With the news that Guns ‘n Roses are going out on tour, the time seemed appropriate for a listen to their monster 1987 debut Appetite for Destruction. First a little GNR history courtesy of Wikipedia (if such is even needed). Stay tuned near the end for my minor Slash story
In 1984, Hollywood Rose guitarist Izzy Stradlin was living with L.A. Guns guitarist/singer Tracii Guns. When L.A. Guns needed a new vocalist, Stradlin suggested Hollywood Rose singer Axl Rose. Guns N’ Roses was formed in March 1985 by Rose, rhythm guitarist Stradlin, along with L.A. Guns founders lead guitarist Guns, drummer Rob Gardner and bassist Ole Beich.
Their first show, promoted as “L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose presents Guns N Roses,” was on March 26, 1985.After this show, Beich was fired and replaced by Duff McKagan. Guns left the band after an argument with Rose, and plans for an EP release fell through.
Guns was replaced by a former Hollywood Rose member, Saul “Slash” Hudson. Gardner, the last remaining Guns member, quit soon after. Steven Adler, another former Hollywood Rose member, filled Gardner’s spot. The band went on what became known as the Hell Tour of the West Coast because both vans broke down and they had to hitchhike home with only their guitars. The band eventually signed with Geffen for $75,000 as the label promised them artistic freedom.
While the 80’s still had a lot of rock, there were a lot of competing genres and it was starting to lose some ground as the dominant force. I hadn’t recalled hard rock as being a particularly prominent part of that decade. Memory is faulty because it turns out that bands such as AC/DC, Queen, Def Leppard, Motley Cure, Scorpions were big. Van Halen were still popular and Aerosmith made one of their patented returns from the depths.
For all that, the release of Appetite for Destruction in July of 1987 didn’t get a lot of attention in that crowded marketplace. It took a fair amount of doing it the old-fashioned way to make it explode – lots of touring, hit singles, MTV exposure. And explode it did. You heard it fucking everywhere. It topped the Billboard 200 and became the biggest-selling debut album of all time. (To date, it still seems to be.)
According to the design artist, “The cross and skulls (on the cover) that looked like the band was Axl’s idea, the rest was me. The knotwork in the cross was a reference to Thin Lizzy, a band Axl and I both loved.”
Shall we listen to this piece of shit? (Piece of shit being ME’s term of endearment for something he likes.)
First up, what else? “Welcome to the Jungle.” Rose claimed inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man while they were coming out of a bus into New York. Trying to put a scare into the young runaways, the man yelled at them, “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby; you’re gonna die!”
The opening riff is as killer an opening as you’re likely to hear:
My favorite tune on the album is easily “Paradise City.” I love a tune that goes along then pumps up the speed then jacks in a lightning-fast guitar solo. It gets my blood going. I’ve been known to hit speeds of up to 160 if it happens to come on when I’m driving. And that’s just backing out of the driveway. A great tune:
The next song started out life as a “string skipping” exercise by Slash. He was literally just playing an exercise to limber up his fingers and get more dexterity. The band heard it, dug it, and said let’s make it a song. (All songs on the album are credited to the whole band.) Here’s Slash talking about its inception if you’re curious.
Here are the clean-cut lads performing it live right around the time it hit:
BTW, here’s the funniest line from one of the articles I read: “Guns N’ Roses has also received significant criticism throughout the years. The band received criticism for drug and alcohol use in the 1980s and early 1990s.” Really? Stop the presses. A rock band gets wasted regularly unlike all other musicians down through the ages.
My Slash story: Somewhere in the early days, my wife and I went out to dinner at a swank restaurant on the “blueblood streets of Boston.” We ate, left, and then I came back because I’d forgotten our umbrella. When I came in, there was Slash at the maitre d’s desk. His back was to me but the hair and hat were unmistakable.
I must have made a sound because he and the four ladies with him – two on each arm – turned around and looked at me. I’m sure he saw me as some overweight, overaged middle-class suburban nerd. But of course, I was actually looking at him and thinking “Dude. Only four? Is that the best you can do?”
Guns and Roses were inducted (by Green Day) into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Get yer tour dates here. Rose, McKagan, and Slash are back.
- Axl Rose – lead vocals, synthesizer on “Paradise City,” percussion
- Slash – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, talkbox, backing vocals
- Izzy Stradlin – rhythm guitar, lead guitar, backing vocals, percussion
- Duff “Rose” McKagan – bass, backing vocals
- Steven Adler – drums, percussion