Sunday, November 30, 2008

A GNR Retrospective: Beginnings To Appetite For Destruction

Formation And Discovery

Guns N' Roses was formed in Los Angeles, California in March 1985 by Hollywood Rose vocalist Axl Rose and L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns. Rose recruited Hollywood Rose's rhythm guitarist, Izzy Stradlin, to join the band, and Guns recruited former L.A. Guns members Ole Beich and Rob Gardner for bass guitar and drums respectively. Soon after the formation, Beich was replaced by Duff McKagan, and guitarist Slash and drummer Steven Adler filled in for Guns and Gardner, after they failed to show up at a concert the band was to perform. In early 1986 Slash and Adler became full time members of the band after Guns and Gardner were fired for not appearing at several of the band's performances. The name Guns N' Roses was derived from a combination of the two bands that they were formed from.
After witnessing a Guns N' Roses show at the Troubadour, Tom Zutaut, a Geffen Records A&R executive, falsely warned other scouts "they suck" so he could have more time and leeway to sign them. Axl Rose demanded, and received, a $75,000 advance from Zutaut before revealing that he had promised an A&R executive from Chrysalis that the band would sign with her if she walked naked down Sunset Boulevard. For three days, Zutaut nervously watched from his office window for a naked A&R executive before he could close the deal. Alan Niven was subsequently hired as the band's manager, and the team set out to record the band's full-length debut album.

Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide

Before the first full album was ready Geffen decided to release an EP to keep the interest in the band that had to disappear from the club scene to work on the album. For this purpose an "independent label" Uzi Suicide Records was created by Geffen and on December 16 1986, a four song EP entitled Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide was released.
Designed to gauge public opinion of the band outside of Los Angeles, the record contained covers of Rose Tattoo's "Nice Boys" and Aerosmith's "Mama Kin", along with two original compositions: the punk anthem "Reckless Life" and the classic rock inspired "Move to the City", both of which were co-written by Hollywood Rose's founding member Chris Weber. Despite having the look and sound of a live album, band members have admitted that the tracks were actually studio recordings with a live audience overdubbed.
Only 10,000 vinyl copies of the album were produced, and even though the tracks were re-issued verbatim two years later as part of the GN'R Lies EP, the original Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide has been a valuable and sought after collector's item among fans since the late 1980s.

Appetite For Destruction

The band's first album, Appetite For Destruction, was released on July 21, 1987. In the US, "Welcome to the Jungle" was issued as its first single with an accompanying music video. Initially, the album and single did not perform well, but when Geffen Records founder David Geffen was asked to lend support to the band, he obliged by personally convincing MTV executives to play "Welcome to the Jungle" during their after hours rotation. Even though the video was initially only played one time at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, rock and punk fans took notice and soon began requesting the video and song.
Overseas, countries were often treated to material that never saw release to the US market, and went unexposed to US fans. The original UK "Welcome to the Jungle" single was backed with a performance of AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" and a 12-inch single included live renditions of "It's So Easy" and the Bob Dylan classic "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (which would later be covered by the band in the studio on Use Your Illusion II). In Japan, an entire self-titled EP was issued, containing the album version of "Sweet Child o' Mine" and most of the Marquee Club recordings.
The album underwent an artwork change after the original Robert Williams cover design (a surrealist scene in which a dagger-toothed monster vengefully attacks a robot rapist) spawned complaints from religious groups and caused some record stores to brown bag, obscure, or refuse to sell the album. The revised cover was gleaned from a tattoo that Axl Rose had recently commissioned featuring skeleton faces of the five musicians arranged on a cross. Rose later insisted that the Gold and Platinum plaques issued by the RIAA be set using the original cover. The artwork from the original cover can be found in the booklet of the CD release.
"Sweet Child o' Mine" was the album's second US single co-written by Axl Rose as a poem for his girlfriend and future wife, Erin Everly. Due to the growing grassroots success of the band and the cross-gender appeal of the tune, the song and its accompanying music video received heavy airplay on both radio and MTV, and became a smash hit during the summer of 1988. "Welcome to the Jungle" was then re-issued as a single, with new pressings of records and tapes and new artwork. The UK re-release was backed with an acoustic version of "You're Crazy", recorded much earlier than the one featured on the G N' R Lies EP.
By the time "Paradise City" and its video reached the airwaves, the band's touring success and fame had catapulted the album to #1 on the Billboard charts. "Welcome to the Jungle", "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Paradise City" were all top ten singles in the U.S. To date, Appetite for Destruction has sold over 26 million copies.


GN'R Lies

The album "GN'R Lies," is a re-issue of their debut EP "Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide" and an unreleased acoustic EP, released after the success of "Appetite For Destruction." It is a good first effort by the band. The "live" songs (they all turned out to be made live in the studio), "Reckless Life," "Nice Boys," "Move To The City," and "Mama Kin," all show the ferocity that GN'R was known for at the time. The second half of the disc houses some of my favorites, "Patience," the tongue-in-cheek "Used To Love Her," "You're Crazy," and "One In A Million." These latter tracks show off the bands musical ability, which would become more prevalent in their later albums, the "Use Your Illusion" double disc.

  1. "Reckless Life" – 3:21

  2. "Nice Boys" (Rose Tattoo Cover) – 3:04

  3. "Move to the City" – 3:43

  4. "Mama Kin" (Aerosmith Cover) – 3:57

  5. "Patience" – 5:56

  6. "Used to Love Her" – 3:13

  7. "You're Crazy" – 4:10

  8. "One in a Million" – 6:09

Appetite For Destruction

Appetite For Destruction is GN'R's claim to fame. It houses more of their hits than any other record, and was a seminal debut full-length album for the band. It catapulted them into stardom, which only ended when they did. With their mega hits, "Welcome To The Jungle," "Paradise City," and "Sweet Child o' Mine," this album was a best seller and is one of my favorites to this day. I love the songs (which weren't ever made into singles) "Mr. Brownstone," and "It's So Easy," as they highlight different aspects of the band, and pave the way to their greatness.

  1. "Welcome To The Jungle" - 4:34

  2. "It's So Easy" - 3:22

  3. "Nightrain" - 4:28

  4. "Out Ta Get Me" - 4:23

  5. "Mr. Brownstone" - 3:48

  6. "Paradise City" - 6:46

  7. "My Michelle" - 3:39

  8. "Think About You" - 3:51

  9. "Sweet Child o' Mine" - 5:56

  10. "You're Crazy" - 3:17

  11. "Anything Goes" - 3:26

  12. "Rocket Queen" - 6:13

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