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By shelz.

The late 80’s found rock music a genre in transition. The previous decade of disco morphed into a party full of marginally talented glam squads who seemed more concerned with their stock of Aquanet and Max Factor than music education. It was a trying time for the purist.  But in 1987, Guns N’ Roses debut album, Appetite for Destruction put the “rock is dead” faction on notice (a notice that was soaked in gasoline, stuffed into a bottle and thrown right through the naysayers’ front windows when Nirvana’s Nevermind dropped a few weeks later) and started the troubled quintet on the road to two of the most ambitious rock albums of the decade, Use Your Illusion I and II.

The wonderfully loud and raucous Appetite pulled no punches. Drugs, easy women and oodles of rocker angst provided a proper topping for Izzy and Slash’s axe work and Axl’s hellish sandpaper shrieks. It was a sobering look at the life so many musicians were striving for. Guns N’ Roses provided the pleasure, but it came with a hellafied hangover; something a lot of other bands during that time lost in musical translation.

After the smoke cleared there was silence; 4 years of it. And when Guns N’ Roses returned with Use Your Illusion, they brought a much deeper sonic palette. Rock still reigned; but blues, roots, country and even industrial elements were present. The twin LP’s were huge in every way. Together, the pair offered up 30 songs and hours of air guitar fodder. Production of the double album at times was overwrought, but when it worked, it worked. The straight ahead rock songs like “Back Off Bitch” and “Double Talkin Jive” tethered the crew to their core, but what bloomed from the foundation was just as intriguing as some of the themes.

Back Off Bitch

“Don’t Damn Me” was an interesting look at freedom of speech while “Civil War” covered the struggle between the rich and poor. They quieted down for “Don’t Cry,” amped it to the ceiling with “Right Next Door To Hell” and even got a bit weird psychedelic with the help of Alice Cooper on “The Garden.” “Get In The Ring” is still one of the most humorous jabs at music journalists ever. (Well, maybe not a jab as much as an uppercut whilst wearing brass knuckles) and “My World” was just damn strange. But the huge sweep of sound and style is just as cinematic now as it was then.

Get In The Ring

Sure “Coma” and “November Rain” could have been shorter, but why? It’s within Axl’s ambition and decadence that we find what makes this project so appealing. The crew may have been living a few rungs above their talent means, but even the flaws add to the overall aura of the albums. And you have to admit that the last two minutes of “November Rain” are riveting.

November Rain

In the end, it was Axl’s aspiration to be a little more than he was (plus his complete disrespect of the rest of the band…umm.. allegedly) that splintered Guns N’ Roses. Slash, Sorum and McKagan took up with Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland for the way less dramatic Velvet Revolver and Steven Adler took up with Dr Drew. Thank goodness. Amazingly enough, Adler’s firing, which came after years of his chasing the dragon, was the first nail in the coffin. Always give the drummer some. He’s incredibly important to the style of the song.

My World

Guns N’ Roses has since taken on many incarnations with much less success and Axl Rose has cornrows. It’s almost as if they knew the end was coming and this was Axl’s attempt at a magnum opus. Appetite for Destruction is still a better album, but the aptly titled Use Your Illusion is about as epic as they come.

Happy Birthday.

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