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"Democracy" Brings Free Dr. Pepper

Dr Pepper is making good on its promise of free soda now that the release of Guns N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy" is a reality.

The soft-drink maker said in March that it would give a free soda to everyone in America if the album dropped in 2008. "Chinese Democracy," infamously delayed since recording began in 1994, goes on sale Sunday.

"We never thought this day would come," Tony Jacobs, Dr Pepper's vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "But now that it's here, all we can say is: The Dr Pepper's on us."

Beginning Sunday at 12:01 a.m., coupons for a free 20-ounce soda will be available for 24 hours on Dr Pepper's Web site. They'll be honored until Feb. 28.

It's been 17 years since the rock band's last album, when "Use Your Illusion" volumes 1 and 2 instantly topped the charts as simultaneous releases. That was well before the time of iPods, digital downloads, "American Idol" and Myspace.

With an entirely new lineup - save for founding frontman Axl Rose - and after myriad stumbles and delays, Guns N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy" is set for release Sunday.

"Is this going to be 'Snakes on a Plane,' where the buildup is more exciting than the thing itself?" wondered Rob Brunner, senior editor for music at Entertainment Weekly.

Here's a look at the long evolution of the album that time almost forgot:

1994: Rose begins work on "Chinese Democracy."

1996: Guitarist Slash quits the band. Drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan follow. "That sort of seemed like the beginning of this album," Brunner said.

1998: Rose assembles a new band, including Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Robin Finck and former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson. They begin making music at Rumbo Recorders, where GNR's original lineup recorded parts of its multi-platinum 1987 debut, "Appetite for Destruction."

"That's when people started to think, 'What's he doing?' It seemed pretty bizarre to people who were fans of 'Paradise City,'" Brunner said.

1999: Rose invites Rolling Stone to preview tracks from "Chinese Democracy." The magazine anticipated the album could be released the following year.

2000: Rose hires two new musicians: guitarist Buckethead and drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia. The singer appears onstage for the first time in years during a surprise performance at a small Sunset Strip nightclub.

2001: Rose and the new GNR band perform new material at the House of Blues in Las Vegas.

2002: A cornrowed Rose and his band unveil a new track during a three-song medley at the MTV Video Music Awards. "What was striking about this is how little anyone was talking about the music," Brunner said. "It was all about his appearance and the fact that he showed up. It had nothing to do with the song itself. ... That's when it started seeming like things were not going in the right direction."

2004: Geffen declares that it has spent enough money on "Chinese Democracy" and that it's Rose's "obligation to fund and complete the album." The label releases a Guns N' Roses greatest-hits record. The label did not respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment on the album's many delays.

2006: Rose announces that "Chinese Democracy" won't be released in 2006 as planned and sets March 6, 2007, as the new release date. Four tracks from the album leak online.

2007: "Chinese Democracy" does not materialize. More tracks leak online.

2008: In March, Dr Pepper announces it will give a free soda to everyone in America if "Chinese Democracy" is released before the end of the year. Two tracks are officially released in the fall: one in the "Rock Band 2" video game and another in the film "Body of Lies." In October, Geffen announces that "Chinese Democracy" will hit stores on Nov. 23. On Nov. 20, the album's 14 tracks stream on MySpace.com.

"This is his shot," Brunner said. "If this doesn't connect now, I don't think anyone, another 15 years from now, will be panting over the long-awaited follow-up to 'Chinese Democracy.'"

Dr Pepper is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.