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2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years

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2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years Empty 2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years

Post by Blackstar on Mon Mar 16, 2020 5:16 pm

Thanks to @Surge for sending us this article!
(The scans are from a later reprint)


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Words: Mick Wall

We were sitting around, shooting the breeze as Slash tried to force his ever-present bottle of Jack Daniel’s into my hand and down my throat. Admittedly, he didn’t have to try hard. “We’re celebrating!” he told me, but Slash was always celebrating. This time, though, he actually had a reason. Appetite For Destruction, the debut Guns N’ Roses album, had just gone to Number One in America - exactly a year after its release.

“Can you fuckin’ believe it?” he laughed. The honest answer was no,

I couldn’t. But then, not even the band’s manager Alan Niven, could.

“When I signed this band, I didn’t know what to expect,” he cheerfully confided. “When I heard Appetite, I thought we’d be doing well if we sold 200,000 copies. If you’d tried to tell me there was a hit single on it, I would have laughed in your face!”

I looked back over at Slash and the guitarist nodded. “I know damn well the reason Appetite... is going where it’s going is because we hit a certain fuckin’ particular place and time and the sparks just flew,” he declared with a loud belch. “It’s not because the songs are all huge hits - that’s the last thing they are! They’re just a bunch of dirty rock'n’roll songs...”

And he was right. Beyond the gutter rock songs and trash-aesthetic vibe, what made Guns N’ Roses seem so special back then was the conviction that here was a band that would always take things just a little further than most. Not for nothing, did they earn the title The Most Dangerous Band In the World.

Axl Rose, as usual, was the one who really hit the nail on the head. “In certain ways, no one’s done what we’ve done,” the singer told me. “No-one’s come out with a record that captured that kind of spirit, since maybe the first Sex Pistols album. And they only got to do one album, so now we’re out there somewhere where no-one’s been before...”

Prophetic words, perhaps, when you consider what fate later had in store for the band. But we didn’t know that then.

“Fuck the future, man,” said Slash. “I’m amazed we even kept it together long enough to make this record...”

But wait. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. For in order to relate the story behind the first Guns N’ Roses album, you also have to tell, in part, the story of the 80s.

Born into a decade where acid now meant rain and sex suddenly equalled death, the greatest achievement of Appetite For Destruction was that it totally defied the twisted logic of its times. With its endless stream of fucks and songs about groupies and heroin, Appetite... signalled Guns N’ Roses out as an anomaly; harking back to an earlier, more authentic era, before MTV and rock-by-numbers pretenders like Poison, Ratt and Motley Crüe ruled the roost.

Unlike everyone else at the time, the boys from Guns N’ Roses admitted to taking drugs, swore blind by alcohol, and claimed not to know the meaning of the words 'safe sex’. Calling their first album Appetite For Destruction was less a marketing device and more a full-on declaration of intent. Nice boys don’t play rock'n’roll.

Appearing to arrive from out of nowhere, in truth, the five-man band that made that fateful album - W. Axl Rose, Slash, fellow guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler - had struggled individually for years before coming together in 1985. William Bailey, eldest son of L. Stephen and Sharon Bailey, was born in Lafayette, Indiana, on 6th February, 1962.

A precocious child who sang in the Pentecostal church choir and studied classical piano, Billy was 17 when he discovered his real father was a rabble-rousing delinquent named William Rose, who had abandoned him and his mother some years before. A discovery that sparked such a dramatic transformation of character he became “the town delinquent.”

“I got thrown in jail over 20 times,” he later claimed. “The cops hated me.”

Angry and defiant, he changed his name back to William Rose, then insisted everybody call him ‘Axl’ -after an early garage band he fronted.

“He was a serious lunatic,” recalled Izzy, who grew up with him. “Always fighting and getting into trouble. If it wasn’t for the band, I just hate to think what he’d have become."

The same age as Axl, Izzy (b. Jeff Isabelle, Lafayette, 8th April 1962) hitched down to Los Angeles, when he was 18, to join punk band Naughty Women. By the time Axl joined him, in 1982, Izzy had played with The Atoms and London. He knew the score, took Axl in, and together they formed a band: Hollywood Rose.

Sleeping on floors and paying their way by volunteering for $5-an-hour medical experiments on the effects of non-stop smoking, Anything Goes - which they wrote then and would later feature on Appetite - accurately describes those times.

When Axl brought in guitarist Tracii Guns - whose band, LA Guns, Axl had sung in, briefly - and drummer Rob Gardner, a new name was needed, and after considering both Heads Of Amazon and AIDS, they settled on the Weedin’ obvious: Guns N’ Roses.

Meanwhile, up in Seattle, 19-year old Michael McKagan (b. 5th February, 1964) had started playing “in a lot of local punk bands,” including the Fartz (later Ten Minute Warning), where ‘Duff' became “my punk name.” Turning down an invitation to join the Angelic Upstarts, Duff quit Ten Minute Warning and, in January ’85, moved down to LA with pal, Greg Gilmore, where they attended auditions together.

Through an ad in The Recycler, they met Slash and Steven Adler, whose band, Road Crew, they joined. But Greg moved back to Seattle where he later joined Pearl Jam-precursors Mother Love Bone, and the trio were left in limbo.

Like Axl, Steven (b. Cleveland, Ohio, 22nd January, 1965) came from a broken home. Sent to live with an elderly grandmother in LA, it was Steven - a Kiss fanatic - who taught Slash his first guitar chords.

Slash was born Saul Hudson, in Stoke-on-Trent, England, 22nd July, 1965. Dad was a famous English sleeve-designer (see Joni Mitchell’s Court And Spark); mum was a black American clothes designer (see David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth).

A friend of his father’s nicknamed him ‘Slash’ because “I was always telling my parents to fuck off. I guess some people found that shocking...”

When his parents broke up, Slash moved to LA, where he met Steven. Having both failed auditions to join Poison, they decided to form Road Crew. Enter: Duff. But with the ‘Crew “not doing much more than jamming”, Duff accepted an invitation from Izzy to join the fledgling Gunners.

When Tracii and Rob bowed out on the eve of a mini-tour Duff had lined-up via his connections in Seattle, the bassist immediately suggested they should bring Slash and Steven as 11th-hour replacements, and Axl grudgingly agreed.

Dubbed the Hell Tour - “Everything that could fuckin’ go wrong did!” sighed Duff- it was here that the real GN’R spirit was formed. When they returned for their first gig in LA at the Troubadour, in October 1985, they did so, Slash said, “as a real livin’ breathin’ mother-fucker of a band!”

Becoming regulars at the Whiskey, the Roxy, the Water Club, and Scream, by the beginning of 1986 the band had written all 12 of the songs destined for ‘Appetite...’ and, A&R men were, as Izzy put it, “crawling all over us. They would come over to the studio, and come in the alley and see drunks - there’d be one guy sitting there with a bottle on his head - and the next thing we’re all being taken out to lunch.”

They all lived together in a bottle-strewn shack in Sunset Boulevard dubbed the Hell House. So called, said Izzy, “’Cause it was a living fuckin’ hell!” Axl: “We lived on $3.75-a-day- enough to buy gravy and biscuits at Denny’s Deli and a couple of bottles of Nightrain or Thunderbird wine - that was it, you survived...”

The Hellhouse didn’t have a shower but that was OK as the rain always leaked in. It had no beds, either, so they stole wood from a building site and built a makeshift loft, which they shared with various groupies.

“There was a lot of indoor and outdoor sex,” Axl recalled.

“I used to fuck girls just so I could stay at their place,” confessed Slash.

“We sold drugs,” shrugged Izzy. “Or we’d throw parties and ransack the girl’s purse while one of the guys was with her.”

Eventually, after Geffen Records promised to let them record the album they wanted to, Guns N’ Roses signed to the label on 25th March, 1986. “We spent half the advance on clothes,” Slash smirked, “And the other half on getting wasted...”

More seriously, before recording could begin, Slash, for one, “has a lot of shit to get through.” Namely, a raging heroin habit. “There was a point where I stopped playing guitar and didn’t come out for three months,” he admitted.

What snapped him out of it was a phone call from Duff.

“He said, ‘You’ve alienated yourself from the band’. Since they’re the only people I’m really close to, that really affected me, and I quit.”

For Axl, drugs were the least of it.

“I did heroin for three weeks straight,” he told one reporter, “and had one of the greatest times in life - doing drugs and fucking.”

But he didn’t let drugs control him. “I stopped on, like, Saturday, because I had serious business to attend to on Monday.”

What Axl found much harder to control was his emotions, which often threatened to overwhelm the sessions. But then this was the singer whose soon-to-be wife (now ex-wife), Erin Everly, claimed he once beat her for tidying his CDs.

But the occasional tantrum aside, recording of the first Guns N’ Roses album, which took place at Rumbo Studios, in Canoga Park, late in ’86, was a relatively trouble-free zone.

‘What people don’t understand is there was a perfectionist attitude to Appetite,” Axl told me. “There was a definite plan. We could have made it all smooth and polished. We went and did some stuff with [producer] Spencer Proffer and Geffen said it was too fuckin’ radio. We knew the only way to capture that energy is by making it somewhat live, doing the bass, the drums and the rhythm guitar at the same time. Getting the best track, having it a bit faster than you play it live... adding lots of vocal parts, and overdubs with the guitar. Because Guns N’ Roses on stage, man, can be out to lunch! It’s like, how do you get that on a record?”

Mike Clink, an Englishman who had worked with Ozzy Osbourne and Heart, was chosen as the session’s producer for his laidback demeanour as much as his studio savvy. Axl: “Mike understood that Guns N’ Roses doesn’t fully function unless it’s a kamikaze run. Like, fuck it, man, let’s go down in fuckin’ flames if we have to with this motherfucker!”

It certainly sounded that way. From the ominous opening guitar lines of Welcome To The Jungle - like footsteps following you down a dark street - to the cathartic street symphony that is album closer, Rocket Queen, the first Guns N’ Roses album would be everything the ’80s had not been: dangerous, honest and, apparently, utterly uncommercial.

Tracks like, My Michelle (about a ‘friend’), Out Ta Get Me (about the enemy), and an insanely speeded-up You're Crazy (“Axl talking to Axl,” as Slash put it), made the band sound like the Sex Pistols, Aerosmith, Hanoi Rocks and the Rolling Stones all rolled into one ungainly heap at the foot of the stairs.

Strewn with the f-word, and thus deprived airplay, insiders claim Geffen - convinced the album would not yield any hit singles - actively encouraged this. For Axl, though, the reasons were far more prosaic.“I watch MTV and it’s hard not to throw shit at the TV set because it’s so fuckin’ boring. It’s new to us, this business and we meet people and they say do this, do that. And we say, fuck it, fuck you. We do whatever we fuckin’ want to do...”

Crammed with drug analogies - from the 7 used ta do a little but a little wouldn’t do it/So the little got more and more’ couplet in Mr. Brownstone to more oblique references to life at the Hell House in Nightrain - as Axl explained: “Everybody was into dope then and those analogies are great in rock songs - Aerosmith done proved that, and the Stones. The language is always the hippest. And, yeah, shit happens...”

But if sleaze would be used to sell Appetite, what transported it from trash-rock cult status into the realms of all-time rock classic was the album’s only near-ballad: Sweet Child O’ Mine.

With its captivating guitar motif and unashamedly poetic lyrics - ‘Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place/Where as a child I’d hide’ - Sweet Child... proved there was more to Guns N’ Roses than just a bad attitude. While Paradise City, with its cartwheeling riff and joyous chorus spoke of a musical maturity far beyond the bounds of their tawdry image.

The first single from Appetite, the punk-esque It’s So Easy (b/w Mr. Brownstone), was released in Britain on 15th June, 1987 - the same week they played three raucous nights at London’s Marquee. Their first shows outside America, ‘A rock band even nastier than the Beastie Boys is heading for Britain!’ warned The Star.

“I don’t know,” Axl shook his head. “Guns N’ Roses has this reputation for being the next bad boys. It’s either somebody kicked our ass or it’s how some chick is scared I’m gonna come kill her cat. I mean, I could make a joke about it, but...” He shrugged. The press would become an increasingly annoying bugbear as the years quickly shot past.

When Appetite For Destruction was released on 31st July, 1987, despite generally glowing reviews and enormous controversy over the sleeve - a Robert Williams painting of a girl sexually assaulted by a robot - it was not a hit. It would take nine more months of solid touring and the break-through on MTV of Sweet Child O’ Mine before it finally nosed its way into the US Top Ten.

IN those nine months, the band’s reputation was sealed forever. Touring with Motley Crüe, bassist Nikki Sixx overdosed and nearly died while ‘hanging out’ with Slash and Steven; then Axl ended up in hospital after attacking a cop; and when they toured Britain with Faster Pussycat, Steven broke his hand in a bar-room brawl.

Early ’88 found the band back in Rumbo with Mike Clink to record some acoustic songs (for their next mini-album, GN’R Lies). At first exhilarated, Axl walked out on the band “for good” not long after.

He then returned three days later.

“Somethin’ always happens and I react like a motherfucker to it,” he chuckled darkly. “I don’t like to have this pot-smoking mentality. Like, peace and love, man, for sure, or you’re gonna fuckin’ die!” When, on 23rd July, 1988, Appetite For Destruction reached Number One on the Billboard charts, it was, he said, not just a triumph but “a vindication.”

The first, and still the best Guns N’ Roses album, Appetite stayed at Number One in the US for the rest of ’88, achieving similar status in Britain and around the world. There would be further highs along the way - performing Welcome To The Jungle at the MTV Awards in September ’88; making the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time that November - and just as many lows - not least, the tragic death of two fans during the band’s set at Donington, in August the same year - but that’s all for another story.

Suffice to say: things would never be quite the same again.

For any of us...



It's So Easy was the first single from the album. Though it was doomed not to receive any mainstream airplay because of the prodigious swearing, an X-rated video for it was later shot, in October 1989, at The Cathouse club in LA. Directed by Nigel Dick (who also made the Paradise City video). The band later decided against releasing it - until 2018 for the new 'Locked N' Loaded' boxset.

Four singles were released from Appetite For Destruction. The second, Welcome To The Jungle, was released in Britain in October 1987.The memorable video - their first - was shot in August, at Park Plaza & 450 S. La Brea, in West Hollywood. Much later, they recorded a rap version of Welcome..., said to have featured Ice-T on vocals, but, again, it has never been released.

The third single, Sweet Child O' Mine, was released in June r88 and became the band's first US Number One single. The grainy black-and-white video, which featured all their existing girlfriends (including the future Mrs Mandy McKagan and Mrs Erin Rose) was shot at the Ballroom, in Huntington Park, California, in April.

The fourth single was Paradise City. With a video featuring live footage from their show at the Giants' Stadium, in New Jersey, the previous summer, as well as Castle Donington (Axl in a white leather jacket), it became the first Guns N' Roses single to reach the UK Top 10, when it was released here in March 1989.

When GN'R Lies joined Appetite For Destruction in the American charts in January 1989, Guns N' Roses became the first recording artists for 15 years to have two albums in the US Top Five simultaneously.

Sweet Child O' Mine won Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video at the MTV Awards in September, 1989. Axl and Izzy then joined Tom Petty on stage for a live version of his then hit single, Free Failin’. On October 18,19, 21 & 22, of 1989, Guns N' Roses opened for the Rolling Stones at the LA Coliseum and Axl made his famous announcement that he would quit if certain members of the band didn't stop "dancing with Mr. Brownstone" - a thinly veiled reference to the heroin problems Slash, Izzy and Steven were again experiencing. It was the latter's last ever gig with the band and proved to be the first nail in the original band's coffin.

Appetite For Destruction has certified sales of 18 million in the US, making it officially the 11th best-selling album of all time in the States.

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2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years Empty Re: 2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years

Post by Soulmonster on Wed Mar 18, 2020 8:00 am

I hate these kinds of articles. I am sure they are good for casual fans, but to me it is difficult, especially since they were written by Mick Wall. The quotes can come from any sources, Wall's talks with the band or other interviews, and I would expect they to be rewritten slightly here and there to make it fit with the format. It is a secondary source, and not entirely trustworthy as that, either.
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2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years Empty Re: 2000.01.DD - Classic Rock - The Destruction Years

Post by Blackstar on Wed Mar 18, 2020 8:12 am

@Soulmonster wrote:I hate these kinds of articles. I am sure they are good for casual fans, but to me it is difficult, especially since they were written by Mick Wall. The quotes can come from any sources, Wall's talks with the band or other interviews, and I would expect they to be rewritten slightly here and there to make it fit with the format. It is a secondary source, and not entirely trustworthy as that, either.
I completely agree. All the quotes in the article sound familiar, but it's very annoying when an article is compiled from quotes without citing the source.
Unfortunately this is the case with most of the later retrospective articles, and - even worse - with the unauthorised GnR biographies.

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