If you were to peel back the layers of my early musical leanings you would uncover a horrible trainwreck of boy bands, watered down hip-hop, and Mariah Carey; mercifully propped up by a smattering of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and The Cars. But Appetite For Destruction was a saving grace in a murky landscape of forgettable shit. Some will disagree: Guns N’ Roses? Saving grace? You’re fucked!
I was six when I first heard Appetite For Destruction. It was mid-to-late 1987, I was primarily wearing Rainbow Creek streetwear and spending my weekends populating Castle Grayskull with He-Man figurines. I was hanging out at my friend Ross Campbell’s place, and his older brother Paul told me that if I didn’t sit down and listen to the album, I should get out of their house and walk home.
Paul Campbell: sponsored BMX rider, accomplished ice skater, one of the true heavyweights of the school playground set. Me: a bit fat, had recently pissed their grey tracksuit pants waiting in line for a pick-and-mix lolly bag, cheeks the size of ciabatta rolls. You can see why I held an equal amount of fear and respect for Paul Campbell and his ultimatums.
He’d already proved his steeze by guiding Ross and I down the soft metal rabbit hole that was Def Leppard's Hysteria only months prior. With its seven radio singles and its cavernous drum sound played by (arguably) 1987's one-armed man of the year, Def Leppard—and glam rock in general—had its hooks in Ross Campbell and I. It had them in deep. But his timing with Appetite For Destruction was impeccable, and I ate it up like the slightly overweight child that I was.
Enter Appetite: wild, unbridled, and kicking like a branded mule. It was monstrous like an apex predator, or a cocaine binge, or an unmanned ocean liner. I didn’t quite know what was going on, but I liked it. ‘Paradise City’ was the greatest thing I had ever heard, ‘Mr. Brownstone’ and ‘Nighttrain’ were a close second and third, ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ was a hurricane, and the sound of Axl Rose having sex with Steven Adler’s girlfriend in the middle section of ‘Rocket Queen’ was a pretty significant bonus, too. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, I could take or leave.
Christmas was on the horizon and I’d put the call out for He-Men and G.I. Joe figurines in my annual letter to Santa, but as well as that, I wanted—needed—my own copy of Appetite For Destruction. Both parents provided. Mum got me the tape but Dad one-upped her that year.
He had given me a new canvas school bag—the type that were very chic at the time; kids wrote on them, drew on them, signed their initials with someone else's inside a love heart on them etc. Not only did he get the canvas bag, but on the back panel of it he drew the front cover of Appetite For Destruction. Surely one of rock and roll’s most brutal artworks of the time: five skulls still sporting hair and headwear, perched upon an elegant celtic crucifix. Not bad. Well, magnificent really—and on the back panel of a canvas school bag in delicate colour and remarkable precision, it was truly a glorious thing to behold. I would have felt confident walking into San Quentin State Prison and punching the biggest guy in the nuts, wearing that bag.
Back to school, I swaggered into the yard to hang that bad boy up next to the other school bags branded with My Little Pony, Care Bears, and other characters I no longer had any time for. That bag was the greatest. That album was the greatest.
I was sure that if I could refrain from urinating in any more of my grey marle trousers in public, 1988 had the potential to be a great year thanks to Guns N’ Roses.