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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Appetite for Destruction Turns 25

July 21 marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, Appetite for Destruction.

GNR came from the same mid-‘80s Sunset Strip scene that produced the likes of Poison and Motley Crue, and thus their music is sometimes lumped in with the pop-metal acts of the day. The truth, though, is that Appetite was edgier and far more serious than anything those bands did. In fact, Nicholas Pell at LA Weekly considers Appetite to be the most important album of the past 25 years, edging Nirvana’s Nevermind, a seminal album in its own right.

Personally, I’d agree with that assessment; I’d even argue that GNR set the stage for the success of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the grunge scene to come. Can you imagine going from the popularity of “Unskinny Bop” (Poison) and “More Than Words” (Extreme) to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” without the heavier tones of GNR to act as a bridge?

Appetite eased its way into the mainstream when the first single, “Welcome to the Jungle,” gained popularity on MTV after the album had been out for more than a year. The second single, “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” built on that success, and the third, “Paradise City,” cemented it.

Since then, it’s been a long, strange trip for Guns N’ Roses. They followed up Appetite with GNR Lies in November of 1988. It contained four live tracks and four acoustic songs, including the megahit “Patience.” That held fans over until the dual albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II released in 1991 (debuting at #1 and #2 on the Billboard charts). While those albums contain many of the band’s best-known songs, they were also largely uneven. Then, in 1993, came the ill-fated The Spaghetti Incident?, an album of covers that would be the last recorded with GNR’s “classic” lineup (featuring Slash on guitar and Duff McKagan on bass in addition to Axl Rose on vocals).

That was it from Guns N’ Roses until Chinese Democracy finally surfaced in November of 2008 after being rumored since 1999, with Axl Rose being the only original member of the band remaining. Despite a completely different sound than any previous GNR material, it went platinum and was generally well received by critics.

The original lineup of Guns N’ Roses (Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin, and Steven Adler) was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. Axl and Izzy did not attend, but the others reunited (along with “auxiliary” members Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum) to perform three songs from Appetite for Destruction with Myles Kennedy on vocals.

As for the future, it’s very much up in the air. Rumors swirl that the new GNR lineup is preparing to begin recording a new album, while some longtime fans continue to hold out hope that Axl and Slash will try to put their differences behind them for a reunion of some sort.

Whatever happens going forward, there’s no denying the impact that Appetite for Destruction has had and continues to have on the music world. Make sure you have this classic album, as well as GNR’s other work, on your library’s shelves.

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