Photo Gallery: Guitar World Magazine Covers Through the Years — 1991
The year 1991 is most memorable for two events: the dissolution of the Soviet Union and The Gulf War.
Or -- if you're a guitar lover -- the release of Nirvana's Nevermind and Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion I and II.
Nevermind ushered in the grunge era of alternative music that would dominate pop culture for the remainder of the century. The hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" opened the doors for other alternative acts such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. They played guitar, but not with the bravado and complexity seen in the previous decade. For some it was a welcome relief, and for others a bitter turning of the tides.
The Use Your Illusion albums were significant for not only being the final charge of one of rock 'n' roll's most heralded bands -- I'm not counting The Spaghetti Incident -- but also the last stand of the guitar-driven rock era that would inevitably succumb to grunge. There would be other guitar-oriented albums, but Use Your Illusion I and II captured the perfect blend of musicality and range with danger and decadence. One can't help but listen to the sweeping dynamics and colors of Use Your Illusion I and II and not wonder where music might have gone had Guns N' Roses not imploded.
Either way, you were listening to one of these albums in 1991. Check out what else was going on in this gallery of 12 -- that's right, a full 12 -- issues from the second year of the Nineties.
His time with Deep Purple was coming to a close, but back in '91 Ritchie Blackmore was still a much sought-after, albeit cryptic, subject. In his interview with Mordechai Kleidermacher, Blackmore shared his thoughts on Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen and their influence on virtuosic guitar.
Led Zeppelin got the royal treatment for the first issue of the year. In this tribute special, Jimmy Page talks about the evolution of Zeppelin's biggest song, "Stairway to Heaven." Said Page, "I remember we played it at the Los Angeles Forum before the record had even come out, and there was like this standing ovation."
Although their album Recycler, with its return to the band's earlier, bluesier roots, couldn't match the success of Eliminator or Afterburner, Top were still a force to be reckoned with in 1991. After all, they were in Back to the Future, Part III. 'Nuff said.
"Steve Vai: The Last Interview?" It may seem impossible now to think of a cover story with such a loaded question, considering the popularity of the guitar maestro. But this came in the wake of Passion & Warfare, an album so other-worldly it seemed possible Vai might disappear back into whatever realm of guitar genius he came from.
They were two of rock's most talented technicians, defying the laws of dexterity and pushing the boundaries of the electric guitar and bass. But ironically guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan were perfectly content to talk about a demure little ballad from Mr. Big's new album Lean Into It called "To Be With You."
If you're going to run a cover story of the 25 Greatest Rock Records, you need a cover artist to match such lofty contentions. There's little choice in the matter. Jimi Hendrix makes his third appearance of the front page of Guitar World.
It was a good month to be a fan of the blues. July's issue was dedicated to blues power, with articles on B.B. and Albert King, a look at some of blues' rising stars and a joint interview with Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy, the latter of which was in the midst of a commercial comeback thanks to Damn Right, I've Got the Blues. Beck appears on the album, as well.
Although grunge was moving in, Skid Row were still the talk of the modern rock world. Guitarists Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill talked about their new album, Slave to the Grind, which had a distinctly heavier sound then their eponymous debut. "All this energy started to build up," said Hill. "I sat home, listened to Pantera's Cowboys From Hell and literally went crazy."
The guitar juggernaut returned in 1991 as Van Halen released For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, an album that would earn the band a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. For Eddie, it was just another day at the office. "Whenever I try to plan something out, it never seems to work out. So why plan? It only seems to lead to disappointment."
Nirvana, Van Halen and Guns N' Roses all released classic albums in 1991. But perhaps no album from that year will be as well remembered, or as heavily disputed, as Metallica's "Black Album." Although it would become a hugely popular success, many Metallica fans weren't ready for the shorter, commercialized songs. Still, it wasn't like they cut their hair or anything crazy.
Pulled from the trenches, Guitar World's November issue featured three lost interviews with three guitar legends: Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman.
One of GW's most enduring hallmarks are the lessons, particularly the artists' lessons. The last issue of the year was devoted to instruction with guest teachers Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman, Johnny Winter, Zakk Wylde and Anthrax's Dan Spitz.