|by Marina Zogbi
It was the fall of 1987 when I first heard Guns N' Roses via the song "Welcome To The Jungle." That's pretty late in the game by industry standards, but I wasn't a music journalist at the time so it wasn't yet my responsibility to listen to every promising new band that came down the pike. Besides, I wasn't about to run out and plunk down eight bucks for an LP by a buncha dudes whose L.A. badboy stance was being written and talked about all over the place. My native New Yorker suspicion of anything labeled "sleazy" from L.A. caused me to roll my eyes at the mere mention of Guns N' Roses before ever having heard their music. To be fair, there was a small voice of reason in the back of my head asking, "But what if they're actually good?" I ignored it. When I saw that the band was scheduled for a show at The Ritz
I did entertain the thought of going. An associate (who shall remain nameless) discouraged me. He'd heard the LP and thought it sucked. I missed the show even though that damned voice kept nagging, "But what if they're a "must-see-live" band?" Yeah, I ignored it, but something caused me to stay home the following Saturday night to watch Headbangers Ball. GNR's first video for "Welcome To The Jungle" was premiering and the band itself was to be interviewed.
I wasn't too impressed with the interview - the guys seemed like they'd rather be any place else but I found the physical variety within the band quite amusing: a sullen, pissed-off lookin' redhead, a faceless, top-hatted guy with a ton of dark curly hair, a bubbly blonde, a cool blonde, and a very
hip (read "New York) lookin' guy with black hair. A very interesting assortment of dudes, to be sure. They introduced their video. I watched and listened and realized that perhaps I'd been a bit hasty in my earlier assessment of Guns N' Roses. The song smoked, the guys looked wild onstage! And that redhead displayed more charisma in one four and a half minute video than I'd seen anywhere in the past four and a half years. Whew! My interest was officially piqued.
A couple of days later over lunch in the Times Square area, a friend told me she'd been in a record store and was floored by what was being played. Turned out to be Appetite For Destruction. She didn't have enough money on her at the time but planned to buy the record. "Let's do it!," I exclaimed and we proceeded to comb not too rockin' Times Square in the rain in search of the LP. At least four shops claimed to have sold out (translation: they probably never had it in the first place.) We finally unearthed two LPs at one overpriced shop and debated for about two seconds before coughing up those greenbacks. We went to my apartment and immediately cranked that baby up. Not many aural experiences have since equalled my first listen to Appetite For Destruction. So impressed were we by the variety of the sounds and moods on the disc, we had to play it several more times that afternoon. Here was a band that sounded pissed off enough to kill on one track ("Out Ta Get Me"), passionately and hopelessly in love on another (Sweet Child O' Mine") and they didn't seem to be faking either emotion. Here were lyrics that couldn't be based on anything other than Real Life, delivered with chilling intensity by a singer who seemed to have at least three distinct and unique voices. From opening track "Welcome To The Jungle" to the closing "Rocket Queen, the music actually did the thing that others promise so often it's become a painful cliche-yup, kicked ass in that perfect tight yet raw style that few bands (The Stones, Aerosmith) have mastered. To say that I was thrilled is an understatement. For the first time in many years I knew that I wouldn't have to hesitate anymore when someone asked me who my favorite band was. For the next few weeks, no, months, that album was in serious heavy rotation at my house. Every day I had a favorite new cut and was even moved to put the intro to "Mr. Brownstone" on my answering machine, the first time I ever put music to my message. I guess it's fair to say I became obsessed with Appetite For Destruction and probably became somewhat of a bore to my family and friends. I did stop short of grabbing people on the street and demanding, Have you heard this album? You owe it to yourself!"
In January of '88, GNR played The Ritz again (the infamous show that MTV taped) and there was no way I was gonna miss them this time. It was a tremendous experience to hear those tunes live, to see those guys deliver. The crowd's delirious reaction confirmed what the charts were showing: Appetite was selling and Guns were becoming big, real big. As enamored as I was with the album, no way would I have predicted what eventually happened: seven million sold! I still can't quite believe it, but it's comforting to know that at least in this case, mega-success came
to a band that truly deserved it. And on a personal note, I guess you could say Appetite For Destruction changed my life. My reaction to that record was so strong, I had to write about it. Although those pages of frantic scribbling served only as an outlet for my excitement, I realized that I liked doing it and began to think seriously about doing it for a living. Thanks, guys!
Thanks to Gypsy for the scan