The first time I ever heard of Guns N’ Roses was from a rock magazine. There was a picture of this weird looking lead singer with spiky red hair, and his name was “Axl”. I immediately decided I didn’t like whoever he was, because he looked absolutely hammered, a complete mess. And what kind of name was “Guns N’ Roses” for a band anyway?
MuchMusic began spinning their first video, “Welcome to the Jungle”, but only on the Pepsi Power Hour. After a couple plays, I liked it. I took Axl off the “banned” list and taped their video. I asked my friend Scott if he liked Guns N’ Roses. “They suck!” he answered. A few months later, another video hit the airwaves and it was even better. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” came out during the year of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, but wasn’t like either band. I loved the tune; this band had potential! Before I knew it, school was out for the summer.
A funny thing happened on summer break. Guns N’ Roses became huge. When I returned to school in the fall, guess what band Scott was suddenly in to? Guns N’ Roses.* Everybody was. And nobody believed me that I liked them first. “You probably don’t even know the words,” said one kid.
That was 30 years ago. Jesus Murphy…30 years!
I could yammer on and on about Appetite for Destruction. For example, we could discuss these subjects:
- How Guns went against the grain but changed the game.
- Mike Clink’s sharp anti-80s production. (Did you know Paul Stanley wanted to produce Appetite?)
- The iconic album cover.
- Slash’s immense influence on guitar players, including making the Gibson Les Paul the guitar to play again.
- The under appreciated songwriting of Mr. Izzy Stradlin’.
- The unstoppable rhythm section of Duff “Rose” McKagan and Steven “Popcorn” Adler.
- That Duff McKagan is uber-talented and his backing vocals are a crucial part of Guns’ sound.
- The single-minded, focused and unified direction of Appetite.
- How their ample use of the “f word” drove the censors crazy.
- The all-important role of lead singer and frontman W. Axl Rose in their rise to stardom.
- How Axl and Slash became the Steven Tyler and Joe Perry for a new generation.
- That ten thousand bands followed in their wake when the sleazy side of the Sunset Strip became the hottest new trend.
We could talk about all those things until we’re blue in the face; each one would make for a fine subject for an article in their own right. Or, perhaps I could talk about some of my more controversial opinions:
- That Appetite is great, but Illusions are better.
- The best song is not one of the singles, but in fact the last track, the sprawling “Rocket Queen”.
- Even Appetite has filler, in this case “Anything Goes” and “Think About You”.
- That Izzy was the most talented member.
I could do that, or I could even go through Appetite track by track. It would be cool to analyze the riffage, anger and rock power of tracks like “It’s So Easy”, “Nightrain”, “Out Ta Get Me” and “You’re Crazy”. We could discuss that Guns groove that is the basis of the legendary “Mr. Brownstone”. The simmering , biting intensity of “My Michelle”. We could, or you could click on any of the numerous articles from rock magazines that do the same thing.
Maybe yammering about Appetite isn’t as important as the memories associated with it. I’ve shared this story before, but my favourite memory of this album goes back to highschool. When the album hit it big, virtually everybody I knew had a copy. One guy named Anand liked studying to Appetite. He had strict parents. One day he was down in the basement doing his homework with “Out Ta Get Me” playing. His kid brother kept coming around to bug him, as kid brothers do. He hung around long enough to learn the words to “Out Ta Get Me”, and returned upstairs. When the parents heard the kid singing “They’re out to get me! I’m fucking innocent,” Anand got grounded. (He got grounded a lot, though.)
Appetite for Destruction has sold 18 million copies in the US, with another few million sold overseas. It’s one of the select albums to go Diamond (1 million copies) in Canada. That’s a lot of people with memories of Appetite for Destruction (even though about five copies were actually bought by myself). I’m not the only one with stories. So how do I go about reviewing Appetite for Destruction?
Like anything else, I guess: on a scale of 5:
* Scott responds: “In my defence, I heard ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ first, and wasn’t into the power ballad thing. It was when I saw the video for ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ that I changed my opinion, and after getting the album — the imported banned cover — that I became a huge fan. I didn’t jump on no band wagon!”