Two years ago, at an Alejandro Escovedo show in Austin, a middle-aged rocker with a heavy West Texas drawl walked up to me, stared straight at my chest, then straight in my eyes, and bluntly asked: "You really a Guns N' Roses fan"? Recognizing that my Joan Jett haircut, chunky glasses, and the big yellow banana tattooed on my arm—lifted from The Velvet Underground & Nico—may have outweighed my GN'R shirt in establishing legitimacy, I had no choice but to let loose on Mr. Nosey with a personal earful of lusty fandom.
GUNS N' ROSES, WITH DUFF MCKAGAN'S LOADED KeyArena, 401 First Ave. N., 684-7200, livenation.com. $26.50â€“$72. 8 p.m., Fri., Dec. 16.
My burning love for Guns N' Roses was sparked at age 12, in the summer of 1986, by a North Dakota State Fair carny who blared a crackly bootleg cassette of Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide from his booth. His cousin, he claimed, had seen them in L.A., and they were the second coming of all things hard and holy. I fanned the flame with sketchy mythology from Circus and Hit Parader, which I kept hidden among the pages of my algebra textbook. By 14, those magazines served as wallpaper in my farmhouse bedroom alongside the band's posters, which I blew kisses to at bedtime and which gave me vivid teen dreams about my life as "Mrs. Slash." My adoration pyre even proved warm enough to aid in my survival while sleeping on the sidewalk in Fargo, in January, for seventh-row seats to the last dogleg of the Use Your Illusion tour.
But of all my glorious, sepia-toned GN'R moments, my acquisition of the band's full-length debut, Appetite for Destruction, in the fall of 1987 is the most important. It still stands as the most seminal album in my musical development, the record that has set my personal taste barometer in terms of marrying raw, hard-edge, and meticulous production, an art mastered in the world of hip-hop but precarious when applied to rock and roll. I wholly believe Appetite's monster success and ability to still appeal to music fans lies in its status as an audio stick of dynamite dipped in platinum.
That night in Austin, as I let loose on the befuddled stranger, I wrapped up my rant by expounding that even if Appetite had been the band's only accomplishment, GN'R would still have an army of possessive, die-hard fans. Exactly the kind who'd walk up to a complete stranger ready to defend them against hipster piracy.
Guns N' Roses occupied my rock-'n'-roll heart for years before I moved on musically. But it was a T-shirt frequently worn by our own Duff McKagan in those old rock mags that first made me ask "What the hell's a CBGB?", forever changing my relationship with music as I began submerging myself in all things 1970s-NYC.
When people now ask if I'm going to see "Guns N' Roses," as Mr. Rose insists on calling his solo efforts, I laugh and say "If you've developed a wormhole in the space/time continuum that will transport me to 1987, then yes, I'll be there." To me, Guns should never be just one person and a bunch of subs. It needs to be the awesome sum of its original parts, and I would trade a kidney to see the original lineup intact. But as a fan and a critic, it's my hope of hopes that a kid somewhere in North Dakota is as in love with Appetite as I am—but is equally enamored of LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, and about to post on Facebook that she wants to start a band.