What a strange couple of months the summer of 1987 was. Last month Whitney Houston's Whitney, the first album by a female artist to debut at Number 1 in America, celebrated its 25th birthday. This month it's Bad, Michael Jackson's seventh which produced a yet-to-be-bested five Number 1 singles. And tucked in between those records, was Guns'N'Roses' debut, Appetite For Destruction.
The record was forged across three Los Angeles studios in the second half of 1986, the year that Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet came out, Van Halen were on tour and in February punk outfit Dead Kennedys played their last gig in California. Music, it seemed, was firmly sailing towards penile-mounted pyrotechnics and bizarre hair.
Then came Appetite for Destruction. Its recording is well-documented (especially in Marc Canter's fantastic Reckless Road) and is replete with arguments, snubs and the overdubbing session which immortalised Axl Rose's tryst with stripper Adriana Smith on album closer Rocket Queen. Appetite's legacy goes beyond the anecdotal, though.
It was the last great rock album to have been made by hand: the instruments are reassuringly old-school - Slash's distinctive guitar sound coming, after hours of tinkering, via a Les Paul copy run through a beaten-up Marshall amplifier - the takes were recorded on huge tape reels, edited by knife-stroke as producer Mike Clink pushed all the faders by hand.
More pressingly, the album is a savage indictment of all the grimy glitz that 1980s Los Angeles had to offer the band: while Axl's lyrics revel in seediness and misogyny, and the band's lurching arrangements are as dirty as a crack habit, there's no glamour offered, no vision of utopia. Appetite airs Guns'N'Roses' dirty laundry shamelessly, but it's without pride. Its lasting impact comes from a refusal to romanticise a thoroughly unromantic world.
Axl and co's magnum opus was not, however, untouchable. In much the same way as Appetite - and follow-ups Use Your Illusion I and II - heralded the end of glam, so too did the breakthroughs of alt-rock and grunge do for Guns'N'Roses' brand of swagger.
However while their immediate successors might have swerved The Gunners' blueprint, later generations of rockers have learnt from it directly. M Sanders from heavy-metalheads Avenged Sevenfold, cites the 80s stalwarts as "a huge reason why I'm even in a band and even write music", marking the day his dad gave him a copy of Appetite as "hugely influential". Canadian rockers Japandroids, too, count the album as a strong influences behind their latest album Celebration Rock, explaining they aimed to tap into the "rock mythology" around the record.
But Appetite For Destruction was not a record created with one eye on posterity. It is exactly what it sounds like: five young tearaways revealing in sex, drugs and cock-rock'n roll. It's a record of pure abandon, swagger and excess. At least that would explain why Axl can barely keep track any more.
Laurie Havelock @Havelockthedane
Appetite For Destruction: The facts
Released: 21 July 1987
Recorded: August-December 1986 at Rumbo Studios, Take One Studio and Can-Am Studio, Los Angeles
Produced: Mike Clink (Motley Crue, Megadeth, Jefferson Starship)
Worldwide sales in excess of 30 million, including 18 million in the US alone. It is estimated to still sell around 30,000 copies a year
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11:20 AM | 09/08/2012
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