Debut albums for a band can truly be hit or miss. Sometimes a band is still tinkering with the lineup or even their sound so what you get is a hodgepodge of old stuff written by the lead singer before the band got started. Or, sometimes you’ll get a bunch of random tracks that the band had no time practice but were forced out in the studio. But, every once in a while, you get a debut album that makes music history–although it’s very rare, when it happens, that album becomes music legend.
Today we look at Guns N’ Roses, a band formed in Los Angeles, California in the mid-80s. Axl Rose was in a band called Hollywood Rose, and a couple of the other guys were in a band called LA Guns. With a lack of creativity, the merge of the two names created the band. Their first tour was extremely disorganized and went from Sacramento to Seattle. While the band felt energized by the experience, the record industry felt even more than that. Major record labels were fawning over the chance to sign GNR, with Geffen winning out, offering them a $75,000 dollar advance.
That first studio album was Appetite for Destruction, which was released in July of 1987. Recording was done in Los Angeles, and was all done in pieces. Drums were done over a few days, Slash recorded his guitar portions over a few weeks, and the longest stretch was Axl Rose completing the vocals. He took months, doing them line by line, in search of the perfect sound. It was that strive for perfection that drove his bandmates away from the studio and caused the sound editors to work 18 hour days to splice together the best takes. While the album was mostly made up of old songs and stuff the entire band hadn’t played before, the album was a smash.
The album’s popularity started out beyond slowly. It didn’t chart until August of 1988—it was the release of “Sweet Child O’Mine” that pushed Appetite for Destruction into the mainstream where it started growing. After it got steam, other singles were re-released and the album saw huge radio play. The album spent a month straight at number one on the charts and 147 total weeks on the top 200.
With all that success, the album has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. And interestingly enough, the song that started it all has been referred to as the least favorite and the laziest of the entire album. Slash has indicated the riff is way too simplified and the infamous ‘where do we go?’ portion of the song was the band sitting in the studio wondering how to end the song in a cool manner. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
I certainly wouldn’t admit to being GNR’s biggest fan in the world, but Appetite for Destruction is pretty solid. It’s classic rock n’ roll from the 80s. Super heavy guitar, a signature ballad, and an overall “bad boy” image (no doubt partly because of some of the explicit lyrics, so be warned) made this an anthem for the times. It’s definitely not a unique sound, but that doesn’t stop it from rocking. For a mere $5.99, 40 million copies can’t be wrong.
Top 3 Tracks: