My favourite album: Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses

Our writers are picking their favourite albums. Here, Dafydd Goff explains how a religious upbringing was no match for the seedy tales of Axl Rose

I was eight years old when Appetite for Destruction was released in 1987 – and I wanted a copy more than anything else in the world. My father had given me his old turntable and I was told I could spend my pocket money on whatever records I wanted. Just not this one. I had a religious upbringing in south Wales and, to my parents, Guns N' Roses' debut album was "anti-Christian" and I was banned from buying it.

Appetite for Destruction was one of the first albums to carry a Parental Advisory sticker, but it wasn't the explicit lyrics that offended them. The problem was the cover, which featured a cross adorned with skulls representing each of the five band members. My parents believed the image mocked the Christian faith by desecrating one of its symbols. (Thank God I didn't nag them for a copy of Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar.)

In desperation, I tried another tactic by showing them an earlier pressing of the album featuring different artwork. Admittedly, I didn't think this through. The original cover depicted a robot rapist standing over its bleeding victim, knickers around her ankles. I was marched out of the record store. Appetite for Destruction was sent to the sin bin along with such musical contraband as Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast and Slayer's South of Heaven.

The church I went to was in thrall to the evangelical Christianity popular in the US. There was dancing in the aisles and singing in tongues. But there was also a Satanic panic. Members of the congregation believed dark forces threatened us – and a certain kind of rock'n'roll was to blame. At Sunday school, we were told Jimmy Page had sold his soul to Satan, the Eagles worshipped the devil at the Hotel California, and Kiss stood for Kids in Satan's Service.

To a child obsessed with metal (or at least the commercial face of it) this was heartbreaking: to be bullied into believing the music you loved most was in league with the devil. But this propaganda had the opposite effect. Appetite for Destruction came to represent all that was forbidden about the adult world – and I coveted it even more.

The following year, my parents gave in. I was allowed a cassette copied from the vinyl by a friend. This way I wouldn't be exposed to the sacrilegious sleeve. The dark forces won. I had found a new church – and Appetite for Destruction was my communion.

It embodied the the illicit allure of adulthood. "Always hungry for somethin'/ I haven't had yet," Axl sings on Anything Goes. This sums up part of the album's appeal at the time. It was a passport to adolescence, detailing experiences I barely understood but really wanted to try.

For a boy growing up in Bible-black Wales, it was the perfect escape. It took me on a booze-soaked, smack-addled, over-sexed tour of the LA underground, a world peopled with pimps and prostitutes, dealers and dope fiends. The songs dealt with drink (Nightrain), drugs (Think About You), promiscuity (It's So Easy), prostitution (Welcome to the Jungle), or just escape from an American dream-turned-nightmare (Paradise City).

Raucous and reckless, Appetite for Destruction captured rock'n'roll in its strutting, preposterous glory. And it was dangerous. The pop metal I had been raised on didn't have this level of aggression. The source of all this anger was Axl Rose; mean and misogynist, furious and feral, he spat out tales of LA low life with vituperative flair. Spite had never sounded so compelling, and I was held hostage to its menacing mood.

His voice was eviscerating, somewhere between a punk rock screech and heavy metal howl, effortlessly scaling four octaves from bass baritone to falsetto. To some, it was like nails down a blackboard; to me he sounded like an avenging angel. But Guns N' Roses were much more than their formidable frontman. There was the two-pronged attack of riff duellists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, and a robust rhythm section in Duff McKagan and Steve Adler – a kick-ass crew delivering a sucker punch of an album.

And they looked incredible – a bunch of backcombed barbarians. It was as if the cast of The Lost Boys had been armed with guitars. They took a wrecking ball to their hair metal peers, leaving behind a trail of spandex and eyeliner. Poison, Wasp and Mötley Crüe were all gloss and glam, but Guns N' Roses were grime and grit. When Def Leppard asked for some sugar in the name of love, Axl and the boys were taking their credit cards to the liquor store; while Bon Jovi were livin' on a prayer, they were dancing with Mr Brownstone.

Appetite for Destruction ignited my passion for all things heavy. I hunted down bands that had inspired it. I discovered the Stooges, New York Dolls, Aerosmith and AC/DC, as well as punk bands from Britain (Sex Pistols, the Damned, UK Subs) and the US (Misfits, Dead Boys, Fear). It was the album that began my life as a music fan. And it continues to soundtrack the lives of a generation. (I recently attended a wedding where the bride and groom walked down the aisle to Sweet Child O'Mine – at least it wasn't November Rain).

I'm not looking at this through Rose-tinted spectacles. It shows its age in parts: the profanity grates rather than titillates; the misogyny is just infantile posturing. But the songwriting and musicianship makes it timeless. Of course, there were other albums that came to define my childhood, but none that sounded so intoxicating – even to someone who was 10 years too young to drink.

• You can write your own review of this record on our brand new album pages: once you're signed into the Guardian website, visit the album's dedicated page.

Or you could simply star rate it, or add it to one of your album lists. There are more than 3m new pages for you to explore as well as 600,000-plus artists' pages – so simply find their albums and get to work …


Dafydd Goff

The GuardianTramp

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