July 21, 1987 began as a day like any other. The Reagan Administration told The New York Times that any discussion of presidential pardons in the Iran-Contra affair were "inappropriate at this time." Iran announced it would ignore the cease-fire with Iraq unanimously approved by the United Nations Security Council. In Newark, N.J., three of the city's six hospitals reported as many as 130 new AIDS patients per day.
Houston, still reeling from the oil bust, wasn't as bad off as Austin, whose office vacancy rate had reached 34 percent, the Houston Chronicle reported. Harris County and the Oilers were close to an agreement on a proposed Astrodome expansion that would keep Bud Adams from moving the team - for the time being, anyway - and Texas Air Corporation, then parent company of Continental Airlines, reported a $27 million second-quarter loss. Both Houston Top 40 stations, 93Q and 104 KRBE, said they would continue airing the unedited version of George Michael's "I Want Your Sex."
And when record stores opened that day, on the new-release rack was the debut album from five skinny, semi-threatening-looking L.A. rock boys. Today, Appetite for Destruction has sold more than 18 million copies in the U. S. alone, good enough for 11th place all-time. Among hard-rock and heavy metal albums, only AC/DC's Back In Black and Led Zeppelin IV have sold more.
To mark the occasion, Rocks Off asked our regular contributors to sound off their earliest memories of Appetite, and experiences with the album (and Guns N' Roses) over the years. We'd love to hear yours too.
"Sweet Child O' Mine"
Chris Gray: I grew up without MTV, or any true headbanger friends, so I think the earliest I remember hearing Appetite was KRBE playing "Sweet Child O' Mine" on the school bus going to and from 7th grade. Several years of fairly regular KLOL listening later, the first copy of the album I actually owned was a cassette I bought some time around my senior year of high school, and which I thoroughly wore out driving around Austin my first couple of years at UT.
I've gone through several Appetite phases over the years: Memorizing "It's So Easy," "My Michelle" and "Rocket Queen" as I walked laps around my grandmother's garden in East Texas while I was staying with her in 2002, and drawing more than a few disapproving looks and stern requests to turn it down when my boss at the Austin Chronicle would come into the office - on the rare occasions he got there after I did - and "Paradise City" was going full-blast.
Today, it's one of the dozen or so albums I know front to back, every note and every lyric. My listening tastes have always gravitated more towards '80s alternative and college rock, and are receding further and further away from metal in favor of country, blues and classic rock as I get older. But when I am really in the mood to howl at the moon - something that doesn't happen nearly as much as it should these days - it's not Achtung Baby or Red Headed Stranger I reach for. It's Appetite.
Marc Brubaker, Photographer: I'm afraid I'm not much good to you on this one. It should be noted that my music history has some serious holes in it, and thus I've never owned Appetite For Destruction. I know, it's pure travesty. Still that doesn't stop my ears from perking up at the opening notes of "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Welcome To The Jungle" or "Paradise City."
Axl's wail seems like a call to travel back in time, when Andre Agassi and Alexi Lalas both had long hair and I was determined to be either one. Alas, neither came true and all I'm left with is this fake letter from "Axl's Editor" regarding the lyrics to "Sweet Child O' Mine."
"Think About You"
John Seaborn Gray: Growing up, my friends and I mostly listened to Use Your Illusion, as it was the more recent album, and we'd generally only listen to Appetite For Destruction in pieces, rarely as a whole. So my most vivid memory of the album as a cohesive entity would have to be when my brother (Rocks Off Sr.) went to stay with my grandmother for a while, then wound up throwing this album into his tape deck and getting drunk in his car in the driveway with his girlfriend until the wee hours. To be fair, there's not really anything else to do in Newton, Texas, and Me-Maw was very understanding, albeit a little exasperated.
"Welcome To the Jungle"
Craig Hlavaty: My first memory of Guns 'N Roses and Appetite for Destruction was seeing this group of metal kids at the old McDonald's in Pearland being all hoodratty, smoking in the corner in concert tees they must have just got the night before. They all had grungy teased hair, and the girls were all in leather. I must have been only five or six years old.
I only knew "Welcome To The Jungle" from MTV, but the band alternately scared me to my little Christian-soldier core and instantly became what I associated rebellion and violence with. They looked like the kind of band your parents would send you to a deprogrammer for listening to. And I wanted in.
"It's So Easy"
Jef With One F: When my cousin closed the door and turned on the tape player, the one-of-a-kind opening of "Welcome to the Jungle" started. The real genius of that song is how it progresses so quickly, like a good dream turning suddenly into a nightmare. On the surface, "Jungle" seemed like just another hair-metal anthem, but its sheer menance was enough to ruin me more lesser forms of music forever. It was the first real music I'd ever heard. Everything else was a just a jingle.
Eric Sauseda (Groovehouse), Photographer: My first exposure to Guns N' Roses was on an MTV Concert special. In the late '80s along with videos, MTV also broadcast pre-recorded concerts. So when this concert premiered I had no idea what I was watching, it wasn't the usual hard rock I was used to in the late 80's that included bands like Def Leppard, Judas Priest and Van Halen.
It was late '87 or early '88, and I just remember thinking "Who is this guy with this teased out, hair sprayed, red hair and bandanna squealing like a banshee, and who is this guitarist with a low-slung Les Paul, top hat, sunglasses and so much hair that I couldn't even make out his face?"
Soon after that I saw, for the first time, the video for "Welcome To The Jungle" and thought a new era of hard rock was headed our way. While G N' R weathered the times and stayed relevant until the band imploded, it was grunge that was to transform the era and not G N' R.
Shea Serrano: Appetite for Destruction reminds me of one thing: Cody DuJardin.
Cody DuJardin was a kid that I grew up with from first to fifth grade. Everything about us was different. He had long hair. I had short hair. He was White. I was Mexican. He was chubby. I was skinny. He was slow. I was fast. He liked rock. I liked rap. He lived at the bottom of the street. I lived at the top. It was uncanny. But it wasn't like a cool, opposites-attract type thing. We were friends, but the kind of friends where you both kind of hate each other a little.
Cody DuJardin showed me the first porn I ever saw. I was maybe ten. I almost threw up. Cody once organized a race-war basketball game at his house where one team was all White and the other team was all Black. Cody used to brag about how his dad would drive a motorcycle around the neighborhood with his shirt off. In hindsight, him and his family were real assholes.
One day, Cody and I got into a bit of a shoving match in his front yard. I don't remember why it happened, only that it did. Cody wanted to fistfight. My Mexican carnalismo had not fully developed yet, so I wasn't having it. I turned and started to walk up the street. I got maybe thirty feet and Cody shouted, "What are you? Chicken?"
Now, know this about me: As a kid, I was awesome. I had a rattail. I could pop a wheelie on my bike like a motherfucker. I knew almost all of the words to "Rump Shaker." And for maybe an eight-month period, I kind of thought I was Michael J. Fox. Whatever. I don't know why I thought that, I just did. It probably had something to do with Teen Wolf. I mean, that movie had, like, three of my favorite things at the time: basketball, werewolves and handstands.
Anyway, if you'll remember, there's a scene in Back to the Future where Biff gives Fox almost that exact same, "What are you? Chicken?" line. At which point Fox stops dead in his tracks, turns around and says something like, "Nobody calls me chicken," then squares off against him. It was slick as shit. No joke, I did the exact same thing.
I stopped immediately, turned slowly, looked him dead and face, then shouted, "Nobody Calls Me Chicken!" and charged him. It was a ridiculous move for two reasons.
For one, up until that point, I had no real issue with someone calling me a chicken. Why I went bonkers then remains a mystery still. It's just some shit that happened. That's that. And for two, Cody had me by about 40 pounds. Him being overweight didn't serve him well on the basketball court, but it was a tremedous asset in street fights. He beat the snot out of me. It was not an excellent moment for me.
I don't really know why, but I just always associated Guns N' Roses with him.
"Out Ta Get Me"
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Brittanie Shey: I remember my dad playing it for me when I was seven or eight years old. He loved G N' R. At least until he heard Nirvana, and Axl Rose went bonkers. I thought it just sounded like noise, but that Axl was pretty in the video for "Welcome to the Jungle."
William Michael Smith: Sorry, honestly wouldn't know it if I heard it.