From Jimi Hendrix’s searing guitar solos to the punchier power chords favoured by Josh Homme, rock has enjoyed many pinups in its relatively brief history. But who is the guitar player the casual fan from the banks of Kerry might recognise?
Considering the mugs, T-shirts and posters that he has appeared on, Slash would seem to be the correct answer. Indeed, there’s a case to could be made that he’s arguably more famous than the riffs he has spun, but that would do the frenzied guitar patterns on Appetite for Destruction a disservice.
For many bands, this album revived their interest in rock. Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire felt, “It put the roll back into rock cos, at the time, hard rock had reached a dead end, and it was all American hair bands and all the rest of it, and grunge hadn’t happened yet.”
From the pounding ‘Welcome to The Jungle’ to the fierce, fable oriented ‘Mr Brownstone’, the album exudes passion, creativity and panache. It was almost punk-like in its delivery, capturing the essence of the studio in a series of blinding takes. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin wrote most of the songs, but Slash was responsible for the hook to ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’, an angular arpeggio that sounded like it came from a science fiction soundtrack.
It was a strangely romantic affair for the band, who were best known for pushing the boundaries of rock through swagger, attitude and grit. Indeed, the focus on Appetite isn’t on the cascading licks but the thunderous riffs, many of them bellowing from the speakers in a last-ditch attempt to seem angry. ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ is a more gentle exercise, with the four bandmates following Slash’s lead to create a more atmospheric work.
“You know, Guns N’ Roses was always a real hardcore, sort of, AC/DC kind of hard rock band with a lot of attitude,” Slash told radio host Kidd Chris in 2014. “If we did any kind of ballads, it was bluesy. This was an uptempo ballad. That’s one of the gayest things you can write. But at the same time, it’s a great song — I’m not knocking it — but at the same time, it just did not fit in with the rest of our, sort of, schtick. And, of course, it would be the biggest hit we ever had.”
Slash left Guns ‘N’ Roses in the 1990s, but he continued to perform ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ as a solo artist. With Myles Kennedy, Slash had a vocalist who could effortlessly emulate Axl Rose‘s shrill falsetto, making him the perfect person to sing Guns ‘N’ Roses most fondly remembered ballad. As we can hear in the performance below, Kennedy exhibits the raw energy that Wire felt was lacking in ’80s rock.
Slash seems strangely relaxed in the video, safe in the knowledge that the song will carry his legacy to further heights, both as a person, and more importantly, as a musician of high repute. Let’s take a listen to the classic number, this time in an acoustic form, below.