So, for my first foray into the wonderful world of The Independent Voice, I’ve chosen globe-straddling, corporate-rock giants Guns n Roses.
Yeah, yeah, we heard it all before … massive egos … blah … ballad-mongering-unit-shifters … blah … too-big-for-their-boots-pre-Madonnas … blah … it’s all true, I know that.
But it wasn’t always this way. There was once something beautiful, something dangerous, something ‘ours’ about Guns n Roses … that’s why I think Appetite has shaped the modern music YOU love.
The scruffy, sleazy streets of LA were along way from my hometown of Selby but, late one Friday night, I tuned into the Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance and heard Rocket Queen for the first time … I was mesmerised. I could almost smell the petrol fumes, bad drugs and cheap motels.
This music, coming out of my crappy speakers, was MY music! It spoke straight to me. It excited me … it was about me! Well, it wasn’t … but it was about the person I wanted to be when I was 18!
Next morning, I was on the bus to Leeds to buy Appetite for Destruction. I found it in Virgin Records, on vinyl, with original, yet-to-be-banned artwork. On the way home I poured over every inch of the cover, marvelling at the intense, bizarre and wonderfully violent artwork … in awe of the Bohemian scamps lounging about on the back … an then, very slowly, I eased the inner cover out and read the lyrics. Wow! Songs about drugs .. love … sex … money … and swearing too! I could barely wait to see what the music was like!
I ran home, pulled the 12 inch black circle from it’s sleeve and waited to be disappointed … quite sure the music wouldn’t stand up to the lyrics and image … but it did. In fact, it surpassed all that, taking me to a place I’d never been before.
From Slash’s echoing refrain at the start of Welcome To The Jungle … to the groupie screaming in ecstasy in the Middle 8 of Rocket Queen … this is what all bands claim to make, but rarely do … an album full of Killers and No Fillers.
Drenched in debauchery, mixing classic rock and punk attitude, it was the soundtrack to the lives of people who had nothing left to lose, people who didn’t think about the future, people who lived right here, right now … what’s more, it was brilliant. These twisting, turning songs about loss, love and liberty were to become my mantra, and the mantra of nearly everyone I knew.
Every tune on Appetite could fill a rock club dance floor within 3 bars … It’s So Easy, My Michelle, Mr Brownstone … they scorching a searing scar through the musical memory of everyone who heard them.
Slash became an instant, deserving Guitar Hero. His solos standing out in an era of fret-wanking speed freaks. Why? Because each one snaked it’s way around the chords, melody dripping from every note, feeling oozing out of every beat – this man didn’t just play a guitar, be became part of it and, as such, weaved himself into very fabric of the music it’s self.
In the same way, Axl wasn’t just singing – he was declaring war with every strangled vocal. He screamed like his life depended on it, spitting words into an unforgiving world he both despised and wished he was part of. He was clearly, and still seems, very disturbed. But, all great artists are tortured and as Axl’s suffering was of his own creation, what drove him to be brilliant would eventually destroy him.
The third, and oft forgotten, cog to this slick-machine was Izzy – Axl’s friend from Lafayette. Izzy was the soul of Guns and Roses, and after he left the real rot set in. He was the groove, the engine, the enigma that made the band fit together, Quiet and reserved, he stood between the raging hatred of Axl, and the belligerent apathy of Slash. He held the whole thing in check, and played some of the best rhythm guitar in rock music while he was at it.
But back to the album. The lyrics – hard-hitting and uncompromising, the music complicated yet totally simple, grooving yet jarring, flowing and crunching. All spewed out in a timeless, yet totally new way (well, in 1986 anyway). Guns n Roses were Led Zepplin, The Pistols and Areosmith all wrapped up in one incendiary unit that detonated so far and wide its influence can be heard on everything from Sheryl Crow to Turbonegro.
Plus, and here’s what people forget or are too young to know, G n R were proper dyed-in-the-wool, backstreet rock n rollers! Before it all got silly they had it all. They looked cool-as-fuck, they walked it like they talked it and they had that mouthy front man who hated everyone!
Sound familiar? *cough* Pistols *cough*
I know they went wrong, all the best bands do, but before all that Guns and Roses recorded one seminal, classic album that changed the face of rock music forever.
And, lest we forget, Appetite was their debut … not bad for 5 no-mark losers from the wrong side of LA.