I was in junior high when I first heard Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite for Destruction. To my innocent little brain, this was dangerous stuff! To find inspiration to write about the album that changed my life, I’ve been listening to Appetite in my car with the windows rolled up so no one can hear me indulging in cheesiness. My mind has been flooded with vivid childhood memories and emotions as I rediscovered the album 25 years later. Appetite was the rock n’ roll seed that helped me grow into the metalhead I have become.
I remember sitting on the living room floor watching MTV when the video for “Welcome to the Jungle” came on; my adolescent head nearly exploded. Leather, tattoos, long hair, Clockwork Orange style brainwashing… Yes!
Appetite for Destruction is simple, raw, and dripping with sex. I couldn’t get enough of Axl’s screechy, raspy vocals and Slash’s soulful Gibson Les Paul sound. I’d listen to the album over and over again, through headphones on full blast, resulting in having to replace three worn tapes pretty quickly. I loved Axl’s layered high and low vocals coupled with the bluesy rock and punk riffs. The band had perfect chemistry on this album and each player’s performance was straightforward and honest. “Out Ta Get Me” was the ultimate anthem for a paranoid teen growing up in a dysfunctional household. I didn’t understand the lyrical content at the time but I sure as hell wanted to dance with “Mr. Brownstone” and take a “Nightrain” to “Paradise City.” The misogynist lyrics went over my head and I didn’t understand why Robert Williams’ original robot rapist cover was so offensive, but today it’s strikingly clear. Women existed for their satisfaction, as “Anything Goes” or “It’s So Easy” would imply, “Turn around bitch, I’ve got a use for you, Besides, you ain’t got nothing better to do and I’m bored.”
Contrary to these hedonistic songs is the emotional love ballad “Sweet Child O’Mine,” which has been burned into our skulls by the radio, but it truly is a great song. According to Slash, the main riffs in “Sweet Child” and “Paradise City” were casually created while jamming on a tour bus. It is mind-boggling that Slash was able to effortlessly write and play awesome music while being loaded on Jack Daniel’s and within the grip of heroin addiction.
I was completely crazy about Axl Rose. Carving “Axl” into my leg with a razor blade crazy. My bedroom was covered with Guns N’ Roses posters, which my parents would tear down as a sick punishment. My confirmation name was Michelle in tribute to “My Michelle”; a song about a coked-up whore was the perfect way to mock the Catholic Church I was dragged to every Sunday. The songs were about sex, drugs, and the grimy, predatory nature of city life. The album simply communicates, “Fuck you, I don’t give a fuck,” which was exactly my sentiment at the time. I was so inspired by Appetite that I ran away from home thinking I was going to board a plane to Los Angeles with my 7th grade crush and start a band. It didn’t matter that I was 11 years old, didn’t have money or a plane ticket, and that my crush wasn’t aware of the plan.
Appetite for Destruction packs a powerful punch and is one of the highest selling rock albums of all time. It begins with the cautionary tale of a ruthless city jungle and ends with the heartfelt, vulnerable pleas of Rocket Queen. The album is solid from beginning to end and even the songs between the classics are classic. Through these songs I can easily tap into my inner adolescent and fantasize about punching my bills, job, and responsibilities in the face. Even though I’ve outgrown the album, and admit Axl looks fucking insane with cornrows in his hair, Appetite will always have a special place in my heart.