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Rushing to ‘Illusions’ : Midnight Release of Guns N’ Roses Discs Attracts Flock of Faithful Fans to Area Stores

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Addy Benard bolted straight from her high school volleyball match. Still in her red and white uniform, she crouched by the front door of Tower Records on Beach Boulevard, and she waited.

Three hours later, just after the stroke of midnight as Monday turned to Tuesday, the doors to the store opened, and the 15-year-old Anaheim girl ran in. Moments later she burst back out into the parking lot, exultantly raising a pair of compact discs over her head. “First one!” she yelled, ducking into a car.

By the time midnight had rolled around, more than 100 fellow die-hard Guns N’ Roses fans hadlined up behind Addy, each wanting to be the first on his or her block to own “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II,” the L.A. rock band’s first new albums in five years.

Clearly, the official release by Geffen Records Tuesday of the “Illusion” albums was one of the more eagerly awaited pop releases in years. Geffen shipped a combined 4 million copies of the two albums, which eventually are expected to pass the 10 million sales total racked up by GNR’s 1986 album, “Appetite for Destruction.”

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To capitalize on the anticipation, 1,000 stores throughout the nation--including about two dozen Tower, Wherehouse, Sam Goody and independent stores in Orange County--either stayed open late Monday or opened at midnight so they could sell the discs at, literally, the soonest possible moment.

Geffen spokesmen estimated later Tuesday morning that 500,000 albums had been sold.

Still, the scene was decidedly less hectic than on Aug. 12, when the new Metallica album was released with a similar promotion. Perhaps because that one had been limited to two stores in the area--this Tower outlet and the one on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood--the line here that time was about four times as long.

During the Metallica album sale, which lasted more than an hour, radio station KNAC was broadcasting from the Anaheim store’s parking lot, blaring music that infuriated nearby residents and drew two visits from the police. This time around, noise was limited to a few stereos reverberating from cars and vans. One police car rolled through the parking lot at one point, but didn’t stop. The whole thing was pretty much over in 30 minutes.

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The atmosphere was even more subdued at the other stores in the county, according to a random telephone survey. Most sold between 20 and 50 copies of each release, employees said. At the Tower on Sunset, widely considered the Southland Mecca of heavy metal, about 800 albums were sold.

Most buyers purchased both releases. “You can’t have one without the other,” said 20-year-old Mike Reed of La Palma (Tower was charging $11.99 for one compact disc, $22 for both. Cassettes went for $7.99 apiece. A few people bought vinyl LPs, at $11.99 each). Sixteen customers at the Tower in Anaheim also picked up copies of Ozzy Osbourne’s “No More Tears,” which also went on sale Tuesday, and which included free Ozzy T-shirts.

Anticipation of the Guns N’ Roses albums heightened in recent months as Geffen--which originally announced that the discs would hit the stores in May--kept pushing back the release date.

The Tower in Anaheim received its copies of the GNR albums on Friday but, according to shift manager Dave Webb, were not allowed to sell them until Tuesday.

“Some guy Saturday night offered me $40" to sell him the albums early, Webb said. “I just couldn’t.”

Webb said any store that violated the embargo risked being cut off from future new Geffen releases.

But why stand in line for hours to buy the albums, when you could get a good night’s sleep and buy them with little wait or hassle once the sun was up?

“How could you wait when you could get it now? , replied Patrick Wyrick, 22, of Cypress. He’d arrived at the Anaheim Tower store at about 9:30, and was second in line behind Benard.

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“I just really wanted to get the album,” Benard explained, anxiously clutching an envelope stuffed with a gift certificate and cash as midnight crept closer. “They’re my favorite group.”

“This way,” explained Tony Shore of Westminster, who was standing near the end of the line, “I’ll have it when I get into work tomorrow.” Work was to start for Shore at 6 a.m.; he was planning to stay up listening to the albums till then.

Benard said she would be staying up all night, too. “I would have to get up at 5:30 anyway,” she said, “so I might as well.”

“We’re gonna get a case (of beer), play the tapes and (tick) off the neighbors,” said 17-year-old James Dixon of Huntington Beach. His friend, 18-year-old Patrick Capilouto, said he was due in English class in the morning, “but I’ll be skipping it.”

First in line at Tower on Sunset, having arrived at 8 p.m., was a young woman who has taken the name Leathur Rose in honor of her heroes. From her neck hung a shiny metal cross to which was attached a picture button of Axl Rose, the band’s singer; on her ankle was a Guns N’ Roses tattoo that she gladly showed off to all the television news camera crews covering the scene.

And in her hands was a Walkman cassette player she’d bought specially so she could immediately hear the tapes she was about to buy.

A guy dressed like Axl--long stringy hair, torn jeans, red bandanna under a baseball cap--walked by on the sidewalk. Leathur, 21, glared at him, muttering, “Not even close. Not even in your dreams!”

At 1 a.m., the line on Sunset was still 100 or so strong, having been replenished with young rockers coming from a metal show at the nearby Whisky. Almost out of place among them was a young family of six, parents Carlos and Annie Vasquez and their four children, ages 7 to 13.

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Why did the La Mirada-based Vasquezes make the nocturnal family outing?

“That’s what Annie keeps asking me,” said Carlos, 33. Turns out it was son Rick, 13, who suggested it. “But I told him, ‘No days off from school to listen to the albums.’ ”

As 1 a.m. passed, Leathur Rose remained in the Tower parking lot, headphones blasting. Nearly through with the 76-minute first album, she said her favorite songs so far were the ballad “November Rain” and the rocker “Bad Obsession.” She clearly was swept up in the elation of having new Guns N’ Roses music to hear. But she also seemed a bit weary as the night dragged on.

“I hope it’s not another four years until they release another one,” she said with a sigh.

Times correspondent Steve Hochman contributed to this report.


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