“Hey, f__kers! Suck on f__kin’ Guns N’ Roses!” So starts the group’s first ever release, the Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide EP, released on 16 December 1986. And with that exhortation, they kick into ‘Reckless Life’, sounding for all the world like a supercharged Aerosmith: rolling their punk dynamics and nascent rock-god bombast into one and laying the groundwork for the punk-metal hybrid that would define their juggernaut debut album the following year.
Yet despite its title, Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide was a studio effort, recorded at Hollywood’s Pasha Studios in October 1986, with crowd noise overdubbed on top. But this was just another key part of the early Guns N’ Roses legend: an anarchic humour that led them to (as recalled by drummer Steven Adler) approximate a Sunset Strip club’s response to the band by lifting audio from the stadium crowd gathered at a 70s Texxas Jam rock festival.
The EP’s release was all about the fans, anyway. In the short 12 months since they’d strafed the LA music scene with their punk’n’roll assault, GN’R had become national news, with a fiercely dedicated following on the Strip. With their debut album, Appetite For Destruction, still under construction, the group decided to issue a limited-run EP – ostensibly on their own Uzi Suicide label, to retain their street-level indie cred, though actually released with Geffen’s full backing – to give their earliest converts something to cherish. The fans who supported them “in the streets as well as the stage” (as the dedication on the rear sleeve read) duly snapped up the 10,000 12” copies that snuck into the racks in LA’s record stores.
And while the EP wasn’t actually a live recording, it still captured the potency of Guns’ anarchic early LA shows. ‘Reckless Life’ is bolstered by another group original, ‘Move To The City’ (a real “nitty gritty” portrait of the street-punk lifestyle the group lived in their early days), both of which were staples of the group’s setlists at the time. The EP’s other two songs also turned up in early shows: a frantic cover of ‘Nice Boys’, originally by Australian rock legends Rose Tattoo, and, fittingly, a snarling take on Aerosmith’s ‘Mama Kin’. The latter was an astute choice: picking one of Steven Tyler and co’s earliest songs, penned in the early 70s before they themselves were a signed band, it was an explicit statement of Guns’ deep fandom.
Though GN’R had their own most dedicated fans in mind for the EP, Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide drew both national and international press, perfectly priming the world for Appetite’s appearance the following year. The New York-based Circus publication praised the “truly manic punk/R&B/glam/metal noise that’s guaranteed to piss off your folks (and half your friends as well)”, while in the UK, legendary rock scribe Mick Wall, writing for Kerrang!, hailed the EP, calling it, “The choicest side of lowlife rock’n’roll roll to emerge out of LA since Mötley Crüe’s Too Fast For Love in 1981.”
With the group currently performing their long wished-for reunion shows around the globe (guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan have returning to the fold for the first time since the mid-90s), a new legion of fans are now looking to snaffle up one of the group’s rarest collectables. Despite being reissued as part of the GN’R Lies collection of 1988, original copies of Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide still command in excess of £100 – though anyone in search of one should beware that bootlegs have long since entered the market.
Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction super deluxe and Locked N’ Loaded box set reissues can be bought here.