Music History

Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction turns 25

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"They were operating with no restraints," remembers a former A&R executive in the GNR biography Watch You Bleed: the Saga of Guns N' Roses. "You would go over to their house and there would be semi-naked girls running around in various stages of distress. Once they arrived at the [Geffen] office, late for a meeting, with a naked girl wrapped in a shower curtain -- she was still wet. The whole deal, to us at the company, seemed out of control. I remember one long discussion at Geffen where someone, possibly David Geffen himself, or maybe his hatchet man, Eric Eisner, said: 'We must record everything they do -- rehearsals, sound checks, concerts -- now, because this band is going to be incredibly popular, and they're going to be incredibly short-lived. One of them is going to OD before it's all over.'"

Yet when the band was in the studio, it was all business. While they would be epically hung-over and most-likely nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels, the recording sessions for what would become Appetite for Destruction were mostly drug-free. Producer Mike Clink kept pressure on the band, recording songs in one take, which not only forced the most organic and primal delivery out of the band, but kept the project moving at a pace that would not be conducive to heavy drug use.

Like most debut albums, Appetite was the culmination of years of songwriting, attempted to be crammed into a simple LP. Sensitive ballads like "Don't Cry" and "November Rain" would -- due to their emotional vulnerability -- be delayed until the next album, while darker, more cynical songs like "My Michelle," "Mr. Brownstone," "Nightrain," and "It's So Easy," would define Appetite's vision of cheap sex and violent debauchery.

The only evidence of Axl Rose's sincere, lust-free ardor toward the female gender comes in Appetite's singular ballad, "Sweet Child o' Mine." The riff that opens the song -- emulated by teenage air-guitar enthusiasts the world over -- surprisingly began as a joke. As a simple warm-up exercise, Slash often played what he considered a silly little circus-riff, just something to pass the time while waiting for recording to begin; but once the band found a rhythm in it, Rose became excited and laid down a vocal of a poem he'd written (and abandoned) about his girlfriend: "She's got a smile that it seems to me/ Reminds me of childhood memories/ Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky." The song is a marked contrast to the album's more misogynistic tunes like "It's So Easy" ("I see your sister in her Sunday dress/ She's out to please . . . No need to try/ She's ready to make") or "Anything Goes" ("Panties 'round your knees/ With your ass in debris/ Doin' dat grind with a push and squeeze/ Tied up, tied down, up against the wall/ Be my rubbermade baby/ An' we can do it all.")

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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse

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