28 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses Revitalize Rock ‘n’ Roll With Their Debut Album, ‘Appetite for Destruction’
Before all the drama, Guns N’ Roses were a kick-ass little rock ‘n’ roll band. During that initial blast, they created one of the most iconic, not to mention bestselling, debut albums of all time, Appetite for Destruction.
Though the Guns N’ Roses story began with a bit of the same hairspray and eye liner as many of the Sunset Strip rockers pulling pretty faces at the time, they were one step ahead of the pack and knew they didn’t want to end up another dime-a-dozen dress up band. Street smarts, swagger and the right amount of dirt replaced the glam and put Guns N’ Roses front-and-center in the world of hard rock.
After the independent release of the Live Like a Suicide EP in 1986, the buzz on the band was building and major labels came calling. Geffen Records won the prize. After the initial idea of having Paul Stanley produce the album was axed, the band hooked up with producer Mike Clink who would shape the sonic attack of Appetite for Destruction for mass consumption.
The band had an impressive arsenal of 12 great tunes for their debut. From the opening rumble of “Welcome to the Jungle” through the final notes of “Rocket Queen,” it’s a full-on maximum hard rock ‘n’ roll ride. Songs like “Mr. Brownstone,” “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Nightrain” were far removed from the sleaze-n-grind, “hey baby” lyrics of bands like Poison and Motley Crue, and musically, the band was blistering. With the rock=solid rhythm section of Steven Adler and Duff McKagan, and the twin guitar attack of Slash and Izzy Stradlin, the music alone was a dynamic tour de force. Then there’s Axl Rose. Love him or hate him, there is no doubt his vocal style added the fuel to their fire.
Appetite for Destruction was a massive success, spawning three Top 10 hits (“Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and “Paradise City”) and ultimately selling more than 18 million copies. The original Robert Williams cover art was a headline grabber as well, and was banned for “violent content,” and later replaced with a different image.
In an interview with Triple M Radio, Slash recalled the writing of material for Appetite: “The songs happened so quickly, they almost wrote themselves, honestly,” he said. “I know that [Axl] was always very, very conscientious of the lyrics and might have spent some more time with the lyrics, but the actual arrangements and the music itself would come together within an hour.”
So what does Slash think about his landmark debut these days? “Appetite is not what you’d call a favorite record — it’s a good record,” he said, “But to me it’s still that record that we made at the time when all that s— was happening. I don’t see it as being the big record that other people see it as. I’m too close to it.”
In a 1988 MTV interview, Rose said, “I just want to bury Appetite. I like the album, but I’m sick of it. … I don’t want to live my life through that one album.” Time would prove that to be difficult as the band, in whatever form, would arguably never top it.
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