Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses

Released July 21, 1987 this debut album took almost a full year to crack the Billboard Top 200. It then went to #1 and became the best-selling debut album of all time as well as the eleventh best-selling album of all time with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. Although critics originally were ambivalent toward the album, Appetite for Destruction has since received retrospective acclaim and been viewed as one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2018, it was re-released as a remastered box set to similar acclaim.

Jason: Do you remember when they first hit big? It seemed like “Welcome to the Jungle” was on MTV a lot.

Brad: I totally remember. I didn’t have MTV at the time but I remember being at friends houses watching MTV Top 20 Video Countdown. I remember the video for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” being on much more often than “Welcome to the Jungle”.

Jason: I bet this album got a lot of play in the Watson household. Probably from your brothers. 

Brad: Actually, I think I’m the one who played it the most. I love it! “Welcome to the Jungle” is one of my all-time favorite rock songs. I never get sick of it.

Jason: Really? That surprises me. Were you a headbanger in high school? This album was #6 on the Billboard top 200 for 1988. I guarantee you had the 5 ahead of it (Bad, Kick, Hysteria, Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, and #1 – Faith.) So I am surprised you played this more than Mark or Brian.

Brad: I had all six of those albums! I wouldn’t call myself a headbanger. I liked a lot of different styles of music and had phases in the 80s where I was really into R&B and Hard-Rock. 

Jason: Your eclectic music taste has remained. Have you seen GnR in concert before? 

Brad: Yes, twice. I saw them in 1992 near Detroit when they had their ill-fated tour with Metallica & Faith No More. Those were the days when you weren’t sure if Axl was going to show up. Faith No More opened the show. Then Metallica played. Both of them were on time. Then we waited at least 2 hours for Guns to hit the stage. In that 2 hours, the Jumbotron cameraman would point the camera at women throughout the crowd and it never failed, they always flashed their breasts. It was a very strange thing to watch for 2 hours. But then Guns N’ Roses finally hit the stage and I thought they sounded great. I saw them again on their reunion tour a couple years ago and they sounded even better. So I’m lucky that I’ve seen them twice and they sounded good because I’ve heard so many horror stories.

Jason: You know that if I had been there I would have gone insane waiting 2 hours between acts. Axl is/was really unpredictable for a while.

Brad: Yes. So unpredictable. I googled the setlist of the show I went to in 1992. And it said that Axl threw up on stage and then left the stage for several songs. I totally forgot about that!

Jason: What a mess. Well, they did have a reputation. In fact most heavy metal bands in the 1980s perpetuated that type of stereotype or behavior. Would you consider GnR a hair metal band? I would not but I think they get lumped in there sometimes because Slash and Duff sometimes had big hair but GnR’s music is much better than those of those other bands.

Brad: I don’t really think of them as hair metal. I think because it seemed like hair metal died when Nirvana’s “Nevermind” came out in 1991 but Guns N’ Roses weathered that transition and still had some hits after that.

Jason: Notably some ballads with odd videos. I’ll let people research and watch the November Rain video. But back to this album. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” has one of the most memorable and classic opening guitar licks in music history. Just two notes in and you know what the song is.

Brad: I agree. In fact, that was the big thing I was noticing about this album when re-listening this week. So many of their songs have such iconic openings. Including, “Paradise City”, “Welcome to the Jungle” & “It’s So Easy”. I love that. It makes you recognize the song right away and get excited to hear it. Or at least I’m excited to hear it.

Jason: You know what song I really like from this album? “Mr. Brownstone”. I like how they make the word “more” have 2-3 syllables. When I listen to this I feel like their music was a bit of a throwback to the 70s rock bands but also pushing the rock-metal genre forward. Maybe that’s why they lasted longer than some other 80s heavy metal bands that all sounded alike. Plus Axl has a weird voice. By the way is he singing lead on “Mr. Brownstone”?

Brad: I love that song too. Yeah, Axl sings lead on that but Slash & Izzy wrote it about their own drug habits.

Jason: The reason I ask is because Axl’s voice is usually screechy but in that song it’s a lower register. This album holds up really well. 

Brad: I agree. I think this album still sounds great. Axl’s voice is really strange but it is so memorable. It reminds me a little of AC/DC which is interesting because Axl filled in as lead singer for AC/DC a couple years ago. He was going back and forth playing dates with them and with Guns N’ Roses. So it really seems like Axl has gotten his act together because that would be difficult for any performer. Let alone one with Axl’s track record. 

Jason: Time will tell if he can sustain it. So what letter grade do you give this album?

Brad: This remains one of my favorites after all these years. So I have to give it an A.

Jason: Axl adds syllables and vowels to long “I” sounds and I-ee-I will give this album a B+ because as far as ’80s metal goes it’s smarter than most and it has some pretty great songs on it that you still hear today. In fact the gym was playing “Paradise City” today which made me run faster on the treadmill.

Brad: By the way, do you know the story behind the “sex recording” in “Rocket Queen”?

Jason: I do not.

Brad: Here is a little info:

Steve Thompson, an engineer of the album, said:

Axl wanted some pornographic sounds on Rocket Queen, so he brought a girl in and they had sex in the studio. We wound up recording about 30 minutes of sex noises. If you listen to the break on Rocket Queen it’s in there.

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