Sunday, February 3, 2013

G N' R Lies: "Reckless Life"

When Appetite for Destruction broke, fans sought out Guns N' Roses' only other release, the limited vinyl-and-cassette Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide EP. There was no internet to help music fans track it down, no torrents to download it on, just word of mouth of the biggest and best band in the world caught on tape playing to a few lucky attendees.

Had there been an internet in 1987, one could probably learn that Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide was a cheat. UZI Suicide, presumably GNR's own label to self-release EPs like this one, is better known as Geffen Records, the billion-dollar home to Elton John and Donna Summer. Investing in a band that was described by its own guitarist as a hand grenade ("and its like everybody's struggling to hold the pin in,") Geffen tried to get as much mileage out of GNR as possible, and released the EP a few months before Appetite to help market a raw rock band putting out their own records before a major entertainment business picked them up. Recorded in a Hollywood studio with a pre-recorded audience track, the sound of the Gunners blaring over hundreds of screaming fans was probably as foreign to the band themselves as it was to most listeners.

As "Reckless Life" proves, GNR were just as crucial to implementing their reputation as Geffen Records. Most of the world was sleeping on their punk-infected hard rock, blues-based solos and wild personalities, so the band threw it all into their first song. Within a few years, people who couldn't tell Slash from Duff McKagan could tell you that GNR were party animals (so much, that their reputation made it to a joke in The First Wives Club,) but with few folks outside of L.A. clubs or Geffen's doors in on the gang's Songs of Innocence and Experience, the boys had to tell everyone that they were, in fact, miscreants.

Today, "Reckless Life" sounds a little forced, like a band singing about a lifestyle before they lived it out in public. Listening to "Reckless Life" feels like looking at early pictures of the Rolling Stones in moptops and matching outfits, a portrait of the artists as a young band, in search of an identities. But by the time "Reckless Life" was reissued on G N' R Lies, the band had found identities, and the applause track didn't seem so strange.