We all have memories of our younger family members. Some siblings are wonderful, but most of them are just annoying (and smaller) versions of ourselves. But we’ll get to my sister in a moment.
It was some time in Middle School and his name was John. He had blonde hair and wore clothing reminiscent of the rock lifestyle. I remember a flannel and a pair of boots. He had a denim jacket with a Sex Pistols patch that took up the entire back of it. He smoked. Everybody thought he was cool, even me. John was the kid that would sneak in the latest copy of Hit Parade and read it behind his social studies book. John talked about bands that nobody had heard of in our white bread community where nothing bad happened. The school district was competitive for those who wanted it. Correction: The school district and the accompanying test scores were competitive for those whose parents wanted it to be. But, I digress.
I remember being in Social Studies class and John was sitting diagonally to the left and behind me. Class went on as usual and we were given some time at the end of class to start our homework. Not in the mood to do any kind of work, I kept my books open to look as if I were busy doing something.
Something to remember, at this time, MTV still played videos. I can’t remember if it was the days of “Hangin’ With MTV” or “Total Request Live” or some other incarnation. At the time “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was in heavy rotation and you couldn’t get through an afternoon without seeing it at least twice. These were the days that I was into George Michael and was having nothing to do with Slash’s unchiropractic-stance of guitar playing or Axl’s cat-in-heat vocals. I wanted pop, not rock, but then John started talking about Guns & Roses…
John wove a tale of how he went to the local record store and bought a copy of the rare debut EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide. The kids let out a collective, “Whoa!”
I swung around in my chair and started listening in as if I were a real part of the conversation. Then, I got “The Look”. Every fat kid or school pariah knows “The Look”. Pretending to drop my pencil behind me, I swung around like an outcast shunned by the community. The rest of the day was a blur until I got home. This is where my sister comes in…
Being a latch-key kid, you could pretty much do anything you wanted until about 10 minutes before the first parent came home. Funds were low that week and I knew that I had to get my hands on the Guns & Roses tape that the kids at school were drooling over. I had no lawns that needed to be cut and babysitting wasn’t something that I could put on my resume yet. I spent the better part of 3 afternoons trying to convince my sister that she needed to lend me the money so that I could bike over to the record store and pick up the Guns & Roses tape. Finally, she relented, after me promising that I would make her a copy and babysit her Pound Puppies while she was at a friend’s house.
Saturday couldn’t come soon enough. I told my parents that I was going for a bike ride and I would be back soon. The record store was maybe a mile away and I knew I could get there and back without them really worrying about me. Cruising to the record store with a bag of quarters that my sister gave me as a loan (she didn’t have any bills), I pedaled like a banshee to get there as soon as the doors would open.
I bounced through the doors of Sound Ideas and waited for Eric to rise from behind the counter. Thinking that having a copy of the Guns & Roses tape would make me an instant Middle School celebrity…I was giddy, ecstatic, and then crushed in about 3 seconds when Eric said, “Dude, they only made about 10,000 of those. No go amigo.”
My heart sank. It wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t able to get the EP, it was the fact that I saw it as my golden ticket to Middle School fame that was taken away from me. I looked around the store and found Appetite For Destruction. It had been out for a while, but I never thought anything about it. I heard the kids at school talk about it, but that was it. Gave the tape cover a once-over. Skulls. Cross. Tattoo-looking artwork. Was this the one for me? In a sometimes-you-just-gotta-say-WTF moment, I handed over the $8.76 in coin to Eric and rode back home.
And that, as they say, was the beginning. If the internet and torrents had been around then, I would have downloaded the entire discography, solo projects, and live performances. Instead, I read everything I could in Hit Parade and Kerrang!, even though in a lot of cases it was a reprint of the same interview I read a week before.
Everyday in Social Studies I would try and inject a little fact that I had learned about Axl or Slash in the conversations that John was having with everyone except me…and every time, no matter what I said, I got “The Look”.
Eventually, I gave up on John and trying to be friends with him.
I listened to Appetite For Destruction non-stop that Summer…throwing it in my Sony Sports Walkman as I would ride around on the lawnmower. Eventually getting away from the MTV video hits and getting deeper into the album cuts like Rocket Queen, Mr. Brownstone, and It’s So Easy.
I’m not saying it was the gateway album that opened the doors to my heart for heavy metal, but it was a start. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever made my sister a copy of that tape.
|Welcome To The Jungle||4:34|
|It's So Easy||3:23|
|Out Ta Get Me||4:24|
|Think About You||3:52|
|Sweet Child O' Mine||5:56|