30 Years Ago Today America Had An “Appetite For Destruction”
It has long been considered popular knowledge that Nirvana's album Nevermind put an end to the hair band era. I'm here to tell you that is a myth. Hair band rock was well on its way out by the time "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit the airwaves in 1991.
I submit that if you have to point to a moment in time when hair band's death knell sounded, the day would be exactly 30 years ago. On July 21, 1987, Geffen Records released what remains today the biggest selling debut album in U.S. history--Guns 'N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction.
Where Hair Band metal drew inspiration from the over-the-top excess of British Glam rock of the 1970's, Guns 'N' Roses was influenced by the Rolling Stones' boogie rock and the punk of the Sex Pistols. Hair bands were all about the party; G-N-R was about raw angst and fury. Yeah, there was partying going on with Guns 'N' Roses, but it was happening in a much darker place that where Poison and Motley Crue were hanging out.
When Appetite For Destruction was released, I was the Program Director of KBFM-FM in McAllen, TX, which at the time was the 3rd-highest-rate station in the entire country. The format was Top 40 and was dominated by Whitney Houston, George Michael, and Gloria Estefan. There were some big rock songs at that time, too, including Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls", Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again", and Poison's "I Want Action". The first single from Appetite was "It's So Easy" and it didn't even make a ripple in the ocean of music that was out at the time.
It wasn't until 3 months later that I even heard of Guns 'N' Roses, and that was when I was struck in the face by "Welcome To The Jungle". The song was so hard compared to everything else that was out at the time, that I thought there was no way this would ever make it on Top 40 radio. It sounds silly now, but Axl Rose's scream combined with Slash and Izzy Stradlin's searing guitars sounded positively dangerous. I had visions of our audience running and screaming in fear upon hearing it.
Little did I know at the time, but the audience was hungry for something raw and unnerving. After years of corporate rock from Journey, Styx, and Foreigner they were craving music that they could not only feel emotionally, but viscerally, as well. "Welcome To The Jungle" satisfied that hunger.
The band and the album would soar to a completely different realm almost a year later when "Sweet Child O' Mine" was released. What started out as a warm-up fretboard exercise for Slash, turned into one of the most iconic guitar signatures in rock history. To this day there's a little tingle I get at the top of my spine when I hear it. Axl's vocal performance is legendary; as close to perfection as anyone has ever come on a single song.
In preparing for a documentary on the seminal album, Loudwire.com asked some of us Rock radio program directors to put our thoughts about Appetite For Destruction on video. You can see my contribution on this blog.
Suffice it to say, Appetite For Destruction still sounds as raw and dangerous today as it did 30 years ago. And probably will 30 years from now.