In 1986 Bon Jovi were everywhere. I can recall loads of girls at college loving the band. Livin’ On A Prayer was undeniably a catchy number but in all honesty who gave a fig for that band. Dull. Safe. Tame. Pointless.
A TV show suggested they were the metal Beatles. I cringed. I actually began to despise them.
I was for the first time ever buying Kerrang. This was for Slayer info that the magazine would often offer. I noticed lots of positive murmurings about Guns N’ Roses – again not my kind of band but they did look a dangerous alternative to Bon Jovi.
I noticed in the gig listing that Guns N’ Roses were playing The Marquee in London. A short while after the gig had taken place I also noticed someone had graffitied the wall outside Birmingham New Street Station with “Guns N’ Fuckin” Roses Marquee”. I thought to myself that must have been a cool gig to a) travel that far b) bother writing that in the first place. More intrigue.
Then one Saturday I got back from record shopping on a Saturday. It would have been early afternoon. I put on Radio 1 and just caught the guitar break from Sweet Child O’ Mine. Straight away I wanted to know who was responsible for that sound. My immediate thoughts were that it sounded like The Stooges but with a modern production (it was 1987).
Guns N’ Roses were, in the music press being referred to as a modern take on ACDC meeting Aerosmith with dashings of Motley Crue and punk. I had no interest in Aerosmith or Motley Crue but they did sound interesting – a Rolling Stones Metal bad boys if you like compared to “The Beatles” Bon Jovi (yeah right – sighs).
Then I tracked the debut album down. A mates younger brother had Appetite For Destruction. This was still before any singles had been pulled from it and the band blew up.
Tapes of the album exchanged hands quickly. Another mate picked up a bootleg video of the band playing live in New York. The grainy imagery from this 10th generation VHS copy could not hide the characters in the band and more importantly – the fact they had some great material.
Welcome To the Jungle is a cool intro to the album. Axl Rose howling over the opening bars before settling into a sound of pure rock sleaze. Rhythm and lead guitars spinning off each other. It sounded damn good.
Then the more urgent It’s So Easy. It does almost sound punk – but again is total rock debauchery. Great dumb lyrics. Almost a metal Ramones from the Too Tough to Die era?
Track three on Appetite For Destruction is probably my all time favourite Guns N’ Roses track. Nightrain nails the sleaze totally. Chasing guitars. Lyrics inspiring more alcohol. It works. Axl raises his vocal delivery and when Slash lets loose the guitar break you realise the band are gonna go places fast. Maybe metal ain’t so bad after all.
Out To Get Me bustles with paranoid delusions. The sleaze-o-meter ups again. The album sounds like it has been recorded alongside a porn shoot. Who needed Bon Jovi anyway?
Mr. Brownstone tells narcotic tales. Paranoid again. The lyrics are so rock n’ roll that you just do not question the authenticity at all.
The we get the track that arguably knocked Bon Jovi off their smug undeserving pedestal. Paradise City is supremely dumb but an undeniable anthem. The twin guitars lock and twine all around the intro before a whistle blows and the levels all rack up. It sounds infinitely better after 10 beers. Daft – but a guilty pleasure if ever there was one.
A more sombre vibe for the classier My Michelle. The riff is ACDC pulled through sleaze-alley. The band play as a very equal unit and it sounds very solid.
Then the faster Think About You. Axl showcases a strong vocal. Whatever you think of him he’s a perfect frontman for this kinda sound. As the chorus drops Guns N’ Roses momentarily sound like Husker Du. You get the hardcore roots somehow.
Sweet Child O’ Mine is the kind of track your Mum won’t tell you to “turn that racket down” as a teenager. Massive wide appeal. A ballad that goes beyond balledry and has the balls to believe in itself enough to launch into a full-on rock scorch. Easy to knock – but listen to it loud after a few beers and nod (or punch the air if inclined). A stand-out moment for all the right reasons.
You’re Crazy rattles along. The pace is fast. By now the band have won you over. The genre and preconceptions should have gone outta the window by now.
Anything Goes too rattles along. Dirty but somehow clean guitar licks chase the sound down. The vocal delivery up the late 80’s ante – it almost has a rap delivery – this was a breath of fresh air that hit the spot smack-on.
Rocket Queen oozes Appetite For destruction away. Not a stand out track but it does encompass the whole album vibe in an over 6 minute meander.
I feel if Guns N’ Roses had left the stadiums alone and called it a day after their storming debut album we’d have a Metal Pistols to reflect on – but of course they stuck around. The latter material does have its moments but the line-up changes and chemistry on Appetite could never be matched. One of a very few bands I wish had imploded earlier to gain more credit…. but no matter – they’re still better than Bon Jovi…