This week, Guns N’ Roses’ landmark debut, Appetite for Destruction turns 25, which means Slash’s top hat alone is older than Emma Stone. There’s not much left to be said about how Appetite helped heavy metal emerge from an Aqua-Net fog, helped a generation of rock bands curse more and shower less, and even gave Kurt Cobain a worthy adversary. But they definitely spawned a lot of garbage too, from Buckcherry’s career on down to Slash crewing with Fergie Ferg. To celebrate the inglorious history of a notorius album, here’s SPIN’s playlist of the worst covers of Appetite’s 12 tracks. It’s so fuckin’ easy.
Big Daddy – “Welcome to the Jungle”
From Cutting Their Own Groove (1992)
The eternal teenagers behind the Dr. Demento-approved “Hamster Love” (a “Muskrat Love” parody detailing the many ways to eat your pet rodent) settled into an irritating shtick by the mid-’80s: contemporary hits sung doo-wop style to the tune of ’50s oldies. Imagine the worst parts of Weird Al, Girl Talk, and Sha Na Na smooshed together by the most humor-impaired dads on your block. How could Appetite’s nasty lead track not become “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”? Both songs mention jungles! Joke! Christ, I want to watch them bleed. I want their families to watch them bleed.
Natalie Renoir & DJ Leao – “It’s So Easy”
From Vintage Café Essentials (2011)
A drunk-driving anthem gets the chillout treatment. Nothing fakes “class” more expediently than a millimeter-deep groove and a girlie Euro-coo. And in keeping with the genteel mood, vocalist Renoir omits “bitch” from between “turn around” and “I’ve got a use for you,” confirming that a wan “See me hit you / You fall down” is too empty a threat to even excite wimps with a waif-dominatrix fetish.
Break the Silence – “Nightrain”
From Bring You to Your Knees: A Tribute to Guns N’ Roses (2004)
This short-lived melodic hardcore project of Rise Against guitarist Dan Precision yields center stage to the decidedly square vocalist Dan Wintercorn, whose performance here suggests that he thinks he’s singing about catching an Amtrak redeye. Even the growly voice Wintercorn switches to mid-chorus as he belts out the song title is less Cookie Monster than Grover. As decadent as a half-empty bottle of flat Zima.
Halestorm – “Out Ta Get Me”
From ReAniMate:The CoVeRs eP (2011)
So clean and overproduced it could be a heavy metal High School Musical outtake. You’d think Pennsylvania retromanics Halestorm would be more at home with this than say, a Lady Gaga song.
Kalle Löfström – “Mr. Brownstone”
From Tahtiluokka (2008)
Löfström was a fourth place finisher on Finland’s Idol, where presumably he was the Baltic answer to Daughtry. Influences include Chris Gaines’ fashion sense and the over-precise enunciation of a Teach-Yourself-English recording. Here he chews his way through the scenery of what’s either an Andrew Lloyd Webber anti-drug PSA or a cartoon about a dancing apartment building.
Tom Cruise – “Paradise City”
From the Rock of Ages soundtrack (2012)
Back when “Paradise City” was a hit, Tom Cruise had just turned in a Patrick Bateman-endorsed performance in Cocktail, the flick that infested America with an even more popular, even more decadent song about escaping to an earthly paradise: “Kokomo.” A quarter-century later, the toothy, spastic imp impersonates a hair-metal god as a band of soulless pros turn in a point-missingly note-perfect recreation, and the message is clear: “Hey headbangers, your old-time rock’n’roll is now exactly as dated and harmless as Bob Seger.”
A.F.I. – “My Michelle”
From Punk Goes Metal (2000)
Going through their horror-rock growing pains, a young A.F.I. put in a performance that’s as stiff as a corpse.
Iron Horse – “Think About You”
From The Bluegrass Tribute to Guns N’ Roses (2007)
Imagine you had a friend who, whenever he walked into a room, was like, “These walls would look so much better painted beige.” That’s what some bluegrass fans must be like. The instant they hear a song, their imagination strips away the drums and hears banjos, fiddles, and other acoustic old-timery doodling busily all over the poor little tune.
Sheryl Crow – “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
From the Big Daddy soundtrack (1999)
So many unworthy contenders for this slot. But to record a truly terrible cover of a classic song requires more than mere incompetence — a point lost on internet jerks declaring that a bunch of kids who couldn’t play their instruments had performed the Worst. Cover. Ever. Nor is bad taste enough — X-Factor x-travaganzas by Janet Devlin, Lucie Jones, and who knows how many other of the Queen’s subjects might entertain those with a strong stomach for camp. No, for a true desecration, you need the talent and personal style, and misguided vision to make the song your own. You need to be Sheryl Crow. What’s most disturbing about this version is that, rather than seeming to domesticate GN’R, Crow makes it sound like she’s ever-so-mildly rockin’ up a song by Lonestar or some other lousy country balladeers. Because a truly terrible cover of a classic makes you doubt, if only momentarily, whether a song was any good to begin with.
Strings of Fire – “You’re Crazy”
From The Acoustic Tribute to Guns N’ Roses (2000)
If recording instrumental acoustic versions of rock songs is a dubious enough project, recording an acoustic version of a song the original band already recorded an acoustic version of is willfully pointless. And since “You’re Crazy” is hardly GN’R at their most melodically ingenious, you get a lot of vamping and strumming, not even the florid fretwork that brings the giggles on this disc’s “Welcome to the Jungle.” What could be less interesting than a tasteful showoff?
Gareth Rhodes (Axl77) – “Anything Goes”
OK, calling out YouTube posted vids is a dick move, and, to be fair, Rhodes, who’s out to record the entire GN’R catalog on his lonesome, earns points for doggedness and technique — how often do you get to complain that a home recording sounds too slick? But from the Basic Instinct intro to the percussive “Losing My Religion” strings, this is strictly Zalman King softcore. Rhodes’ even-tempered vocal ain’t even that. When he sings “Thinkin’ ’bout sex / Always hungry for somethin’ / That I haven’t had yet,” it’s hard not to think, “Yeah, dude, like sex.”
Slash ft. Myles Kennedy – “Rocket Queen”
From iTunes Session (2010)
You are in Alter Bridge and you are not Axl Rose.