I’m enjoying the reaction to the (finally confirmed) news that Guns N Roses are to headline the Coachella Festival. The rumours had been going around for months, although purists are cribbing about the apparent exclusion of three of the five essential founding members: Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steve Adler. (Although it seems likely now that Duff will be taking to the stage after all.) From what I’ve been reading, fans are upset that it’s ‘only’ Slash and Axl, despite the duo being the creative driving force and the real draw. Although Izzy Stradlin is a decent guitarist, he’s just not as relevant to the line-up. Neither are Adler and McKagan; their ability to perform would be questionable in any case. Time hasn’t been especially kind to either of them after many years of substance and alcohol abuse, sadly.
Other fans seem delighted that Slash and Axl appear to have buried the hatchet somewhat, and see the reunion as a celebration for everything that Guns N Roses meant to people. Other music lovers are climbing over themselves on social media to express how few fucks they give about the band, now or twenty years ago. I can understand the fans nostalgia factor, however, when it comes to a longing for the original five members to get back on stage. The truth is, Guns N Roses changed my life.
I was in first year in secondary school when Appetite for Destruction was released. I’d heard ‘Paradise City’ prior to getting the album and I’d seen the video on TV. It wasn’t so much that I instantly embraced everything about this band, but there was something in the overall attitude and the heavy rock riffs that made an impression on me. When the band exploded onto the music scene they were really quite cool, especially to a 13 year old Kildare lad. They weren’t as bland and preening and vain as the likes of Poison and Bon Jovi. They weren’t as embarrassing as Europe or Whitesnake. Guns N Roses were determined to embody the sex, drugs and rock and roll spirit like nobody before or since. Not that these things figured greatly in my life back then – my vices were sweets and cigarettes – but you can see how the band stood out and had so much more appeal than their contemporaries.
They really were a bunch of crazy bastards, but they had the music to back it up.Appetite for Destruction is still a thunderbastard of a record. Lies, released a year later and consisting of some previously recorded rough studio tracks and semi-acoustic numbers, is also a brilliant album. Despite some really objectionable lyrical content from Rose, it’s a very fine collection of songs.
Consequently I became devoted to Guns N Roses, and I’m fairly sure they were the first band that I had drawn on my schoolbag. I copied the famous skulls and cross insignia on my copybook, and all that fan-boy stuff. There may have been back-patches sewn to my jacket. Interestingly, buying the album (one of my first ever vinyl purchases) caused a bit of controversy at home. The original album cover was designed by Californian painter and cartoonist Robert Williams, and featured a half-mechanical creature attacking a robot rapist, with the female victim lying on the ground.
It is certainly a striking and graphic image, so much so that a number of U.S. record shops refused to stock the album. It was decided to move the image to the inner sleeve and replace the cover with the skulls design. I honestly can’t remember if I had the original cover or not, but either way Williams’ artwork did not go down well at home and I was instructed to remove Appetite for Destruction from the house. I didn’t, naturally enough, because that wouldn’t have been a very G ‘n’ R thing to do. I ended up playing the album on the sly and keeping the sleeve hidden among my Deacon Blue and Simple Minds albums and Now That’s What I Call Music compilations.
My relationship with Axl, Slash, and the rest, eventually cooled off. The Use Your Illusion ‘project’ was great in places and appalling in others, and by that stage the band had imploded with acrimonious drug and booze-addled fights. I do have one question for you though, arising from the blog today: did you ever get in trouble as a result bringing home an album which prompted parental disapproval? Which album and what were the objections?