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Appetite for Destruction

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  • One afternoon in 1986, I was relaxing in my bedroom after a long day at school when a song came on the radio that changed my life forever. Between the glorious screeching of the lead singer and the unforgettable guitar riffs, it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard. When the song was over, I listened intently until the DJ said, “That was `Welcome to the Jungle’ by a band out of L.A. called Guns n Roses and they’ve just released an album titled Appetite for Destruction.” I immediately called up my friend, Chris, and told him I’d just heard the most incredible song and filled him in on the details. Chris could always be counted on to do the right thing so I wasn’t particularly surprised when he showed up at my parents’ house that night in his beloved beige Ford Escort with a brand new cassette in its tape deck. We picked up our Smiths-loving feminist friend, Cynthia, and headed down to Hampton. As `It’s So Easy’ blasted out of the Escort’s cheap speakers, Cynthia’s face turned crimson and she became enraged, “What is this crap?” she yelled. “It’s our new tape by Guns n Roses,” Chris said in his most soothing voice, “Just relax and enjoy it.” “Turn around btch, I’ve got a use for you!,” ordered Axl. That was all Cynthia could take. “Turn that misogynistic sht off,” Cynthia screamed. Chris and I couldn’t help but laugh. Cynthia was a good friend, but not that good. I mean we had just discovered perhaps the greatest album of all time and Cynthia wanted us to cut it off due to a few of Axl’s more colorful turns of phrase. She’d have to endure it. And endure it she did – until “Rocket Queen” ended and we started it all over again. Probably not a night Cynthia recalls fondly, but Chris and I sure enjoyed it.Then over time, a funny thing happened. “Welcome to the Jungle” became a hit and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” became a cultural phenomenon. All the girls (Cynthia included) who previously despised Guns n Roses fell madly in love with them once they heard Axl serenading Erin Everly’s eyes in song. Even our classmate Jenny, a Kate Bush fan whose Sapphic tendencies were just beginning to blossom, began raving incredulously about Axl being a poet after hearing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on the radio. Yes, those were pretty weird times and we have Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven to thank for them.Appetite for Destruction provided me with a musical identity. I’d spent the first few years of high school in the classic rock scene because that’s what I heard on the radio and I didn’t own any music of my own. My mom and dad listened to classical and country, respectively, at the time and it just didn’t seem possible to bring rock music into our house. For one thing, I never really had much spending money so I just quietly listened to the radio in my room hearing the same classic rock songs over and over. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them, but when I heard Appetite for Destruction, it was like a void had been filled within me. As a shy person myself, Axl shouted all the things I and countless other kids like me in America wanted to shout but couldn’t. Even if I wasn’t dancing with Mr. Brownstone, taking the Night Train, or dating a girl whose daddy worked in porno, at least I knew Axl was. References to GnR became commonplace in and around our high school. I can’t tell you how many times Chris and I told Cynthia she had “nothing better to do” and that we were “bored”. At the McDonald’s in Lightfoot, John Martin leaned against a refrigerator, inhaled deeply, and claimed to “smoke his cigarette with style.”With Appetite for Destruction, more than for any other album in my collection, the stories and memories are endless. For better or worse, it helped make me the person I am today. I have always been willing to accept that different people have different opinions on music, but I remember being horrified in the 1990s when GnR became a punchline for alterna-brats. Only a handful of bands have revolutionized popular music. We treat the others (Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana) reverentially, why not GnR as well? As far as I’m concerned, Appetite for Destruction is the best record released during my lifetime and probably the best rock record ever made. “Take that one to heart.”

    Posted on March 15, 2010