A Snapshot of a Bygone Era: Looking Back at Guns N’ Roses Debut, Appetite For Destruction

All images courtesy of Guns N’ Roses Facebook (official)

Appetite For Destruction is the 1987 debut album by Guns N’ Roses, an LA-based band that was formed in 1985.

The original lineup consisted of Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Tracii Guns (of LA Guns), Rob Gardner, and Ole Beich. The band’s namesake came from combining LA Guns and Hollywood Rose (Izzy Stradlin’s band at the time). After their first show, Beich was fired and replaced by Duff McKagan.

Following an argument with Axl Rose, Tracii Guns left the band and was replaced by a young ax-slinger named Saul Hudson AKA Slash. Finally, Rob Gardner left too, and Stephen Adler took his place behind the drumkit. This is the lineup most of us are familiar with, and the one that would go on to make Hard Rock and Heavy Metal history through debauchery and infamy.

All images courtesy of Guns N’ Roses Facebook (official)

Before the release of their debut record, Guns N’ Roses had released a four-song EP, Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide. The EP contained covers of “Nice Boys” by Rose Tattoo along with Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin.” It also included two original songs “Reckless Life,” and “Move To The City.” This was partially done to appease the band’s record company, Geffen Records.

The recording of their debut included sessions with various producers, including Spencer Proffer, with who they recorded nine songs. One of these tracks, “Shadow Of Your Love,” was used as a b-side initially, but was re-recorded, and released as a single in 2018. Ultimately, Mike Clink was chosen as the producer for the album.

Appetite For Destruction was released in 1987 and initially, the album generated very little attention. The original cover art was an image based on the painting “Appetite For Destruction” by Robert Wiliams, but was changed after some retailers refused to stock the album due to the controversial subject matter. The image was however still used on the inner sleeve. The replacement cover art was a cross with the members of the band as skulls on it.

The original cover art for Appetite For Destruction/All images courtesy of Guns N’ Roses Facebook (official)

After pressure from Geffen Records, MTV finally started to play the video for “Welcome To The Jungle” sparsely. Even so, despite minimal airplay, after a short time, “Welcome To The Jungle” became a much-requested video. After the release of their debut, Guns N’ Roses toured relentlessly, garnering an opening slot for The Cult on their Electric Tour.

I was able to catch the band on this tour, which to date is the only time I’ve ever seen them live. At the time, I had no idea who they were, but one of my friends was quite excited that they were opening. I was there for The Cult. What I do recall from the show was Slash’s hat, Axl’s purple leather pants, and the cover of “Knockin’ On Heavens Door” they performed. Also, during The Cult’s show, Ian Astbury was arrested for attacking a security guard, and a riot broke out.

As far as Appetite For Destruction goes, it is made up of twelve great tunes that come at you uninterrupted. Side one is labeled “G” instead of “A,” and Side two is “R” instead of “B.” You’ve got the “Guns” side and the “Roses” side. The “Guns” side features songs about drugs and city life, whilst the “Roses” side is about sex and relationships.

The replacement cover for Appetite For Destruction/All images courtesy of Guns N’ Roses Facebook (official)

The songs on the “Guns” side include “Welcome To The Jungle,” which is something Axl Rose heard a homeless guy yell at him, and a friend while getting off the bus in New York. “Mr. Brownstone” is a song about the members of the band’s struggles with heroin. “Out To Get Me” is about Axl Rose’s run-ins with the law when he was young.

The “Roses” side contains “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which was the biggest hit on the album, and is about Rose’s then-girlfriend, Erin Everly (daughter of The Everly Brothers, Don Everly). “My Michelle” and “Think About You” are also songs about girls. “Anything Goes,” a song about sex is next. The “Roses” side ends with the track “Rocket Queen,” which perhaps sounds like it could be about a relationship with an older woman.

The singles from the album were “Welcome To The Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “It’s So Easy,” “Mr. Brownstone,” “Nightrain,” and “Paradise City.” The songs “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and “Welcome To The Jungle,” in particular, were helped by the videos that ended up in heavy rotation on MTV.

The band followed this up with G N’ R Lies, and then, the double albums, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. Still, to some, Guns N’ Roses debut record, Appetite For Destruction, remains their most quintessential release. Retrospectively, the album is more than solid, from top to bottom, without any feeling of being bloated.

All in all, Appetite For Destruction is a top album. It really holds up and doesn’t feel dated, while still being very representative of Hard Rock music in the late 80s.

All images courtesy of Guns N’ Roses Facebook (official)

Interested in learning more about Guns N’ Roses’s seminal debut album, Appetite For Destruction? Check out the link below:

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Surface Noise, by John Siden, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/surface-noise-archives/

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