25 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ Finally Hits No. 1
As one of history’s milestone hard rock albums, and possibly the greatest debut ever recorded (certainly the biggest seller), Guns N’ Roses‘ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ has been exhaustively dissected and scrutinized over the years.
But what many people seem to forget all these years later is that ‘Appetite’ was anything but an instant success story. In fact, it didn’t reach No. 1 in the U.S. until Aug. 6, 1988, more than a year after its release.
Before then, and for much of the album’s gradual, 57-week rise up the charts, Guns N’ Roses felt like yet another promising hard rock band, doomed to remain something of a well-kept secret amongst diehard fans of the style rather than breaking through to the masses – never mind one capable of conquering the world and becoming perhaps the definitive rock band of the ’80s (with all due respect to U2 and the Police).
To be sure, the band’s decadent image and inveterate troublemaking (not to mention drug-taking) hardly seemed ready for prime time – nor was it suitable for widespread, PG-13 consumption. What’s more, Geffen Records’ promotion strategy, which saw them appealing first to core hard rock and metal fans with first singles, ‘It’s So Easy’ and ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ may have actually been unnecessarily conservative, to begin with.
But, whatever the circumstances, ‘Appetite’ was, much like Nirvana‘s ‘Nevermind’ a few years later, born an unstoppable juggernaut, fated to break through every adverse music business obstacle (and common sense) through sheer strength of public acclaim. And that’s precisely what happened once the third single ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ began steamrolling its way to No. 1 that August.
With it, a full year of hustling for attention and opening for other bands on tour – not to mention many more before that simply trying to start a band and get a record deal – seemed to pay off overnight in the eyes of outsiders and new fans. Nevertheless, by year’s end, Guns N’ Roses were well on their way to becoming the worlds biggest rock band.
And they owed it all to the little album that could, ‘Appetite for Destruction’: once a little red caboose, later a bullet train, now a hallowed iron horse of classic rock.