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The Most Important Album of the Last 25 Years Isn't Nevermind, It's Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction

The Most Important Album of the Last 25 Years Isn't Nevermind, It's Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction

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Guns N' Roses' seminal album Appetite For Destruction came out 25 years ago this past Saturday. I was 9 years old when a foreign exchange student taped me a copy of it. I had heard "Welcome to the Jungle" about a zillion times before. But several seconds after W. Axl Rose's "Hunh!" ended that song, the real fun began. My pre-teen brain was warped forever. The opening bass riff of "It's So Easy" was like nothing I'd ever heard before: simple, raw, stripped down and direct.

Sure, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" similarly melted my brain a couple years later. However, Appetite gets broken out quarterly, spun obsessively for a couple weeks and then retired again. On the other hand, I turn the dial when songs off Nevermind come on the radio.

It's not that Nirvana were a bad rock band. It's just that Nevermind is a mediocre record. Clearly in tune with a Zeitgeist that craved a hard rock world outside of poodle hair and shiny animal print spandex, Nevermind broke open early '90s popular culture in a manner we probably won't see again. Perhaps that's why it seems so dated in 2012.

In the words of Kurt Cobain, "It's closer to a Mötley Crüe record than it is a punk rock record." Appetite, though, sounds more like a punk rock record than one by Nikki Sixx and company. While Nirvana might have been the last band to catch the record industry with its pants down, G'n'R were the last band to live the rock & roll lifestyle with no apologies. In its salad days, the band lacked both the cutesy-poo "good clean fun" mugging of bands like Warrant and Poison as well as the too-clever-by-half anguished earnestness of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.

Booze, tattoos and floozies. That's what G'n'R were about. That's a message I can get behind, even today. Early '90s divorce rock? That hasn't aged so well.

 

The important parts of Appetite are the deeper album cuts. "Nightrain" is the band's undisputed anthem, an ode to the pleasures of fast living and cheap liquor. "Mr. Brownstone" stands as the most straightforward heroin ode ever written, with an up-and-coming musician protagonist who "just keep[s] tryin' to get a little better / Said a little better than before." "Out ta Get Me" tells a gripping story of paranoia with the standard Axl Rose lyrical directness ("I'm fuckin' innocent / So you can suck me") and post-coda admonitions ("Take that one to heart!").

The entire "B" (or "Roses," as the band titled it in their blithe arrogance) side is dedicated to ladies. "My Michelle" was written with brutal honesty about band associate Michelle Young. "You're Crazy," an electric reworking of an earlier acoustic song, stands as the most punk number on the album next to "It's So Easy." Appetite closes with "Rocket Queen," a song including audio of Rose allegedly fucking drummer Stephen Adler's girlfriend in the studio.

While Nevermind kicked off the mainstream grunge explosion, reignited interest in punk rock and inspired 10,000 garage bands, Appetite is the superior album and a damn sight more "punk" in a lot of ways (provided you're using bands like the Dead Boys, the Heartbreakers and Iggy & the Stooges as a point of reference). You might fancy yourself a deep thinker while trying to figure out what the lyrics to "In Bloom" mean, but I'll take the sublime simplicity of "Turn around, bitch / I got a use for you" any day of the week.

UP NEXT: Amazing archive pics from Guns N' Roses Sunset Strip years.

 

Slash N' Stripper - Jan. 4, 1986, at the Troubadour
Slash N' Stripper - Jan. 4, 1986, at the Troubadour
Marc Canter
March 28, 1986, at the Roxy. According to Canter, this is what Axl said from stage that night: "Alright, I don't know if there is anybody here from L.A. Weekly tonight... You know, they called us New York Dolls and labeled us jaded posers. You know I may have my differences with other bands, but I don't think Guns N' Roses here, L.A. Guns, or Poison deserve that shit from a fucking moron who has probably never even seen a fucking show or knows how to rock n' roll. This is the 'Fuck L.A. Weekly' show. This song is called 'Back Off Bitch.'
March 28, 1986, at the Roxy. According to Canter, this is what Axl said from stage that night: "Alright, I don't know if there is anybody here from L.A. Weekly tonight... You know, they called us New York Dolls and labeled us jaded posers. You know I may have my differences with other bands, but I don't think Guns N' Roses here, L.A. Guns, or Poison deserve that shit from a fucking moron who has probably never even seen a fucking show or knows how to rock n' roll. This is the 'Fuck L.A. Weekly' show. This song is called 'Back Off Bitch.'
Marc Canter

 

June 12, 1985, at Canter's Deli, before the smoking ban.
June 12, 1985, at Canter's Deli, before the smoking ban.
Jack Lue
Axl & dancer at the 8th Annual LA Street Scene, September 1985
Axl & dancer at the 8th Annual LA Street Scene, September 1985
Marc Canter

 

Slash, February 28, 1986, at the Troubadour. The show that got them signed to Geffen?
Slash, February 28, 1986, at the Troubadour. The show that got them signed to Geffen?
Marc Canter

 

Hand-written lyrics to "My Michelle," courtesy of Michelle Young -- yes, that Michelle.
Hand-written lyrics to "My Michelle," courtesy of Michelle Young -- yes, that Michelle.
Shots from Marc Canter's book Reckless Road
From an October 1985 photo shoot: "The real spaghetti incident?"
From an October 1985 photo shoot: "The real spaghetti incident?"
Jack Lue

 

Flyer for a KXLU sponsored Halloween show. Whatever happened to the Chili Peppers anyway? From Marc Canter's book: "Even though Axl had gotten into a knock-down drag-out brawl with (Thelonious Monster) lead singer Bob Forrest, there was no tension between the bands that night."
Flyer for a KXLU sponsored Halloween show. Whatever happened to the Chili Peppers anyway? From Marc Canter's book: "Even though Axl had gotten into a knock-down drag-out brawl with (Thelonious Monster) lead singer Bob Forrest, there was no tension between the bands that night."
Marc Canter
Axl on October 18, 1985, at the Country Club.
Axl on October 18, 1985, at the Country Club.
Jack Lue

 

June 28, 1985. Backstage at Stardust Ballroom, at Sunset & Wilton. Tickets for that night's show would set you back $6.
June 28, 1985. Backstage at Stardust Ballroom, at Sunset & Wilton. Tickets for that night's show would set you back $6.
Jack Lue
Spring 1985. Axl Rose & Tracii Guns: Leather and lace
Spring 1985. Axl Rose & Tracii Guns: Leather and lace
Chris Amouroux

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