You know where you are? You're in the JUNGLE, BABY.
The year was 1987. Synth pop was riding higher on the charts than ever, and hair bands had established themselves as the torchbearers of a commercially viable brand of heavy metal. For those who cannot remember those times, I'll paint the picture. In October of 1986, Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet entered the charts at number one. Most would be willing to point out that it was the smash success of this release in particular which ushered in what are now regarded to be the helicon days of hair metal. Def Leppard would answer back in 1988 with Hysteria. Here we find the proverbial door opening for the heyday to come--- Whitesnake, Great White, Warrant, Poison, Winger, White Lion, et al. In 1987, "The Final Countdown" and "Carrie" (the band Europe) were on constant radio rotation. A few years prior to 1987, Def Leppard and Ratt had first exposed mainstream culture to hair metal, through their respective hits "Photograph" and "Round and Round". Poison was on the verge of breaking in a huge way. Motley Crue had recently embarked upon their foray into the exciting world of lip gloss and pink bandanas. Pants were becoming tighter, and of the spandex variety. Hairstyles were monumental haystacks of over-moussed, over-bleached, and over-teased manes.
Of course acts like Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth were flexing their thrash muscles underneath heavy metal's glossy, permed veneer--- but neither of these, at the time, were playing music that was designed to sell 12,000,000+ copies. These were not sounds that were destined for the ears of the mainstream.
Every once in a great while, though, an album which by virtue of its sound and subject matter was clearly never intended for vast mainstream success breaks through that impenetrable wall.
Those who were around in 1987 witnessed such a phenomenon. Guns N' Roses' first full length release, Appetite for Destruction, achieved that insurmountable task. Most never give pause, and think about it, but Appetite for Destruction was never meant to become fused into our pop culture ethos. Really. It did though, and it did it in giant strides. For starters, the image of the band (GNR) who formed in 1985 did not follow suit with the hair metal aesthetic: no spandex, no eyeshadow, no alabaster smiles, and no lavender boots with spiked heels.
Perhaps more important than that, in regards to the mainstream appeal of Appetite for Destruction, was the subject matter of the music itself. Of course hair metal bands were quick to pen odes that pandered to sex, drugs, and the Rock star lifestyle--- but with Appetite for Destruction, the world listened on as Axl Rose and company showed them the dark side of that equation. The mood of this album is ugly and confrontational. Its all the dirt and grit that can't be washed off. It takes you on a musical tour through the urban sprawl, neon, smog, and alleyways of Los Angeles in the 1980s. Plainly speaking, Appetite for Destruction was not the gloss and glitz of the well-groomed houses in the hills. The party all night anthems of sex, drugs and Rock n' Roll had been swapped with prostitution, heroin addiction, alcoholism, crime, paranoia, and poverty. Add to that some of the meanest, lip quivering Rock and Roll guitar licks imaginable--- courtesy of axemen Slash and Izzy Stradlin--- and Appetite for Destruction was the perfect recipe: a loud, booze-soaked, pentatonic buzzsaw, smeared from cover to cover with the guts of the LA streets.
... and something in all of that caused millions to flock to it.
By 1988, Appetite for Destruction was part of the vernacular of every bar, rock publication, school corridor, and city block from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This unlikely contender was upseating all of the synth pop-driven favorites--- thanks in no small part to the timeless ballad "Sweet Child O' Mine", which boasted (arguably) one of the most memorable guitar solos ever played throughout five decades of Rock and Roll. "Sweet Child O' Mine" hit number one in September of 1988, but Appetite for Destruction yielded up three other songs that pushed well into the coveted top 100--- "Welcome to the Jungle", "Paradise City", and the cooler than-thou booze anthem "Nightrain".
The end result is one of Rock's greatest albums. I write that without hesitation.
Most of us simply don't appreciate how rare it is for an album such as Appetite for Destruction to reach up and defy the monopoly of mainstream pop culture, and slap it around a bit. To me, this is perhaps its most unique achievement. I saw it happen again when I was fifteen , with the release on Nirvana's Nevermind in 1991.
I do not believe that I have observed such a phenomenon since, either.
Perhaps we are long overdue for another crack to the gum chomping head of mainstream pop's domination of the charts, but the perfect musical alignments that took place and brought us Appetite for Destruction don't follow any timetable that I know of.
Indeed, such musical alignments are one chance in a million.
Hungry For Somethin' That I Haven't Had Yet
By Keavin Wiggins
In December of 2003 I wrote an editorial that covered my introduction to Appetite for Destruction along with a little bit of the album's history; how it took a year for it to catch on and if it had been released today it would flop because the current mentality of labels would never have given it a chance to catch on like Geffen did back in 1987/88.
There is a big reason why the album finally did catch on in a big way; it was a landmark recording and every song offers something a little different. Part of the appeal is the swagger and attitude of the music. Another part is the unique mix of Slash's guitars and Axl's voice. Another often over looked but big part of the appeal was Izzy's songwriting! But I think the reason it stood out so much was because it bucked the system. Here was a band that (supposedly) tried the glam track and found it lacking and instead took a new road all their own; mixing metal with punk and creating that unbelievable Guns N' Roses sound. There was nothing like them on MTV at the time. A few followers came after but none came close to GNR, because they had something you just couldn't pinpoint and copy (Just ask Dangerous Toys). The biggest thing that set the band apart was the fact that it was music from the streets. It wasn't all about gloss and glam, it was the struggles of underworld put on tape by a group of misfits that didn't care about the rules of the music business or latching on to a trend to get a deal.
The album still resonates today. It was the complete package from start to finish. To steal the overused cliché, it was all killer and no filler. But the thing that I also think of when I listen to it (which is still quite often) if that it's honest. That honesty is what made the band standout and makes this album still standout. That honesty landed the album in the landmark category along with other essential albums because the band just didn't give a f**k and they put that attitude to music. While the subsequent work of the band was head and shoulders above most other bands, I don't think they could ever top Appetite. Fame and success changes people but the guys that recorded this album really were hungry and had a real Appetite for Destruction. It comes through loud and clear with every note. Slash still has his unbelievable style, Izzy knows how to write a song and Axl has his unmistakable voice, but even if they reformed today, they could never reach back into the streets and create an album like this again. And that's a good thing because this album should stand on its own.
People always say we need another Nirvana to shake up the business. I agree with that in a sense, we have plenty of bands trying to be the next Nirvana but they miss the core of what made Nirvana special and what set GNR apart too. They didn't give a damn. And you can't replicate that with a plan for making it big or trying to be anything that you're not. I say we need another Guns N' Roses and another Appetite for Destruction. Not something that sounds like it, but a band that comes out of nowhere like GNR did in 1987, breaks all the rules and shows people that honest music can still be fashioned despite the gloss and manipulation of the MTV/Major label hit factory mentality. It would be a lot tougher for this to happen today because we don't have a David Geffen to take chances like we did in 1987 and 91 with GNR and Nirvana. But wouldn't it be nice to have an honest to God landmark album like this again? I don't know about you but I'm hungry for somethin' that I haven't had yet.
Sound of The American Dream Gone Horribly Wrong
By Zane Ewton
It is amazing Appetite for Destruction has sold so many albums. It is way too ugly, rude, hateful and rough to have sold 15 million copies. The Bee Gees sell 15 million not a greasy, misogynistic rock band scraped from the underbelly of L.A. Appetite is the sound of the American dream gone horribly wrong and we have embraced it with open arms.
The record went by unnoticed until "Sweet Child O' Mine" became a fixture on radio and MTV. This song, and the accompanying video, was the perfect introduction to the band and served as a softened primer for what the album would reveal.
Like the anticipation of inching up the rollercoaster, "Welcome to the Jungle" grabs you at the intro and then the insanity doesn't end for 12 tracks of undeniably great rock and roll songs. This record feels like Guns N' Roses took everything they knew from Aerosmith and The Sex Pistols and made it louder, faster and better. Rock and Roll was meant to be dangerous, but this was the first time the danger felt real. The songs were too real and painted a picture of an urban city with no redeeming values and complete mental and emotional decay.
But more important than that the guitars were electrifying. Slash and Izzy played in a way that would make a kid want to steal a guitar and bash it with every huge riff and blistering solo. Every song is outstanding. Of course, "Welcome to the Jungle", "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise City" became classic songs, but there's no getting around "It's So Easy", "Nightrain", "Mr. Brownstone" are also perfect blasts of rock fury.
There are three rock records that stand as favorites of everybody, no matter what their tastes in music. Appetite, Back in Black, and Metallica's black album are the three albums everybody loves. Yet, none of them are as loud, gritty or visceral as Appetite. It is a benchmark album and nothing has topped it since. Axl Rose's life seems consumed with outdoing Appetite, but it is just too perfect.
Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
Release Date: July 21, 1987
Reached No. 1 on Billboard Charts: July 23, 1988
Top 10 Singles (U.S.): "Welcome to the Jungle" - "Sweet Child of Mine" - "Paradise City"
1. Welcome To The Jungle
2. It's So Easy
4. Out Ta Get Me
5. Mr. Brownstone
6. Paradise City
7. My Michelle
8. Think About You
9. Sweet Child O' Mine
10. You're Crazy
11. Anything Goes
12. Rocket Queen
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