In 1987 the Guns N’ Roses exposed to the world their desire to reach the Olympus of superstars, releasing Appetite For Destruction after the EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide. The band, formed in 1985 by the merging two Los Angeles groups, the L.A. Guns and the Hollywood Rose, had some initial change of formation, until it landed in its stable form with five components: Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler.
The fellows at Geffen Records did the impossible to get them (even spreading the rumour that they sucked, in order to dissuade other labels) and gave them a budget of 400.000$ for their first album: a capital that allowed Guns N’ Roses to record what will become one of the best-sellers of the decade.
The obvious infleunces by Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, dressed in a punk suit, makes the band sound particular and recognizable, thanks also to Axl Rose’s voice, charisma and stage presence, together with Slash technique. The Guns N’ Roses wrote about their experiences full of excesses and always on the edge of the abyss (drugs and alcohol were companions of the band since the very first days) and only the great desire to succeed allowed them to produce the album within the agreed deadlines.
Practically Axl Rose is the only one (almost) sober during the studio sessions, even if he couldn’t stay far from troubles anyway: the legend says that, during the recording of Rocket Queen, he wanted to introduce real moans of pleasure and, to have them as much realistic as possible, convinced Adler’s girlfriend to have sex with him during the song. The fact that Rose used to record his voice when he was alone in the studio excluded the drummer’s reaction, at least initially.
If Rocket Queen closed Appetite For Destruction with a song that conjugated carnal transport to romantic passion, Welcome to the Jungle opened the album with unleashed aggression, leaving nothing hidden from that wild traveling circus called Guns N’ Roses. To balance the frenzy of most of the songs, they introduced the sugary ballad Sweet Child O’ Mine (that gave the group its first number one in the singles chart) and the stadium anthem Paradise City, a track that every rock band worthy of this name should have. Since the first listen, all Geffen’s managers were convinced that Axl and members are the next big thing in the music business, ready to take the demanding rock fans by hand and lead them into their vortex of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
Surprisingly, Appetite For Destruction hasn’t been noticed much when it went out, and it took months before it started to repay the investment: the controversy about the explicit lyrics, which didn’t allow Welcome to the Jungle‘s video to go on air in MTV daylight hours. Besides, the violence in the artwork (which resumed a work made by Robert Williams) didn’t contribute to sales as Geffen Records hoped. The label finally convinced the music channel to provide a better schedule for the videos, and things started to work.
The cover, depicting a girl in the way to be raped by a robot and saved by a flying monster, is replaced with the one with the five skulls of the group’s members, because of Williams’ complaints about royalties: the effect was that Appetite For Destruction had a better distribution in stores, always reluctant to put on the shelves too violent images.
In September 1988, after more than a year of release, Appetite for Destruction conquered the U.S. charts (and consequently the global ones) for four weeks, transforming Guns N’ Roses into a global phenomenon just when nobody believed in them anymore: the five savage, vicious and irrepressible boys will be the global reference of Rock for a five-years period, until quarrels and abandonments ended their incredible run. Of course, their intentions were already more than clear since the title of their first, great album.