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1988.07.31 - Interview with Alan Niven

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1988.07.31 - Interview with Alan Niven Empty 1988.07.31 - Interview with Alan Niven

Post by Soulmonster on Tue 13 May 2014 - 11:37

From Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1988:

'Guns' Hang On 50 Weeks and Now Smell Like Roses

MTV wouldn't play the band's videos. Rock radio ignored its singles. Top rock managers wouldn't touch the raucous group with a 20-foot barge pole. The nation's biggest record distributor wouldn't even carry its album, saying that its lyrics were too filthy.

So where are these pop troublemakers a year later? At the top of the charts, of course.

Welcome to the amazing saga of Guns 'N' Roses, some of the baddest rock bad boys since the Rolling Stones, who are suddenly savoring the sweet smell of success. After 50 weeks on the Billboard charts, the band's "Appetite for Destruction" album has jumped to No. 1, dislodging hard-rock rivals Def Leppard.

You could call it a Cinderella story, but only if you replaced the lovely heroine with a quintet of foul-mouthed, hard-living runts whose idea of fairy-tale fun has included throwing a bottle of booze through a window at their record company, missing concert appearances and throwing up in the middle of an important interview at a highly-rated local rock station.

"Not bad for a bunch of crazy screw-ups, eh?" boasted band manager Alan Niven. When Niven first saw the band he turned to Tom Zutaut, its Geffen Records A&R exec, and said, "You're going to have your hands full!")

When "Appetite" was first released last August, it caused hardly a ripple, even when Geffen Records was forced to print up a new album jacket after record distributors refused to carry the original risque cover.

"The first single we released, 'Welcome to the Jungle,' was a flop--it barely got any airplay at all," recalled Geffen president Eddie Rosenblatt. "The second single didn't do much better. And MTV wasn't very interested in the video either."

So why didn't the record label throw in the towel? "Because we were constantly selling records, with absolutely no exposure," Rosenblatt said. "That told us we were onto something, even if radio or MTV didn't get it. We kept thinking--'Just think what we could sell if MTV really played the clip? Or if we miraculously had a hit single?' "

By year's end, miracles began to happen. Willing to do anything to get MTV's attention, Rosenblatt started sending its execs a weekly computer run of the band's record sales. Impressed, MTV put the "Welcome" video into its "Headbanger's Ball" program, where it did so well that the video network began playing it in regular rotation.

Geffen promptly re-released the song as a single, encouraging rock stations, already deluged by enormous call-in response from listeners, to get behind the track. Earlier this summer, the label released an even more mainstream song, "Sweet Child O' Mine," which has quickly become a Top 40 hit.

By then, the album was on its way--but it got one more key push. When Warner Bros. was making Clint Eastwood's "The Dead Pool," its film execs were trying to pick a new song to showcase in a key music-video scene in the film. Thanks to a timely suggestion from business affairs exec Debbie Reinberg, guess what they chose?

Guns 'N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle," which also plays throughout the film's heavily-publicized 90-second trailer.

"I'm a little disappointed that it's not a better film, but the trailer is really spectacular," said Niven. "And I'm sure it helped our momentum. After all, it was on practically every TV station in the entire country."

The band is on tour with Aerosmith, with a pair of Pacific Amphitheatre dates scheduled Sept. 14-15. (The group will also co-headline a major Sept. 17 outdoor date in Dallas with INXS and Ziggy Marley.)

But will all this success go to the group's head? Virtually everyone who's had any dealings with the band has returned with horror stories--and even Geffen execs make no secret of their concern that the group's nasty habits will someday cause it to self-destruct.

"I look at it as being part of the band's attraction," said Rosenblatt. "I don't think they'll self-destruct, but who knows? Their attitude is--they'd rather burn out than rust."

Asked if his band is prone to self-destructive behavior, Niven is more blunt. "Where there's smoke, there's fire. Their reputation is not unjustly earned. But I also think there's been a tremendous amount of exaggeration about their exploits.

"Let's just say that they are very willful and they do like to enjoy themselves. In fact, sometimes they really enjoy themselves. And right now I'd just like them to enjoy their career."
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