Deep Album Cuts Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses

Today Guns N' Roses are making their Coachella debut, following a few of the first shows with Slash and Duff McKagan in over 20 years. And while I may shake my fist and say "where's Izzy?" anytime people refer to the current configuration of Guns N' Roses as "the original lineup," there is something appropriately chaotic about the inevitable way things have finally come full circle, with Axl Rose burying the hatchet with some of his old bandmates and promptly falling off the stage and breaking his foot. As they go out and play the hits, though, I want to take a second and look at the less heralded corners of their weird, relatively small yet complicated catalog.

Guns N' Roses Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Reckless Life
2. Out Ta Get Me
3. Rocket Queen
4. Anything Goes
5. You're Crazy
6. Think About You
7. Used To Love Her
8. Back Off Bitch
9. Bad Obsession
10. Double Talkin' Jive
11. You Ain't The First
12. 14 Years
13. Get In The Ring
14. Shotgun Blues
15. Pretty Tied Up (The Perils of Rock N' Roll Decadence)
16. New Rose
17. Attitude
18. Riad N' The Bedouins
19. There Was A Time

Track 1 from Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP (1986)
Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 from Appetite For Destruction (1987)
Track 7 from G N' R Lies (1989)
Tracks 8, 9, 10 and 11 from Use Your Illusion I (1991)
Tracks 12, 13, 14 and 15 from Use Your Illusion II (1991)
Tracks 16 and 17 from "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Chinese Democracy (2008)

So essentially, in the 30-year history of a band that never officially broke up or stopped recording or performing, you've got three albums (one of them split into 2 separately sold discs), plus a covers album, and an EP later expanded into a blockbuster stopgap collection. Mainly that's because of the last album, Chinese Democracy, which was already fabled as the most expensive and time consuming monument to hubris in rock history before it finally came out to terrible reviews and meager sales (RIAA certified that it shipped platinum, but it only sold about 600,000, roughly a tenth of what the band's padded out stopgap EP sold at the height of the band's popularity). But even before that, they were a weird lumbering beast that had just enough songs to turn them into one of the biggest bands of its generation.

The band's career started with the Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP, a fake live fake indie record, manufactured by Geffen Records with the logo of a nonexistent label UZI Suicide printed on it. This was years before it became standard operating procedure for major labels to sign alternative rock bands or rappers and try to incubate their careers under the auspices of an unsigned band building a grassroots following. So G N' R were kind of, in modern hip hop parlance, the original industry plant. And of course, the 'live' recording was done in a studio with crowd noise added.

Appetite For Destruction is obviously a classic album, so great that there's not much I can say about it that hasn't been said, other than that "My Michelle" was the no-brainer weak link that I cut from the playlist (along with "Mr. Brownstone," which is kind of a deep cut but also a rock radio staple). But man, I love "Rocket Queen." And it's fun to let some of these songs breathe a little with some space away from those big iconic MTV hits.

Use Your Illusion is obviously not on the same level as Appetite, but they hold a significance for me as kind of the beginning of my interest in popular music. Some time during 1991 I went from being a 9-year-old who thought pop music was a stupid waste of time to being glued to MTV and air guitaring to every Slash solo. My stepfather had UYI II and with a few months one of the first CDs I ever owned was UYI I (at the time I thought I was the better album because it was the one that was mine in the house, but in retrospect I prefer II). I don't know if my mother realized or approved of "Back Off Bitch" being one of my favorite songs, but to be fair I was so young that the puerile profanity of Axl Rose's lyrics didn't really resonate for me as any kind of meaningful worldview. And it became apparent to me pretty quickly that even if I liked the music these guys were kind of ridiculous douchebags that I shouldn't take too seriously.

I remain fascinated with the bloated mess that is Use Your Illusion even as I kind of grew out of it and into other kinds of music, and I highly recommend Eric Weisbard's 33 1/3 book on the album (I met Weisbard once and told him that it was one of my favorite books in the series, and he told me it was one of the lowest selling books in the series). I also recommend reading my extremely silly 20th anniversary piece. There was a period of nearly 3 years where MTV was rolling out a premiere of a new G N' R video every few months, the thing was just a ridiculous cultural juggernaut, but I feel like it's kind of underrated now. As a proud owner of the first Izzy Stradlin album, I really stan for him as the key songwriter of the band, and I spotlighted some of the most Izzy-heavy stuff from the records on tracks 10-12. Aside from "14 Years" and "You Ain't The First," all my Use Your Illusion picks were songs left off of the extremely bullshit single disc version released in 1998. "Get In The Ring" is kind of a punchline, known more for its goofy monologue calling out rock magazines than anything else, but it's grown into being one of my favorite songs by the band.

"The Spaghetti Incident?" is a footnote, but it's a platinum footnote, and notable for being the first place a lot of 11-year-olds like me heard songs by The Stooges, New York Dolls, or The Damned. From a young kid's perspective, the release of that album was really the first time "punk rock" became a buzzword on MTV, which never seemed to use the word in relation to Nirvana or other early alt-rock breakthrough bands, and wouldn't use it regularly until the rise of Green Day. And within a couple years of "The Spaghetti Incident?" my brother and I had started our first band, which mainly played covers of Sex Pistols and Modern Lovers, so it feels like an actual formative record to me.

And what can you say about Chinese Democracy? Use Your Illusion was a good kind of mess, but Chinese Democracy is just a disaster. One of the singles, "Better," was by far the best thing to come out of the project, but I actually was able to dig through and find a couple songs I enjoy a little. But even then, on a lot of midtempo songs like "There Was A Time," Axl's vocal tone really kind of sounds like Mickey Mouse in a hilarious way. Seriously, listen to it, that's what he sounds like.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
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