29 Years Ago: Guns N’ Roses Release ‘GN’R Lies’
When Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite for Destruction finally ascended to No. 1 on the charts a year after its release, it sent the music world into a frenzy, ready to consume any and all GN’R material available. The record label capitalized on the moment with the release of GN’R Lies on Nov. 29, 1988, a disc that was marketed as a new studio album but in essence was a compilation of sorts. That said, GN’R Lies contains some of the band’s all-time greatest songs.
Combining the caustic Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide EP and four contextually polarizing yet musically brilliant acoustic tracks, GN’R Lies drove fans into stores eager to wear down the grooves of a new LP. From the first drop of the needle, new fans were treated to some brutally raw and aggressive tracks: the Hollywood Rose-written “Reckless Life,” followed by the irony of “Nice Boys,” originally by Australian act Rose Tattoo, the original song “Move to the City” and a cover of Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin.”
These tracks serve as a fitting introduction to where the band came from and who their biggest influences were. Though the EP was not recorded live — crowd noise from one of the Texxas Jam festivals was added in — it showcases the band’s unbridled energy with their own sonic stamp. Slash’s signature guitar work dominates the riffing attack while Axl Rose’s jaw-dropping range transforms them from simple covers to arguably besting the originals. However, the real star of Lies is the second half of the collection.
Leading the set of acoustic tracks is the whistled melody of “Patience,” a song which seized the success wrought by the borderline ballad “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Where the Appetite single had still showcased the band’s sleazy and savage energy mixed with palpable emotion, “Patience” realized the full spectrum of the band’s songwriting abilities. The song was released in April of the following year and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Used to Love Her” came next with its country twang and cheeky lyrics, making for a fun sing-along, revealing the band’s dark sense of humor. Falling in line thematically was the original version of “You’re Crazy,” which was changed radically in the studio on the band’s debut. One of the fastest and most aggressive songs on Appetite for Destruction was initially a mid-tempo jam. Stripped down on Lies, the song provides a different imagining of how Appetite would have sounded had the song not been altered.
Always controversial, Guns N’ Roses managed to make headlines with the seemingly offensive lyrics of “One in a Million.” The song used racial, xenophobic and homophobic slurs describing an altercation Axl had once had at a bus station when he first got to Los Angeles. The album’s cover included a proactive apology with the mock tabloid for the song’s title closing with, “This song is very simple and extremely generic or generalized, my apologies to those who may take offense.”
The artwork for GN’R Lies took the approach of a tabloid newspaper, with headlines including some of the songs on the album with brief descriptions. Some of the extra bits on the cover were removed prior to the CD release, including two quips about domestic violence.
Though the record does not take on the format of a conventional studio album, it serves as a curious time capsule back to the day when a rock band would dominate the world stage seemingly overnight. GN’R Lies was an obvious industry move to propel the ballooning success of what would become the ‘Most Dangerous Band in the World.’ Yet, the result was a release that yielded some classic tracks that hold their own among the band’s best works.