100 Greatest Artists
Guns n' Roses
Guns n' Roses revived our kind of rock. I remember someone handing me a copy of Appetite for Destruction and saying, "You've got to hear these guys — they're the new big thing." Bands like Bon Jovi and Whitesnake were big then, but Guns n' Roses were different. They dug down a little deeper into rock's roots. I heard a lot of Aerosmith in them, which meant I also heard a lot of bands that came before us. And I remember being a little jealous, because they were really hitting the nail on the head.
They opened up for us in 1988, and one of the things that impressed me was how much personality they put across, even when they weren't playing. Axl knew how to work an audience. They used to have to go out there and tape foam rubber around everything that Axl could touch — from his teleprompter to his mic stand — to make sure he wouldn't break anything, or hurt himself. I think people saw that he was basically just let out of the cage. Part of the thrill was wondering what he was going to do next.
They were called metal at the time, but they weren't: Metal isn't sexy, but rock is. To put it another way: You can have the rock, but you need the roll. Songs like "Paradise City" and "Welcome to the Jungle" were just simple enough; the chorus lines came right when you wanted them. Slash plays what's needed for the song, as opposed to trying to make the tune a showcase for his technique. Guns n' Roses' music wasn't full of the overblown gymnastics that a lot of guys were doing then — their stuff is just very tasty. Duff McKagan is like the bass player in AC/DC: His parts were fairly simple, but they made the band an unstoppable force. Izzy Stradlin was also important. Guns n' Roses played as a gang, which is just what you want.
Guns n' Roses are still an example of how a band can move rock forward. Sometimes you think, "How can you top anything by the Yardbirds, or Zeppelin, or the Stones?" And then you hear Guns n' Roses, and it's inspiring. You can think that it's all been written, but it hasn't. There's another way to twist those three chords around, to make it sound new, fresh and rebellious.