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March, 2001
The History of Hard Rock - The Eighties (Appetite For Destruction)
Guitar World, March 2001
--Guns N' Roses -Appetite for Destruction p.78

Over the years, a great deal of meaning has been ascribed to Guns N' Roses' major-label debut. Depending on your perspective, it either marked the return of "real" raw rock and roll after years of diluted, MTV-safe pablum, was the resurgence bad boys flipping the bird to the tame conventions of the mid Eighties or was one of the first and most potent chronicles of urban street life outside of the hip-hop realm. But could it be that APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION worked simply because it kicked ass?

To be sure, hard rock had fallen into a bit of malaise by the time Guns N' Roses fired its first, combustible shot. Some groups-such as Motley Crue and the thrash and speed underground-still kept the music on an unapologetically irreverent and dangerous-sounding edge; but dolled up, deogenic acts -such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Dokken and Whitesnake -were working on a poppier tip. Even Van Halen, with new frontman Sammy Hagar, was more about melody and hooks than crunch and thunder.

Enter GN'R, a bunch of transplanted street rats who had honed their sound while living in drug-addled squalor. Led by the guitar heroics of one Saul Hudson (a.k.a. Slash) and the venomous angst of frontman W. Axl Rose, GN'R developed a laudable sense of songcraft, with a vocabulary that encompassed vintage Rolling Stones attitude, Led Zeppelin muscle and punk rock urgency. It was a furious assault, with a propulsive tone of yearning and desperation that rolled over listeners in waves.

Nowhere was this more evident than in APPETITE's leadoff track, "Welcome to the Jungle," the Indiana-born Rose's impressionistic view of L.A.'s underbelly through the eyes of a teenage runaway. "You can taste the bright lights/But you won't get them for free," he growled and, indeed, it took GN'R -which almost named itself Heads of Amazon -a few years of slogging through the city's cutthroat club scene before its first EP, LIVE ?!*@ LIKE a SUICIDE, sold 10,000 copies and set off a bidding war that Geffen eventually won.

But even the gritty energy of the EP didn't prepare the world for the raucous storm of APPETITE. Riffs that would (and did) make Keith Richards proud soared alongside Rose's high-pitched wail of a vocal and over a slamming, menacing bottom, all sounding like a street gang marching toward its next rumble. "People related to the songs because they're real, they're sincere," Slash said at the time. On tracks such as "Nightrain," "Mr. Brownstone," "It's So Easy," "Anything Goes" and "Rocket Queen," Rose sang of drug-, booze-and sex-fueled decadence with visceral, cinematic detail. And then there was "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child O' Mine," breakthrough hits that expressed an almost desperate hope for something better -particularly the latter, which was Rose's love song to his then-girlfriend (and future short-term wife) Erin Everly. "It was a joke," Slash recalls of the song that took GN'R to No.1 on the BILLBOARD singles charts. "We were living in this house that had electricity, a couch and nothing else. The record company had just signed us and we were on our backs. There was a lot of shit going on. We were hanging out one night and I started playing that riff. And the next thing you know, Izzy [STRADLIN, GUITAR] made up some chords behind it, and Axl went off on it. I used to HATE playing that sucker."

But thanks to "Sweet Child," APPETITE spent five weeks a No.1 and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. For a time GN'R seemed poised to take over the world, but continuing substance abuse problems, erratic behavior and artistic indulgence - a four-year wait for the two USE YOUR ILLUSION albums -snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. These days, only Rose is left, expected to release the first GN'R album of new material in a decade later this year.

"All of a sudden we BECAME the norm... and all of a sudden it was no longer fun to be Guns N' Roses, 'that rebellious hard rock band,' " says Slash, who now fronts his own band, Slash's Snakepit. "We were real frustrated with being so ACCEPTABLE. We're not Motley Crue. We're not gonna do something that APPEARS a little bit dangerous so we can sell records."

Transcribed by: BelkaStrelka


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