“Appetite For Destruction”, the debut album from Guns n’ Roses, is now 30 years old. As someone who was “there” when it was released and witnessed the sweeping change it made across the rock landscape, this makes me feel really fucking old.
The album still sounds as fresh today as it did upon release. It hasn’t dated a day. The production was excellent solely because it simply captured the band, not adding any of what was fashionable among producers at the time – the guitars sound like guitars with crunch, devoid of the smooth Def Leppard sound; the drums kick and punch but in a natural way, no overkill on the reverb – which is why Appetite still sounds current whilst the Whitesnake “1987” album (which I love, btw) sounds like the soundtrack to the 80s.
I was 15 when Appetite came out. My journey into rock began with Def Leppard when I saw them perform “Animal” on Top Of The Pops. Intrigued by the drummer with just one arm, I immediately bought “Hysteria” and then their back catalogue. They quickly became my favourite band and from them I moved to Poison and, rather incongruously, Metallica (“Master Of Puppets”). From there, I hoovered up anything and everything I could that was mentioned in the same breath as any of those bands, grew my hair long and studded everything in sight.
It took a while for Appetite to hit, about a year, in fact. Gn’R were playing small venues like the Marquee in the UK so weren’t so much on the radar for us non-gig-going young ‘uns. But then the chatter began. Every wannabe guitar player was learning the intro to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and the rock mags of the day started writing stories about these rock rebels from the Sunset Strip. I remember a poster that was in Kerrang! about this time, featuring some of the dirtier metal bands emerging from LA. Of course, Guns N’ Roses were on it, but they had equal billing to bands like Sea Hags, Bang Tango, Faster Pussycat and L.A.Guns. As Joe Lesté from Bang Tango later put it, “we were all playing the same kind of music but Gn’R got to stick it in first”.
But Guns N’ Roses were better. Sure, I preferred L.A.Guns (until we played with them a couple of decades later – never meet your heroes) and the Sea Hags album is a lost masterpiece, but there was always something special about Guns. Slash with his top hat, Axl with his multi-octave voice and multiple personalities, those songs! Their secret weapon though was the drummer, Steven Adler. I’m not sure Appetite would have hit as big without that man on the drum stool. His fluid, loose bounce adds everything to that album. Listen to him compared to later drummer, Matt Sorum; it is night and day. Of course, Matt is excellent, but also mechanical and precise. The frisson, energy and excitement was lost once Steven was fired.
Along with “Hysteria”, “Appetite” changed my life. I remember drawing the Gn’R cross tattoo on my forearm and showing it off to my cousin. I may have favoured Def Leppard but Gn’R were right up there and influenced me more musically and image-wise than Def Leppard ever did. Fuck it, Gn’R influenced every damn band to come out of LA. Before them, Mötley Crüe were the torch bearers of rock – bands were always one step behind them – Guns N’ Roses, however, were one step ahead. Now the Crüe were chasing their tales and Guns stayed on top up until Nirvana came along killing the whole scene.
Apart from Guns N’ Roses. They were the only “hair band” that could still fill arenas and stadiums through the 90s. There is a reason for that: “Appetite For Destruction” is simply one of the greatest albums ever committed to wax. A rare moment forever captured for us lucky, lucky bastards.