Warning: I'm going to really date myself with this one, but it must be done in order to convey the full impact one monumental slice of metal history had on teenage me, so much so that even my moniker is a tribute. When I was a punk-ass little seventh-grader with braces and a Joan Jett haircut, my whole cynical worldview was changed from that of feeling alone and angry at nothing in particular to that of a cynical worldview and feeling angry at everything, but trudging through the jungle alongside at least five other people. All it took was an echo-effect Gibson and the primal scream of a small-town white boy to get me even more pissed off, but with a sneer for knowing that I wasn't alone.
Today, we celebrate 20 years of Appetite for Destruction, arguably the greatest heavy metal album ever. Believe it or not, but exactly two decades ago on this very date, that wicked, wicked slice of vinyl brilliance entered the public domain. It was bloody, sexy, dirty, passionate, intense, brutal, and weirdly enough, sweet. It had the best beginning ("Welcome to the Jungle" screams) and ending ("Rocket Queen" reprise) on an album ever. Girls and guys alike both loved and feared Guns N' Roses. With that one album, my little small-town Midwesterner mind cultivated a vision of Hollywood as an exciting cesspool of booze- and vomit-soaked bars teeming with leather and teased blonde hair and pulsating with animalistic drum beats and wailing guitars. I knew I would get eaten alive there, an urchin living under the streets, but I would love it.
Normally, I hate it when writers build up album releases to life-changing events, but it's a little bit different when you're talking about something that occurred when you were 13. Everything is so monumental then, and you're vulnerable and under constant assessment from your peers and parents. You realize life isn't going to be playgrounds and toys and mud pies from now on. No matter how hard you try to forget, the things that happen to you at 13 will stay with you forever. For a kid at that age, the discovery of an album like Appetite can inspire them to get it all out...scream, yell, punch your pillow, play air guitar until you collapse. These guys had armadillos in their trousers and dared you to be afraid. Plus, your parents HATED IT and it's so much fun to piss them off.
This is also a record that stands the test of time. It's still shocking to hear the commands of an abusive Axl growling to the sister in a Sunday dress, "Turn around, bitch, I've got a use for you. Besides, you ain't got nothing better to do, and I'm bored." Booze and heroin aren't romanticized on tracks like "Night Train" and "Mr. Brownstone" and sex is thrown in your face with the gruesome insert art that graced the original cover and was banned in the US, and in songs like "Anything Goes" and "Rocket Queen" (which features the sounds of Axl actually fucking a stripper in the studio during the break). Then once you are sufficiently ready to kick some ass, the boys show you their vulnerable sides, seranading a girlfriend by comparing her hair to a warm, safe place for a child to hide in "Sweet Child O' Mine", and remembering good times with a lady love in "Think About You." You don't have to be mad all the time to be a rock god.
I hope this doesn't sound too much like something Chuck Klosterman would puke up, but Appetite continues to be one of my top five favorite albums of all time and I felt like being nice for once. Give it a listen over the weekend and see if you still feel the same way about it that you did when it came out. And be glad that the jungle of your teen years has given away to the paradise city of adult life. OK, that was really bad, but I just couldn't help myself. Must be all that night train...