Guns N' Roses needed weird British dessert names explaining to them when they visited the UK for the first time

Guns And Roses (Duff McCagan, Slash, Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler) at the UIC Pavillion in Chicago, Illinois, August 21, 1987
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Guns N’ Roses were already making serious headway back home in LA when they made their maiden voyage to the UK in June, 1987, and their reputation preceded them. No rock’n’roll band at the time worth their spilled-over salt could avoid some tabloid scaremongering, and The Daily Star warned readers of the carnage to come. They reported that these “booze-crazed rockers” had a “dog killer” for a frontman after Axl Rose had displayed a tongue-in-cheek dislike for poodles in an interview. “Everything about them means I must kill them,” he’d said. 

The Star did not take this lightly, also sharing news of a police raid on the band’s “sleazy hideout” in LA that had resulted in a “vicious battle” that left the singer in intensive care. As Axl told Classic Rock’s Paul Elliott, there was some truth in the tale. “I got hit on the head by a cop and I guess I just blacked out. Two days later I woke up in hospital with electrodes over me.”

The audience at Guns N’ Roses’ debut UK show were similarly as welcoming as the LAPD. The band had been excited to perform at London’s historic Marquee, but they were greeted with a hail of plastic beer glasses and phlegm when they took to the stage. Axl quickly laid down the law to the unruly audience. 

“Hey, if you’re gonna keep throwing things we’re gonna leave!” he told them. Paul Elliott remembers that by the end of third song You’re Crazy, the crowd were on side. “Guns N’ Roses had passed the test,” he wrote in Classic Rock. After the show, The Cult’s singer Ian Astbury went backstage to invite GN’R to tour with his band in America. 

Less impressed was Sounds journalist Andy Hurt, who wrote that Axl’s singing was a bit like the squealing of a hamster with its balls trapped in a door. Elliott recalls Axl being livid at the review and leading the band to the Sounds office in Mornington Crescent, north London. Elliott wrote: “'Andy Hurt?' he raged. “He fucking will be if I find him!” But the reviewer was absent, so Axl contended himself with a warning note left with another member of staff.”

The band went to the pub instead, and confusion reigned as they perused the menu and were left scratching their heads at the dessert list. “Axl asked me about it when I visited the band’s rented apartment in Kensington a few days later. 'What the fuck is spotted dick?' he frowned. His confusion was understandable.”

The band played two more triumphant shows at the Marquee, the last time they’d ever be seen in a venue that size on UK shores. By the time of their next visit, Appetite For Destruction was already being heralded as a classic. They’d passed the UK test, and learned about some its weirder dessert names as they did.

Inside the new issue of Classic Rock magazine is a special cover feature that features the 50 greatest GN'R songs of all time, and the crazy, strange and fascinating stories behind them.

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.