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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > August 2017 > Who killed rock’n’roll?

Who killed rock’n’roll?

Guns N’ Roses did—when they made an album so breathtakingly brash and catchy no one could beat it, argues Jay Elwes

The Los Angeles poodle rock circuit was a pretty crowded scene back in the late 1980s. Bands like Poison and Mötley Crüe—yes, those are umlauts—were wowing the LA crowds with their tight trousers and squealing guitars, spending almost as much money on hairspray as on drink. But one band went on to eclipse them all, releasing a debut record 30 years ago so breathtaking, so extraordinary and so brilliantly sordid that, at a stroke, it made the others look pale by comparison.

That band’s name was Guns N’ Roses and the record they made was Appetite for Destruction, a colossal blastwave of rock’n’roll that seemed to wake the world from its mid-80s, Huey Lewis-induced torpor. Threatening, seedy and very rude, it was everything that teenage boys wanted out of music. The guitars were loud, the drums were loud, the whole thing was deafening, brash and overdone. What’s more, the album was jam-packed with catchy pop hits. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” went to number one in the United States and across the globe. The football-terrace chant of “Paradise City” became something approaching a rock anthem. To celebrate its 30th birthday, the band has emerged from retirement to go on a world tour.

Appetite for Destruction sold 30m copies and made the band superstars: Axl Rose, vocals; Slash, lead guitar; Duff McKagan, bass; Izzy Stradlin, rhythm guitar; and Steven Adler, drums—the five boys had made a world-beating album of unaffected, straight-faced rock.

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In Prospect’s August issue: Adam Tooze, Helen Thompson, Ben Chu, Julian Baggini, Tom Clark and Hepzibah Anderson reveal the secret history of the banking crisis and its impact over the last decade. Tooze examines the secret history itself, suggesting the work done to repair the world’s finances could mean another crisis is just around the corner. Chu asks why more people at the top of the banks that failed haven’t faced more serious repercussions, and Anderson shows how post-crash Britain has retreated into cosiness. Elsewhere in the issue Alison Wolf asks whether universities are doing any good, and David Goldblatt explores how the decision to take football off free-to-view television in Argentina could backfire for the government. Also in this issue: Kasia Boddy asks why writers are still addicted to watching boxing despite falling viewing figures, Andrew Dickson profiles Tom Stoppard, Stephen Bush explains how Jeremy Corbyn learned to compromise and David Omand outlines the cyber-security challenges facing the UK and the wider world.
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