Guns N Roses | Courtesty of Pascal | Fickr
One of the most rebellious bands of the hard-rocking 1980s, Guns N’ Roses, jolted out of the gate on July 21, 1987, when they released their debut album “Appetite for Destruction.”
The record reached the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart a year after it was released, and has sold more than 18 million copies in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album in America.
“Appetite for Destruction” was supported by the singles “Nightrain” and “It’s So Easy” in addition to (arguably) three of the most iconic singles ever created: “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
Though many critics at the time of release didn’t enjoy the album, reviewers today find it more appealing.
Founded in 1985, Guns N’ Roses gets their name from two separate bands: Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns.
The original lineup consisted of vocalist Axl Rose (who also sang for Hollywood Rose), lead guitarist Tracii Guns (a member of L.A. Guns),rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin (another member of Hollywood Rose), bass player OleBeich and drummer Rob Gardner.The band has gone through a few major lineup changes over the years, with the most famous including Rose, Stradlin, lead guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler.
This lineup, as well as future GNR members Dizzy Reed and Matt Sorum, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Guns N’ Roses have earned the nickname “the most dangerous band in the world” during their decades-long career.
In total, the band has recorded six albums together and have embarked on eight concert tours (including one that is currently on pause due to the pandemic). They have also sold more than 100 million albums across the globe.
Opening the album’s first side is the iconic riffs of “Welcome to the Jungle,” a song that has become synonymous with the Cincinnati Bengals. According to Rose, some of the lyrics to the tune were inspired by an encounter with a homeless person in New York City, while Stradlin mentions that it is “about Hollywood streets; true to life.”
After this is “It’s So Easy,” a McKagan composition about how simple it was for the band members to get groupies. “Nightrain” is a song written about the inexpensive California wine Night Train Express, while “Out Ta Get Me” deals with Rose’s run-ins with the law growing up.
“Mr. Brownstone” details an addiction to heroin, with “brownstone” being a slang term for the drug. The first side of the album ends with “Paradise City,” a song that talks about the titular locale “where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” Slash cites this as his favorite GNR song.
The second side of the album begins with “My Michelle,” a song about a friend of the band (the real-life Michelle enjoyed the song and loved its honesty about her life).“Think About You” was written by Stradlin about falling in love.
After this is “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which is an inescapable staple of rock radio with its astounding opening guitar riff and Rose’s soaring vocals. “You’re Crazy” is a hard rock anthem that has an acoustic version featured on the band’s next album “G N’ R Lies.”
“Anything Goes” details a sexual encounter between the narrator and their lover, while “Rocket Queen” features an ecstatic drum introduction, distorted vocals, and a recorded act of intimacy to close out the record.
Most of the songs featured on “Appetite for Destruction,” according to Rose, were written while Guns N’ Roses were playing various clubs in the Los Angeles area.
The band recorded nine songs in 1986, including “Shadow of Your Love” and “Welcome to the Jungle,” with producer Spencer Proffer. Later, they settled on creating the album with producer Mike Clink.
Recording sessions at the Rumbo Recorders studio began in January of 1987, with the band recording basic tracks for two weeks as Clink brought the best takes together by utilizing a razor blade. T
he following month saw their producer spending 18 hours a day working on the album while Slash worked on its guitar melodies and Rose recorded the vocals.
Slash had a difficult time trying to find the right tone for his guitars but eventually used a Gibson Les Paul replica that was wired through a Marshall amplifier.
Rose’s vocals took an unusually long time to record, as he wanted to sing them one line at a time. Meanwhile, Steven Adler’s percussion work on the album was finished in six days.
The rest of the overdubs and mixing were finished at New YorkCity’s Mediasound Studios, while mastering was completed at Sterling Sound (also located in NYC).
What critics thought of “Appetite for Destruction”
At the time of its release in 1987, the record wasn’t well received by many American critics, with Dave Ling from the hard rock magazine Metal Hammer calling it second-rate in comparison to similar hard rock artists like Aerosmith, AC/DC and HanoiRocks.
However, critics in England were more open to the album. The magazine Kerrang mentioned in their review of “Appetite for Destruction” that ”rock is at last being wrestled from the hands of the bland, the weak, the jaded, the tired, the worn, and being thrust back into the hands of the real raunch rebels.” Meanwhile, music journalist Robert Christgau praised Rose’s “effortless, convincing vocal abilities” but was critical of the album’s lyrics.
Recent reviews of “Appetite for Destruction” have been more positive. Billboard magazine’s Christa Titus explained that the album was able to reach a wide audiencedue to its inclusion of “metal’s forceful playing, punk rock’s rebellious themes, glammetal’s aesthetic, and bluesy guitar riffs that appealed to purists.”
Gibson’s Russell Hall mentioned that it “injected a much-needed dose of ’70s-style rebellion into the frothy pop metal of the ’80s” as it brought together the “swagger of late ’60s Stones and vintage Aerosmith with the menace of punk and a trash-glam aesthetic”.
Finally, Maura Johnston, writing for Pitchfork, explained that “Appetite for Destruction” was a “watershed moment in ’80s rock that chronicled every vice of Los Angeles led by the-voiced Axl Rose and a legendary, switchblade-sharp band.”
Rolling Stone placed “Appetite for Destruction” at number 62 on their list of the 500 greatest albums. Kerrang! ranked the record as the best ever rock album, while the magazine Guitar World ranked it at number two on their 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of all time list in 2006.
In addition to these accolades, the album was listed in the 2006 edition of “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.”
What I think of the album
I’ve been a fan of Guns N’ Roses for a while, and I will say that “Appetite for Destruction” is a very good debut record for a rock band. Personally, I love the way they mess around with the structure and tone throughout the album’s tracklist and it pleases me that there’s not a droning monotone throughout.
All of the members gel together so well on this record (even if tension drove them apart later). Some of the deep cuts on here (like “It’s So Easy” and “Anything Goes”) help to make “Appetite for Destruction” a quality record when combined with the well-known hits, and I feel that anyone who listens to this album should turn the volume level of their speakers up as high as they can go and feel the rock in their soul.