off in August due to booking problems.
In August 2000, L.A. Guns re-recorded and re-released Cocked & Loaded retitled Cocked & Re-Loaded on Deadline Records. Mick Cripps again rejoined the band briefly in late 2000 to record an album with the band, entitled Man In The Moon, which was released on Spitfire Records in April 2001. Mick played keyboards on the album, but did not tour to support it. Muddy later left the band after a short promo tour for Man In The Moon. He was replaced by Adam Hamilton for the winter of 2002 Man In The Moon club tour. In 2002, Andy Johns was hired to produce the next release, Waking the Dead. This album features Adam Hamilton as the new bass player. Hailed by fans as one of the strongest and heaviest material L.A. Guns has ever recorded, the album features OK, Let's Roll - dedicated to Todd Beamer and the people who rushed the cockpit of Flight 93 during the events of September 11, 2001 attacks.
L.A. Guns without Tracii Guns (2002-present)
During September 2002, founding guitarist Tracii Guns became very involved in Brides of Destruction, a new project with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. Guns saw the project as an opportunity to recapture the fan and street-credibility he had held in the late 1980s and signed on as lead guitarist for Brides of Destruction. In 2004, the new band embarked on a World Tour, and the future of L.A. Guns was in doubt until both Steve Riley and Phil Lewis told the Hairball John Radio Show that the band would continue despite Tracii Guns' involvement in Brides of Destruction.
They had gone through several guitarists since Tracii Guns departed in October 2002. With a new guitarist named Stacey Blades, L.A. Guns released the covers album Rips the Covers Off. The band recorded and released Tales from the Strip in August 2005. It is the only U.S> released L.A. Guns album not to feature Tracii Guns (there was also a Japan-only live album released in 1992).
A second L.A. Guns forms (2005)
In 2005 a remastered set of demos, which were recorded around the time L.A. Guns wrote their first album (before Phil Lewis joined) was released, featuring Paul Black on vocals. The album was called Black List. The album featured much of the same material as the band's first two studio albums, which Paul Black had a considerable role in writing before being dismissed from the band. This was surprising to many L.A. Guns fans since Black was denied credit on the first two albums and the information was never made public until the Black List release. Soon after this, as the Brides of Destruction's second album did not maintain the success of the first, Tracii Guns put together a "solo" band and focused his attention on that.
The Tracii Guns Band featured former L.A. Guns members Paul Black, Nickey "Beat" Alexander and Tracii Guns, as well as Jeremy Carson, and Jason Saenz. The band soon began using the L.A. Guns name because it contained three founding members of the band.
In an odd twist on October 10, 2006, Phil Lewis joined Paul Black and Tracii Guns onstage at the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Cathouse, a Hollywood club run by Riki Rachtman and Taime Downe. The two frontmen dueted on the band's song "Rip and Tear".