Featured Album – Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘n Roses

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:

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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.

Appetite personel

  • 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

30 thoughts on “Featured Album – Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘n Roses

  1. Yeah, these guys. I recall introducing these cats to my pals back in my hometown on the bald ass prairies on a trip home back in ‘87. My job was done.

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    1. I would consider going to see them. They’re here in Boston in August. And while yes, I’m vaccinated, I’m not quite yet ready to be around 35,000 people.

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  2. Guns ‘N Roses had some great songs illustrating you can combine guitar-driven heavy metal with decent melodies, so it can be more than just loud and fast music.

    I dig all of the tunes you highlighted. If I had to pick one, it would probably be “Child o’ Mine,” though “Paradise City” is also a great rocker, as is “Welcome to the Jungle.”

    I also have to say that after listening to these three tunes in a row and pretty much any other three Guns ‘N Roses tracks, I feel like I have to a break from Axl Rose’s distinct vocals. After a while, I simply find it hard to listen to his voice. For that reason, I don’t think I’d spend the money to see them live.

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    1. Yeah, I get that a lot of people don’t dig his voice. But then there are some for whom Plant’s voice is chalk on a blackboard. It’s never really occurred to me at all to see them live .But with them having been gone so long, it seems like an event. But as I said to Jeff, no way am I squeezing into Fenway Park with 35,000 people this year, not even for Bruce or McCartney.

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  3. I first remember seeing the video for Welcome to the Jungle as part of a promo for Clint Eastwood’s last Dirty Harry movie? And thinking these guys are the real deal.

    The quote re: them using alot of drugs and alcohol – I remember articles where “friends” were concerned that they were partying so hard that they might make the axiom “Live Hard die young” come true – of course that might have been part of the hype machine.

    I still remember walking across a college quad and hearing the opening of Sweet Child O Mine coming from a window and being blown away – that’s a great story about its origins.

    All in all, one of the iconic albums of the 80s (and I didn’t even include any of these songs in my best songs of 80s comment post on Aphoristical’s post!

    Great story about your encounter with Slash!

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    1. Yeah, these guys played hard and lived hard. To a certain extent they were projecting that bad boy rock and roll image. But to a certain extent they were living it. LA to this day still has a distinct hard rock bent to its bands.

      As to my encounter with Slash, they literally did all turn around and look at me. Under the circumstances, I think it felt just too awkward to say anything. I probably would have blurted out, “Slash, you’re my biggest fan” in a high, squeaky voice and the girls would have giggled. and rolled their eyes. Never have I felt so suburban, probably in my khakis and polo shirt. But I’ll never forget the four women. Fans? Ladies of the evening? Don’t know.

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  4. Man, no matter how often I hear this album it just doesn’t get old. Loads of great stuff there – not a minute of it wasted, either. The riffs are great… not just Slash, but the sparring with Izzy. Perfect.

    And not only my gateway to loads of other great rock bands, but it introduced me to the art of Robert Williams (whose In the Pavilion of the Red Clown, Art’s Triumph Over Substance and Hot Rod Race are some of the most impressionable, powerful and lasting pieces of art I’ve looked at).

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        1. Far from a one hit wonder. So much good stuff. Try out ‘Stellazine Blues’ in that car of yours. Cops will pull you over just to ask “What is that good shit you’re playing?”

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        2. I gave that a listen. Yeah, baby, it gets the Doc’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’ seal of approval. Next time I take a drive to Beverly Hills, instead of knockin’ the jockeys off of rich people’s lawns I think I’ll spin the whole album. It’s got some of that (fellow Southerners) Black Crowes feel.

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        3. Rogers vocals can be a hurdle for folks (not me). Charlie on guitar is just flat out awesome. Just a band a really dig Doc. They chose me. I think they went in all sorts of musical directions so it was hard for people to pin them down. Glad it got your stamp. Frank and you are not allowed in Beverly Hills..

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        4. I could. I loved the guy. Supposedly a great sense of humor. Didnt take that Hollywood shit to serious. He did all those Bible flicks. Plus he was Samson Doc . And just thought of it, he was Doc Holiday also. I know my Vic shit.

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        5. “My Darling Clementine.” John Ford. Sure. Haven’t seen that in a hundred years. BTW, back on that “Midnight Cowboy” book. Based on what CB said about wanting to read about the moviemaking details and less on the gossip, I’m pretty sure he would dig it. It’s a wonder Schlesinger didn’t implode. He did the Peter Finch “Sunday Bloody Sunday” too, BTW if you remember that one.

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        6. Sure do. Finch was a great actor. I have a great Ford bio. Revisit to see what he thought of working with Vic and vice versa. From Streetwalkers to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” not bad.

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