"We freaked everybody out": Why no one wanted to work with Guns N' Roses on Appetite For Destruction

Drummer Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, vocals Axl Rose, guitarist Slash and guitarist Izzy Stradlin of the music group Guns N' Roses pose for a portrait on May 7, 1988, at the Detroit State Theater in Detroit, Michigan
(Image credit: Ross Marino/Getty Images)

As Guns N’ Roses’ triumphant Glastonbury set reminded everyone, the tracks from Appetite For Destruction aren’t just hard rock classics, they are songs embedded in popular culture – tunes your mum knows, riffs your weird uncle can hum, music that even your TikTok-obsessed niece knows the words to. But back in the 80s, the band were kicking their heels whilst they were forced to sit on their collection of soon-to-be-megahits. Well, we say kicking their heels – they were more likely to be found kicking people’s doors in to steal their booze and drugs.

They’d formed in 1984 and were signed in ’86 but then they found themselves in a period of limbo, as Slash told Metal Hammer’s James Gill. “From ’86 until ’87 seemed like a fucking eternity,” the guitarist recalled. The cause of this stasis was that everyone in town had heard about what the riotous, debauched upstarts were like, and no-one wanted to buckle down in the studio with them. “No one wanted to work with us, we had the worst reputation, we freaked everybody out who met us,” Slash continued. 

Salvation came in the form of producer Mike Clink, put into the picture by the band’s A&R Tom Zutaut and manager Alan Niven. They had found someone they could spar with in the studio. “We put the songs together,” Slash said. “It was very ‘a day in the life’, so I guess we’d been working at it without even thinking about it.” 

That effortlessness resulted in Appetite…’s iconic snarl and swagger, but even having finished it, Slash had no idea about what lay ahead. “I had no expectations,” he revealed. “I never counted how many copies we’d sell. I think we were very confident that we were the coolest fucking rock’n’roll band. We had that going for us but I didn’t have any set expectation. I think I’d have been satisfied to have just been a cool cult band that a few people liked.” Humble aspirations, but as it turned out Slash ended up being in a band that very few people on the planet haven’t heard of instead… 

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.