Fire and Water Records: Guns N’ F***in’ Roses

Take me down to the Paradise City where the grass is green and the Fire and Water Records guys talk about one of the most influential and controversial rock bands of all time, GUNS N' ROSES. Neil Daly welcomes his brother Ryan Daly as well as returning guests Chris Zegunis and Omar Uddin to discuss the history and legacy of GNR; from the slow-burn monstrous success of their debut album Appetite for Destruction, to their on- and off-stage problems with the law and basic social decorum; to the chart-topping MTV dominating twin Use Your Illusion albums to the band's dissolution in the face of Axl Roses' ever-growing megalomania; finally to the post-GNR success of Hall of Fame guitarist Slash, and the reunion tour that was never supposed to happen. Where does Guns N' Roses rank among the all-time great rock bands? Will they ever record another album together? Does this once all-powerful group even matter anymore? And what the hell happened to Tom Panarese after the Van Halen podcast?!! Tune in and find out!

Listen to the FWR Guns N' Roses playlist on Spotify.

Track list

  1. “Welcome to the Jungle” from APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
  2. "Paradise City" from APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
  3. "Out ta Get Me" from APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
  4. "My Michelle" from APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
  5. "Rocket Queen" from APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
  6. "Patience" from GN'R LIES
  7. "Right Next Door to Hell" from USE YOUR ILLUSION I
  8. "You Could Be Mine" from USE YOUR ILLUSION II
  9. "Don't Damn Me" from USE YOUR ILLUSION I
  10. "Double Talkin' Jive" from USE YOUR ILLUSION I
  11. "November Rain" from USE YOUR ILLUSION I
  12. "Dead Horse" from USE YOUR ILLUSION I
  13. "Locomotive" from USE YOUR ILLUSION II
  14. "Breakdown" from USE YOUR ILLUSION II
  15. "Better" from CHINESE DEMOCRACY
  16. "Sympathy for the Devil" from INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE / GREATEST HITS
  17. "Slither" by Velvet Revolver from CONTRABAND
  18. "Gotten" by Slash featuring Adam Levine from SLASH
  19. "Anastasia" by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators
  20. "Estranged" from USE YOUR ILLUSION II
  21. "Sweet Child O' Mine" from APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION

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16 responses to “Fire and Water Records: Guns N’ F***in’ Roses

  1. I spent the summer of 1988 hiding in a back bedroom in my grandmother’s apartment, waking in the late afternoon and staying up until around dawn, listening to the radio and reading comics. Presumably, I’d have heard “Sweet Child o’ Mine” early on, as Houston was a major market even then. I liked the song well enough at the time, but it was also another power ballad in an era filthy with them. By the end of that summer, it was playing incessantly. Today, I’d slot it alongside their contemporaries, New Kids on the Block’s “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” as an earworm that I’ll catch myself spontaneously humming and feel embarrassed. I’ll readily acknowledge it as a popular classic with killer licks while simultaneously be the contrarian who is sick to death of it.

    Like a siren call, I played “Child” and my girlfriend came out of her room, slung her arm around my neck, and began singing along loudly while violently swaying. GnR was her great tween passion, with a poster of Axl on the wall and a side crush on Slash. Even though she couldn’t understand the lyrics, they were her favorite band, and actually began learning English in order to translate their songs. The girl-boner died when she saw them in concert, and Axl sat on a green couch for the entire performance, lazily eating pizza, only moving the one time to go play piano on “November Rain.” Also, Axl expressed disparaging opinions of Mexico in the media. The final break-up was her one spin of “The Spaghetti Incident?”

    I suspect that my first exposure to “Welcome to the Jungle” was in The Dead Pool, because I specifically recall thinking of it as “that song from The Dead Pool” when it started getting airplay later in ’88. Watching the clip online today, I was struck by how cheesy and awful Carrey was, but I was so impressed by the song that my young mind glossed over that. A few years later, we had multiple early generation VCRs at our disposal, and I edited by own fan video out of clips from Darkman, Split Second, The Outsiders, Highway To Hell, and others (well, that and Bloodrock’s “DOA,” but they run together in my mind.) I still have a copy of that edit transferred to digital, but whatever crude charm it might have held is marred by constant tracking issues and loud static gaps between the cuts. You could score a movie with the breakdown alone. I’ve managed to never get tired of this one, for me a mark of true greatness.

    “Paradise City” is such a stadium rock crowd-pleaser that it’s hard to recall the band’s “edge” whenever it’s playing. I’m hardly immune to it, but it’s all so an arena rock favorite that I can’t help but disassociate from it. When they used it in the trailers for the last Resident Evil movie, I took it as a sign that the filmmakers had given up on a last hurrah after all the bad press and production horrors that had dogged it. I wasn’t wrong.

    I didn’t listen to the rest of Appetite for Destruction until closer to ’90, I think. One of my father’s girlfriends had a copy on cassette, and I remember stealing the inset because I was horny for the Robert Williams painting. This was during the brief period when my brother and cousin got me to thieving, but it didn’t sit well with me and never took. Within a few years, I’d grown my hair out, wore prescription sunglasses, and taken to wearing a Navy trenchcoat. I got befriended by a metalhead who thought I looked enough like Izzy Stradlin to call me “Izzy” as a nickname. I did my best to fake interest in rock and guitars to maintain the friendship, but I was a phony trying to live up to an assigned role. It never came up that I wasn’t much into GnR, and never had enough use for Appetite for Destruction to have to skip tracks. I’m purely a singles guy on that one, and mostly just “Jungle” at that. I was way more into Aerosmith at the time, frankly.

    I didn’t hate “Patience”, but it was just kinda there. Another reminder that the band wasn’t near as far from hair metal as pitched.

    I wasn’t very familiar with Bob Dylan in 1990, but I still found Eric Clapton’s version to be far more soulful and appealing. Clapton is arguably less racist than Axl, too, at least lyrically.

    “You Could Be Mine” is easily my favorite GnR tune. I was fixated on it throughout 1991, and it’s still the number most likely to get me singing along. The T2 connection didn’t hurt (loved the video,) but it’s really that throbbing drum that makes my dick hard. Slash is on-point, as well. Just the perfect song for this band by my measure.

    “Don’t Cry” is another excellent song with a wicked video. Their least pussy ballad, by far. I also dug their cover of “Live and Let Die,” in part because I was only fleetingly aware of the original. Without the kooky ragtime affectations of McCartney, it’s a better take on a Bond tune.

    I like “November Rain”, but it wants to be “Purple Rain” so hard with balls bluer than Axl’s in the “Don’t Cry” video from never pulling it off.

    “Yesterdays” is the sound of a band running out of steam. It is so early ’90s that it might as well feature random factoids and pictures of missing children. Axl as Baz Luhrmann. I don’t hate it, but there’s no knife twist riffs like in “Sweet Child” that make me look bad for hating on it. Likewise, “Civil War” is the sort self-important twaddle that it might as well be auditioning for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2.

    “Ain’t It Fun” is a bit of alright. I don’t recall hearing it on the air, but it’s a nice track to fill out the greatest hits anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever heard “Estranged” in full, and I’m not starting now. “Since I Don’t Have You” is fucking painful. “Sympathy for the Devil” is a solid enough cover of a Stones song that didn’t need to be covered, especially this faithfully. It says something that so many tracks off their greatest hits album are these recycled numbers for movie soundtracks instead of album cuts.

    Funnily enough, the only albums in my possession are Appetite, the hits collection, and Chinese Democracy. I think Best Buy was liquidating it for $2, cheap enough to allow for morbid curiosity. As an album, I prefer it to Appetite, because I don’t actually like Appetite, and Democracy is easier to ignore. It’s “edgy” white noise in the background– metal muzak. “Better” would have been a stronger single.

    I’d argue that the kilts and cut-offs were more rock than the L.A. vampire bullshit in the ’80s. Axl looked like a figurative bitch in the “Jungle” video. If he weren’t so skanky, he’d almost be fuckable.

    Scott Weiland is a better singer/songwriter than Axl Rose, and STP is a better band than GNR. Fight me, bro.

  2. I never knew I wanted a 3 hour podcast about GNR. And yet, here I am 3 hours later, thoroughly impressed and entertained.

  3. Great discussion guys. My friends and I were HUGE GNR fans when Appetite first came to our attention, via MTV. They instantly made everyone else on the channel look like, well to use a term we inappropriately used back then as teenagers, “sissies”. Axl was probably the guy who would run his mouth, and then Slash and Duff would have to fight the fight for him, but you knew they could probably kick the asses of just about every other band on MTV… and they sounded better.

    Hell, we had a homemade Batman film in the planning stages that was fully “scored” by GNR. Unfortunately it never got made. #ReleasetheFranklinCut

    I agree that overall, Axl’s life became so extreme that a mocumentary would look at it and go “…um, no, no one is going to believe that”. I think ultimately that damaged the legacy of the band beyond the raw brilliance of Appetite of Destruction, and the excesses of Use Your Illusion. Axl isn’t so much known as the front man of GNR as he is a notorious eccentric a-hole as you guys pointed out. The band’s unsolvable problems do indeed begin and end with him.

    But there’s some great music in there, and I have to say while I agree Slash IS the GNR sound, Axl’s voice and magnetism as a front man is a part of the mix that made them what they are. Unfortunately, unlike most acts, his antics weren’t at least partially theatrics, and he really bought into all the hype he exuded.

    And I agree too, their time is past. But it would make one helluva movie.


  4. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh … well, at least I get to comment here.

    I discovered Guns N’ Roses around the time Appetite came out because people in my fifth grade class had copies of the tape and it got passed around quite a bit. I’m pretty sure that it was one that was confiscated by several teachers and parents that year (along with Motley Crue’s “Girls Girls Girls”). I was, of course, familiar with “Sweet Child o’ Mine” because my friends had MTV and that video got played a LOT. “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” also got a lot of play and replaced various Beastie Boys songs when it came to “songs we’d sing while warming the Little League bench.”

    But I didn’t actually listen to all of Appetite until probably 1992, and the first full album that I owned was “Use Your Illusion II,” which I copied from my friend because of “You Could Be Mine.” I think that one of the songs–probably “Breakdown” or “Locomotive”–actually got chopped in half across the two sides of the tape I used, but I remember that I would constantly re-listen to those two songs along with “Civil War” and “Estranged.” In fact, the piano player in me LOVED “Breakdown” and “Estranged.”

    And speaking of playing the piano, I still own the sheet music to “November Rain”, which I not only learned how to play but played in public for some sort of school function. It was one of three or four times in my entire life that I’ve played anything on the piano for someone who wasn’t a member of my family (my final college recital of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” that earned me an A- still ranks as one of my greatest achievements as a very amateur pianist. ANYWAY …). So needless to say that once I got my hands on “November Rain” (after dubbing that same friend’s copy), I wore that one out, too.

    “Appetite”, and both “Use Your Illusion” albums wouldn’t become “official” parts of my music collection until after I got my first CD player for my 15th birthday. I didn’t get them along with it (the CDs I received from parents family where: “Born to Run”, “The Stranger”, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”, “… And Justice for All”, “Pocket Full of Kryptonite”, and Queen’s “Live at Wembley 1986”), but I was allowed to open up a Columbia House membership and all three were part of my initial “13 for the price of 1” or whatever the deal was. Both “Illusions” were listened to incessantly with the bigger hits from “Appetite” also getting played.

    This didn’t last too terribly long. Axl’s bullshit was a total turnoff (they are still my number one example of “like the band, hate the lead singer” with U2 running a distant second whenever Bono gets irritating), and my friends weren’t as into Gn’R as much as they were into Metallica, so I dove headfirst into obtaining every single Metallica studio album, something I’d keep up until the late 1990s, checking out before “St. Anger” (and if you do a Metallica episode and don’t invite me on, I will burn down this entire network). There was also your “alternative” music (as it was called) of the typical ’90s bands, and a continued devotion to more mainstream rock and pop like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, and Elton John.

    Then Green Day came along and I started to wonder what I had been missing this whole time.

    ALL of this, by the way has been pretty well documented on various Pop Culture Affidavit episodes …

    Episode 3: November Rain
    Episode 11: The Columbia House Thirteen
    Episode 23: Dookie (aka “The Album That Changed My Life”)
    Episode 73: “The Albums That Made Us Who We Are” (a retrospective of high school albums with my wife)

    There are others that touch upon this, as well as some blog posts. You can find it all at

    Anyway, as high school went on, I listened to those albums less and less, and would sometimes listen to a couple of the songs in college (I remember “Breakdown” being on a “driving mix” tape that I made at one point). “You Ain’t The First” became a frequently played song, especially on nights we were pregaming before hitting the bars (nobody said my roommates and I were original). I still love that song. And “Thinkin’ About You” will still find its way on various workout/running playlists because I love the tempo and it’s my favorite non-“hit” track off of “Appetite.”

    In conclusion, my musical collection and journey is a land of many contrasts. But I will say that Guns n’ Roses is important because they were one of the first bands that I wanted to “get into” that my parents probably would not have approved of; moreover, they were one of the first (and few) bands I liked just at the right time (another was U2–I wore out my copy of “Achtung Baby”). And it’s appropriate considering it was my freshman year of high school, and that’s the time when you really do start to form your tastes.

    Speaking of which, I’m dropping my next episode on Monday, which will be an interview with an old friend who had a pop punk band in 1996.

    Great episode, guys. Looking forward to the next!

  5. Loved the podcast. Agree with most of what you guys said. In all of the Axel bashing, which he deserves, and Slash praise here’s a question you didn’t consider. Would Slash be where he is today if he didn’t have Axel?

    What I’m getting at is there’s a lot of highly talented guitar players out there. From your discussion, Slash is great in the range he performs. How much of Axel does he owe his fame to Axel wanting more? I’ll argue that it was Axel’s vocal and songwriter skills that made Slash standout above the others.

    it’s why I agree with Ryan. Guns n Roses is both Axel and Slash. Initially they both needed each to create something greater then themselves.

    1. Fair point. And I’ll concede for sure that Axl drew the fans in at the beginning. Unlike Van Halen before their debut album (where Dave was the side show but people came out because they heard about and needed to witness Eddie), I’d say in the early years, it prob was all Axl and Slash hadn’t come into his own until Axl started to go off the deep end a bit. Like I said in the episode, I’m a bigger fan of Slash post-GnR than I was during their hey day! Anyway, thanks for listening. Great insight.

  6. This was a fantastic discussion and deep dive, gentlemen! It was great to hear all your views on this amazing band and all the characters. Because that’s almost how I think of them, not band members but characters in a weird drama. Though I’m by no means as big as fan as you guys, I did enjoy the first 2 albums and was memorized by the inundation of the constant rotation of music videos.

    I agree with Ryan, Appetite was so hard to live up to. They shot out of the starting gate and everything since has been compared to that album. And, to me, that album defined the beginning of the end of hair metal. Sure the guys still had long hair, but they didn’t go in for the spandex and makeup. That first album certainly appealed more to the street level crowd in my school and no one made fun of the way they looked like you would with Motely Crue or Cinderella.

    My one anecdote about the band is, like Tom P, I also had the piano sheet music to November Rain. And it was one of the first songs that I programmed into our brand new MIDI stations in high school. Learning about MIDI, cheesy strings, and that hard rocking ending riff are memories I’ll never forget.

    Thanks again for another great episode. Keep up the great work!

  7. i liked Paradise city I liked november rain. I felt like Sweet Child O MINE was trying really REALY HARD BUT i did’nt like it.
    the only thing I REALLY LOVED by them was their cover of Since I DONT have you.
    i’m older now and have given up pretending ANYTHING about my views on art are objective. Sometimes I seperate the art from the artist sometimes I don’t. If i’d liked the vocals OR the vocalist a little better THAT may have raised them a bit but once someone says “Axel rose sounds like ethel Merman. they’re not wrong and you will NEVER NOT hear it.
    As a casual listener i listened to one in a million for the first time last saturday. IT is not good.

  8. I remember when G&R hit, I was around 16. I didn’t really get into them other than enjoying the singles like a normal person, but it sent shockwaves through my friends who were in bands.

    I never watch those Behind the Music type things, but I watch one, once, all about the year 1987, making the point that it was the year where “80s music” died. Goodbye synths, hello the future. It wasn’t just the year G&R came out, but also when Run DCM got a mainstream hit with hip-hop. It’s true that the landscape changed a lot after that,

    Great deep dive, guys.

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