Ex-Geffen Records executive Tom Zutaut reveals song that should have been on ‘Appetite For Destruction’
LA Weekly recently interviewed former Geffen Records executive Tom Zutaut, who signed Guns N’ Roses to a record deal in 1986. Zutaut spoke to LAWeekly on the occasion of the 30th year anniversary of the release of Appetite For Destruction.
In terms of how involved he was in the creation of Appetite For Destruction, Zutaut stated: “GNR were always on the verge of implosion, so I had to be very hands-on. A lot of it had to do with drugs the band abused, and I was naive to that at the time. But I remember inviting the band to my house in Hollywood to listen to a bunch of records, like UFO and Aerosmith’s Get Your Wings, and pick and choose what we liked, or didn’t like. The one thing we found consensus on was that UFO’s Strangers in the Night was the best live record ever made. It took us about a year and a half before we went into the studio from that point.”
Zutaut also explained why it took so long for the iconic album to be released as he advised: “They were writing, and I kept telling them that they needed that one song that would define them and take them to the top. They kept asking me what that was, and I said I’d know it when I heard it. I couldn’t help them write it, but as an A&R person, you always have a lot of say on the first album.”
That one song turned out to be “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to which Zutaut stated: “I knew right away that it was the missing song before booking them studio time. And it worked because it wasn’t a traditional, formulaic power-ballad. It was seven minutes long and nobody saw it as a single, but I knew it was going to be No. 1 on Billboard. We had “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” before we even recorded Appetite, but I didn’t feel like those were songs you would put on a debut. They needed to start with an honest punk statement. Those ballads were overly complex and could alienate their audience outside of L.A. with the image of Axl behind a grand piano. Axl understand that better than anyone. He wanted GNR to start off punk, to counter hair metal.”
With respect to who was the band leader at that time, Zutaut opined: “Well, think about it like this: While the rest of the band was living in a squalor at the Hell House, Axl had a room with a padlock on it that was pristine. He stayed away from the chaos and was sober as a church mouse and overthought everything. But that dichotomy worked because Axl would hear the work, sing through it, and make the changes. Everything had his final say on it. But initially, Izzy had a lot of the ideas. He was the primary creator of the Appetite sound, Slash’s monster guitar riffs were the icing, Duff’s complex bass parts were played like a lead guitarist, but every word and arrangement had Axl’s fingerprints all over it because he was the band’s quality control.”
In hindsight, if there was something that he could change on Appetite For Destruction, Zutaut stated: “I wish we had put “Reckless Life” on it. But that was an argument I lost. I think it might have had to do with the fact that Chris Weber co-wrote it, and it would have led to a publishing issue. But that song belonged on the record.”
You can read the rest of the interview with Zutaut at LA Weekly.