In 1985, Los Angeles, California, a group of wannabe rock stars decided to form a new band. A band that would challenge the modern dominance of 80s Hair Metal that was spilling out onto the streets of the Sunset Strip on a nightly basis. Slayer had released ‘Hell Awaits, Dokken unleashed ‘Under Lock and Key’, and Anthrax released their second studio record, ‘Spreading the Disease’. The mid-80s is often cited as the start of the end for Heavy Metal music. Mötley Crüe were riding high with ‘Shout At The Devil’, Dio was screaming Holy Diver and Judas Priest had just released ‘British Steel’ featuring ‘Breaking The Law’. Hair Spray, Studs, Leather Jackets and tight pants were the law of the land. Alcohol and drugs were your three daily meals of choice and if you weren’t hanging out at the Rainbow, you weren’t worth squat.
“Izzy was real good at like scamming his way in and I wasn’t. It took me about 2 years to even be able to talk to people”
- W. AXL ROSE
“Axl Rose was thrown out of here about 11 times. David Lee Roth was also a loyal customer, and he was tossed out about 13 times. They were probably trying to break a record.” says the late Mikeal Maglieri, former owner of The Rainbow Bar & Grill, West Hollywood.
One of the most iconic rock music videos of all time is ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ by Guns N Roses. The unforgettable opening scene that saw Slash’s’ triumphant hair glisten in the spotlight as he rips out the now infamous pop-rock riff on his trusty Les Paul Gold Top. Axl, fighting for headspace with his huge bandana wrapped around his head, most likely jealous of the Top Hat we’ve all come to know and love. The song itself is surprisingly tame compared to what we know of GNR today. Although many people classed Guns N Roses as a Metal band in the 80s, which is almost laughable now considering what Metal has become, GNR were a new breed of raw Hard Rock. What would later become the story of GNR, quite frankly, made all other Rock bands of the era, obsolete. GNR would go on to dominate charts, bedroom walls and the airwaves. Well, at least until it all went to shit in the mid-90s.
Slash, Axl and Izzy, were arguably the main attractions when it came to GNR. Slash played like a blues demon, Axl waved his hips better than anyone on the Sunset Strip whilst bringing his unique aggressive vocals to the table, and Izzy brought an air of Johnny Thunders style mystery, along with solid songwriting. Appetite For Destruction would become one of the most groundbreaking debut albums ever released by a Rock group. Slash was a huge fan of the Blues and a huge fan of Motörhead. He even formed a band called ‘Road Crew’ named after the 1980 Motörhead song, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’. Combine that with Axl’s voice and Izzy’s songwriting, how could it possibly go wrong?! What made Guns N Roses such a dangerous force was their lack of ambition to become anything other than Rock Superstars. They didn’t care about the money or material aspects of being RockStars, they simply wanted the Destruction that came with it.
“The monetary concept was never a priority, this is a band that just likes to exist as a band” Slash explains in a rare 1992 interview with CountDown. “As far as the pressures of everything else and all the material stuff, that’s something that’s been forced down our throats. We got into this because...our motivation was playing music so in some ways, we’re sort of naive and we’ve learned a lot but we always learn everything after.” This was a group of musicians hungry for excitement, destruction and a passion for pushing things to the limits.
Recorded between January and June of 1987, across 4 different studios in California, Rumbo Studios, Take One Studio, The Record Plant, and Can Am Studios, Geffen Records unleashed this 53-minute long beast upon the world on July 21, 1987. “Guys were trying to sell me joints everywhere” explains Axl Rose, regarding his relocation to Los Angeles before teaming up with his band of outlaws in 85, in a 1988 interview with Headbangers Ball. “Some black guy turned me on to the bus station and I remember thinking [LA] was just the smallest city I’d seen and I’d find Izzy, I rode the bus for like 2 days, never found Izzy.”
Axl lived for a short time in Huntington Beach with Izzy before exploring to find a place to live and a band to join. “I went to San Fransico, Rhode Island, Florida and then back to LA, I moved to Hollywood and lived with Izzy again and we started working on a band.” Not only would this be the foundation for Guns N Roses, but Axl’s love for tattoos at the time would result in him being responsible for the iconic album cover artwork. After forming GNR with the full line up, Axl decided to ink his skin with a cross and 5 skull heads under a banner that read ‘Guns N Roses’. This would eventually become the album artwork for Appetite For Destruction. “I like tattoos and I wanted something that would always remind me of what was once there, ya know, a symbol of it. So, I got this cross tattoo and Geffen liked it so much that we decided to use it as a cover,” explains Axl.
To this day, Appetite For Destruction is still regarded as one of the greatest Rock and Roll albums ever released. Almost every song on the LP is as memorable as the last. You’d be hard pushed to find a GNR fan that doesn’t know every single track on the album by heart. Appetite For Destruction changed Rock as we know it. Despite its current notoriety, Appetite didn’t make that much of a storm when it was initially released in 87, it would take the band over a year of touring and airplay to actually get noticed on a commercial level. “Slash is one of the most emotional guitar players I’ve ever met,” says Axl. “I came to LA and I saw all these people trying to be Eddie Van Halen and it took 4 or 5 years to find somebody who played more from the heart rather than trying to be the fastest and biggest rock star.”
Axl’s performance on Appetite For Destruction and his stage shows are highly electric which is a complete contradiction to the personality he brought with him to LA. Before forming GNR he couldn’t even speak to people, as he explains. “Izzy was real good at like scamming his way in and I wasn’t. It took me about 2 years to even be able to talk to people, I’d just kinda stand around and watch and people didn’t accept you so easily.” Axl also recalls being mocked for wearing cowboy boots. Axl and Izzy ran an advert for a “Heavy Metal Punk Glam guitarist with a blues influence and Slash showed up”. Although Slash showed up for the audition, Axl actually turned him away at first and the only reason they ended up working together is Slash kept appearing in the same clubs as Axl and Izzy. “It’s really funny, none of us are from Los Angeles and everybody tries to label us as an LA band,” says Slash. Top Hat on, cigarette in hand. “We just all happened to have met there and we were the only five guys that could have played together, there was nobody else in LA we could have played with so it was inevitable the 5 of us were to get together and that was it, there’s no other combination that could have worked.”
And with that, Appetite For Destruction was born.
Author Bio: AC Speed
I started my career as a music journalist in 2013 and have been involved in the music industry as a touring musician, studio engineer and artist consultant since 2002, as well as previously being a signed artist. My passion for delivering high quality, informative music-related news is a daily driving force behind the content I create. Also a huge gaming nerd! Born in the United Kingdom and currently living in Sweden. Skål!
CONTACT ME HERE
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