We have all read the stories and formed stories ourselves about how grunge came along and replaced hard rock, hair bands, glam rock, glam metal and metal in general. But it never did really replace it. The major record labels abandoned most of the rock and metal acts who had marginal success, so from a commercial sense, hard rock and metal music was absent from the mainstream. But it was still there.
A long time ago, Led Zeppelin was seen as a heavy metal act and Black Sabbath was even more extreme. Today, Sabbath’s sound is like Playschool compared to what other metal bands sound like. But there was a period when rock did dominate.
And Guns N Roses via “Appetite For Destruction” gave rock music a few more years of mainstream success, because the labels had already saturated the market with Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Ratt and Poison copy like bands. Up next, the labels started signing Guns N Roses copy like bands, like Skin N Bones.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” was the hit, but every GnR fan loves “Paradise City”. It’s the closer of Side 1, when sequencing vinyl records was an art form in itself. Each side had to open with an awesome cut, and close with an awesome cut.
GNR had been gigging for a while around L.A, via Hollywood Rose and the other bands the members were in before GnR became a band. Slash even auditioned for Poison and Stryper during these periods. But there was hype and then a record deal and then the album eventually came out.
It wasn’t a failure, but it didn’t set the sales and charts alight from the outset.
Then MTV played “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. And the album got a second wind, sort of like how “Hysteria” got a second wind on the back of “Love Bites”.
“Welcome To The Jungle” came back into the charts, and then the seven minute live video of “Paradise City” dropped, with Axl in the white jacket which Lars Ulrich got a few years later and James Hetfield kept hassling him about it.
Anyway back to the paradise city where the girls are pretty. The opening arpeggio chords of G, C, F, C – G of the song with the “We Will Rock You” influenced drum pattern gets your attention immediately. When Slash starts that Em Pentatonic solo, you can only smile, and you’re thinking it’s this Southern Rock style of song.
Then the whistle blows.
And all hell breaks loose.
That Chromatic riff that comes in is bone crunching and head banging material. Wikipedia tells me it’s based on “Zero The Hero” from the Black Gillan album “Born Again”.
If that riff was in a Slayer or Machine Head or Metallica song, it would be circle pit time. And those descriptive storybook lyrics set the scene so nicely.
Just a urchin livin’ under the street, I’m a hard case that’s tough to beat
I’m your charity case so buy me something to eat, I’ll pay you at another time
“Welcome To The Jungle” part 2. It’s the same theme, coming to the Sunset Strip, looking for people to hook up with, especially women, who would look after you. Motley Crue did the same.
Rags to riches or so they say, Ya gotta keep pushin’ for the fortune and fame
So many pushed for fortune and fame, but only so few made it. And the ones who made it, didn’t end up staying there for long. Only for a brief moment. But for that moment, they ruled.
And then the song gets even crazier with its double time ending,
Slash soloing and Steve Adler basically breaking his drum kit in the process.
And this song was released as a single in 1989, almost two years after the album was released. If you needed evidence of the power of this album, then look no further than this single release.
Take me back to the paradise city, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.