Friday, October 01, 2010

Rocktober Album #1: Guns N' Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Van Halen fans might disagree, but I'd say Appetite for Destruction is the best hard rock debut album of all-time. I can listen to this album at any time over and over again if need be (I don't know why I would need to, but I could), and I would never get tired of it.

I distinctly remember buying this album at Phar-Mor. I asked my mom if I could get it (with my own money, of course), and she must not have seen the Parental Advisory sticker because she said "yes." Feeling like I had pulled one over on her and it was only a matter of time before she found me out, I raced to the cash register and paid for it. As I did (and still do) with all albums I purchased, I listened to it as soon as I got home. My innocence (or whatever was left of it) was lost by the time Axl told me to "fuck off" in the second song ("It's So Easy").

And of course, there was cover art. Sure, the outside has skeletal representations of the band members, and that's cool in itself. But sweet Jesus, the inside is insane. There are cartoons depicting chicks who were apparently recently sexually assaulted by flying robot pods with knives for teeth and alligator skeletons walking on two feet with either guns or binoculars for eyes. You can't underestimate how much that changes a ten-year-old.

Unlike a lot of bands who need some time to develop their style and grow into themselves, GNR had everything right off the bat: the swagger, the look, the voice, the guitar, the booze, the drugs, the attitude. When they arrived, they were already rock stars. Most importantly, though, they had the songs to back everything up. Appetite was (and still is) such a solid album, top to bottom. There is not a bad song on this album. What's more amazing is that many of these songs were written in a matter of hours or on the spur of the moment.

1. Welcome to the Jungle
What a perfect, teeth-kicking first song. The first notes you hear on this album grab you. That riff, when it's just Slash toying with you, sets it up. It's not complicated, but it's raunchy, and it lets you know what you're listening to is not going to sound like a Bon Jovi album. Then, Axl comes in with his ethereal howl and lets you know that William Bailey is not in Lafayette, Indiana anymore. VH1 voted "Welcome to the Jungle" the best hard rock song of all-time. I don't necessarily agree with that, but I also can't disagree.

2. It's So Easy
It was this song that really made my ten-year-old self say "whoa." First of all, I thought for the longest time that Slash was singing the low parts and Axl was singing the high parts. It didn't occur to me that Axl's voice could do both. Second, "why don't you just . . . fuck off?!" Did he just say that?

3. Nightrain
This is an ode to cheap booze of the same name. When I was a kid, I just figured it was about the band's journey on a very fast train.

4. Out Ta Get Me
Another song with a solid opening riff. I just don't understand why they're out to get Axl. He's fuckin' innocent.

5. Mr. Brownstone
This is my second favorite song on the album. I used to think this was just about some dude who was lazy who had a mean landlord. It turns out it's about two dudes who were lazy who had a mean heroin habit. Either way, it's a badass song.

6. Paradise City
This is another one with an unmistakable opening riff. This is essentially two songs. The verses are fast and rough and often unintelligible, but that chorus is, well, probably one of the easiest choruses to sing along to. And then the last part of the song is in double time, and everyone gets laid. Because that's what happens in Paradise City.

7. My Michelle
There was no misinterpreting this one, even when I was ten. "Your daddy works in porno / Now that mommy's not around / She used to love her heroin / But now she's underground." Yep, I got it. Interestingly, "My Michelle" is based on a woman named Michelle Young that the band used to hang out with. Axl originally wrote it as a romantic song, but then decided to be honest about Michelle's life and completely changed the song into the dark and raunchy song it became.

8. Think About You
This is a surprisingly catchy song that could very well be a pop song in more delicate hands. As it is, it's just a nice, sweet hard rock song. I especially like the frantic acoustic guitar during the choruses. Interesting tidbit: Izzy plays the guitar solo.

9. Sweet Child O' Mine
There are songs you hear for the first time and you will never forget exactly where you were when you heard it. "Sweet Child O' Mine" is one of those songs. I had never heard of GNR when I was visiting one of my best friend's from Houston, Pat Kelley, whose family had since moved to Germantown, Tennessee. We were sitting in his living room watching MTV in the middle of the day. All of a sudden, this guy with a top hat and no face plugs in his guitar and plays this beautiful fucking riff that can't help but enrapture anyone who hears it. That was it, man. That's all I needed. When I got home from the trip is when I went to the aforementioned Phar-Mor, and the rest is history.

10. You're Crazy
This song is fast-paced, almost punky, and in your face. Not mine, but yours. It's also a fun song to sing to women when you're breaking up with them. I've always like the line "Say boy where you comin' from / Where'd you get that point of view?" because I think it kind of sums up what a lot of people were thinking when they first heard this album.

11. Anything Goes
Another solid rocker. I've never been able to figure out what instrument makes that sound at the beginning of the song. I think it might be one of those wooden instruments with ridges that you run a wooden stick across. Clearly, I have no idea what those are called.

12. Rocket Queen
This was, is, and will forever be my favorite Guns N' Roses song. It starts off with a great drum beat by Steven Adler, and Adler drives the song, in my opinion, which is ironic because that moaning you hear beginning around the 2:20 mark is actually a sound recording of Axl Rose fucking Adler's girlfriend in the studio. Bam. This song has two distinct parts. The first part is the down and dirty part where Axl exclaims that he might be a little young, but honey he ain't naïve. The second part, which starts at about the 3:24 mark, is a relatively touching message of friendship from Axl, saying he'll be there for whoever the subject is whenever she needs him, and ends with the line "All I ever wanted was for you to know that I care." And then I assume he threw a bottle at a fan.

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