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Music

Ranking the songs on Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ from worst to best

@TylerGolsen

On July 21st, 1987, Guns N’ Roses released their debut LP Appetite for Destruction to little attention. The hard rock scene was hyper-competitive at the time, and although they were slightly harder-edged and used slightly less makeup than their peers on the Sunset Strip, Guns N’ Roses were still a small fish in a massive pond. That summer also saw the release of White Lion’s Pride, Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls, Whitesnake’s Whitesnake, Def Leppard’s Hysteria, and Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation. Who had time for Guns N’ Roses?

The Los Angeles hard rockers had only been a band for roughly two years by the time Appetite hit record shelves. In that time, they had become one of the most exciting bands kicking around the city’s various hair metal clubs. But Guns weren’t really hair metal – they represented something more intense and dangerous without sacrificing poppy melodies or mainstream appeal. Originally a fusion of the established bands L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, Guns quickly became a separate entity propelled by the singular voice of Axl Rose and the enthralling lead guitar of Slash.

Guns N’ Roses had released an EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, the year before, but it was only supposed to be a holdover as the band entered the studio to record their debut. After spending half of 1987 meticulously crafting Appetite with producer Mike Cink, Guns were ready to leap into the mainstream. The only problem was that the mainstream wasn’t ready for them.

With minimal promotion beyond a UK single version of ‘It’s So Easy’ and the band’s constant touring, Appetite didn’t even break into the top 100 of the Billboard 200 album chart on its original release. Geffen Records allowed the band to record a video for ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, but like ‘It’s So Easy’, they initially released the single only in the UK. It was only after months of persuading MTV to play the video that Guns N’ Roses began to see the fruits of their labour.

Once the ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ video hit, Guns N’ Roses went from just another L.A. group to America’s biggest rock band. Three songs from the album landed in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, including ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ going all the way to number one. In early August 1988, Appetite finally hit number one on the Billboard album chart, a full year after its initial release. Today, it’s estimated that over 30 million copies of Appetite have been sold, making it both the highest-selling debut in the US and one of highest-selling albums of all time.

To celebrate the album’s 35th anniversary, we’ve ranked all 12 songs from the LP from worst to best. Major hits like ‘Paradise City’, fan favourites like ‘Mr. Brownstone’, and lesser-known album cuts like ‘Anything Goes’ are all pitted against each other in a winner-take-all brawl to find the ultimate Appetite for Destruction song. These are all 12 songs from Guns N’ Roses massive debut LP, ranked in order of greatness.

Appetite for Destruction, ranked from worst to best:

12. ‘Out Ta Get Me’

Axl Rose gained quite the reputation as a malcontent throughout the heyday of Guns N’ Roses.

That’s a nice way of saying most people thought he was an asshole who was constantly either an aggressor or on the defensive. ‘Out Ta Get Me’ is the perfect encapsulation of Rose’s attitude through the 1980s and 1990s, summed up in one final line – “You can suck me”.

11. ‘Anything Goes’

Guns N’ Roses got a lot of Aerosmith comparisons early in their career. A five-man hard rock band with a squealing lead singer obsessed with sex? Go figure. The difference was that Aerosmith could be playful and campy in songs like ‘Lick and a Promise’ and ‘Get the Lead Out’, whereas Guns tended to be overly aggressive and just kind of gross.

‘Anything Goes’ is the album’s weakest musical moment, with an annoying güiro part that consistently scratches at the back of your brain, and Rose can’t elevate it with faux-scandalous lyrics.

10. ‘Rocket Queen’

Rose’s tough guy act wears incredibly thin when you revisit Appetite for Destruction. While he might have come off as an authentic “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” figure in the late ’80s, observations like “I’ve got a tongue like a razor” and “I’m a sexual innuendo in this burned out paradise” range from eye-rolling to straight-up confusing.

‘Rocket Queen’ has a hell of a backing track behind it, but once we get to the unsimulated sex happening in the song’s breakdown, you’re either all in or all out on Guns N’ Roses.

9. ‘Think About You’

The inferior track on Appetite with a cowbell intro, ‘Think About You’ is nonetheless a fun and hard-edged rocker that gets lost among the monster highs on the album.

In its favour there is a ripping lead guitar line from Izzy Stradlin, but ‘Think About You’ is the kind of track that is so generic that it could easily have come from any other Sunset Strip band in the mid-’80s.

8. ‘My Michelle’

Part emotive ballad intro and part sleazy hard rocker, ‘My Michelle’ toes the line between salacious wannabe provocatism and fascinating down-and-out realism.

This is where Guns start to seem a little more believable in their trips through the L.A. underground – the moment where talking about sex and drugs actually starts to sound as exciting as really having sex and doing drugs.

7. ‘You’re Crazy’

Whether it was immediately apparent or not, Guns N’ Roses had quite a bit of punk rock in their DNA. Duff McKagen was a part of one of Seattle’s earliest hardcore outfits, The Fartz, after all.

Green Day was chosen to induct Guns into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a reason other than the Hall of Fame being a clueless institution: the band had some real punk rock bona fides, which you can hear clear as day on ‘You’re Crazy’.

6. ‘It’s So Easy’

When Guns were making their first decisions for releasing Appetite, ‘It’s So Easy’ was earmarked as the first single. That sounds ridiculous now, considering how ‘Paradise City’, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ were right there on the table, but ‘It’s So Easy’ was a major live favourite so it had some basis in logic.

Apart from a drunk driving reference that has aged like milk, ‘It’s So Easy’ is still one of the easiest songs to like on Appetite.

5. ‘Paradise City’

While they liked to posture as one of the most dangerous rock bands in the world, Guns N’ Roses were never afraid to get soft. ‘Paradise City’ is the one song on Appetite where sunny, summery guitars can clash perfectly with the grit and grime of drug-addled mid-’80s L.A. without sacrificing true hit potential.

Of the three major singles from the album, it’s probably the least impressive, but that only goes to show how great some of the band’s material was at the time.

4. ‘Nightrain’

With boogie woogie rhythms and swaggering lead guitar lines, ‘Nightrain’ is Guns N’ Roses at their most funky. You could really hear Guns, and Axl Rose especially, sweating to make their music as massive and impactful as possible on Appetite. But ‘Nightrain’ sounds like the opposite – just a band in a rehearsal room jamming away.

That kind of effortlessness makes ‘Nightrain’ the deepest cut on the album worth revisiting.

3. ‘Mr. Brownstone’

Lurid tales of drug abuse went hand in hand with Guns N’ Roses’ image. Apart from Rose, all members of the original lineup battled addictions thorugout the band’s heights of fame, which makes a warning song about the depts of heroin use a strange calling card.

Still, ‘Mr. Brownstone’ is simply too catchy and too badass to get caught up in semantics. Once that Bo Diddley beat kicks in, nothing else in the world seems to matter.

2. ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’

Nobody expected Guns N’ Roses to have a number one pop hit, but the mainstream appeal of ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ was just too much ignore. Featuring Slash’s greatest riff and Rose’s sweetest melody ever recorded, ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ stands on its own as the one ballad in the GNR discography that doesn’t get bogged down by its own pretentions. Instead, it’s transcendent.

Bonus points for Duff McKagen’s fantastic bass playing throughout the track – there’s a reason he was a necessary puzzle piece to bring back in order to flesh out Guns’ “classic” lineup that’s currently on the road.

1. ‘Welcome to the Jungle’

The single moment when all of the danger and menace actually comes together and works at its absolute peak, ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ is the one Guns N’ Roses song that stands above the rest in their entire discography. Everyone is working overtime on ‘Jungle’ including the propulsive rhythms of Steven Adler, the rock solid foundation of Izzy Stradlin, the growling menace of Duff McKagen, a killer lead line from Slash and an all-time vocal performance from Axl Rose.

‘Welcome to the Jungle’ is Guns N’ Roses at their peak, and they were arguably never better than they were on the first song from their first album.