It is a memorable way to start a record. A charge of sweeping guitar runs echoing, rebounding off the walls of a room and within the ear canals. Most music fans and regular listeners of classic rock radio recognize the opening notes of “Welcome to the Jungle” within milliseconds of hearing it. Frontman Axl Rose adds a soaring vocal to the buildup before the riff takes off. It was one of the riffs and songs that would help launch Guns N Roses into superstars.
“Jungle” would be one of a few songs from this record to be identified through their signature guitar openings. Guitarist Slash’s intricate low-slung high-neck picking have made him a legend. To this day, Slash remains a reckoning force in the world of guitar. “Jungle” is a song that has retains a freshness to it because it can apply to what has become a more vulnerable and at times scary world. Part of that world is people hiding behind computer screens where they carry out acts of violence. The music is a strong statement for what was evolving on the news screens at the time, with indications and hints of where things could go. Axl Rose’s vocals do near-perfect justice to this track. He is a tour guide loudly taking people through a basic survival guide to the jungle. Izzy Stradlin, Duff Mckagan and Steven Adler provide more than ample volume and punch to the rhythms and rolls of this great song.
My personal favourite song from Appetite remains “It’s So Easy”. It was the first song I recall listening to where a vocalist clearly is telling the target of the lyrics to “Fuck Off!” A kid who is not quite ten years of age is going to be delighted to hear swearing on an album. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. The lyrics themselves were not something I could relate to at the time or maybe ever. I have a clear memory of when I heard the song for the first time. It was a projection into what being a music star could have meant. My favourite part of the track comes from these lyrics;
I see you standin’ there
You think you’re so cool
Why don’t you just
(Note: Song is credited to Guns N Roses and West Arkeen. No copyright infringement intended)
My hearing of those words felt like a gift. It was an expression of how I felt towards the popular kids at school who were a pain the ass to my everyday existence. A message like that to a kid makes them feel heard, like they understand how it might feel to be singled out for what you believe or the music you listen to. I’ve come to appreciate the music more behind the song even more. Duff McKagan’s picked high bass notes act as a great magnet to the ears, pulling listeners back in after they receive a Welcome To The Jungle. “Nightrain” and “Mr. Brownstone” have killer riffs and catchy vocals. While “Paradise City” for is a singalong classic rock radio favourite with down to the dirt heavy verses.
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” contains one of the most recognizable opening riffs in heavy rock history. I remember when the record came out, every guitar player in town was at the music store attempting to show off their abilities to try and pull it off. None of them could do it the way Slash does. None.
When Appetite was released, us kids thought it was so cool seeing a record at the front of the store with the early version of the “explicit lyrics” caution. It was something just in plain text printing. That label only helped make it the record it is. My parents would not have it in the house because of that sticker alone.
Fast-forward to the mid 1990’s and a few days before some Christmas. My Dad was out at Walmart and arrived back with a few last-minute gifts. He tossed me and my brother a three-pack of cassette tapes that he picked up from a bin. I remember him saying they were a good deal.
One of those tapes was “Appetite“. Right away I had to remind him that I was not permitted to get this album because of the explicit lyrics warning. We laughed about that for years afterwards. It remains one of my favourite stories.