Albums you must own – ‘Appetite For Destruction’ by Guns ‘N’ Roses
Let’s face facts, everybody has heard of Guns ‘N’ Roses. If you were to drop the band’s name in conversation with pretty much anyone it is almost inevitable the song ‘Paradise City’ will merit a mention with ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ coming a close second. But I feel it’s worth reminding people that these iconic singles are actually part of something much greater, the band’s legendary debut album ‘Appetite For Destruction’. The year 2012 marks the album’s 25th anniversary and this blog is here to urge any fan of rock music to listen to AFD in its entirety if you have not already done so.
The first track ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ will ring familiarity through the ears for most people. The opening guitar riff and descending intro alone make this song one of the best live concert openers of all time. Creating a speedy dual assault of both ‘heavy’ and ‘melody’ alike, a spiraling drum-led breakdown towards the end and the shrieking choruses delivered by Axl Rose, this number has all the core ingredients of what made early GnR great! I wouldn’t say any song from ‘Appetite’ by itself is truly indicative of the entire record but ‘Jungle’ would be the number one contender. If you don’t like this song then you probably don’t like Guns ‘N’ Roses.
For me personally the song ‘Nightrain’ takes the silver medal of the album, a mid-tempo drinking/hoedown anthem with catchy hooks to be found in both the main guitar riff and the vocal melodies, especially when Axl cranks his screams up a few notches on the bridge. One of the slower tracks but definitely give this one a listen.
‘Paradise City’, sonically speaking, doesn’t need any description from me since even the most casual of music listeners has already heard it and knows the famously catchy chorus by heart. The band allegedly wrote the song in the back of a rental transit van as they returned home from a gig, the boys jammed with guitars while Axl and Slash improvised two subtly different choruses, the one we all know and love and an another involving girls with “big titties”.
‘My Michelle’ opens with a placid and deceptive intro featuring some bluesy basslines but it quickly returns to GnR norm when the song drops. Another mid-tempo number but significantly heavier than ‘Nightrain’. The lyrics dish out a brutal character assassination of a close friend of the band. With lines like ‘your daddy works in porno now that mommy’s not around, she used to love her heroin but now she’s underground’, Axl clearly wasn’t holding his punches.
‘Thinking About You’ takes the gold medal by a fair distance for me. It is one of the faster tracks and features some of the most intricate guitar work on the record from both Slash and Izzy Stradlin alike. The clean melodies on the chorus are worth particular mention, as they sound unique compared to the more raw quality of most other guitar layers on the album. It’s a short, smack-you-in-the-gut hard rock number and displays the band at their very best. Curiously this fast-paced song slows to a crawl right at the end with a couple of haunting guitar notes and works as a good transition to the next track.
‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ creates its own identity for two reasons; firstly it is the only real power ballad on the record and secondly it features Slash’s greatest and most iconic guitar solo. Annoyingly part of this solo is removed from the radio edit used for the music video so give the full ‘5.56’ version a listen or you’re missing out big time! The circus like intro melody was actually a joke riff Slash came up with to distract the other band members during a band session while he was pulling stupid faces. Now it’s one of the most well known rock melodies of all time…
Finally I want to mention ‘Rocket Queen’, the longest and most progressive track on the album. Once again it is predominantly a mid-tempo number, opening with a simple drum beat, funky basslines and turning almost psychedelic when the guitars come in.
The band’s blues influences also come across more apparently in this number than most, especially with the instrumental breakdown before the halfway mark. Some brilliant call and response between the guitars and bass on this one and I’d award ‘Rocket Queen’ the bronze medal of the album. More useless trivia; Axl brought a ladyfriend into the studio and the band recorded the noises she made while they did the dirty deed. Those “vocals” can be heard on the track during the first breakdown… sums up the old GnR pretty concisely!
Anyways not every track was covered here but these are simply my favourites from what is one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. So if you’ve heard anything from GnR before and liked it, give this entire record a go.
By Al Westlake