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“Welcome to the Jungle”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 3, 2012

Way back in 1987, before Axl Rose completely lost his mind, Guns & Roses roared onto the hard rock-metal scene like a breath of fresh air.

Okay, more like a whiff of smoke-filled smog with undertones of beer and sex.  But they were refreshing for rock fans.  If Metallica was too dark and heavy for you (and they were for me), your options for rock music were rather limited.  MTV and radio were dominated by Bon Jovi hair metal clones.  Def Leppard were back, but they’d gotten all polished.  Motley Crue were off the map at the moment.  So when Axl Rose’s primal scream rose up over the rumble of Duff McKagen’s bass, Steven Adler’s drums, and the guitar duo of Izzy Stradlin and Slash, it was like the sun coming out after a long cold winter.  The cascading riff that opens sounded like a descent into hell.

And hell seemed to be exactly where “Welcome to the Jungle” was set.  The video cuts scenes from police riots and war zones in between clips of beautiful women and the band performing.  There is a nominal story: Hick kid gets off the bus (complete with a straw between his teeth), gets corrupted, and turns into the crazy-haired, street smart singer in the band.  The lyrics are survival of the fittest, where “if you’ve got the money, honey, we’ve got your disease.”  This is the dark side of all those stories about coming to Hollywood to make it big.  This is drugs and lies and manipulation.  Welcome to the jungle, indeed.

I like this song, all of Appetite for Destruction really, although I never want to linger too long in its world.  The violence and misogyny and despair get to me after a while.  I tried to keep up with them on the epic mess of Use Your Illusion I & II, but the negative energy just wasn’t worth it.  I like this music, but I find myself terribly conflicted about it.  Because some of it is about some really vile stuff, and I’m not going to pretend that the misogyny, the racism, the homophobia, the violence isn’t there.  A lot of GnR’s oeuvre goes against pretty much everything I believe in.  But it’s damn good music, and I find that hard to deny.

I usually only listen to anything off of Appetite for Destruction when I’m angry.  It’s good music to rage along with.  Even if I’m raging against whatever it’s advocating.


6 Responses to ““Welcome to the Jungle””

  1. I have this album. That’s right they’re supposed to have a racist song in there — I should throw my album out! Hahaha! I guess I’m weird — since being saturated in death metal, these groups you mention, Metallica, et al, seem light to me. I do indeed love Metallica. But it’s funny. I had a conversation with a hardcore artist once and I mentioned that I liked them and he dismissed them too as being commercial or something like that. I guess it’s relative. I love this Appetite for Destruction album though. When it came out I felt like it tapped into the rock ‘n roll from the seventies that I liked. It was different from all that hair stuff going on in the eighties — I hated it! Of course I especially loved ‘Sweet Child ‘o Mine’.

    • I knew they’d be kind of like easy listening to you. There were a lot of weird influences in their music, though. I can hear glam stuff, like Mott the Hoople and Sweet in GnR. There was just something different about them, which is what made them good.

      Hair Metal is just pop music in disguise, which is why I have such a love-hate relationship with it. There’s a definite cheese factor to it–some of it is so bad it’s good.

      You’re no more weird than I am. Listen sometime to the lyrics and how degrading they are to women. But if I threw out all the music that had some sort of sexist/racist/homophobic slant, I’d be getting rid of a lot of really good shit. Like the Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar.” I can’t think of a single more offensive song that is just so damn good.

  2. Now I have to listen for some of these influences in their music that you mention, like Mott the Hoople.

    Yeah that’s it — some hair metal is so good it’s bad! I go for pop music if it’s only trying to be what it is.

    You made me think of that song Here I Go Again by White Snake. My sister who’s 18 yrs. younger than I am loved this song. When she was 6 or so I remember her singing it passionately into a hairbrush — the veins on the side of her neck sticking out — hahaha! I reminded her of it. So she thought she and her husband could be White Snake for Halloween one day — like the video. She’d construct a car to wear around her waist — she’d be Tawny Kitaen — and her husband — who’s from Uganda and very very very dark — would wear a blonde wig like the lead singer — bwahahahahahahaa!

    You also reminded me of some of the misogynistic death metal that I’ve heard. Sometimes my primal need for the expression overrides the lyrics. Some of these songs I’ve wanted to post on my site and that’s when I realize how offensive people may find the lyrics. Not all death metal is like this however… But of course I refuse to listen to black metal by neo nazis — my primal need ain’t that powerful.

    • That’s an awesome costume idea. I hope they do it sometime.

      In a lot of ways, glam really informed a lot of metal, hair and otherwise, in the 80s. All these quys listened to Bowie and Mott, though the jury’s out on Sweet. I mean, obviously, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were much bigger influences, but glam was a lot harder edged than people give it credit for. Oh, and of course, T. Rex. So much of the theatricality of 80s metal came from glam. It’s hard to hear outright, but I think it’s there. I don’t know if there’s any critical or journalistic source for this; it’s just kind of my gut feeling.

      No one with half a brain and even the slightest inkling of common sense listens to neo nazi anything. I don’t even think that garbage should be classified with legitimate death metal.

  3. This was and still is a great album (apart from the questionable lyrics you mentioned). I like the Use Your Illusions albums too.

    • It’s powerful stuff, even when I’m feeling a little horrified at myself. It’s a little like watching Pulp Fiction. You’d be shocked if you saw that stuff on the news, but it’s just funny when you watch the movie. Or I think so, anyway.

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