Formed in 1985, Guns N’ Roses quickly became one of the most celebrated rock bands in the world. Fans idolized them, but with sudden fame came an array of behind-the-curtain issues such as near-fatal drug habits, animosity, and chaos.
REELZ’s new docuseries Guns N’ Roses: Breaking the Band looks back at the stars’ darkest days.
On August 20, 1988, hot off the success of their #1 single “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the band flew to perform at the prestigious Monsters of Rock festival in Castle Donington, England. They were all set to sing, but the weather and the conditions of the arena made the experience less than perfect, and in the end, the day turned tragic.
“Donington didn’t have a crowd capacity,” says Guns N’ Roses biographer Mick Wall in a REELZ teaser. “There was no such thing as too many people — that day they had too many people.”
Despite it being a British summer day, it was also raining.
As soon as the band took the stage, it became clear there was an issue.
“There were approximately 120,000 people — and that was a lot of human body pressure,” recalls former Guns N’ Roses manager Alan Niven.
People pushed each other to get closer to the stage, but the overcrowding in wet conditions caused two fans to suffocate and be trampled to death in the mud.
“I’m pretty sure it affected them the same way it affected me — it was heartbreaking,” says Niven. “I think Slash put it perfectly in his book, that after Donington, nothing was remotely carefree anymore.”
Guns N’ Roses: Breaking the Band airs Sunday, June 16 at 10ET / PT on REELZ.