In Defence Of…………Guns’N’Roses

After the reasonably successful defence of Menswe@r’s legacy, I thought i’d try another much maligned band that I love: Guns ‘n’ Roses.

Now, G’n’R (as they will henceforth be known) are quite rightly pilloried for being rock’n’roll cliche, washed-up hasbeens with a self-delusional, talentless megalomaniac frontman in Axl Rose. All true, but for me, before the ‘Spill corrupted me with jazz and before the noise and the drone, before the black metal, electronica, indie and the Britpop, even before the Kurt Cobain obsession, there was Guns’N’Roses.

G’n’R burst on to the overcrowded LA scene in scene in 1987 with their debut album “Appetite For Destruction” and immediately distinguished themselves from the pack simply by being ten times as GOOD as everyone else! For me, “Appetite….” is a near flawless album of urban desperation; a hedonistic drug-fuelled journey into the dangerous underbelly of LA, with Slash and Izzy’s massive guitar riffs and Duff McKagan’s basslines creating a mean metal noise that also managed to have melody and pop sensibility. It may not seem like it now, but G’n’R, with their Jack Daniels swiggin’, groupie shaggin’, drug-imbibin’ LA lifestyle were definitely DANGEROUS!! And as a teenager in Southern England , I bloody loved it!!

Back in 1991, they were pretty much the biggest band in the world. They released their highly ambitious and groundbreaking twin album release on a single day of “Use Your Illusion I & II” , which contained political speeches (“Civil War”), angry ripostes to journalists who had dared suggest that G’n’R may be a bit rubbish (“Get In The Ring”) and in “November Rain” a perfectly constructed epic ballad of a relationship gone awry (there was no suspicion yet that “Nevermind” would completely destroy and effectively kill dead the hedonistic LA hair metal scene) They also embarked on a planet-destroying (and band destroying too!) world tour which was boosted by an amazing performance in the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert in 1992, where Axl’s white cycling shorts and “Kill Your Idols” T-Shirt put them firmly in the middle of the mainstream’s consciousness, and they could do no wrong. Their gig at Wembley stadium in June 1992 was my first big concert and they were just incredible!

So, how did these supposed image-over-substance-cocaine-sniffin’-Hollywood-arse-kissin’-fame-hungry-wannabe-rock’n’roll divas follow up the only double album release in history to take the #1 and #2 spot on the Billboard Top 100 at the same time? A duet with Mariah Carey? An album of acoustic ballads?? No way dude!! They released a whole (rather sillily named) album (“The Spaghetti Incident“) of punk, garage and glam rock covers of cool and credible bands like The Misfits, The Stooges, The Damned and U.K.Subs. It was a sprawling, ridiculous mess of an album, with alleged Mr. Ego, Axl Rose, taking a back seat to bassist Duff McKagan for many of the vocal duties – and it was a complete triumph!

We had to wait 15 whole years for a follow-up that was less than impressive with an increasingly self-delusional Axl falling ever deeper into the spiral of mental uncertainty until he was the last original member left. But, I for one, never lost the faith (until they actually released it!) and still believe that they have given us some of the best songs of the latter part of the twentieth century and in their image and commitment to the rock’n’roll lifestyle, created the template for many more to emulate, but none to surpass.

Long live Guns’n’ Fuckin’Roses – and if anyone disagrees with me……….get in the ring motherfucker!!


An unidentified G’n’R fan waves a copy of “Lies” and feebly attempts a devils horn sign, rendering the proposed “getting in the ring” slightly less scary!

Here are a scattered selection of some worldwide super-hits to jog your memory:

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32 thoughts on “In Defence Of…………Guns’N’Roses

  1. Off to the Chester Social in a few minutes, but couldn’t leave this one without saying:

    Appetite For Destruction? FUCK, YEAH!!

    (Sorry, tfd)

  2. have a good one DsD and give my regards to all present….will expect photos aplenty and a full report for those of us who have no chance of attending these kind of things

  3. donding DsD! But you knew i was more backup. When i first heard Welcome to the Jungle, i thought thank fuck, hair metal is dead. I love Patience and You Could be Mine, and I’ll add this one too.

  4. I’ve never thought of GnR as a band that needed defending, but then I’m not down with what the kids are saying these days.

    The first time I heard them I HAD to buy an album, and that was in a day when buying an album meant doing without meat for a week. I think I was the record shop’s oldest customer that week, but who cares.

  5. “Appetite For Destruction” is a great album, one that I don’t think they ever bettered.

    Slash is a good guitarist too, he has the right amount of swagger, plus some good technique.

  6. Rather like tinny, I wasn’t aware that GnR needed much defending, at any rate if one considered their career as a whole, leaving aside the extent to which Axl Rose seems to have devoted the last few years to pissing all over their legacy in as many ways as possible. Maybe it’s a generational thing; is there anyone out there who was of record-buying age at the time, apart from people who can’t stand anything with guitars, who didn’t think that Appetite was a fantastic album?

    Well, actually, yes: me. Before I get my coat, and in the interests of a friendly debate rather than wanting to rain on Panthersan’s parade, am I really the only rock fan who thought it was sort of all right – a couple of absolutely killer tunes and bags of attitude, but an awful lot of forgettable filler and a very nasty edge (not helped by that ghastly misogynistic cover)? Maybe I was slightly too old, and too familiar with a whole tradition of great rock albums that were actually good all the way through; maybe I was just too inhibited and pseudo-intellectual to be able to enjoy the rampant attitude. It was my younger brother who bought the album rather than me; I listened to it once or twice, taped the best songs and have, I think, attempted to listen to it one more time since (and got bored and skipped to the best songs rather than working all the way through). Ditto Use Your Illusion, except the ratio of killer songs to filler was even lower…

    NOW I’ll get my coat…

    • No it wasn’t just you, Abahachi. Despite having a secret liking for a few glam metal bands and loving ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ unreservedly I was very put off by the album cover art and have never made it through the whole of Appetite. I’d rather listen to Hanoi Rocks who were prettier and did it better, but my cousins were and still are big fans and I respect that. Also don’t want to be argumentative, but isn’t Paradise City lazy?

  7. Is that you?!?!?!

    Nicely written, Japanther.

    I think Mr. Steenbeck may have been a GnR fan, I’ll ask him when he gets home…

    In the meantime, Regina Spektor’s On the Radio…

    On the radio
    We heard, ‘November Rain’
    That solo’s really long
    But it’s a pretty song
    We listened to it twice
    ‘Case the DJ was asleep


    And on the radio
    You hear, ‘November Rain’
    That solo’s awful long
    But it’s a good refrain
    You listen to it twice
    ‘Cause the DJ is asleep

  8. “Sweet Child Of Mine” is rather fine, as is “November Rain”. Other than that, they’ve never really done much for me. I suspect I was never really their target demographic though…

    • I love Sweet Child, but i never did like November Rain much. Seems to me like that’s when i started to go off them a bit. (The fact that P Diddy said that it was one of his favorite songs probably didn’t influence me there).

  9. @Amy – I hoped you might back me up and Paradise City ia indeed amazing and only got cut at the last moment as the tracklisting was getting too long.

    @Steenbeck – ’tis indeed, you can tell by the walls! The Regina won’t let me watch, but i’ll check it on YT after

    @all – cool answers and glad that “Appetite …..” has the universal approval it rightly deserves. The reason I thought (and it seems I may have been wrong!) they needed defending was mainly because of the joke they’ve subsequently become due to Axl pissing on their legacy as Abahachi eloquently put it.

    But, I also think it is generational too, from both sides. I was a little too young for “Appetite…” when it came out and by the time they had become slightly (but not too much) bloated rock gods and released “Use Your Illusion…”, they had already lost a lot of their original fans and lost their mean, scuzzy edge…………. I’m rambling now…..but I wanted to defend their whole legacy (except “Chinese Democracy”!) and show a bit more of their diversity…..and I just love ‘em and wanted to write something about them!

    now, I really need to go to bed!

  10. Axl’s vocals put me off for years and years, but they do have some primo tunage it’s true!!

    There was this kid Gavin in my sixth form who was some sort of compulsive liar, he once claimed that Slash had come round to his house (with some groupies) and that he’d shown him some guitar licks. A few months later Gavin got three massive thick black squiggles tattooed on his forearm, which he claimed stood for sex, drugs, & rock n roll. A worse tattoo I have never seen, it was like a rorschach test gone horribly wrong.

  11. Not so much the music, but the image. Yuck. Bad hair, bad clothes (Slash’s topper aside, perhaps), bad tats.. If you think cliches are dangerous, then dangerous they might be.

    I’m with Edwyn on this one:

    “Everyone talking ’bout Guns & Roses
    But who could give a fuck?
    ‘Cause basically they suck
    I’m too preoccupied with my memories
    Not non-entities”

    (North of Heaven)

  12. My tastes weren’t very metal (I thought Pat Benatar was ‘heavy’) when G’n’R released “Appetite…”, but I was aware of them – how could you not be if you were 16 at the time? – and I liked “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City”. A few of my friends had the album, so I heard it a fair bit.

    Later, when I’d acquired a student grant and a record buying habit, I liked “November Rain” enough to buy the single, but I seem to recall thinking it wasn’t quite up to the standards they’d set themselves (and the video was way beyond cheesey). It actually took me ages to buy “Appetite…” itself (fortunately, that awful cover image – rather off-putting to my delicate sensibilities when it first appeared – had been banished by then), and it is a pretty good record, but not, I think, perfect.

    It is, however, a brilliant first album, and one which promised greater things to come. Sadly, that promise was broken.

    I have cassette copies of “The Spaghetti Incident” (an entertaining covers album; I like covers albums, although it has to be said that I’m still not familiar with very many of the originals) and “Use Your Illusion II” (some good stuff, lots of filler), both dug out of bargain bins. I couldn’t possibly comment on “Lies” (what was that? Some sort of delaying tactic?), “Use Your Illusion I” or the much derided “Chinese Democracy”, because I don’t recollect having heard any of them.

    • I was attempting to argue that they were more than just “Appetite…..” but I suppose it does overshadow everything else by quite some margin.

      UYI2 is the superior album to UYI1 in my book, but UYI1 has the big ballads of “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” as well as the excellent cover of “Live And Let Die” which nearly makes up for all the filler

  13. Hiya.

    Re AfD’s cover: Yup, can’t disagree with you, but given that a similar offence didn’t stop me buying Whitesnake’s LoveHunter, I can’t really comment with any authority.

    Re UYI 1 & 2: I queued to buy both on day of release at Bradford HMV, but remember feeling very quickly that there had been one absolute killer album there, rather than two. Having said that, you can’t argue with the strategy, if you have your cynical head on.

    Re age of listener / ability to influence: Um, I was in my mid-20s, and don’t AT ALL feel I was too old. I was never a hair-metal fan (HATED Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks, Cinderella, post-Randy Ozzy, etc.), but by Christ, AfD was a tsunami to blast away the hair-metal sandcastles. Er, bought The Spaghetti Incident on release, haven’t played it since it was three weeks old. That says something, but I’ll leave it to your imaginations …

    @ bishbosh re “demographic” line: respek’, sah! Chortlesome.

    Goodnight all.

    • If I wasn’t horribly busy today, I would actually be tempted to elaborate an argument that the Lovehunter cover, while somewhat tasteless and extremely juvenile, isn’t remotely in the same category of offensiveness as AfD.

    • DsD, agree that UYI could have one great album and I too queued up on the day of release (remember those days??ahh…!).

      The problem with bands like Crue and Cinderella was that they didn’t have any songs!! and AfD had tunes in spades, which is why they were such a breath of not-particularly-fresh air.

      I understand why you didn’t dig “The Spaghetti Incident”, it seems almost designed to alienate every type of fan, the original hard rockers who loved AfD and the new mainstream converts who loved November Rain, and it seemed to have worked a little too well. As a budding punk fan myself (I knew very little of it at the time) it was perfect and holds up for a revisit even now.

  14. I had a slightly different generational problem with GnR. I was 13 when Use Your Illusion came out, and it was predictably popular among a group of pubescent boys. As the class indie kid, I had to dislike it on principle (although I sneakingly enjoyed the ballads).

    I think we’re all agreed that Sweet Child O’ Mine is a classic, and one of THE great riffs (even though I’d generally rather listen to the Taken By Trees version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dqVDQ-lF4Q)

    • I’d never have made the connection on my own, but now that it’s been suggested to me, there does seem to be a similarity…

  15. There’s been some discussion in this thread re. the original Appetite for Destruction cover art. Assuming we can take Wikipedia at face value, the artwork in question (also entitled “Appetite For Destruction”) was painted by noted artist Robert Williams in the late 1960s.

    The theme is clearly one of vengeance, a popular subject for art since time immemorial. After all, everyone likes to see evil-doers get their come-uppance, whether it’s the bloke in the BMW getting a speeding ticket or (in this case) the perpetrator of violent crime being caught in the act by a vigilante.

    I really can’t agree that it’s as offensive as everyone’s making out.

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