I’ve long thought that, as great as an album as Guns n Roses’ Appetite for Destruction is, you could make a better album if you took the 12 best tracks from the two Use Your Illusion albums and condensed them into one. For years, about every time I’d here one of these standout tracks from the Use Your Illusions, I’ve thought about creating this post and finally seeing for once and for all if you could actually make a better album.
I’m pleased to have finally done so, and I must say that I’m a bit surprised at what my study has shown.
First off, let’s look at the track list for Appetite.
- Welcome to the Jungle
- It’s So Easy
- Out ta Get Me
- Mr. Brownstone
- Paradise City
- My Michelle
- Think About You
- Sweet Child o’ Mine
- You’re Crazy
- Anything Goes
- Rocket Queen
Hard rock fans recognize this as one of the genre’s best track lists of all time. It’s 18 million certified copies sold make it the #11 ranked of studio album (not counting collections) of all time, and AC/DC’s Back in Black and Led Zeppelin IV are the only two hard rock albums to have sold more. Appetite was a beast of an album, and there have been few debuts that changed the face of music the way it did. It’s worst songs are excellent.
Pretty stiff competition, but if there was anyone that could beat it, it may have been the GnR lineup that released the two Use Your Illusion albums in 1991.
The band had matured by then, and maybe they’d settled down a bit. Drummer Stephen Adler had been kicked out because he couldn’t get a handle on his heroin addiction. He was replaced by former The Cult drummer, Matt Sorum. They had also added keyboardist Dizzy Reed, and his work, plus Axl’s own piano playing, allowed them to explore musical avenues that weren’t open to them on Appetite.
Here are the twelve tracks that I chose to represent the Use Your Illusions as a single album, but there are several other songs that could be substituted in. Note that I didn’t include either of the band’s excellent covers, those of Wings’ “Live and Let Die” and Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” As Appetite was comprised of 12 originals, I think it only sporting to compare it to an album solely comprised with the same.
- Dust N’ Bones
- 14 Years
- Don’t Cry (Original)
- November Rain
- Civil War
- Bad Obsession
- You Could Be Mine
- Pretty Tied Up (The Perils of Rock and Roll Decadence)
- The Garden (Featuring Alice Cooper)
Now, just look at that; what an album that would be. I’ve chosen to begin it with a song that breaks silence well, which, coming straight out of the box, “Dust and Bones” does. Then, I’ve worked it heavy to light and then back up again. I’ve chosen “The Garden” to end the album, as it’s a strong final song, plus it features the guest appearance of Alice Cooper.
Like Appetite, what could be the worst of these songs are just excellent songs. You’ve got your ballads and your sweeping opuses, but you’ve also got your flat out metal. But the question remains: Would this be a better album than Appetite?
I’m gonna listen to these tracks in order and get back to you with what I think.
Well, I’ve now listened to this track list, and, man, I gotta tell ya, if they’d have followed up Appetite with that album they could have possibly been the best first two albums released by any band since Zeppelin. And, who knows, maybe in time, after I had gotten used to these tracks together as an album, it might have proven to be a better album for me than its predecessor. I haven’t had that time with it, however, and right now it’s just a collection of really great songs. The 12 tracks of Appetite, the album that they are, still proves to be a better album for me.
It would have been interesting to see the Use Your Illusions as a single album. I don’t know why they did things the way they did. Maybe the record company just saw the opportunity to make more money. Maybe Axl’s mood swings were so fearsome that nobody dared whisper words like “edit” and “outtakes” into his ear. Lord knows there’s certainly some chaff and largesse on those two records.
Still, we got what we got. It’s interesting to note–and it may be a sign of Axl’s psychological peculiarities that the band could come up with 30 songs for the two Use Your Illusion disks, but then didn’t release another original song until the release of Chinese Democracy, which was 15 years later.
Despite all of this mind play on my part. the number of excellent songs this band gave us in the four-year period between 1987 and 1991 has been equaled by few bands in the rock and roll era.
I’ll leave you with a few of those songs to remind you of how great the band can be when they get it right. Peace, friends. I hope to see you back here sometime soon.