Appetite For Destruction had been in record stores for three months when Guns N’ Roses came to New York City in October of 1987, but the group had yet to truly take off. MTV was only airing the “Welcome to the Jungle” video late at night, and the album was stalled at Number 65 on the Billboard 200. An opening slot on Mötley Crüe’s arena tour was coming up, but at the moment, they were mainly playing clubs.
Those club shows, however, were absolutely explosive and word about this amazing new band was beginning to spread. They played the Ritz in New York City on October 23rd. Then, one week later, they crammed into CBGB’s Record Canteen (a record store down the block from the iconic punk club) for a special acoustic show. The roughly 100 fans that squeezed into the spot heard a mere two songs from Appetite and four from the Lies EP, which wouldn’t come out for a year.
The gig begins with some technical issues. “This mic is a piece of shit,” Axl said. “If [Slash’s] guitar isn’t mic’d right there’s no reason in doing this, so someone should figure this out. It would be nice to have some help.” They eventually get it together and launch into “You’re Crazy” and then “One In A Million,” the shockingly racist/homophobic/xenophobic tune from Lies. We’ll never know how Slash, whose mother is African-American, felt while watching Axl sing the “police and niggers” line, but the group would only play the song one other time. It’s amazing that Geffen was even willing to release such a hateful tune, but the world was a different place back in 1988.
They continue with the live premieres of “Used to Love Her” and “Patience.” They’d clearly just written the latter tune since Axl appears to be reading the lyrics from a sheet of paper, although the arrangement is pretty similar to what they put down on tape the following year. They wrap up with “Mr. Brownstone” and “Move to the City” before sitting down to sign autographs. Axl admits he hasn’t slept in two days and Slash is drinking straight out of a Jack Daniel’s bottle, but they power through while MTV cameras film the whole thing.
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“We’re like a family,” Axl says at one point. “We believe in each other. It’s almost like a family thing.” Appetite began rapidly climbing the charts in the following months and those family bonds began to quickly fray, though next month the family is finally coming back together. Well, at least most of the family.