Appetite for Destruction

G’N’f’n’R.  This band brings back a ton of memories for me.  I mean, the Guns pretty much permeated every aspect of my high school experience, even after Nirvana blew up the L.A. rock scene and ushered in the alt rock era (1991…the year punk broke).  But even after we were all rocking out to Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, the one band from the late 80s that we never gave up on was GnR.  In fact, our love of the Guns and the Roses even embarrassingly made the senior yearbook bios for Black Cloud, the Elusive One, and myself…

But let’s rewind a little bit to 1987 when this was first released.  I was in elementary school.  Sixth grade to be exact.  And this was definitely not the kind of stuff sixth graders were listening to in little ole Geneva, Ohio.  But the next year, I started junior high, and this was the cool band that all the cool kids in their denim jean jackets were listening too…they were even putting GnR patches on their denim jean jackets…that’s how cool they were.  Well, I wasn’t cool (I never was), and I didn’t have a jean jacket and I wasn’t allowed to listen to the Guns because mi madre didn’t like the language.  See, when this album came out it was controversial for the language and the content, which just made all the little kiddies like me want it more.  Back before 2 Live Crew and the birth of gangsta rap, this was the first time a rock band had used a significant amount of explicit language on a record.  And again, it just made everybody want this record even more.

At the time, MTV was over-saturated with bad California glam metal bands.  But this record came out and blew them all out of the water.  Why?  Because it was real.  While BonGreatWhitePiosionousLion-SnakeCrew was talking about smoking in the boys room, the Guns were in the next stall dancing with Mr. Brownstone.  And while the other bands wanted to rock and roll all night and party everyday, the Gunners were getting wasted on the Nightrain in the paradise city.  And when the other bands were writing ballads about making love on a bed of roses, Axl and the boys knew that it was so easy to make anything go while she was pretty tied up.  And while the Guns were initially lumped in with all those other glam metal bands, they made them all look like chumps because they were just bigger and badder and tougher (and crazier) than anyone else.

And lets take a quick break here to make one thing clear: this band was never a metal band.  Metal bands tend to be a lot heavier, and metal music is based off traditional classical scales and modes.  This is hard rock descendant from a long lineage of bad boy bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Aerosmith.  Hard rock is based off the blues scale, and when you listen to this record (and especially the Illusion records later) you hear the hard rock blues influence.  But when makes this harder than any of those above bands is a strong infusion of Sex Pistolesque punk rock.  That punk influence is what gave the Guns their edge back when everything else was a crappy glam metal teenage wasteland.

So anyway, this album was out and I wasn’t allowed to listen to it.  But fortunately, the Elusive One dubbed me a copy on a generic blank cassette tape, and I was able to listen to it on my Sony Walkman without mi madre ever knowing.  And that sparked the fire that led to my love of GnR forever after.  I remember on the high school cross country team, at our friend Satan’s insistence (Satan was ironically a good little Catholic boy…with a love for homemade explosive devices) we all got black “skulls of death” bandannas to  wear during practice.  And while we ran our 3.1 mile courses along the Geneva State Park, the Guns would be blasting from everybody’s headphones.  And when the Gear Head and I started deejaying school dances with Black Cloud and the Purple People Eater, we copied the skulls on the cross cover art from this album for our posters…with our own signature ball caps in place of the Guns’ hats of course.  Maximum Overdrive for ever!

And despite all the controversy over the lyrics and the content, this album was musically incredible.  Even though Axl had not developed into the lyricist he would eventually become on the Illusion records, his vocals here are raw and edgy and his wail could peel paint off the wall.  And like a good blues singer, he never sings the same line or chorus the same way twice, always managing to find some new twist vocally to keep things interesting until the very end of the song.  And then there is Slash, the most lyrical guitar player in hard rock.  I have actually seen Slash live twice, once touring in support of Gilby Clarke’s solo record and the other in support of the first Snakepit record.  Both times were at the Newport with a very small crowd, but he didn’t disappoint in either show.  The second time he was about to sign an autograph out back of the Newport when a riot broke out on 12th avenue and the cops started throwing tear gas…at that point Slash and his crew jumped on the tour bus and hightailed it out of town!

But this brings me to my main point about the Guns…the heart and soul of this band was the interplay between Slash and Axl.  Most of these songs end with what amounts to a war between Axl and Slash in which Axl will start improvising and Slash will wind his leads around, through, and over Axl’s voice.  The end of “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child” are the obvious examples, but almost all of the songs end in the same way (and then Axl usually needs to get in the last word with a “yowsa” or a “take that one to heart” or even just a small sigh).  And even the guitar breaks are never status quo in these songs…everytime Slash starts to solo Duff, Izzy, and Steven take the rhythm track to a whole new level, and sometimes even a new key.  No standard sixteen bar solo breaks over the same chord progression as the verse here.  In fact, the song writing, from the song intros to the bridges to the outros is always first rate…nothing is ever repeated exactly the same way, and thus it never gets boring.

Sadly, after this blistering debut, history was not quite kind to the Guns (and since this is the only Guns’ album on the list, I’ma talk about it here).  To appease fan demand for a follow up, they released the double EP “Lies”, which had the hit “Patience” and the controversial “One In A Million”, but really no other new material. And that was it for the classic lineup.   Steven Adler got fired, and then it was three more years until the Illusion albums, which I absolutely love, but which I admit are overproduced and less edgy than “Appetite”.  Then Izzy quit, there was the unspectacular covers record “The Spaghetti Incident?” and that was pretty much it.  Sure, there is a band touring around the country right now with the name Guns N’ Roses, but Axl is the only remaining member and it’s just not the same.

So post GnR, Izzy has been the most prolific with 11 studio albums and a handful of live records.  I’ve heard some of it…it’s decent southern rockabilly, but it’s nothing special.  Duff had a gawd-awful solo record (and another that was so bad it wasn’t released) before reuniting with Matt and Slash for Velvet Revolver (aka Guns N’ Pilots).  Gilby had a decent solo record with “Pawn Shop Guitars”, but its strength was the guest appearances by Slash and Axl.  And as for those two, well, Axl has been mostly a recluse and he took 15 years to release “Chinese Democracy” (which was a decent record).  Slash has been more prolific, releasing 2 albums with two different Snakepit lineups (the first is decent, the second is so bad it has never been re-released is totally out-of-pring, even on iTunes), 2 albums with Velvet Revolver (again, the first is decent and the second bad) and two solo albums (notice a pattern here…the first is okay, the second is horrible).  But sadly, the best singer Slash has worked with since Axl is Fergie (that Myles Kennedy guy just doesn’t cut it) on the song “Beautiful Dangerous” and a cover of “Paradise City”.  So Slash may have Axl in terms of quantity, but not necessarily in terms of quality.

My point is that Axl and Slash need each other.  Like Page and Plant, like Daltrey and Townsend, like Jagger and Richards, hell even like Perry and Tyler, Slash and Axl make up one of the great singer/guitar player duos in rock history.  And they hate each other.  So much so that Axl refused to even show up for their induction into the Rock HoF.  Although, if they did reunite it would probably be disappointing,  it would still be better than the stuff either one has put out over the last 20 years.  The world needs more Guns!  The real Guns, not this fake touring band I call the Fat Axls.

I’ll end by saying that there are about five albums on this list that were real game changers for me in my formative years, and this is one of them (“Nevermind”, “Vitology”, “Ok Computer”, and “Automatic for the People” are the others).  I’ve had this CD about as long as I can remember, and I had it on tape before that.  Welcome to the jungle, baby!

Other lists: “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is #198, “Paradise City” is #459, and “Welcome to the Jungle” is #473 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Guns N’ Roses is #92 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists, Axl Rose is #64 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers, and Saul Hudson (Slash) is #65 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.  Rolling Stone also lists “Appetite” as the #4 debut album of all time, and the #27 album of the 80s.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped one spot from its original position due to the inclusion of CCR’s “Chronicle”.

My favorite track: “Rocket Queen”

Honorable mention: “Mr. Brownstone”

A word from the Princess: “Will listening to this make me a bad-ass?”

Quote 1: “I might be a little young, but honey I ain’t naive”

Quote 2: “Captain America’s been torn apart…now he’s court jester with a broken heart”

Quote 3: “I see you standing there.  You think you’re so cool.  Why don’t you just…F@CK OFF!”