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Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Destruction - Album Of The Week Club review

Turning 35 this month, Appetite For Destruction is generally accepted as one of the greatest debut albums ever. Does it still hold up to such high praise?

Appetite For Destruction's album art
(Image: © Geffen)
Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Destruction

Appetite For Destruction album art

(Image credit: Geffen)

Welcome To The Jungle
It’s So Easy
Nightrain
Out ta Get Me
Mr. Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michelle
Think About You
Sweet Child o’ Mine
You’re Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen

Few debut albums in the history of rock music have become as widely adored as Appetite For Destruction. Few debut albums in the history of rock music were created under such chaotic circumstances, either.

“In the early days the most famous quote about Guns N’ Roses was: ‘They’re gonna self-destruct and kill themselves before they even have a record out,’" Slash once said. "That was something that was probably sort of true.”

GN'R's hard-partying antics were already becoming the stuff of legend by the time the band got to work on their first full-length studio album, but it was finding someone to produce them that provided one of the record's biggest hurdles.

After working with Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton following Axl Rose's request to “Get me the guy who produced Hair Of The Dog" (those sessions, recorded in Sound City Studios, wouldn't get a proper release until a lush Appetite... reissue in 2018), plus flirtations with the likes of Tom Werman, Spencer Proffer and Kiss frontman Paul Stanley, the band finally settled with relative unknown Mike Clink, who had recently worked with UFO, Heart and Survivor.

Clink helped hone the band's chaotic talent into a twelve-song missive that'd tear a hole in the spandex of the all-dominating glam metal scene. From the raw power of Welcome To The Jungle to the juddering arena-rock of Paradise City and the vulnerable romance of Sweet Child O' Mine, each song was a masterpiece and entirely its own beast, not a solitary chink to be found in the record's armour. 

While its impact wouldn't be as immediate as many around the band had imagined (it was famously given a rough ride by many critics at the time), Appetite For Destruction would ultimately go on to sell more than 30 million worldwide and become recognised as one of the greatest debuts ever.

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Other albums released in July 1987

  • Napalm Death - Scum
  • Echo & The Bunnymen - Echo & The Bunnymen
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Life
  • The Grateful Dead - In The Dark
  • Ace Frehley - Frehley's Comet
  • Faster Pussycat - Faster Pussycat
  • Lion - Dangerous Attraction
  • Dio - Dream Evil
  • Starship - No Protection
  • Triumph - Surveillance
  • Great White - Once Bitten

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What they said...

"Although Appetite For Destruction may not be the single most overrated album among otherwise rational music fans, I would have to say that it deserves an honourable mention. With perhaps three songs on here that come close to justifying its phenomenal sales record and critical acclaim, all too many of the remaining nine songs are the kind of song that could easily appear on the 6th or 7th album from a hard rock band that’s long passed over the hill." (Sputnik (opens in new tab))

"Like most CD-era albums, Appetite has its lesser tracks, but even songs that feel like filler have odd filigrees that set them apart from their peers’ padding. Anything Goes in which a horned-up Axl gets ready to get freaky, opens with Slash laying down an abstract psych-jazz solo and closes with a thrashing rework of the song’s central riff; Think About You is a fairly boilerplate love song elevated by beaded-curtain counterpoint guitars on its winsome chorus. You’re Crazy which would later get a stripped-down treatment on the band’s stopgap 1988 LP G N’ R Lies, is a ball of paranoia made even more frantic by the guitars lagging ever so slightly behind its manic pace. (Pitchfork (opens in new tab))

"While Welcome To The Jungle is clearly a stone cold, era-defining classic – the rest of the album is packed full of trite and boring (yet still offensive) lyrics, irritatingly sterile and clichéd guitar work and unbearably histrionic vocals. Sweet Child O’ Mine is not so much that generation’s Stairway To Heaven as its Bohemian Rhapsody. But don’t take my word for it. Guns N' Roses themselves found it risible, referring to it as “a joke”, “circus music” and “filler”. (NME (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

Ian Macaulay: Probably the greatest debut rock album of all time. And it still stands up today with that taught songwriting, raw attitude and youthful aggression. If only they’d stopped after it and retained the near mythical status they achieved in the years prior to ...Illusion coming out and all the subsequent baggage and drama that followed. And the material of diminishing returns. It’s amazing to think that all the bands they wanted to emulate, like Hanoi Rocks for example, were such outsiders and underground heroes yet GnR become so commercially acclaimed and successful by making music that was much tougher and rougher than their heroes. This album is always worth a spin on the turntable, and it always make me want to play some Hanoi and Faster Pussycat after it. I’ve still got the original vinyl with that cover and the tattoo sticker unused.

Bill Griffin: I'm of mixed feelings about this one. I think it's good but not nearly as much as the hype suggests it is. I like later efforts more. Paradise City is a great song though. Then there is Axl. Every good thing that can be said about GnR can be countered merely by saying Axl Rose. He did manage to do one thing I give him respect for though; telling the RRHOF to piss off.

Shayne Ashby: Probably only behind Van Halen 1 for greatest debut of all time. Still sizzles and has held up really well. The guitar interplay between Slash and Izzy is fantastic. The only bad thing you can say is that the hit singles have been overplayed, but that's no fault of the album. Not a single dud track...you kind of feel like any song could've been released as a single and would've been huge. This album was the soundtrack at every teenage party for a few years. Totally deserves all the respect.

Adam McCann: I loved it when I was younger and I wore the cassette out, although most of the singles actively annoy me these days, I can't get up to change it fast enough if i hear the first notes of Sweet ChildRocket Queen goes on for about 3/4 minutes longer than it needs to, but a lot of the album tracks still hold up really well, it's just not what I personally would go for today.

Phillip Qvist: A great debut album, with the accolades and record sales to match. I remember buying this album in late 1988 - I didn't realise at the time that Appetite For Destruction was already a year old - and going "Wow" after hearing the album in full.

Suffice to say, this is one of my favourite albums, and one that still gets regular airplay on my Playlist. There are very few albums that can match the intensity of the opening three songs, Welcome to JungleIt's So Easy and Nightrain - and it hardly slows down after that. Side 1 is basically flawless, and Side 2 isn't too far behind in quality either. Sweet Child O' Mine has suffered from being overplayed, but Slash's opening riff still gives me goosebumps, and what about the interesting soundtracks on closing track, Rocket Queen?

This is a 10/10 classic in my opinion - and there is little wonder that Guns N' Roses never came close to matching this record; not many bands could even hope to produce an album like this.

Björn Ahrens: Back in early '89, I secretly bought the Paradise City/Sweet Child 3" CD (yes, some boy wonder in the industry came up with the 3" CD format idea... pathetic). Flipside tracks were Anything Goes and You're Crazy. And I bought it secretly, because I was a full-blown thrash kid, and purchasing Poser Rock would have been blasphemy amongst my peers. Anyway: This little 3" CD blew me away with a capital A! Later on, I bought the entire album, and hearing sizzlers like Nightrain or Out Ta Get Me for the very first time... awesome. It sure as hell is one of the best debut albums of all time, in the mix with the first VH, the first RATM, Ten and Facelift. Sadly, stuff went rapidly downhill from there, Adler/Stradlin left and just couldn't be properly replaced, the pompous UYI disaster was an overblown mess... and it got worse from there. Basically, GNR is AFD... and that's fine for me.

Phil Wise: Fantastic album! I remember buying it on vinyl from Action records (or was it Jumbo?) In Leeds soon after it was released. Then it had the original banned "Rapist Robot" sleeve, which probably is offensive to some, but probably not that bad these days. Anyhow, it is a fantastic piece of rock art, and should probably come back. So was the album - before the band was the monolith they became, when Axl had a real voice! Superb!

Evan Sanders: An excellent album. Guns N' Roses shocked us out of the hair band 80's with a hard rock-punk mix that never tried to be cute. All of the songs are strong and still sound fresh 35 years later. Too bad GNR could never match this intensity as they descended into in-fighting. 9/10

Greg Schwepe: So, here you have another example of a band that totally nails it with their debut. Make your mark in the music world with an album full of memorable classics. Appetite is that ultimate mixture of hard rock, metal, and punk all blended into one wicked cocktail.

Guns ‘n Roses may not have invented a genre of its own with their debut; but they were close. This album also may not have killed off Hair Metal (some might say they evolved from that?), but put it on notice. “Hey, you puffy-haired L.A. bands…we’re here to kick your ass.”

There’s not a song on this album I don’t like. You go from Welcome To The Jungle to It’s So Easy and there’s no let up. And then you have the distinct personalities of the band that seem to come out on the songs too. Axl’s voice, Slash and Izzy’s guitars, Steven’s drums, and Duff’s slightly punky bass.

Appetite gave G ‘n R a platform to at one point make them the biggest band in the world. And they’re still selling out stadiums. There are only a handful of bands that can do that today.

Every time you hear one of these songs on your car radio…you immediately turn it up. Weekend trip to L.A. once. Driving in rental car from Santa Monica on Sunset Blvd. cranking some L.A hard rock station. Literally as we pass a “Welcome To West Hollywood” sign, Welcome To The Jungle comes on the radio. “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby…” A classic album if there ever was one.

Alex Hayes: Honestly, I'm not sure where to start when it comes to Appetite For Destruction. What is there left to say about this seminal album, that hasn't already been said many, many times down the years? Really not much.

I can say that I wish I still had my original vinyl copy of this, the one with the now deleted cover. I sold it about a decade ago, along with a lot of other vinyl. Appetite... is one of the defining albums from my teenage years, not to mention the one that made the biggest impact on rock music. I've heard it touted as the greatest debut album of all time. I don't think I'd go quite that far (Hello Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Van Halen), but it was still one hell of a launching pad for Guns 'N' Roses, and, yes, stands as an all-time classic.

Seriously though, what fresh insight could I possibly give to Welcome To The JungleSweet Child O' Mine, or even something like Mr. Brownstone or Rocket Queen? All I can think of is them blaring through an open bedroom window as G'n'Fn'R soundtrack the summers of both '88 and '89 for me. Fucking great days. I think I've only ever given out one 10/10 score for the Club. I'd be cheating the 14 year old inside me if I didn't dish out a second full score this weekend. Rock on.

Uli Hassinger: Like many others mentioned the main achievement of this record was to have a major contribution in burying the ridiculous Hair Metal scene. Even if Axl and Steven had teased hair in the beginning they were mainly fucked-up rockers from the gutter of Hollywood. As a result of the success of the album bands like Mötley Crue, Cinderella, Great White etc. changed their outfit and banned the makeup.

The album itself is a filthy rocker with great riffs. Slash and Izzy were the driving force of the music. My favorite tunes are NightrainSweet Child o’ MineThink About You and Rocket QueenMr. Brownstone is a massive stinker in my opinion. Can’t stand to listen to the chorus. The rest of the songs are quite good, but only the first mentioned are major rock league. To me it’s “only” 8/10.

John Davidson: There can't be much that hasn't been said about Appetite. It was a great record on release. It's still a great record today. It's a full band performance as well with bass, rhythm guitar and drums contributing just as much as the lead guitar and vocals. It's a 10.

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Final score: 8.76 (209 votes cast, total score 1832)

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Classic Rock Magazine
Classic Rock Magazine

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