Tag Archive: Pearl Jam


I picked this album up in the $5 bin at the Barnes and Noble at Polaris back around the Christmastime.  I had a gift card to B&N that my former boss had given me when I got promoted.  So I did a little Christmas shopping for myself while I was out spreading the holiday cheer.  I don’t know why the cover is so faded on this edition, but it isn’t just my copy.  I recently saw two copies in the used bin at Magnolia’s, and one was the same edition and the cover was faded too.  The other was a different edition and the cover was much brighter.  Oh well.  I try never to judge a CD by its cover anyway…

So this album is very similar to the other Joni Mitchell album, Blue, that I wrote about years ago.  And at the time, I remember mentioning many of the female artists I used to listen to in college that were certainly influenced by Joni.  And of all those artists, Natalie Merchant is the only one I still follow closely.  But the same chiquita who introduced me to Natalie also got me into Tori Amos (at least through her first four albums).  And I would say Tori is the one who most closely resembles Joni Mitchell in style…freeform song structures build around piano with a mix of jazz and classical influences.  And back in the day, when Tori was at the height of her popularity, the gang and I went to see her in concert…

Now, before the world wide interweb became a global phenomenon and people could order concert tickets from the comfort of their own home, people had to go stand in line at some random Ticketmaster outlet to get tickets.  So Tori announced a tour and a show at the Cleveland State Convocation Center (where I saw my very first concert, Pearl Jam) and the tickets were going on sale at 1o AM on Saturday.  So I was living two floors below Lord Bacchus at the time, and he was dating the Twins, who was also into Tori, so the three of us got up early and walked across the alley to the Newport Music Hall box office to get in line to get tickets, except there was no line.  Apparently the college students in the Bus were not as geeked about a Tori show in the Land as we were.  The guy in the ticket booth was an older guy, and he was cool about it and he said he would try to get in the system as soon as the tickets went on sale.  So he starts clicking away right at 10 o’clock and he looks up with a smile on his face and says “I think I just hooked you up!”  Well, we look and he had gotten us three tickets on the right center floor in the third row!

So the day of the concert rolls around and the three of us roll up to C-town.  Now, at the time Black Cloud and the Gear Head still had an apartment on CSU campus right above the YMCA.  Now, Gear Head would not have been caught dead at a Tori Amos concert unless Eddie Van Halen was playing guitar in her band, but Black Cloud had tickets (not sweet third row tickets like we had, but tickets notheless) and L.B.’s younger brother, Middle Bacchus, was also in town for the show.  So we all pre-party at the apartment, and then about an hour before the show we all walked over to the Convo.  At that point the group split up, and L.B., the Twins, and I walked down to the floor to our sweet third row right center seats where we could essentially make eye contact with Tori the entire night while she played the piano.  And it was a pretty awesome show from what I remember of it.  But none of us had cell phones yet, so we were unaware that before the show had even started, Middle Bacchus had purchased a hot dog from the concession stand and had begun to choke on it.  Like choke so seriously that the EMTs were called and he was rushed to the hospital.  Black Cloud strikes again!  So Middle Bacchus missed the whole show.  I don’t remember if Black Cloud went with him to the hospital or not, but I think he did.  In hindsight, its probably a good thing we didn’t have cell phones, or we probably would have felt obligated to leave too.

Other lists: “Help Me” is #288 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped two spots from its original position at #111 due to the rise of Kid A and If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.

My favorite track: “Court and Spark”

Honorable mention: “Free Man in Paris”

A word from the Princess: I like this album.

Quote: ” I deal in dreamers and telephone screamers.  Lately, I wonder what I do it for?  If I had my way, I’d just walk through these doors.”

the-bends

“Anyone can play guitar and they won’t be a nothing anymore” – T. Yorke

It was the spring of 1994 and I had just finished seeing my first real rock and roll show (at least since coming of age).  It was Pearl Jam at the Cleveland State Convocation Center and the story of that life changing event will be told in full when (and if) I ever get to the entry for PJ’s Ten.  But I was there with the Artistic One, and immediately we ran into Lord Bacchus and Lightning 101 inside the arena, and after the show was over and we had all purchased our black bootleg concert T-shirts in the parking lot and had a slice at a nearby establishment, the Artistic One and I jumped in his mother’s blue Chevy Lumina mini-van (his family used to call it the Lumi), and we proceeded to have an experience not unlike the movie Judgement Night (a movie whose soundtrack is more memorable than the movie itself), minus Jeremy Piven of course (nobody died).  But we got lost driving around the east side of the Land for about two hours, which is especially idiotic of us since the freeway ramp to route 90 is literally a block from CSU campus.  But oh well, we were young and dumb and indestructible (and directionally challenged).

So we had a case full of CDs that we had just gotten from BMG and a cassette-adaptor that plugged into the tape deck and a portable CD player powered by the lighter jack, so at least we had music on this impromptu journey (C-town radio is sketchy at best).  By that point we were pretty much PJ’d out (we had listened to them all day, and then they essentially played every track off Ten and Vs plus all the b-sides at the show), and so we decided to branch out into some new material.  And the two albums I remember playing as we wound our way through the boarded up houses and abandoned factories were the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After, which is typically remembered as their best release, and Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, which was generally regarded as their worst album up until TKoL was released.  But at the time, I remember liking Pablo, even if it wasn’t that great.  It still had some really teen angsty defiance (“I am not a vegetable, I will not control myself!”) mixed with a keen sarcastic bite (“I wanna be, wanna be, wanna be Jim Morrison!”).  And I remember quipping that they need some original song titles, as Stone Temple Pilots (ugh) already had a hit with a song called “Creep” and Candlebox had a song called “You” on the charts (oh, the irony!).  But the main problem was Pablo is just kind of noisy.  Radiohead’s “three guitar attack” (remember when Radiohead used to play guitars?) essentially had strings ringing all over the place, and even though there was some Nirvanaesque crunch, it lacked Cobain’s precision.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Lord Bacchus and I had both moved down to the Bus to pursue our higher edumacations and as so often happened, we were spinning some tunes while we threw a few back on the weekend.  He was prolly living in the Briar Patch at the time.  Anyway, at some point he was like “you gotta check this out” and he put on the new Radiohead album (how he always got new tunes first, even before the days of digital file sharing, I still don’t understand).  But he put on The Bends and I just remember being blown away by the whole album.  It was totally unexepected…the little one-hit wonder Britpop band who had largely been overshadowed by Oasis and Blur had suddenly grown up and released one of the best albums I had ever heard.  The songwriting was light years ahead of where it had been on Pablo Honey, and while the lyrics were still pretty angsty, they weren’t teen angsty.  In fact, it resonated pretty well with the college life.  But I think the main thing was that the “three guitar attack” (remember when Radiohead used to play guitars?) had been refined with Thom playing acoustic rhythm, Ed playing electric rhythm, and Jonny doing leads and effects.  The ringing strings and general dissonance had been replaced (mostly) by just very focused and driven guitar work.  I liked it so much, Lord Bacchus dubbed it onto a tape for me (hey, I was a poor college student and I only bought CDs when I found them used) so I could listen to it back in my dorm room.

Eventually I must have bought it, and I must have bought it new because my copy doesn’t have a sticker on it anywhere.  And actually, there is some residue on the case from those stupid long white stickers they still put along the top spine of a new CD.  But regardless, it has remained a treasured album in my collection for 20+ years.  Personally, it is my 2nd favorite Radiohead album (most of the time, but from time to time In Rainbows sneaks up into that #2 spot) and I go back and listen to it quite frequently.  I even have the Collector’s Edition (I pretty much hate all the money grabbing re-releases aimed at my g-g-generation these days), and there are some pretty awesome b-sides and live performances on it.  And the My Iron Lung EP bears mentioning, as it also has some pretty awesome non-album tracks (and also starts the tradition of every Radiohead album having a companion EP).  Only OK Computer eclipses this album in my mind in the Radiohead catalogue, and even then the two are pretty close.  Ironically, The Bends wasn’t a commercial hit, and it didn’t have a hit single nearly as popular as “Creep”, but it’s a true masterpiece and it established Radiohead as a post-grunge force to be reckoned with.

Other lists: “Fake Plastic Trees” is #385 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The Bends also clocks in at #21 on the list of the 100 Best Albums of the Nineties (even though it is above most of the top 20 on this list…way to be consistent Rolling Stone!).

Ch-ch-changes: The fan favorite vs. the critical darling!  Even Radiohead is affected by their own success, this album falling one spot from its original position at #110 due to the critics pushing Kid A up to #67.

My favourite track: “Just”

Honorable mention: “Fake Plastic Trees”

Show: “Street Spirit [Fade Out]”

Quote 1: “You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts is you do it to yourself, just you, you and no-one else.  You do it to yourself.”

Quote 2: “He used to do surgery for girls in the eighties, but gravity always wins, and it wears him out.”

Quote 3: “Blame it on the black star”

Quote 4: “Nice dream.”

 

 

Axis Bold as Love

 

So this was another Used Kids pick up.  I found it there for $5 one day over the summer when I was on campus for class.  The only two songs I knew on it beforehand were “Spanish Castle Music”, which was on the first Guitar Hero game as an instrumental, and “Little Wing”, which quite a few people say is the spiritual predecessor to Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter”.  I’ve read that those two tracks were the only tracks that Jimi actually played live, and that the rest of this album was more of a “studio record” concept.  Actually, after the very experimental opening track, “EXP”, in which the guitar whirls around from speaker to speaker like a UFO flying away, the first true song, “Up From the Skies”, sounds like beatnik jazz.  The lyrics kind of have a spacey, beatnik quality to them too.  But, to get back to “Little Wing”…I wish it was longer.  It’s only 2 1/2 minutes, and for some reason there is a studio fade right when it sounds like Hendrix is about to take the guitar solo to new heights.  It is a great song though, and it does have a very similar sound to “Yellow Ledbetter”, one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs.  Overall, Axis is a cool record with a cool vibe…a bit more experimental than Are You Experienced and a bit less bluesy than Electric Ladyland.

Other lists: “Little Wing” is #366 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  See the entry for Are You Experienced (#15) for Jimi’s other RS accolades.  As far as I can tell, the Jimi Hendrix Experience is the only band (other than maybe the Sex Pistols, who only had 1 album) to have their entire studio output (3 albums) on the Top 500 Albums list (and all in the top 100 to boot).

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped one spot from its original position at #82.  The reason why gets a little complicated: CCR’s Chronicle was added to the list, and Radiohead’s Kid A jumped above it, but the Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle dropped below, for an overall drop of 1 spot.

My favorite track: “Little Wing”

Honorable mention: “Spanish Castle Music”

A word from the Princess: “This is not breakfast music!”

Quote: “White collared conservative flashing down the street, pointing their plastic fingers at me.  They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die, but I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high.”

 

Otis Blue

It’s been awhile, I know.  Too long.  Grad school has been kicking my ass.  Finished the first draft of a 25 page paper yesterday, and while I wait for my professor to rip it apart and send it back for revisions, I thought I’d get back to the Exile.  Been waiting to write about this album for awhile.  I wish I had more to say about it, but I loves me some Otis.  I grew up with Otis around the house (and when I say house, I mean that ugly brown and yellow trailer on Myers Road).  Mi madre is a huge Otis fan, and to this day she is still sad that he died so young.  She played a lot of Otis while I was growing up, and she was forever going on about how great the Stax horn line was and stuff like that.  Otis Redding’s posthumous album, “The Dock of the Bay” was actually one of my first CDs back in the day, but I guess I’ll talk more about that when that album comes up on the list (along with a discussion of Pearl Jam’s stellar cover of that album’s title track).  This album was one I picked up at the Half Price Books on High Street near Worthington a year or so ago.  I snagged it for $6.99 (minus my 10% teacher-of-children discount), and I frequently use it to psyche myself up for work in the morning.

Historically, this album has some gems on it.  There is the original version of “Respect”, which Otis wrote, but of course it was the Aretha version that became famous.  There are some other great Otis originals as well, like “Ole Man Trouble” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, but otherwise it is the covers that stand out.  Chief among them are Otis’ version of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change is Gonna Come”, Smokey Robinson/the Temptations’ “My Girl”, and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”.  All throughout, that famous horn line brings the energy to the music, but it is Otis Redding’s voice that dominates this record.  Otis had none of the smoothness associated with his Motown R&B contemporaries (think the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, young Marvin Gaye, etc.).  No, Otis  was a southern soul artist in the vein of Little Richard and Ray Charles who always seemed to be pushing his voice to the breaking point.  It is that powerful, yet scratchy voice, that made Otis such a stellar musician.  There really isn’t much range to his voice, just pure emotion.  He did most of his own arranging too. It is a shame that his life was cut short so prematurely, but like so many others, I am grateful for the music he gave the world before he died.

Other lists: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” is #111 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Otis is ranked #8 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers and he is #21 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped four spots from its original position at #74 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Radiohead’s Kid A, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and James Brown’s Star Time.

My favorite track: “Ole Man Trouble”

Honorable mention: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”

Quote: “All I’m asking for is a little respect when I come home”

After the Gold Rush

When I was a kid, mi madre would always talk about how much she liked Neil Young.  She would quote lines from his songs a lot, and she would defend him in his ongoing feuds with the members of Crosby, Still, Nash, and occasionally Young (it was just recently that I realized that Young’s love-hate-love relationship with Stephen Stills dates all the way back to their days in Buffalo Springfield).  But I was always pretty much indifferent to Neil Young.  He had some good songs on the radio, but I could never really figure out whether he was a rocker or folk singer (I’m not sure he ever figured out which he is either), so I never really paid much attention.

And then one day back in 1993, Neil Young got up on stage with Pearl Jam at the MTV Music Video Awards, and together they cranked out a kick-ass rendition of “Rockin’ in the Free World”.  And in that moment Neil Young became the Godfather of Grunge and my eyes were opened to his amazing career.  In fact, Neil Young went on to save Pearl Jam (one of my all time favorite bands) from breaking up when all the other nineties bands were disintegrating.  I only know this story from PJs point of view, as told in their PJ20 book, but at some point after the Vitology album, a rift started to develop between Eddie Louis Severson, Jr. and the rest of the band.  Basically, Eddie was having problems dealing with fame and celebrity, and he responded by withdrawing from the spotlight, even going so far as to drive to shows by himself in a beat up van to recapture his “punk rock ethos”.  Well, things hit a head at a show when Eddie was “bitten by a red mosquito” and had to leave the stage.  Fortunately, Neil Young was there that night, and he went on stage with the rest of PJ and finished the show.

At that point, Neil Young took PJ under his wing, and even invited them into the studio to be his substitute Crazy Horse for the Mirror Ball record.  Actually, that was the only Neil Young album I owned prior to this record, and I’m prolly biased because PJ plays on it, but it rocks.  Eddie wasn’t around for many of those sessions because he was dealing with a stalker issue (“I’m going to Lukin’s!”), but when he did stop in, Young contributed to two of my favorite PJ tracks, “I Got Id” and “Long Road” on the companion EP, Merkin Ball.  Young then took PJ, minus Eddie, to Europe with him for a tour in support of the record, giving Eddie some time to get his head right.  When they came back to the states, all was well, and two decades later Pearl Jam is still rockin’ in the free world.

So I guess I was expecting noisy rock ‘n roll Neil Young when I bought this album from Amazon for $4.94, but instead I got the folkier side of Neil Young.  Which is fine, because this album is pretty awesome.  The liner notes say it was inspired by a screenplay to a movie, also titled After the Gold Rush, that was never actually filmed.  I tried to find this screenplay, but apparently it has been lost and doesn’t even exist on the World Wide Interweb.  But I found enough detail to determine that it was an end-of-the-world/apocolypse type movie about a giant tidal wave destroying an artist community in Los Angeles.  Ok.  Sounds fun.  So this was originally going to be the soundtrack for that movie…but in some accounts Neil Young has said that only the title track and “Cripple Creek Ferry” were actually going to be on the soundtrack.  So who knows.  This album is fantastic regardless.  In fact, the title track may be the perfect song…Neil Young singing softly over a beautiful piano melody, lyrics that hint at a topic still relevant today (environmental destruction), and just at the perfect moment, a flugelhorn solo.  Yes, a freaking flugelhorn, and all it does is replay the vocal melody (kinda like a Kurt Cobain guitar solo), but it’s perfect.  Just perfect. Yup, it might be the perfect song (although local band Brainbow has contender for that title with the song “Ymir” from their self-titled 2008 album), and there is a great cover of it sung by Thom Yorke at one of Neil Young’s Bridge School benefit concerts floating around on YouTube.  Check it out. One of the only rockers on this album, “Southern Man” is also pretty great, offering such a scathing view of the south that Lynyrd Skynyrd felt they had to respond, leading to the creation of “Sweet Home Alabama”.  I’ll take the Neil Young song any day, thank you very much.  At least Kid Rock has never done a crappy cover of “Southern Man”…

Other lists: Rolling Stone ranks Neil Young at #17 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, #37 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers, and #34 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped 3 spots from its original position at #71 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Radiohead’s Kid A and Paul Simon’s Graceland.

My favorite track: “After the Gold Rush”

Honorable mention: “Southern Man”

Quote: “Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning.”

Led Zeppelin IV

 

For two years I lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment on Pearl Alley and 13th Avenue right behind the Newport Music Hall.  This was back during my undergraduate years, and Lord Bacchus and his girlfriend du jour lived in the same apartment building two floors above me.  This led to a litany of untold debauchery, mostly involving 40s of Little Kings, bars mistaken for nightclubs, and weekly trips to visit Habib at Convenient One for cases of Honey Brown and Laker Ice.  Well, at some point during those two hazy years of drunkeness (somehow we both still managed to graduate), Lord Bacchus picked up a boxset of remastered Zeppelin albums and decide to unload all of his old Zeppelin albums.  I think he sold most of them to Used Kids or one of the other local record stores, but I wanted this album because at the time I was really into the song “Black Dog”.  So he sold it to me for $5, which was probably a good deal because I have never actually seen it any cheaper used (even at Used Kids it still goes for about $7 on the rare occasion that they have a copy), and it is definitely a better deal than he gave the Artistic One in high school when he traded him a Thurman Thomas rookie card for an Emmitt Smith rookie card.  But I digress…it’s a good copy, but my only issue with it is the original back cover artwork is on the back of the CD booklet and the picture of the hermit has been moved to the back cover.  This has been corrected on the more recent editions of the CD, but I guess I can live with it.

So anyway, this album is legendary, partially due to the song “Stairway to Heaven” (which I first encountered in the movie Wayne’s World when Mike Myers starts to play the opening riff and the guitar clerk stops him…”No Stairway? Denied!”).  But there are lots of other great songs on here as well, including “The Battle of Evermore”, which I first encountered as a cover by the Lovemongers (actually a side-project of the band Heart) on the Singles Soundtrack (best. soundtrack. ever.), and “Misty Mountain Hop”, both of which contain Tolkein/Lord of the Rings allusions.  Actually, “Evermore” seems to combine Tolkein references (“the ring wraiths ride in black”) with Arthurian legend (“I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon”), but regardless it’s a fantastic song.  And because it is Led Zeppelin, there is lots of the electric blues here…especially on “Black Dog” and “When the Levee Breaks”. Of course, there is some controversy over whether or not Pearl Jam ripped off Zep’s “Going to California” with their song “Given to Fly”.  Listening to both back to back, all I have to say is that they are very similar, but the Pearl Jam song goes to places “Going to California” never explores.  And at some point, Robert Plant got on stage with Pearl Jam and sang both songs, so it must be all good.  I just think of it as a tribute…kinda the same way Kenny Wayne Shephard was playing tribute to Pearl Jam when he wrote “While We Cry”, which blatantly rips off “Yellow Ledbetter”, which in turn pays homage (somewhat) to Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing”.  It’s all a cycle, man.  Oh wait, there’s a bustle in my hedgerow…gotta go.  Happy Independence Day peeps.

Other lists: “Stairway to Heaven” is #31 and “Black Dog” is #300 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Also, “Stairway to Heaven” is #2, “Black Dog” is #3, “When the Levee Breaks” is #8, “Misty Mountain Hop” is #10, “Going to California” is #11, and “The Battle of Evermore” is #17 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin songs.

Ch-ch-changes: This album was leapfrogged by Radiohead’s Kid A and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, and with the addition of CCR’s Chronicle, it fall three spots from its original spot of #66 on the 2003 list.

My favourite track: “Black Dog”

Honourable mention: “Stairway to Heaven”

A word from the Princess: “Can I take the elevator [to heaven] instead?”

Quote: “There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure…’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings”

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!”