In three weeks, Appetite for Destruction turns 31 years old. Today, a remastered version is released. If you have a spare £850 lying around, you can get a four disc version of the album featuring the original album in its remastered form, everything the world’s former “most dangerous band in the world” recorded from this time and a bunch of memorabilia to accompany it. Even the “cheaper” option at £150 doesn’t have all the music which is the bit I’d want to part my cash for.
But I’m not here to discuss that. Instead, I’m here to talk about the greatness of the album. Honestly, until I hear the remastered version, I don’t think it needed to be done other than for the cash-in as the Not in This Lifetime tour finally wraps up. 31 years on and it still sounds great. For me, though, my love of the album runs so much deeper. Having read Slash’s autobiography when I was 15 and the only Guns N’ Roses material I knew was their Greatest Hits and erm…Chinese Democracy, I knew I had to delve into this.
I still remember finding the only copy in HMV and hiding it behind an Elton John CD whilst I went to get money out of the cash machine (chip and pin/contactless wasn’t a thing then). I still remember getting it home, sticking it into my PS3 (how modern, right?), leaving out “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” as I’d played them so much from the Greatest Hits album. Even to this day – almost 9 years later, I still listen to it in this fashion often. As soon as I hear that bass line from Duff McKagan on “It’s So Easy”, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing to attention.
But what made it so good? There was a reason it became one of the best-selling albums of all-time and is still regarded as not only one of the best debut albums rock has ever produced but also one of rock’s best albums. NWOBHM had largely died as thrash metal took hold whilst the alternative was hair metal. Here was a young band fuelled by alcohol, drugs and leftover teenage angst ready to reinvent what was hard rock. Mixing the blues influences of Slash with Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan’s punk leanings to create something hard, heavy and dangerous. Add in Axl Rose’s fairly unique vocal style and Steven Adler’s basic yet effective drums and it turned them into giants, if essentially it was a passing phenomenon.
For people who were teenagers when it came out, they say it changed everything in their own lives but they also note Appetite was what rock needed. 22 years later when I heard it, I had the same reaction. It struck my soul like a bolt of lightning, right at that point in my teens when you’re truly discovering your musical tastes. Queen, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, nothing was able to stand in the way of this behemoth. It became the album. The album I measure everything against. Sure, I don’t listen to it as much as I used to but whenever I hear a debut album, my first thought is always “It’s good but it’s not Appetite”. Well, one album came close but that’s a story for another day.
There’s an entire generation of bands now who cite Appetite for Destruction as a massive influence and with the current batch of hard rock bands knocking about, I can hear it immediately. But no-one plays their guitar quite like Slash. To be 22 years old and create one of rock’s most iconic opening riffs as a joke is when you know he’s something else. From his work on Appetite and his talks of his musical exploits in his autobiography, I devoured everything he put out to that point and it came right before that first solo album (to which I owe so much to as well).
Then there’s the tracks on it. If I’m ever asked for an album that I can listen to all the way through and not pick a weak track, it’s Appetite. Sure, some are my favourites more than others but there’s not a bad song on it. It was also the only album to feature the afore-mentioned Adler. Yeah, his drumming was fairly basic but Appetite wouldn’t sound the way it does if it wasn’t for him. The same goes for the oft-overlooked Izzy Stradlin. His gnarled rhythm guitar pinned against Slash’s passionate licks bulked out the sound and created some monstrous melodies.
As a teenager and you’re trying to make sense of the world, most people grabbed bands with lyrics they could relate to like My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold and Linkin Park. If those bands have that effect, they’ll always have my respect, even if Avenged are the only band on that list that I’m personally a fan of. Instead, ever the contrarian, I went the other way. These were songs about having a good time, songs about drugs and lust, songs about the highs and lows of living in LA and love letters to girlfriends. I listened to it so much. Every night as I did my homework and studied for exams. I know that album inside out. If I’m testing new headphones, it’s what I immediately reach for as it’ll be a perfect test. Can I hear Duff’s bass rumble? Can I hear Izzy’s scratching riffs?
A couple of years of it fully under my skin, a conversation with friends had us discussing tattoos as we were getting to that age. I knew immediately I wanted the Appetite for Destruction artwork – the iconic cross with the skulls of the five founding members. Not long after I turned 18, I went and sat for almost four hours as it was etched into my skin. Six years later, I still don’t regret it.
For me, Appetite for Destruction is the perfect hard rock sound. When someone says those two words to me, I go to that. Not the grandiose sounds on Illusions I and II, not Led Zeppelin IV or Back in Black. It’s one of the most important records rock has to this day. Distilled into an hour of emotion, skill and hunger to become the biggest band in the world, Appetite for Destruction still resonates. Will I check out the remaster? Of course, I can’t wait to hear how it stacks up against the original. My cynical mind insists it’s just to make some money (and I know for a fact if I had it, I’d be parting with £850 for the Super Deluxe Edition), it’s an album so ingrained in me that I know if it is justified, I’ll notice from the first notes of “Welcome to the Jungle”.