Now the Trickledown editorial board/musical consulting group will reveal all of the elements which made Guns and Roses’ Appetite for Destruction such a stunning success; and in contrast why Chinese Democracy lacks nearly every element which contributed to that success.
There are three main musical elements GNR successfully and effortlessly fused on Appetite:
1) Danceable glam rock boogie ala T-Rex and 70s classic rock funk ala ZZ Top and the Rolling Stones, interspersed with pretty classic rock parts. And lots of cowbell.
GNR on Appetite was very much steeped in the funky side of T-Rex style glam rock; did you ever notice just how boogie oriented songs like It’s so Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Night Train, Paradise City, and Anything Goes are–and did you notice how much cowbell there is in these songs? GNR were definitely not just a heavy metal band, no heavy metal band would use so much prominently placed funky cowbell! You can just look at Slash’s whole Marc Bolan get up to see how much 70s glam rock boogie meant to them, also in the vein of Aerosmith and ZZ Top, Rolling Stones, some Led Zeppelin, like the Black Crowes. And Slash would throw in an Eric Clapton-like solo here and there, like the solo in Sweet Child of mine. Songs like Sweet Child of Mine, Think About You, etc. had a winsome 70s hippie edge to them in the choruses and some of the guitar parts that many other bands of the time lacked.
GNR had an organic hippy 70s rock thing going on for Appetite, definitiely in contrast to harsh, more nu-metal and techno-drum track backed songs of Chinese Democracy. Just down to Earth real drums, some good old 70s blues glam rock boogie any rock fan could enjoy and dance to, and importantly, seperated GNR out from the Hollywood hair rock bands of the 80s and allowed older classic rock fans to genuinely like them, as opposed to bands like Ratt, Motley Crue, which had less of a genuine organic 70s classic rock sound and were just cheesy, wearing makeup and panties and all, pandering only to 13-year old valley girls.
2) 80s hard rock/heavy metal in a technically proficient and aggressive Van Halen mode with lots of Guitar Center commercial-style artifical and pinch harmonics, Marshall stacks blazing
This is what got the kids in the late 80s really going, Slash had all his awesome guitar riffs and tricks straight out of the Van Halen school, with lots of artificial harmonics and pinch harmonics thrown in coming from roaring Marshall stacks and twisting, winding 80s metal riffs. It all sounded like the dudes on the Guitar Center commercials with the turgid artificial harmonic-filled riffs, but the riffs were cool. But importantly, Slash’s awesome 80s metal guitar playing was tempered by the 70s glam boogie/classic rock side of the band, so it wasn’t all just flashy soloing and heavy riffs, but the heavy metal playing was couched in nice organic blues and boogie classic rock harmonic song structures, so it wasn’t all cheesy like Ratt and Motley Crue. It was more like if Van Halen was the guitarist for some T-Rex, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones songs, 80s metal playing in awesome classic rock songs, not cheesy hair metal stuff.
3) Punk rock ‘ala the Sex Pistols, etc.
Here’s where GNR also appealed to the kids but also the punks; there was a harder, more authentic punk edge to Appetite than a lot of other 80s metal bands. Listen to the chorus of My Michelle, it’s alot like the chorus of Anarchy in the UK for example. And irreverent, fierce, and shocking lyrics in a punk vein screeched by Axl like, “Turn around * I got a use for you, besides, you ain’t got nothing better to do, and I’m, bored” And the vivid tales of harsh-reality woes in My Michelle, etc, all with a punk edge, (and a lot of the lyrics sort of rhymed in an appealing way, though Axl, the hair braids aren’t really doing it for most of us…) were shocking and bold at the time and further set them apart from Cherry Pie hair bands like Ratt and Warrant and made for an authentic, real, appealing album to music fans everywhere.
The driving punk edge mixed with 70s organic glam-boogie/classic rock grooves and songwriting, and 80s Van Halen-style metal riff and solo Marshall guitar fireworks is what put Appetite for Destruction over the top and made it one of the most significant rock albums ever made, and etched GNR forever into the consciousness of music fans worldwide.
On a whole other point, I would argue that Appetite really was as significant, actually a way more significant musical event than Nirvana’s Nevermind artistically and culturally; GNR with Appetite had an as-of-yet unparalleled Led Zeppelin/T-Rex/Van Halen thing going while Nirvana’s Pixies/Ramones amalgam has revealed itself as being more dated, more one-dimensional, less impressive, more of a flash-in-the pan/one trick pony deal, and has been more easily-reproduced by a flood of simpering alterna-bands and emo bands. No one has been able to touch, even approach Appetite’s legacy, not even Axl with the many years in the making Chinese Democracy.
Most importantly, the only element GNR still have is Axl’s great voice; but GNR lacks those other awesome, organic elements that made it such a great band before, combining 70s glam boogie/classic rock, 80s Van Halen metal, and punk rock for a great sound.