Appetite For Destruction: Watch you bleed

At the beginning the band was hungry to succeed at any and all costs. They worked hard, played hard, and had plenty to write about.

Appetite for Destruction: where do we begin when describing this album? Let’s start from the beginning; five guys who would go onto change the sound of Rock ‘N’ Roll forever. Guns n’ Roses was not a manufactured 80’s pop metal act in the likes of Poison or Ratt. GNR was more of a street gang than a rock ‘n’ roll act. They had the rawness that was desperately lacking from music at the time of synth-pop and poodle metal that ruled the airwaves during the 80’s.

The times they were changin’.

When AFD was released in ’87 it was a slow burner, meaning the album did not immediately take off.  Then the video for “Welcome to the Jungle” was released to MTV and put into heavy rotation, thus catapulting the albums popularity.  With the release of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, as the next single, the album took of like a rocket. AFD has since gone 18x platinum and has sold in excess of 28 million copies worldwide and remains that top selling debut album of all time.

They had a singer that wailed like Robert Plant after drinking too much whiskey and smoking far too many cigarettes, a rhythm section that could swing with propulsive intent, a lead guitarist in Slash that could rival the greats such as Jimmy Page and Joe Perry, and a rhythm guitarist in Izzy who had the coolness and swagger of a younger Keith Richards. With the sheer raw talent of the lineup and the band’s songwriting chops, it was no wonder GNR came then conquered, then imploded under the weight of Axl’s massive ego and the bands frustration with having to deal with it. But at the beginning the band was hungry to succeed at any and all costs. They worked hard, played hard, and had plenty to write about.

With seeds planted in Punk, Glam, and Classic Rock, Guns N’ Roses managed to blend these influences and come out with something wholly original. Sure you can hear Aerosmith, the Sex Pistols, and The Stones in their music, but Guns N’s Roses has always sounded like Guns N’ Roses. I often describe AFD as the sound of the late 70’s in a bar fight with the Sex Pistols and Nazareth jumped in for fun, with the fight ending on Led Zeppelin’s Learjet. The band had the chops of Aerosmith, the snotty attitude of the Sex Pistols, and the sand-paper rock vocal styling’s of Nazareth and Rose Tattoo.

“Welcome to the Jungle” opens the album with a serpentine riff that coils around Axl’s introductory scream like a rattle snake posing to attack. Then BOOM we are off in running full swing when the band joins the party. Steven Adler cleverly playing behind the beat (much like John Bonham had on many a Zeppelin classic). It is this lack of exact tempo, along with Duff McKagan’s inventive bass lines that allow the song to breathe and groove the way it does. Axl wrote WTTJ about NYC. Upon exiting the greyhound bus that brought the singer from his home state to New York City, Axl was greeted by a street urchin whom uttered the now classic line “welcome to the jungle, you’re gonna die!”

Track 3. “Night Train” opens with a count off on cowbell from Adler followed by the harmonized twin guitar intro courtesy of Slash and Izzy (man, they even had the rock star names!) Axl raps on the bands penchant for the Night Train which is cheap wine that offers a cheaper buzz. If drinking Night Train was the main ingredient behind the genius of AFD, I recommend that all rock bands drop what they are doing now and go stock up ASAP.

It has been well documented that the band (mostly Slash, Izzy and Steven) were fond of hanging out with Mr. Brownstone (aka heroin). So, by obeying the old motto that you should write about what you know, we have Track 5 “Mr. Brownstone”.  The track begins with a Bo Didley-esque beat played on the toms by Adler, then followed by a riff that Jimmy Page would be proud of. “Mr. Brownstone” finds Axl singing about his bandmate’s penchant for the brown stuff, singing in a lower range this time, almost in a baritone throughout.

Track 9. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” begins with an immediately unique and highly memorable riff that Slash came up with while joking around at rehearsal one day. The song was written about Axl’s then girlfriend Erin Everly. Axl has gone on record sayting that he wanted to write an authentic-sounding love song in the vein of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “SCOM” succeeds in its sincerity, however an ominous sense of doom dominates the track during the last half of the track, in which Axl repeats the refrain “where do we go, where do we go now?” with each repeat of the refrain becoming more and more intense. It is almost if Axl knew the relationship was doomed from the start.

Track 12. “Rocket Queen,” the epic album closer. This track was written by Axl about a friend whom was looking to form a band she would dub “Rocket Queen.” The lusty sounds heard during the middle breakdown, well those where real, and recorded live in the studio between Axl and Steven Adler’s girlfriend at the time. According to band legend, Adler promptly dumped her after her recording debut.

Every groove, every note, every nuance of Appetite for Destruction is ingrained in my mind. To this day when I listen to AFD and the album refuses to become stale and/or dated. The Appetite for Destruction line up of GNR were five guys who wanted to take over the world. And for a few years they were the biggest band in the world.

GNR had lived the songs they wrote with an immediacy and intensity not seen since in the rock genre. Axl’s ego would blow up and he would start writing 7 plus minute epics better suited for Elton John than GNR. But AFD is the album that cemented the band in Rock ‘N’ Roll history, an album that continues to sell 1 million plus copies a year.

Tied up, tied down, up against the wall-Be my rubber made baby-An’ we can do it all ~ Anything Goes

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