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Guns N’ Roses' Appetite for Destruction turns 30

Five reasons why it's the perfect rock debut album

Guns N' Roses introduced a new brand of rock when their album Appetite for Destruction debuted on July 21, 1987. Paul Natkin / Getty Images
Guns N' Roses introduced a new brand of rock when their album Appetite for Destruction debuted on July 21, 1987. Paul Natkin / Getty Images

Guns N’ Roses, famously labelled The World’s Most Dangerous Band, released their first album 30 years ago tomorrow on July 21, 1987. After some modest acclaim and interest, it took a cover redesign and video exposure for album sales to skyrocket, and its status as a classic to be cemented. Now the top-selling debut album of all time – with sales of 18 million in the United States alone – we take a look at what makes Appetite for Destruction arguably the best rock debut album of all time.

1. “Turn me around and take me back to the start” Paradise City

It was timely. In short, there was a hole to be filled in the mid-1980s. The American rock scene was populated by commercial, air-brushed, feathered-and-sprayed hair bands (take a listen to Poison, Cinderella and Winger) with their non-threatening, over-produced songs of love and summer fun. While they straddled the line between pop and heavy metal, thus appealing to the masses, they did not offer much in the way of raw emotion and the traditional rebellion rock is known for.

2. “Loaded like a freight train / Flyin’ like an aeroplane” Nightrain

It had everything. Guns N’ Roses members brought to the table varying musical interests and experience. Each offered an essential ingredient to the mix, resulting in a truly American sound yet at the same time nearly impossible to categorise. Producer Mike Clink guided the process but wisely left the creative direction up to the band. Confident and unapologetic, Appetite for Destruction put the rock back in rock ‘n’ roll.

3. “We’ve got fun ‘n’ games / We’ve got everything you want” – Welcome to the Jungle

It was original. The album introduced us to the cast of characters now known as the classic line-up ­– Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler – and their chaotic Sunset Strip lifestyle, though screeching vocals, soaring guitars, and a steady rhythm. No band looked or sounded like Guns N’ Roses and their authentic approach to self-expression resulted in a sound that is immensely playable and satisfying to sing along to.

4. “It’s a feelin’ that I know I know I’ll never forget – Think About You

It was relatable. From the story of a small-town boy who finds himself in the jungle of the big city, to themes of addiction, angst and and despair, there was a lyric or sound written for every listener. But it was the band’s take on romantic themes that set a new standard. The popular hair bands of the time were best known for their power ballads, which without a screaming guitar solo after the bridge, most could have been arrangements for 1980s soft rock acts. Guns N’ Roses gave romantic themes a voice that was honest, tough and wild. Sweet Child O’ Mine and Think About You set the stage for a new kind of gritty ballad later embraced by bands like Tesla, Damn Yankees and Extreme.

5. “I might be too much / But honey you’re a bit obscene” – Rocket Queen

It pushed boundaries. Explicit artwork depicting a violent scene on the first printing of the album prevented many retailers from wanting to stock it, which kept it from being widely available and also landed the band on MTV’s no-play list. David Geffen insisted that MTV give them one chance, which the station agreed to, running Welcome to the Jungle at 4am. The overwhelming response from viewers signalled the welcome arrival of a band that thrives on genuine controversy and rebellion.

Updated: July 20, 2017 04:01 PM