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By: Matthew Swanson

There is a cartoon on the inside of Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses that used to scare the shit out of me, and it scared enough people to convince Geffen Records to move the image from the front cover to the inside of the album’s paperwork. This is where I found it, along with everyone else in my sixth grade class. From what I can tell, it depicts a woman, in shock, sitting on the floor, her blouse torn open exposing a cut on her right breast, with her panties around her ankles. Chances are, moments ago, she was selling wind-up robots, of all things, on the street for $1.79 - a price displayed on her hat as well as on her cart of robots - when she was brutally raped by a robot in a trench coat. Now, adding insult to injury to say the least, the same robot is crushing a toy robot in each hand and numerous ones beneath his feet. It is just then that he sees a huge, red, long- tongued demon jumping over the fence to pounce on him.

When I first saw this picture, at age eleven, all I could think of was, “What the fuck! My sister’s Whitney Houston tape doesn’t have anything like this in its paperwork.” Now, years and years later, I want to know just what in the hell this cartoon is supposed to mean. Here are some theories I’ve concocted while on a near toxic combination of caffeine, Vicodin, and not enough sleep:

1. The first is the most simple of all the theories: The demon is the devil himself, and he’s coming over the fence to take the evil robot off to Robot Hell, where he’ll spend an eternity in damnation for his misdeeds against humanity.

2. The demon is Guns N' Roses the band, saving the women of the world from would be robot rapists. I entertained this theory for a couple of minutes, because of the skulls shooting out of him, since the band was often depicted in skull form on their t-shirts, but upon counting up the skulls, there are eight and there were only five original Gunners.

3. With his trench coat and camera on his head, maybe the robot is the press, “raping” Guns N' Roses with exposure and criticism. The woman represents the softer “roses” side, and the demon is the harder edged “guns” side rebelling, not taking any shit from the press or anyone else. Lord knows Axl didn’t like people with cameras. Remember in St. Louis when he jumped into the crowd and beat up someone taping his concert?

4. Here’s the real story: The artwork, Appetite for Destruction by Robert Williams, predates the album, and most likely it depicts the “rape” of society by technology. However, that still doesn’t explain what in the blazes that thing is jumping over the fence. Maybe the demon is the retribution, the eventual downfall that will incur upon the earth due to society’s partnership with technology.

Axl came across the piece of art, wanted to use it for his record cover, and hounded Williams, who wasn’t interested for months. Finally, Axl came to Williams’ home one day to discuss it in person, and was met with Robert cautioning him not to use it because of the controversy it would start. He asked him to pick another work from his slides. Rose refused, and Williams’ eventually granted him use of the photo for a small fee. It could be argued that the backlash from the painting stirred up some of the controversy that helped propel the record to octoplatinum (or whatever) sales, but Williams didn’t see any of the royalties. One could also say that Robert Williams may have had a case to get a percentage of said royalties, since he more than likely didn’t agree that the title would be used for the album as well. Either way, Mr. Williams chose not to bring a lawsuit against the band, and simply blamed himself for not being more cautious in his dealings with G N’ R.

Ultimately, the way the events surrounding the cartoon Appetite for Destruction played out ended up perfect for the band. The controversy of the original cover played a part in gaining them some of the initial notoriety they needed, but moving it to the inside was in the band’s best interest for at least two reasons. One, the cover they switched to - a tattoo of Axl’s - with all the band members in skull form on all points of a crucifix with Axl in the center, would become an iconic symbol of the band. Rock bands benefit from an immediately recognizable symbol, and the whole robot rape thing would not have taken off nearly as well, except among a very select group. Second, had the album gone with the original cover, many locations would not have stocked it, parents would not have bought it for their kids, and overall, some fans - female especially - would have likely been scared off. With the offensive image neatly tucked away on the inside of the paperwork, a preteen girl could buy the record, innocently still believing that Duff was the nice guy she read about in Rip Magazine who said he liked puppies.

I have distinct memories of sneaking a peak at that picture when I’d bring the tape into Art class on Fridays. I knew there was no way my teacher would let me play it while we painted, and she may not have let me take it on the bus that day, where I had planned on listening to the album again. I also knew that my parents wouldn’t want to see it, and I hid it from them less because I’d get in trouble, but more because at the tender age of twelve, I was embarrassed and uncomfortable about what the image depicted. What’s worse, the idea of them seeing such a thing in my record collection was more of a threat to me than how they would react.

Revisiting these thoughts got me thinking about how I’d react if I had a twelve-year-old son and he had that image inside a disc. I wouldn’t take it away from him, but I’d have a talk with him to see what events he thinks transpired. That would probably be a good springboard to get into some of the misogynistic and graphic lyrics of the disc, lyrics he would probably be surprised and a little grossed out to know that his old man could still recite, so we would get into some of those issues. After all, taking records away just gives the bands more credibility in their eyes, which in turn makes them want more things that might piss off parents. In all honesty, I then would tell him how awesome it is that he has discovered such a great record that I liked at the same age. I’d buy him an ice cream, a grape soda, or some shit, and then I’d tell him to never, ever let his mother see what’s inside that disc’s case.


All opinions expressed by Matthew Swanson are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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