Happy “Chinese Democracy” Release Day: A Look Back At How We Got Here

Well, here’s a sentence that I never thought I’d write when I took this job two years and change ago: Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy is available to U.S. residents (whether they’re near a Best Buy or in front of their computers) today, and its release in other countries (save the UK) has already happened. What better way to kick off the day than with a timeline tracing the steps to this album’s seemingly improbable release? It’s after the jump. (Oh, and here’s a direct link to that Dr Pepper coupon, since the soda-retailer’s servers are (unsurprisingly) getting completely hammered by a populace that cares as much about 20 ounces of free carbonated sugar water as it does about a years-in-the-making epic. Make sure you enter your info before the clock strikes midnight, otherwise Axl Rose will turn into a pumpkin!)

1994: Work begins on Chinese Democracy.

Aug. 31, 1995: Axl informs Slash and Duff McKagan that he’s “leaving [Guns N’ Roses] and taking the name with him.”

1996: Slash quits.

1997: “In 1997 Todd Sullivan, who was then a talent executive for [Geffen], sent Mr. Rose a sampling of CD’s produced by different people, and encouraged him to choose one to work on “Chinese Democracy.” Mr. Sullivan says he received a call informing him that Mr. Rose had run over the albums with a car.”

August 1997: Duff quits. Matt Sorum is either fired or quits, depending on who you ask.

Nov. 2, 1999: “Oh My God” is included on the soundtrack for the Schwarzenegger pic End Of Days. (Also on that soundtrack: Sonic Youth, Limp Bizkit, and Creed.)

January 2000: Then-manager Doug Goldstein tells Rolling Stone that the album is scheduled for “a summer release.”

Jan. 1, 2001: Guns N’ Roses perform at the House Of Blues in Vegas. The lineup: Buckethead, Robin Finck and Paul Tobias (a.k.a. Paul Huge); keyboardist Dizzy Reed; former Primus drummer Brian “Brain” Mantia; and Tommy Stinson. Regarding Stinson’s involvement, Axl cracks a joke onstage: “‘The Replacements’ would be a good name for this band.”

Jan. 15, 2001: Axl and his band of hired hands play the Rock In Rio festival; the set opens with a short video that depicts Axl as a Howard Hughes type, complete with long fingernails. Among the new songs on the setlist: “Madagascar.”

May 12, 2002: I see the band at Madison Square Garden. They sound pretty good, although Axl does run offstage a lot. New songs on the setlist: “Madagascar,” “The Blues” (which is on the album as “Street Of Dreams”), and the title track.

Aug. 29, 2002: GNR surprises the crowd at MTV’s 2002 Video Music Awards with a medley that includes “Welcome To The Jungle” and “Madagascar.”

February 2004: GNR’s label, Geffen, states “Having exceeded all budgeted and approved recording costs by millions of dollars, it is Mr Rose’s obligation to fund and complete the album, not Geffen’s.”

March 2004: Buckethead leaves the band and is replaced by the suspiciously similar-in-pseudonymic-meter Bumblefoot.

Jan. 14, 2006: “People will hear music this year,” Axl tells Rolling Stone.

June 27, 2006: Axl is accused of biting a security guard in Sweden.

Aug. 31, 2006: Axl introduces the Killers’ performance at the 2006 Video Music Awards. Why? Well, why not?

Sept. 11, 2006: New York runs a bit about Axl backstage at the aforementioned VMAs that ends with the line, “Rose promises the album will be released by the end of the year.”

Oct. 20, 2006: A snippet of “Better” can be heard in a prototype Harley-Davidson ad that is quickly scrubbed from the Internet, but not quickly enough to not make Rose’s proclamation in the previous item true.

Dec. 14, 2006: Axl Rose fires his manager, tells the world that Chinese Democracy‘s for-real-this-time release date is March 6, 2007.

Feb. 20, 2007: A full version of “Better” makes its way to the Web.

Feb. 22, 2007: The March 6 release date isn’t happening, according to longtime Axl associate Del James.

Feb. 27, 2007: British music retailer HMV’s Web site claims the album is coming out in September 2007. (This does not happen.)

May 7, 2007: New studio versions of a few Chinese Democracy songs, including the title track, land online.

Sept. 26, 2007: Rolling Stone finds a picture of Axl emerging from a recording studio.

March 26, 2008: In what will turn out to be the biggest promotional campaign by a plum-flavored soda this year, if not this decade, Dr Pepper announces that everyone in America will get a free piece of product should Chinese Democracy come out.

April 4, 2008: Rumors that Axl Rose is playing almost-finished Chinese Democracy tracks for label execs start.

April 10, 2008: Those rumors intensify, turning into claims that Axl delivered the album to his label.

June 11, 2008: Some guy offers to donate $1,000 to charity if he can get his mitts on a previously unleaked demo, an offer that’s somehow more chintzy-seeming than the whole 50 Cent/Taco Bell failed promotion.

June 18, 2008: Antiquiet streams nine songs from the album, and much legalese ensues.

July 17, 2008: Rumors that the album will come out this year, and that it’ll be a four-disc set, and that Axl will appear at the VMAS fly around the E3 conference. One actually turns out to be true!

Aug. 14, 2008: The Bucketheady “Shackler’s Revenge,” which was supposed to make its debut in Rock Band 2, leaks.

Oct. 22, 2008: The title track hits radio; Chinese Democracy release is confirmed by press release

Oct. 23, 2008: Dr Pepper reveals that it was serious about the “free soda” thing.

Oct. 30, 2008: Four more low-quality leaks emerge, although good luck trying to hear the songs through the audio scratching.

Nov. 18, 2008: The album for real leaks, in full.

Nov. 19, 2008: Klosterman weighs in.

Nov. 20, 2008: We try and figure out why Axl finally pulled the trigger.

Nov. 22-24, 2008: Chinese Democracy released around the globe, world subsequently ends (?)

Chinese Democracy [iTunes Store]Chinese Democracy [iTunes Store]

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