By Joel Barrios, Rock at Night Miami’s correspondent
Depending on your age it may be hard to believe, but today (July 21, 2017), Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction” turns thirty years old.
I was fourteen years old when “Appetite for Destruction” landed in 1987, arriving like a tsunami on the rock scene and blowing the glam out of the hair-band dominated scene. The album looked both forward and backward: The punky rawness of its sound and the pained artistry of its lyrics made it a bridge between commercial Eighties hard rock and the alternative music of the next decade. The title of the album was a reflection of the young, rambunctious rockers who had a magical chemistry, but were just as likely to spend their time taking drugs, drinking copiously, fighting one another or anyone in their way, getting arrested — or some combination of the above. It was also created during their own fountainhead of creativity. During this period in late 1986, the band would write much of the best material of their entire career, not only for this album, but for hit future albums as well.
Amazingly, the album was well received in its day both critically and commercially (a rarity for hard rock bands), and it reached the top of the Billboard album chart. Five months after its release, by December 1987, “Appetite for Destruction” had sold about 200,000 copies, with minimal radio airplay. At the moment of this article is the 11th best-selling album in the United States, and with about 30 million copies sold worldwide, it is also one of the best-selling records ever made. “Appetite for Destruction” introduced a band that anyone who loved rock’n’roll could agree on. The metal-heads loved the aggression, the glam fans fawned over their looks, the punks aligned with their rebellion, and the purists savored their blues-based riffs.
The album’s originally planned cover art, based on Robert Williams’ painting “Appetite for Destruction”, depicted a robotic rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger. After several music retailers refused to stock the album, the label compromised and put the controversial cover art inside, replacing it with an image depicting a Celtic cross and skulls of the five band members with, each skull representing one member of the band: Izzy Stradlin, top skull; Steven Adler, left skull; Axl Rose, center skull; Duff McKagan, right skull; and Slash, bottom skull.
There were a lot of bands in the ’80s who released timeless albums and jams we still remember, but none of them came close to capturing people’s attention like Axl and company. “Appetite for Destruction” instantly established Guns N’ Roses as a headlining band and gave them momentum well into the next decade. Although they would have subsequent albums, most especially the double release of Use Your Illusion I & II in 1991, this band would never again reach this level of importance and breakthrough originality.
- In 1989, Rolling Stone ranked Appetite for Destruction as the 27th best album of the 1980s. The same magazine later ranked it at sixty-two on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
- In 2001, Q magazine named Appetite for Destruction as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time.
- In 2004, Q magazine also named Appetite for Destruction as one of the greatest Classic rock Albums Ever.
- In 2003, VH1 named Appetite for Destruction the 42nd Greatest Album of All Time.
- In 2002, Pitchfork ranked Appetite for Destruction 59th on their Top 100 Albums of the 1980s.
- It was ranked 18 in Spin magazine’s “100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005”.
- In 2006, Kerrang! ranked the album #1 on the list of best rock albums.
- In 2006, the album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
- The album was ranked 32 on Rock Hall of Fame’s ‘definitive 200’ album list, developed by the NARM, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.
- In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #10 in its list of “40 Best Albums of the ’80s”.
- In 2006, the album was placed No. 2 on Guitar World magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time.
- In 2011, Australian radio station Triple M listed Appetite for Destruction #1 in their list of the 250 most life changing albums.
- In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked Appetite for Destruction as the 62nd greatest album of all time.
- In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at #37 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980s”.
- In 2012, Clash added the album to its Classic Albums Hall of Fame.
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