Last Saturday, July 21st, marked the 25th anniversary of Appetite For Destruction and it’s every bit important as you think it is. I remember five years ago when it turned 20, I got excited at the commemorative issue of Rolling Stone that was staring me in the face as I guzzled my slurpee at 7-Eleven. What I’m saying is that I love this album and hold it dear to my heart. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Slash’s guitar lick in “Paradise City” and how I had to learn it, immediately. I was 16 and convinced that this was the only band that mattered. I wanted to be Slash, sound like him, look like him and be in Guns ‘N Roses. I still own a Gibson Les Paul and use to have a Marshall amplifier. I first got hold of the album through a CD I borrowed-to-own from a friend and I played it until it could play no more, which thankfully was never. All I knew was that I had never before heard anything like it and wouldn’t ever again.
To talk about Appetite you need to acknowledge the city and culture that spawned the members of this band, Los Angeles. A city of excess, the music scene at the time, particularly Rock, was dominated by Hair Metal, a genre that to this day makes me cringe. It was so over commercialized and watered down, trying to be tough when the groups were wearing neon spandex and their mothers make-up. Then here comes this band full of degenerates, drug addicts and sociopaths who decided that they will begin to own Los Angeles, Hollywood and the music clubs that graced the Sunset Strip. The music sounds so raw and hard because that was how their lifestyle was. Geffen Records, who had given the band a $75,000 advance and bought them a house (that was famously trashed) was worried constantly that the $370,000 they had invested in the making of this album would be a waste. They feared that at eventually one of the members would OD. Surprisingly, all five original members of the band are alive today and no one, not even God knows how.
Appetite is a pure force of an album, like a train that picks up speed and never stops, not caring what get’s in it’s way. The opening track, “Welcome To The Jungle”, which we all know from being overplayed on classic rock radio, is still a helluva ride and a great way to start the album. Then you have the punk rock infused “It’s So Easy” that goes right into blues rocker “Nightrain”. The paranoid narrative of “Out ta Get Me” and the Bo Diddly shuffle of “Mr. Brownstone” a song that Axl wrote in response to the growing drug problem of two members of the group, particularly Izzy Stradlin and Slash. Even “My Michelle”, which the band said was inspired by Elton John’s “Your Song”, is an awesome example of tough as nails rock. The sleaze of “Anything Goes” and “Rocket Queen” represent the sex culture that was prominent in the 80’s rock scene, especially in L.A., which the members of Guns ‘N Roses had no shame taking advantage of (see also The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2). And of course we all know their hit ballad “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and the awful cover version that Sheryl Crow did.
The impact that this had, being a debut album, propelled the band to superstar status immediately. They were touring with bands such as The Cult, Iron Maiden and Aerosmith and were garnering more attention than they were. It was the combination of the personalities of the band that created the sounds of this album and it could never be done again. Sure, I love G N’ R Lies and the Use Your Illusion albums too but, they’re just not the same. They could never match the ferocity of Appetite. You can hear how bad the band wants to be huge, it comes right through the music. Everyone had something to prove on this album and they did, that no other band in the 80’s Hard Rock/Metal scene could challenge them whether musically or in a brawl. In the years that have passed we’ve seen Axl try to carry his new lineup of G’nR, with admirable attempt but it’s just not the same. When his ego became too big and he felt that he had so much power, Axl Rose took control of the original Guns into his hands and decided that if he didn’t get things his way than it would affect everyone. Reading the biography of the band was like watching the collapse of Rome, you knew it had to happen but didn’t want the good times to end. If Slash and Axl can ever get over their differences and the original band reunites, would it be worth it? Absolutely.
Here’s a video of the band in its heyday. Note the outfit change from Axl, the intensity everyone plays with and the awesomeness of Slash.