I remember liking this a lot more. And that’s weird because I’m super familiar with it, having listened to it maybe even more than Appetite For Destruction, since when these two came out I was super price sensitive.
It’s amazing that Guns N’ Roses followed up Appetite just a year later, given that it would take an additional three years before they put out their next album(s). It may not seem like it now, but anything more than two years back then was shocking. Especially for a band whose iron was as hot as Guns N’ Roses’. Of course, then there was the additional 17 years before their next studio album came out, but much ink has been spilled on that.
Anyhoo, here’s my new take on this. The first side (trust me on this, kids) was a re-release of their 1986, four-song, live EP Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide. These tracks all reveal the instrumental and performance prowess the band had, but gave no hint into the songwriting brilliance they would later have. There’s an Aerosmith cover, a Rose Tattoo cover, and two other songs that kind of fit into that blues/glam metal style. Including one that covers Rose’s move from Indiana to L.A., a subject he never seemed to grow tired of writing songs about (“One In A Milllon,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” etc.)
Then there’s the 1988 side, all acoustic. You’ve got the mega-hit “Patience,” which is a cut above all of the other “power ballads” (scare quotes because this doesn’t quite fit the mold as it doesn’t bring as much power with its complete lack of electric guitar) of the time, adding a bridge that elevates it but also reinforces that the rest of it is too long for what it is. Then there’s a wonderfully-performed acoustic version of the Appetite cut “You’re Crazy.” And then there’s the shit you can’t avoid. In order of less offensive to more…
“Used To Love Her” follows its title up with the lyrics “But I had to kill her/She’s buried right in my back yard.” In interviews the band said this was about “their” dog, but that doesn’t jibe because whose dog? What was its name? Why does Rose cheekily add the line “Take it for what it is”? No, misogyny making light of domestic violence and murder. Not funny. Nice song otherwise, but that’s a big fucking otherwise.
Then there’s “One In A Million.” Which is a fucking amazing song and moreso because it’s Rose being Rose. He’s being so true to himself and his core, inner, raw feelings, and that’s what makes this so fucking powerful…one of the most powerful artistic statements I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately, you’ve got the N-word, the f-word that means homosexual men, and a horribly isolationist and xenophobic rant against immigrants. The band took shit about it at the time, rightfully so, but I can’t believe the shitstorm this would kick off now. (Would be interested to hear better lettered critics than me take a crack at it.) The band says they didn’t want to include it but Rose insisted. Slash’s mom is black, for Christ’s sake.
There’s no excuse for this, and in particular when this kind of speech comes out in popular media, well, I’m glad it gets shot down. But I think the reception of this track is a big part of what set Rose off on his current trajectory. You’ve got a ridiculously gifted “small town white boy” who’s been anti-authoritarian his whole life, has a bit of a Messiah complex, and is the biggest rock star on his planet while being (mostly) celebrated for an album that celebrates debauchery and rugged individualism and triumphing against all odds and all that. Then he bares his soul, we find out how disgusting it is and rebuke it and him along with it. Add into all of it that he probably didn’t have the most solid of mental foundations to begin with and then give him more money than God and, well, you’ve got the last 26 years.
Programming note: Windows Phone 8.1 took away my hearts, so now I’m ranking things as Mix, Love, Like, Meh, and Hate. “Used To Love Her” and “One In A Million” both get knocked down for their hatred, and not just as punishment, but because when I listen to them that’s how I feel. And I kinda wish I didn’t like “One In A Million” so much. But fuck god that’s a great song.
Love: “One In A Million”
Like: “Reckless Life,” “Nice Boys,” “Move To The City,” “Mama Kin,” “Patience,” “You’re Crazy”
Meh: “Used To Love Her”
Filed Between: Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction and “You Could Be Mine” cassette single
Song Notes: After the jump
- Reckless Life – Hollywood Rose (a band with Rose and Stradlin in it) cover
- Nice Boys – Rose Tattoo cover
- Move To The City –
- Mama Kin – Aerosmith cover
- Patience – Greatest whistle in all of rock and roll. This is very close to Love.
- Used To Love Her – The thing about this being about “their” dog who’s nameless and doesn’t have an owner rings even more disingenuous given Rose’s aside, “Take it for what it is.”
- You’re Crazy –
- One In A Million –