“We’re walking away from it”: How Appetite For Destruction was nearly dropped by Geffen following poor commercial performance

Despite its slow start, Guns N’ Roses’ debut album went on to become the best-selling debut album in the US.

Guns N'Roses

Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses perform onstage during the Power Trip music festival at Empire Polo Club on October 06, 2023 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Power Trip)

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Renowned A&R executive Tom Zutaut has revealed that Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite For Destruction was almost dropped by record label Geffen over its initially poor sales figures.

Although the seminal 1987 record would go on to become the seventh best-selling album of all time in the US – as well as the best-selling debut album – it didn’t look that way at first, especially with MTV being so reluctant to play the Welcome To The Jungle video before Geffen intervened.

As such, Geffen considered throwing in the towel on the album altogether after it only came in at No. 182 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart and didn’t shift more than 200,000 units within its first few months on the shelves.

“There was a time and a point where the president of the company called me up and said, ‘This record is over, we’re walking away from it. It’s done,’” says Zutaut on the X5 Podcast [transcribed by Ultimate Guitar]. “‘You’ve got to quit beating up the marketing people, the promotion people. They are sick of you hammering ’em on Guns N’ Roses.’”

He continues: “And I said, ‘200,000 is shit, man. This record is gonna sell millions.’ And of course, later, it became the largest-selling debut rock album in the history of the music biz. Nobody’s beat it yet, even in stream land. But, you know, I had the sight. I just thought it’d be the biggest album in the world, and the biggest band in the world, and I wasn’t gonna let some people who didn’t have the vision kill the band’s career. I mean, I’d kept November Rain, Don’t Cry… I kept so many songs off Appetite that I knew I had a great follow-up. But, you know, I stayed the course.”

Later in the interview, Zutaut is also asked what he thinks set him apart from other A&Rs.

“I would go in the studio and actually get involved,” he says. When I was 18 and 19, I was apprenticing with Roy Thomas Baker, one of the greatest producers in the world, [also] Tom Werman. I learned to [engineer] stuff, [produce] stuff… and [Beatles engineer] Geoff Emerick; I learned from him…”

For a trip down memory lane, check out Welcome to the Jungle, the opening track from Guns N’ Roses’ landmark debut album:

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