In 1987, hard rock wasn’t underground anymore, and new groups no longer looked to the 1970’s for inspiration — their contemporaries were the best mirror they could look at. After the success of Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Europe, the land was fertilized enough to be ready for a band like Guns N’ Roses.
The band, named after its founders, guitarist Tracii Guns and singer Axl Rose, offered filthy charisma, dazzling guitar playing, and raging, energetic songs performed by actual bad boys.
In 1985, they were just a bunch of fellows who enjoyed drinking, doing drugs, and having girlfriends. It was their experiences on the wild side which won them notoriety two years later.
Their fame was also due to Appetite For Destruction, a superb production. Twenty-seven million copies had been sold worldwide when Rolling Stone magazine dedicated their August 2007 cover to the album’s 20th anniversary.
Guns N’ Roses — Appetite For Destruction: Track-by-track review
1. “Welcome To The Jungle”
On the Billboard charts, Appetite For Destruction’s leadoff track “Welcome To The Jungle” reached number 7 in 1988, and is nowadays still one of the most played tracks on radio.
On an album dedicated to destruction, a jungle seems the most appropiate place to be, a place as dangerous and fascinating as the city of Los Angeles itself, where GnR’s costars were prostitution, drugs, weapons, and music. (The video gets deeper still, with Rose, immobilized by a straitjacket, being forced to watch the reality spit through video screens, as if he was in Clockwork Orange-style rehab.)
Welcome to the jungle
We got fun and games
We got everything you want
Honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey, we got your disease
But Axl warns us that going into this world has its drawbacks, and that it’s necessary to be a survivor to pay the price (“You can taste the bright lights, but you won’t get them for free”).
As in most Guns N’ Roses songs, Rose mentions his complicated relationships with women, with whom he behaves in a defensive and derogatory way. This line seems a threat:
You can have anything you want
But you better not take it from me
Musically, “Welcome To The Jungle” is like a roller coaster, with constant ups and downs; it’s an incredibly complex song for a debut album. Moreover, it’s a track that drags girls to the dance floor and brings out the sexiest part of them.
2. “It’s So Easy”
Written by bassist Duff MacKagan, “It’s So Easy” explores some of the topics near and dear to the band: sex, alcohol, and cars. They are pushing it to the limit every night, and seem to have what everybody aims for; still, it doesn’t make them happy:
It’s so easy, easy
When everybody’s tryin’ to please me
So easy… but nothin’ seems to please me
Women take the worst part, and are considered an ever-complaining nuisance. They are needed only for sex, and hitting them doesn’t seem to be a big deal — as if they deserved it:
Turn around bitch
I got a use for you
See me hit you
You fall down
Rose sings with two voices, imitating a girl when he sings the chorus as if he was mocking her demands.
“Nightrain” is an ode to excess of any kind and the feeling afterwards, a territory explored by all the members of the band:
Loaded like a freight train
Flyin’ like an aeroplane
Feelin’ like a space brain
One more time tonight
This is the nghtly routine, one that turns to regret the morning after, and then of course starting all over the next night.
I’m on the nightrain
Ready to crash and burn
I never learn
Vince Neil, singer for Mötley Crüe, complained that he taught Axl Rose to sing but Axl was totally ungrateful. In the vocals of “Nighttrain” we can notice his influence, but Rose’s style is also an homage to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.
4. “Out Ta Get Me”
This song is dedicated to the police, who were often involved in one way or another in the life of GnR’s members. (They were not afraid of using their fists in a fight, or of driving drunk.)
It’s also a critique about violence dispensed by cops, which in the song’s opinion is a provocation by cops so they can arrest citizens for assault.
They push me in a corner
Just to get me to fight but
They won’t touch me
They preach and yell
And fight all night
5. “Mr. Brownstone”
This is a song that oozes influences from the opening. From the rhythm, we could consider it a combination of “Sympathy For The Devil” by the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. The lyrics add a dose of the Sex Pistols’ nihilism — all they care about is about sleeping, drinking, doing drugs (specifically in this song, heroin), getting women, and playing on stage.
I get up around seven
Get outta bed around nine
And I don’t worry about nothin’, no
Cause worryin’s a waste of my time
Getting more hooked on the heroin, the doses increase just to achieve the same effect. Stardom and being millionaires make it easier to do more drugs:
I used to do a little
But a little wouldn’t do
So the little got more and more
I just keep tryin’ to get a little better
A little better than before
6. “Paradise City”
Reaching number 5, this is a continuation of the spirit of “Welcome To The Jungle,” but this time it’s an invitation to escape the jungle rather than step into it. Reality is hard, so take me back to my oasis, where everything is fine and I’m surrounded by gorgeous women. “The Paradise City” is Los Angeles, where it never rains.
Take me down to the paradise city
Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty
Take me home
One option is escaping and the other one is to not take life too seriously, and especially not fame and fortune; otherwise it’s easy to go crazy.
Rose’s singing and the music push you into a twister you can’t escape from, and eventually it goes so fast it turns into punk. Slash straddles metal and punk on his astonishing guitar solo.
7. “My Michelle”
In a hard world there are always losers, and Michelle is one: her father is a porn actor, her mother was addicted to heroin but passed away, and Michelle is a teenaged cocaine addict and party animal. Eager to be loved, she puts up with sex:
Someday you’ll find someone
That’ll fall in love with you
But oh the time it takes
When you’re all alone
Time goes by and everything improves; Michelle got clean and leads a quiet life. Still, love was the hardest thing to get, and her old acquaintances encourage her to keep up the fight.
Honey don’t stop trying
And you’ll get what you deserve
It’s a dark song, accelerating in the chorus where Rose preaches to his Michelle.
8. “Think About You”
This is a fully-realized song from guitarist Izzy Stradlin, and an optimistic one about love and its healing powers:
There wasn’t much in this heart of mine
There was a little left and babe you found it
It’s funny how I never felt so high
It’s pure classic rock, but for the vocals of Rose, biting even when he’s singing about the warmest love.
9. “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
A ballad that went straight to number 1, and the first, as Rose himself confessed, that refers to women in a positive way.
“Sweet Child O’ MIne” is dedicated to Axl’s former girlfriend, and includes lines as poetic and sincere as those on “November Rain” from Appetite For Destruction’s followup, Use Your Illusion:
She’s got eyes of the bluest skies
Just for Slash’s opening riff — that will give you goosebumps — the song is worth a listen, and throughout “Sweet Child O’ Mine” there is his most skilled performing, with all kind of registers and including a breathtaking solo.
The song proves that with determination it’s possible to be romantic and still maintain hardness and credibility, and for this it’s moving and captivating. Axl Rose would never again express such sweetness and tenderness, except on “Don’t Cry” (1991). “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is, by far, Guns N’ Roses’ best song ever.
10. “You’re Crazy”
The title of this song is one of the most common things that rockers tell their girlfriends. The discussion here is whether they are meant for each other, or if they just in it for the sex:
You’re crazy, hey, hey
You know you’re crazy, oh my!
You’re fuckin’ crazy, oh child
You know you’re crazy
She tells him he’s bitter, and he replies that she’d better look for another “piece of the action” — he’s not the one she’s looking for. Rose shouts and laughs in disbelief.
11. “Anything Goes”
When indulging in excess, sex is always included. Experimentation is the guide line: Axl is “always hungry for something that I haven’t had yet.” Anything either has in mind will take place tonight:
Panties ’round your knees
With your ass in debris
Tied up, tied down,
up against the wall
We can do it all
A vocoder is used here, and the closing of the song is climactic.
12. “Rocket Queen”
A rock ‘n’ roller and arrogance are one, so it’s understandable that he would boast of his sexual abilities in front of a woman, particularly when she’s older and seems more experienced:
Here I am and you’re a Rocket Queen
I might be a little young but honey I ain’t naive
The second part of the song has a slower rhythm, and the singer introduces the “supportive man” side of his personality — meaning he wants her for more than sex:
If you need a shoulder or if you need a friend
I’ll be here standing until the bitter end
Rumour has it that the groans that are heard were recorded deliberately for the album by Axl Rose and the girlfriend of one of his mates, a girl that was so devoted to the band that she was only too happy to add her sonic efforts to the mix.
Appetite For Destruction by Guns N’ Roses
“Welcome To The Jungle”
“It’s So Easy”
“Out Ta Get Me”
“Think About You”
“Sweet Child O’ Mine”