Music

16 things you (probably) didn’t know about Appetite for Destruction

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Dave Fawbert
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Released on 21 July 1987, the debut album - the debut album - from Guns N' Roses, Appetite For Destruction, was a lightning bolt of sex, swagger and rock 'n' roll, with an incredible combination of everything that makes the genre great: impeccable songwriting, brilliant melodies, the astonishing bluesy solos of Slash, the bloodcurdling scream of Axl, and the groovin' rhythm section of Steven and Duff.

Guns N' Roses had the lot - the style, the attitude, and the tunes to back it all up - and they knew it.

But here are 16 things about this behemoth of a record that you may not know. Read on and see if you can learn something...

A plethora of songs

By the time it came to record Appetite for Destruction, the band had amassed a huge array of songs for consideration.  Back Off Bitch, You Could Be Mine, November Rain and Don't Cry could all have been included, but they ended up saving them for the Use Your Illusion records. It's probably a good thing they did, so that they were big enough by then to get the budget to make the November Rain video as grandiose as it needed to be.

Big name producers

The band considered several producers before settling on their final choice. Paul Stanley of KISS was rejected after he wanted to alter Steven Adler's drum setup and some of the songs, while Back in Black producer Robert "Mutt" Lange was in the running before proving to be too expensive. The band eventually settled on Mike Clink, as he was happy to record the band the way they wanted.

Axl's perfectionism

According to Steven Adler, Axl recorded his vocals one line at a time, an early sign of the perfectionism that would play a part in the later breakup of the band.

A/B testing

For the cassette and vinyl versions of the album, the two sides were not labelled A and B, but instead G and R. Tracks 1 to 6 - the 'G', or 'Guns', side - dealt with the edgier side of life in the big city, while tracks 7 to 12 - the 'R', or 'Roses', side - focused on love and relationships.

Banned cover

Famously, the original cover of Appetite for Destruction was very controversial, with a work based on Robert Williams' painting of the same name depicting a robotic rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger. However, after many retailers refused to stock early pressings, the artwork had to be moved inside the package, to be replaced on the outside by the famous 'skulls on a cross' cover.

Challenger

In a 2011 interview, Axl stated that, originally, he wanted the photo of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding that appeared on Time Magazine to be the cover of Appetite for Destruction. Overruling any artistic concerns, the band's label Geffen decided that it would be "in bad taste".

Where is the jungle?

The 'jungle' in album opener Welcome to the Jungle is Los Angeles. Axl wrote the words while visiting a friend in Seattle, saying, "It's a big city, but at the same time, it's still a small city compared to L.A. and the things that you're gonna learn. It seemed a lot more rural up there. I just wrote how it looked to me. If someone comes to town and they want to find something, they can find whatever they want."

All aboard

The song Nightrain got its name from an infamous brand of cheap Californian fortified wine, Night Train Express. The drink was popular with the band as it was cheap, and very strong.

Shopping list

Mr Brownstone was written about Slash and Izzy's heroin habit, with the lyrics being hastily scribbled onto the back of a grocery bag, before being given to Axl.

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Favourite tune

Slash has stated that Paradise City is his favourite Guns N' Roses song. It is also the only song on the record to feature a synthesizer - played by Axl, who is also listed as performing 'whistle' on the credits.

It's gettin' dark, too dark to see

A live version of the band's cover of Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door was featured as the B-side to My Michelle (promo), Welcome To The Jungle (12"), Nightrain (12", CD). They, of course, ended up recording a studio version of it for the Days of Thunder soundtrack, which was then modified for their own Use Your Illusion II album.

Where do we go now?

The 'where do we go now' lyric in Sweet Child o' Mine was a happy accident. While recording the demo, producer Spencer Proffer suggested adding a breakdown towards the end of the song. Unable to work out exactly what to do, he started talking to himself saying, "Where do we go? Where do we go now?" and Proffer said he should sing that.

Sweet dog o' mine

The dog in the video for Sweet Child o' Mine belonged to Izzy Stradlin. So now you know.

AC/GR

A live version of AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie was featured on the 1987 UK vinyl singles of Welcome to the Jungle and the 1988 Live from the Jungle album. Axl ended up singing it with the band for real when he filled in on lead vocals for their recent tour dates.

Getting intimate

The pornographic noises heard in the middle of Rocket Queen are real - they were recorded after Axl Rose asked a girl named Adriana Smith - who was seemingly going out with Steve Adler at the time - if she would have sex with him in a vocal booth at the studios the band were using to mix the album and for it to be recorded. She agreed to do it, "For the band, and a bottle of Jack Daniel's."

The actual 'Rocket Queen', however, was Barbi Von Greif, a girl who Axl wrote the song for.

Breaking point

Six months after its release, the album was stuck at 250,000 in sales with MTV refusing to play the video for Welcome to the Jungle. Geffen asked the band to stop touring and think about making a second record instead but, as a last-ditch attempt to get it moving, David Geffen personally called MTV and asked them, as a favour, to play Jungle. They did, once, at 5am on a Sunday, yet got so many requests for them to play it again that they had to take notice. The album went on to become the biggest-selling debut album of all-time.

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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