Tag Archives: Appetite For Destruction

Rocks In The Attic #831: Survivor – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ (1982)

RITA#831Cue: training montage.

I made of a point of revisiting this record after a great article in the Guardian covering the making of the song for Rocky III. It’s definitely a brilliant song. There’s a swing to it that’s easy to miss if you take it at face value. It’s got the same kind of groove as Stephen Adler’s drum parts on Appetite For Destruction. This isn’t standard 4/4 drumming. There’s something else going on.

Every Wednesday and Friday morning at 6am I do a bootcamp session on my way to work. I usually struggle to keep up, due to a mixture of being generally lazy and eating too much junk-food, but whenever the trainer puts Eye Of The Tiger on, I always seem to find some extra juice. It fits better on Wednesday morning, when we do boxing, but it’s welcome any time.

RITA#831aEye Of The Tiger is Survivor’s third studio album, and the one that would set them apart from their peers due to the song’s inclusion on the Rocky III soundtrack (and its subsequent connection to the Sylvester Stallone boxing franchise in general). The single would hit the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic but exists nowadays mainly as a cliché in corporate training videos. At one supermarket company I worked for, it seemed to get rolled out every month. We need to sell more ham on the deli counter? Quick, stick Eye Of The Tiger on the staff training video!

Now I’m not saying anything untoward was going on, but Eye Of The Tiger is very similar in feel to the Frank Stallone song Far From Over, released a year after Survivor’s hit. Far From Over is another blast of testosterone-heavy AOR, and would fit perfectly in a Rocky film, but instead found a place on the soundtrack to 1983’s Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive…directed by his brother Sylvester Stallone. Hmm

Hit: Eye Of The Tiger

Hidden Gem: Hesitation Dance

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Rocks In The Attic #560: Guns N’ Roses – ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (1987)

RITA#560.jpgI saw something last night I thought I’d never see – Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan on the same stage together. It’s been a long time coming, but for a large part of the twenty five years since I first heard Appetite For Destruction, it seemed unlikely that a reunion would ever happen. Slash kept himself busy, playing in Velvet Revolver (with Duff) before going on to record several decent solo albums. Axl retained the Guns N’ Roses name, touring the band in the 21st century with a host of stand-in musicians and finally releasing the long-threatened Chinese Democracy album in 2008. The new Axl was a portly fellow, rumoured to have an addiction to fried chicken and was described by one audience member in London as ‘a gold lamé blob up on stage.’ A reunion seemed as unlikely as all four Beatles playing together on stage.

Then the unthinkable happened. In 2016 Axl, Slash and Duff patched up their differences and announced a reunion tour. Who needs differences anyway when you’ve got millions of dollars to earn touring the world as a nostalgia act? Plus, that fried chicken won’t buy itself…

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The initial reaction was one of cynicism. Surely Axl would keep everybody waiting like he did in his prima donna days during the 1990s. Would it be worth buying a ticket if it meant waiting around for a few hours in the rain, waiting for Axl to finally take off his bathrobe and finish that last bucket of KFC? Of course it would!

Then the unthinkable part two happened. Axl landed the job as stand-in vocalist for AC/DC. It seems that Brian Johnson’s eardrums had enough of his own high-pitched screaming and put up a protest. He got a sick note from his doctor, ruling him out of that band due to the threat of permanent hearing loss. Step up, Mr. Rose.

It still hasn’t really sunk in that this actually happened – Axl Rose singing with AC/DC sounds like such an off-the-wall idea. Comparable to Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell singing in front of Rage Against The Machine. Oh wait, that actually happened too.

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What a great pairing – Axl DC – can it get any better? Brian Johnson’s vocals have never really fit the band if I have to be honest – there’s only so much shrieking I can handle, and after 1980’s Back In Black, there was a pretty consistent dip in quality. Other than Steven Tyler, Axl is the best choice to front Angus and company – he has the range to hit Brian Johnson’s high notes, and the ballsy tone to handle Bon Scott’s earlier material.

So the rock world waited with bated breath, and the unthinkable part three happened. Axl turned up on time and did his duty. No diva behaviour whatsoever – and best of all, his inclusion prompted the long-standing – and frankly, now quite boring – AC/DC set-list to change. They started playing songs they had rarely, if ever, played with Brian Johnson. Songs such as Riff Raff and Rock And Roll Damnation from 1978’s Powerage, If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It) from 1979’s Highway To Hell, and 1975’s Live Wire (from the Australian T.N.T. album, or the international version of High Voltage). It was so refreshing to see these songs performed once again.

Then, one show into the GNR reunion tour, the unthinkable part four happened. Axl broke his foot. It’s still unclear how he did this – so one can only speculate that a bottle of Hot Sauce fell on his foot as he opened the fridge for a midnight feast of fried chicken. He ended up fulfilling the rest of GNR’s U.S. tour, and the remaining AC/DC dates sat on a throne of guitars borrowed from Dave Grohl.

Last night my wife took a bullet and stayed home to put the kids to bed so that I could go down early to catch the support band, Wolfmother. When I got to the stadium I spoke to a lovely lady named Lucy, who had endured a 9-hour bus trip from Gisborne to see the show. Crikey! She sat next to me as she rolled a joint, out of sight of the security staff, and in minutes we had bonded over our mutual dislike of Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers.

I was really looking forward to seeing Wolfmother after I caught them supporting Aerosmith in Dunedin back in 2013. At that concert, the sight of the band bouncing on to the stage like exuberant puppies made me smile. Four years later and they’ve reduced their ranks significantly. What was once a boisterous four- or five-piece back in 2013 has now distilled into a tight trio. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it meant one member was pulling more than his fair share of the weight – bassist Ian Peres also played keyboards, incredibly both at the same time during some songs.

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Twenty minutes later and Guns N’ Fucking Roses emerged. My wife had made it with just minutes to spare, and thankfully she was there to see opener It’s So Easy. They followed this with Mr. Brownstone, and Western Springs went off like a firework.

Axl did that jaunty side-to-side dance with his microphone stand, looking like a menopausal Nicole Kidman, Slash took all his solos with his guitar propped up on one elevated thigh, and Duff kept up on the bass, sticking his neck out to sing backing vocals.

The set-list was really strong with songs from Appetite For Destruction, and while I like most of the singles from the Use Your Illusion records, the songs from the debut record are just in a different class. They’re truly magical, and the whole of that first record is like lightning in a bottle.

I could never really work out why I liked Appetite so much more than the Use Your Illusion albums, and it wasn’t until I read Slash’s autobiography that I figured it out. Drummer Steven Adler – the one missing component that didn’t survive into that second line-up of the band – really provides the groove of ­Appetite. His replacement Matt Sorum is a powerhouse drummer himself, but Adler had something else – a swing that you don’t get with most 4/4 rock drummers. I’d have loved to have seen a full reunion with Adler on board, alongside original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, but I’m more than happy to have seen three out of the original five.

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Covers were well-represented, not surprisingly for a band with only four albums of original material to their name. As well as the likely contenders – Live And Let Die and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – they also played the Misfit’s Attitude, the Who’s The Seeker, and in one really touching moment, a cover of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here afforded Slash and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus the opportunity for a lovely bit of guitar work. November Rain was prefaced with Axl playing the piano outro from Derek & The Domino’s Layla, and Slash played snippets of the Godfather theme, Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and Zeppelin’s Babe I’m Gonna Leave You before the night was through.

If I had one criticism, it was that the show could have easily been an hour shorter. After two hours when I told my wife that there was almost another hour left, she mimed shooting herself in the head (I noted that this was an odd thing to do in the presence of Duff McKagan, the last person to see Kurt Cobain alive; they found themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to Seattle where Cobain took his life a few days later).

At one point, the audience nearly chuckled themselves to death when Axl sang his big emotional number – This I Love, from the Chinese Democracy record. This was like bad wedding music; just awful and such a polar opposite to the youthful vibrance that is all over Appetite For Destruction.

Hit: Sweet Child O’Mine

Hidden Gem: Mr. Brownstone

Rocks In The Attic #308: Boston – ‘Boston’ (1976)

RITA#308More Than A Feeling is always mentioned as an influence on Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and held up as the one song it shares the most DNA with. The similarities are there – a catchy rock song built around a cyclical guitar riff – but that’s about it. A lot of famous guitar riffs are cyclical – it’s a hallmark of a catchy riff – but I see no reason to single Boston out.

You wouldn’t think it, but once you get past the family-friendly More Than A Feeling, Boston’s debut turns into a decent hard rock album – the pop single is definitely the softest thing on there. I know Smokin’ from the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and the rest of the album can be summarised by that song much better than its opening hit single. If anything, Boston come across as an American Deep Purple – guitar and organ led rock songs, with an unrelenting rhythm section.

The album is still the second best-selling debut album of all time in the United States (after Appetite For Destruction), and I guess that fact alone points to how important this album is to the musical psyche of that country – something that may not translate as well to the rest of the world.

Hit: More Than A Feeling

Hidden Gem: Foreplay / Long Time

Rocks In The Attic #161: Guns N’ Roses – ‘Use Your Illusion I’ (1991)

Yes, these albums are bloated and self-indulgent – but what an achievement. Well, if you like that sort of thing, that is.

The Use Your Illusion albums are generally considered to be two single albums – released on the same day in 1991 – and probably worthy of joining together and treating as a double album. But when you look at their running times, they’re double albums in their own right. The vinyl version of both albums come spread across two discs, explained by their lengthy running times – one hour and sixteen minutes for the first one, with the second one only a minute shorter. So if you stuck them together, they’d be a quadruple album (or looking at the size of the run-out grooves on some of the sides, they’d probably make them fit across three discs). I don’t know if anybody in their right minds would cope with that sort of running time.

Prior to the release of these albums, fans of Guns N’ Roses thought the sun shone out of their rock star arses. These albums prove otherwise. There’s a hell of a lot of filler on here, albeit alongside some killer singles and worthy album tracks. Yes, an accomplishment, but like most ‘double-albums’ it’s easy to see here how a single disc would have sufficed. Shit, a single disc of the best tracks here would probably rival Appetite For Destruction.

Mentioning Appetite also brings to mind one other notable downer about the Use Your Illusion albums – the sound. Production-wise, Appetite was gritty and sounded dirty as hell, but being the biggest rock band on the planet brings a curse – better equipment, better recording studios, bigger egos and an inability to self-judge in the same way that was possible when recording a debut album.

The music all sounds way too clean in comparison to Appetite – and the addition of keyboards and several other additional instruments takes the band further away from anything remotely cutting-edge or punk, and towards middle-of-the-road commercial acceptance.

Hit: November Rain

Hidden Gem: Dead Horse

Rocks In The Attic #130: Guns N’ Roses – ‘G N’ R Lies’ (1988)

Rocks In The Attic #130: Guns N’ Roses - ‘G N’ R Lies’ (1988)I’ve never been overly enamoured with this album. It’s yet another shocking record company cash-in, something to keep the tills ringing between the success of Appetite For Destruction and their follow-up studio albums. Half of the album is made up of previously released material – four songs from the pre-Appetite EP release Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide – together with four ‘new’ acoustic songs (one is an alternate version of a song from Appetite).

I’ve never been a huge fan of this band. Appetite is a good record, but it’s vastly overrated, and mostly subscribed to by girls who claim to be rock chicks but don’t actually listen to any other rock albums. The Use Your Illusion records have their moments but I have trouble seeing behind their pomposity.

Lies is an odd release, capturing the band live a year before their debut album was released, and then again in the year following the spectacular success of Appetite. The band pays homage to Aerosmith twice on the Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide tracks – namechecking Permanent Vacation in the first song Reckless Life, and then following this with a great cover of Mama Kin.

If you were a fan of Appetite when this was released, it would probably disappoint you, but then again wouldn’t everything else in Guns N’ Roses’ subsequent career?

Hit: Patience

Hidden Gem: Mama Kin (Live)