The first four albums I ever owned were the first four albums Guns N’ Roses ever made. I wouldn’t even say that they were my favorite band growing up because there weren’t other bands. Music would flicker in and out of MTV but only Axl, Slash and the gang were good enough to come home and be in my stereo until well into middle school. So when I say that not everything they ever did was fantastic, you know I’m coming from a learn’d place. Many years down the road, I find myself looking back on these records and having to acknowledge that there was a lot that simply wasn’t great. Today we’re going to point them out.
Note: I’m being fair here; we’re talking about Guns N’ Roses proper. Nothing after Use Your Illusion II and no cover songs, hence The Spaghetti Incident’s exclusion. I’m offering the band the best handicap I can. Now let’s roll.
10. "MY MICHELLE" Appetite For Destruction remains a nearly perfect rock-and-roll record. It spawned five hit singles, and the deep cuts like “I Think About You” hold up just as well. One of the few exceptions is “My Michelle,” which is frankly a mess. It’s strengthens the album’s themes of self-harm and a loose rock lifestyle, but more than anything, it’s the best example of why early Guns were consider an inferior Aerosmith rip-off act. It’s a tune that really wants to hit hard but sounds painfully adolescent now.
9. "THE GARDEN"
This is another well-liked song that gets by on some undeserved accolades. Most notably, it features Alice Cooper on guest vocals, who was going through one of the highest points in his career with the trilogy of Trash, Hey Stoopid and The Last Temptation being recorded around this time. Despite Cooper giving it his all, the song lacks Rose’s trademark skill with phrasing, turning a song about death into a trite, pretentious hair metal track. Add to that the fact that the video for the song is unforgivably boring, especially for a band responsible for some of the best music videos of two decades and it’s become a regular skipper in my iPod.
8. "YOU'RE CRAZY" G N’ R Lies is going to come up a lot in this article, I’m afraid. Frankly, it never should have existed in the band’s discography, being cobbled together to capitalize on the success of Appetite while the band worked on their next real record. This acoustic version of “You’re Crazy” was actually closer to the original intention than the electric one that appears on Appetite, but it’s without the speed it it’s also without balls. Plus, while the acoustic sessions do in fact sound pretty good, they also represent a very tired band that needed a holiday much more than they needed a cash-grab. The vocals make that very clear.
7. "SHOTGUN BLUES"
The second Use Your Illusion album is probably the best of the original four albums, with few real misses. It does have “Shotgun Blues,” though, a really, really pointless song. First of all, it comes right after “Get In the Ring,” which is already a puerile hate anthem but with far superior musicality and a killer guitar line to boot. “Shotgun Blues” has none of that, just Rose phoning in some very predictable rhymes and a solo that sounds like Slash was inspired by a need to finish recording and get to the bathroom.
6. "BACK OFF BITCH"
I am still not convinced that this is not a Britny Fox song that made it onto a Guns N’ Roses album somehow. Who’s Britny Fox? Exactly.
5. "USED TO LOVE HER"
Sometimes songs just remind you how much the world has changed. The year 1986 was a time when you could casually sing about killing a woman who complained too much and everyone would just laugh and laugh and laugh. I certainly thought it was funny when I was ten. I now take some comfort that the song is actually about Axl’s dog, according to Slash. No, wait, that’s still terrible. Man, everyone in the ‘80s was kind of an asshole, huh?
4. "BAD OBSESSION"
Izzy Stradlin never gets enough credit for his songwriting skills, and neither did poor West Arkeen when he was with us. And “Bad Obsession” is actually a pretty good track, well-written and low-key. The only problem with it is it’s played like utter garbage on the record. For years I thought the title was “Battle Station” because of how Axl sings it as if he wants to be a kazoo when he grows up. I mostly rank this so high because it could have been a really wonderful recording if yet another song wasn’t so busy blowing Aerosmith.
3. "SO FINE"
Duff McKagan’s sole solo writing credit doesn’t speak well for him, sadly. It sounds more like a Paul McCartney song than the actual Paul McCartney song on the album. It has the same sappy sentimentality apparent in “Civil War” but without the energy and edge Axl and Slash contributed. Plus, on an album that already contains “Estranged” and for some reason an alternative version of “Don’t Cry,” you simply do not need another love song like this. It’s prom slow-dance music.
2. "ONE IN A MILLION"
Oh, you knew this was coming. Racist, homophobic and thoroughly unoriginal, it’s amazing that even in 1986 someone put this on a record and expected no one to complain. To this day, Axl says he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about, but you could play this song at a Tea Party rally and get a standing ovation. I know that conservatives stole rock and roll from us when we were all buying Jncos and pogs, but come on, it shouldn’t be this bad.
1. "MY WORLD"
This was the last track on the magnum opus of the biggest band in the world at the time, a strange hybrid of industrial and bad rap that had no place on one of the last great rock records. It was the final original song send-off for G N’ R, and yet everyone was so surprised when Axl surprised us with “Oh My God” and we wondered what the hell had happened to one of the greatest songwriters of the ‘80s and ‘90s. So that’s what earns “My World” the No. 1 spot, for being the shade of things to come.
Now excuse me, I’m off to listen to “Breakdown” on repeat.
Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators perform Saturday, May 23 at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.