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2001.06.DD - Revolver - How A Robot And A Rape Scene Got The Gunners' Debut Banned In America (Slash)

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2001.06.DD - Revolver - How A Robot And A Rape Scene Got The Gunners' Debut Banned In America (Slash) Empty 2001.06.DD - Revolver - How A Robot And A Rape Scene Got The Gunners' Debut Banned In America (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:04 pm

Guns N' Roses
Appetite For Destruction

How A Robot And A Rape Scene Got The Gunners' Debut Banned In America


By Christopher Scapelliti

t's hard to know where the middle of the road is when you're used to driving on the edge. So it came as some surprise to Guns N' Roses, one of hard rock's most wayward bands, when the original cover art for the group's 1987 debut album infuriated feminists and led several major retailers to ban the record from stores. Depicting an alluring female street vendor who appears to have been raped by a robot, the illustration was the handiwork of Robert Williams, a cofounder of the infamous late-Sixties underground comic book Zap! and a fine artist known for his erotically charged and often violent paintings.

According to Slash, Guns N' Roses' former lead guitarist, no one in the band considered that the illustration could be offensive, least of all lead singer Axl Rose, who saw the image on a postcard in an L.A. shop and co-opted both the artwork and it's title, Appetite For Destruction, for the group's debut.

"When you consider the climate of Hollywood, where we were all living, that painting would have been one of the least shocking things going on," says Slash. "We'd seen some pretty, pretty hectic shit over the years. We just didn't really feel that that picture fell into that category."

THE DESIGN

With the blessings of the band, Rose hunted down Williams and asked permission to use the image. Williams, however, had little interest in allowing an unknown rock group to use his painting. More to the point, past experience had taught him that any controversy arising from use of the art would be deflected by the band and fall upon him.

After months of futile calls to Williams, Rose drove to the artist's house to deal with him face to face. "I got confronted by this guy Axl Rose at my door," Williams recalls, "I thought he was just another gay transvestite when I first met him. [Guns N' Roses] were completely unheard of at the time."

Seeing that Rose had no intentions of backing down, Williams finally relented. "I told Axl he was going to get into trouble. I said 'yes,' but I knew there'd be a problem."

THE PROTEST

A similar apprehension hung over Geffen, the group's label. But, perhaps sensing that the controversy would make good press, Geffen decided to issue the album with Williams' cover art, and suffer - or exploit - the consequences.

Released August 1, 1987, Appetite for Destruction immediately drew protests from distributors and retail chains. In Santa Cruz, feminist groups staged boycotts of stores that carried the record, and similar protests took place in more-conservative corners of the U.S.

As Williams predicted, the storm swept past the group and descended upon him. "None of the guys in this band were too articulate, so they would direct the media to me to defend the cover."

The squabble eventually attracted the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), the cultural watchdog group headed by Tipper Gore that was ultimately responsible for instigating the music industry's warning label system. "Mrs. Gore was really becoming a pain in everybody's ass, at least in the rock and roll circles," says Slash.

THE NEW COVER

The PMRC's involvement was just the motivation Geffen needed to repackage Appetite for Destruction for the American market. Williams' artwork was moved to the inside of the album; in it's place went an illustration of a cross with five skulls that represented Guns N' Roses' members.

"We fought against the switch just for the sake of fighting," says Slash. "We fought until it became senseless even to us. We figured we could make the Robert Williams picture bigger on the inside anyway."

THE PAYBACK

Ultimately, the group had the last laugh. Appetite for Destruction reached #1 in the U.S. and became the biggest-seling debut album of all time. "We ended up selling a million more copies because the original cover turned into a fuckin' collector's item," says Slash. "[The PMRC] was saying, 'Let's put the cookie jar a little bit higher,' and it just made our fans that much more determined to get the record. So there you go, Tipper, you stupid bitch."

Williams didn't make out nearly as well. While Appetite for Destruction sold millions, he complained publicly that he'd never received more that the small licensing fee he charge the then-unknown group. Says Willims, "Let's just say I grabbed the soap on that deal."

Slash begs to differ. "He can say that, but he got thrown into the center of that shit storm and he got a lot of attention for it. So he definitely benefited, one way or the other."

Slash left Guns N' Roses acrimonously in 1994 and now fronts his own group, Slash's Snakepit. Although he prefers to distance himself from his former band, the guitarist has good memories of the group's early days and remains fond of Appetite for Destruction's original cover. "Out of all the Gold or Platinum albums I received for that record, the only piece of parapernalia I've kept is a copy of that painting," he says. "It just sums up those times perfectly, the way that everything - and really, everything - was blown up bigger than life."

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Source:
https://web.archive.org/web/20021212234542/http://www.gnrunlimited.com/articles/R-5_6-01.html
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