Game Changers: Appetite For Destruction Turns 30

One of the greatest rock albums ever made by Guns N’ Roses hits the three-decade mark. 

July 21st marked the 30th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest rock albums and one of the greatest debut albums of all time, Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses.

As the original band is currently reunited and on tour, well Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan, it’s a great time to celebrate this amazing album and the band who went on to become one of the biggest bands ever.

One thing that I have always found amazing about certain bands or artists, is that sometimes the greatest legacies happen in only a short span. Nirvana really were around for three and a half years.

Sex Pistols about three. Guns N’ Roses made it about seven years before imploding, and I’m not counting reunions and tours with completely different members, just the original run of the band.

Photo Credit: Geffen Records

Now where some debut albums became instant hits, like Nevermind and years later Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park, Appetite for Destruction took some time to gain steam.

Once it did, Guns N’ Roses never looked back and became one of the biggest bands of all time. The band recorded their debut while playing in the clubs of Los Angeles, where many of their contemporaries got their start.

While those bands were glamming it up with make-up and hair spray, Guns N’ Roses image was pretty opposite. Sure they had the leather pants and the hair in some cases, but they had a danger to them and their music that no one else on the scene had.

The band just played a special show at the famous Apollo Theatre in celebration of the album's anniversary, so let’s take a look at Appetite for Destruction and some of its killer tracks with some clips from that historic night on July 20th.

If ever there was a song to set up the pure epic album that was in front of you it is Welcome to the Jungle. From the opening guitar chords, Axl saying “Oh My God,” and then the song kicking in, you knew this album was going to be a hell of a ride.

Even though Welcome to the Jungle wasn’t the lead single, it was the one that made the band's star rise instantly as MTV played the video all the time. The song was the first that Axl and Slash wrote together and to this day is the band's calling card.

It may be the best album opener ever. By the time follow up single Sweet Child of Mine hit the airwaves, the band had solidified themselves as the next big thing in rock.

The famous guitar riff was actually first played as a joke by Slash and the song about Axl’s then girlfriend is one of the most popular the band has ever recorded. Sweet Child of Mine shows the band softer side as it was a giant contrast from many of the debauchery themed songs of side 1.

Paradise City was the album's next single and the band’s tribute to Los Angeles from the point of view of the Indiana born Ax mixed with LA rock star Axl. It has since gone on to become the band's anthem and show closer for each concert since the late 80s. And what an anthem it is.

From the opening drum beat, to the kick as moment the song kicks in after the whistle, to the sing along chorus, this was a song meant for stadiums as the video for the track shows.

Appetite for Destruction is full of great track after great track. Songs like Mr. Brownstone told another story of some band members addiction to heroin. The song had all the makings of a hit single with its beat and rhythms, but due to the underlying subject matter I think the band held off.

It’s So Easy and Night Train show the band at it’s down and dirtiest. Songs like these were the reason the band were able to set themselves so far apart from their hair metal contemporaries. Night Train was a cheap wine that the band would drink in the days where they were broke further adding to their “from the streets” attitude.

Out Ta Get Me is all about Axl’s troubled youth and run-ins with the law while growing up in Indiana. The song is still Axl’s theme song, as through the years of lineup changes, trials, and tribulations, Axl has always stood at the center of each controversy.

It's an extremely popular track of die-hard fans and a hidden gem to those that aren’t as familiar with the deep cuts on the album.

One of my personal favorites on Appetite for Destruction has always been My Michelle. The song about an ex-girlfriend of Axl’s who had was sinking lower and lower into the void of life.

While driving together, Michelle and Axl heard Elton John's My Song on the radio and she turned to Axl and said ‘I wish a song would be written about me.” I’m not sure she meant in this way.

Rocket Queen is most famous for the fact that there is an actual recording of Axl having sex in the studio with what was rumored to be drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend.

It really ties together the overall theme of the album and the grittiness of the band’s sound. It’s a great album closer and just a killer rock and roll song. 

Appetite for Destruction really changed the rock game. Hair metal bands were put on notice and while they still hung tight for another three years or so, Guns N’ Roses proved rock fans were looking for more than what the other Sunset Strip bands were offering.

The band and their album mixed punk rock attitude with glam rock stage shows and a pure bred hard rock mentality to their music. It was a perfect mix and in that mix, Guns N’ Roses created an album for the ages.

Photo Credit: Katarina Benzova

To this day it remains the biggest selling debut album of all time and as the band tours the world right now, we’re able to hear these great songs once more. I’m looking forward to finally seeing the band this fall when they come back to my neck of the woods.

Hopefully the current reunion leads to some new music as I know I’m not alone in wanting to hear what Axl and Slash can come up with at this stage in their careers. All in all, though, I’m just happy to have them back.

For more, be sure to check out the whole Apollo show as broadcast on SiriusXM.

For more Game Changers, check out why David Grohl has become a rock god. Where does Welcome to the Jungle sit in Best Album Openers? Find out on The List.