How I acquired an ‘Appetite’: A Christmas story

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grazianoLast week was a special week for Spotify users.

The music streaming app released the annual statistics for its Premium subscribers, including their top five most frequently played songs and top five artists, as well as the numbers of hours they spent listening to music on Spotify[1] in the past year.

And for me—a new Spotify subscriber—Ian O’Neill and Dennis Ryan, the drummer and lead guitarist for the Rhode Island-based rock band Deer Tick, personally thanked me for streaming their tunes[2].

Many Spotify users then shared their lists on social media, largely to flaunt their musical acumen. For the true hipsters, it seemed that the fewer bands on a list that were recognizable to the common fan equated to more refined musical tastes [3].

I am not a musical aficionado.

So it came as no surprise that Guns N’ Roses appeared on my Spotify list for the Top Five bands I listened to in 2023, seeing I’ve been listening to the band consistently for more than three decades now –  despite the fact that they only released three good studio albums[4].

This got me thinking about the time in middle school when I was re-gifted the cassette tape for “Appetite for Destruction,” which was also one of the first albums I owned.

Oh, and this happens to be a Christmas story.

GNR
via Reddit

It must’ve been in 1988. I can still remember the Christmas Eve ritual of opening gifts around the tree at my aunt and uncle’s house with my father’s side of the family, all of us cramped into a steamy living room, taking turns opening gifts with the detritus of wrapping paper and cardboard boxes scattered around us.

My cousin, who was in his late teens or early 20s at the time, received a palm-sized gift in the shape of a cassette tape—I can’t remember who gave it to him. He ripped off the wrapping paper, and it was Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction,” an album that—with the help of MTV—was beginning to make the band of strung-out hooligans household names.

It turned out my cousin already owned the album on vinyl, so he asked me if I wanted the cassette tape. I knew “Welcome to the Jungle” from the movie “The Dead Pool,” and the video for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” had become ubiquitous on MTV at the time.

So I accepted the tape, and from that moment forward, my life changed.

That night, I went home and listened to the first side of “Appetite for Destruction” straight through to “Paradise City,” flipped the tape, then listened to the second side until I reached “Rocket Queen.”

I’d rinse and repeat for the next year of my life.

I’m sure my 13-year-old self—still bound up with Catholic guilt—recognized there was something slightly obscene and seedy and sinful in the sound[5], and I loved it. In many ways, “Appetite for Destruction” began to inoculate me against some of the suck-factory hair-band songs that were popular at the time.

I would never watch the video for “Pour Some Sugar on Me” again.

In this sense, it was a true Christmas miracle.

So there were no surprises when I saw G N’ R on my Spotify list. And even if Axl Rose now looks like someone’s aunt, and Slash has lost a little off his fastball, it’s good to know that I’ll always be a creature of habit, created by that cassette I received one Christmas long ago.

_____________

[1] Spotify also converts this to the number of calendar days listening at no extra cost.

[2] I’m sure this was not a prerecorded video that went out to all fans who had the band in their Top Five.

[3] The same, I’m sure, could be said for pretentious literary snobs who would rather be caught masturbating than know they read Stephen King.

[4] I’m speaking of “Appetite for Destruction,” “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II.” A case could be made for “G N’ R Lies,” but the first side of that album was a live show recorded before the band became one of the biggest names in the world.

[5] I would later learn that the band recorded a woman having an orgasm and mixed it into the background in the song “Rocket Queen.”


 

About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com