In the summer of 1987, the hard rock/heavy metal landscape was forever changed. Whether or not any of us knew what was about to happen is still a subject of much debate, but the fact of the matter is this: GUNS N’ ROSES dropped a bombshell on the world that year with Appetite For Destruction. Now, I was initially resistant to this band. The very first time I saw the video for “Welcome to the Jungle” I wanted to stab six people, I hated it so much. Several of my friends tried to turn me around once school started but I was still mega-resistant. I know it was one of my Catholic school cronies who finally convinced me to listen to the tape (yeah that’s right, TAPE!), and when I did I was like, “WOW!” Next thing I know I was high-speed dubbing myself a copy, one that didn’t leave my trusty Walkman for weeks. I even grew to love “Jungle.”
So yeah, it was my freshman year at Chaminade High School (a place I hated more than anything on Earth), and on my 40-minute bus ride to and from school I wound up listening to the shit out of this record. This was raw, unbridled rock and roll that was carefully packaged to appear to the Hair Metal demographic. But there was no gimmick here, oh no. Because this band was loud and in your face. Arena-ready hooks crossed with a punk rock swagger and a, “Fuck you, I don’t care if you ARE important!” middle finger made this band dangerous on every level. Anytime girls heard them there was guaranteed turbulence in the underwear, and all guys wanted to play and sing like them.
Axl Rose might be a fucking asshole, who for most of his career couldn’t get to a gig on time, but on all the songs on this disc he is absolute gold. Guitarist Slash played like a gladiator in the fighting pit on all 12 tracks, like he might never get another shot if he didn’t nail this one, yet he made it look effortless with an ever-present top hat and cigarette. Steven Adler was imperfect on the drums, but he had a heart and groove you simply can’t manufacture, while Duff McKagan made his bass sound like the biggest instrument in the room sometimes. Guitarist Izzy Stradlin also played his ass off, and together these five men made magic that was thankfully put to tape, preserved forever.
“It’s So Easy” is one of those songs that I would listen to over and over again, especially on my Christmas break from school. The attitude of this fucker made me wanna take on the world. “Nightrain” is a booze-soaked journey into the unknown and I loved every second of it, while “Out Ta Get Me” was absolutely dirty, sleazy, and fucking big-as-life when the band all came together. I can remember sitting at the island in my old kitchen back in Massapequa, NY trying to do my homework, but constantly air drumming with my pens and/or strumming my imaginary guitar. Then “Mr. Brownstone” comes on and all fucking bets are off. This is still one of my favorite numbers by the band. It’s sexy as fuck, and totally embodies a “we don’t give a shit” attitude.
But none of this could prepare me for what was to come next….”Paradise City.” 6:46 of pure perfection. This song became my anthem, the one I had to cue up in the Walkman every morning before school and every afternoon when it was over. I couldn’t NOT walk to music, and this tune was my theme for longer than I can remember. Even though various outlets like radio and sports arenas have beaten it to death when it comes on the radio, I still turn my dial allaway to the right…you do too, don’t act like you don’t. “My Michelle” opens up Side Two in fine fashion, and any girl in our area named Michelle had to deal with all kinds of teenaged boys warbling this chorus at them, poor ladies.
Now we come to one of my absolute favorites on this record. It was a favorite in 1987-88, and remains so to this day. “Think About You” is wonderful, because it’s a heavy rocker, but on the choruses you can hear the acoustic guitar that drives the point home. Thank you, Tom Zutaut for fighting to have that in the mix. I also dedicated it to my ninth grade girlfriend Jessica. I’m sure she wanted something slow and ballad-like, but this is the one that always made me think about her (see what I did there?).
We all know what a mega-smash “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is/was, and there’s no disputing that. It became Slash’s signature guitar lick, and took G N’R to another level. Did it get overplayed? Absolutely. I still can’t listen to the whole thing before turning the dial, but at that time it was pure magic. “You’re Crazy” and “Anything Goes” are further testament to the band’s hell-raising attitudes, with more dirty riffs and sleazy grooves. And closer “Rocket Queen” will forever be one of the sexiest songs ever recorded. When I was learning to play drums that year, this was one of the ones I tried (and failed) to play along with. Just an amazing way to close out an album the likes of which we’ll never see again.
I hated GUNS N’ ROSES when I first heard them, they made me sick. But that’s the thing about music…sometimes you have to dig a little deeper. I spent the entire fall of 1987 and most of 1988 listening to Appetite For Destruction over and over again. And even though now I have no desire to see/hear them in their current incarnation, I will forever treasure the memories that I have with my friends to this landmark album: first kisses, first shots of Canadian Club, and good times with my boys/girls who I still see to this day. And that’s why this will forever be one of my Classic Albums. ~dc