In the early 70s, there was really only one band that defined the rock music of the time—Led Zeppelin. Sure, Black Sabbath was around making some incredible heavy metal, and Kiss was winning fans over with their songs about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but if you wanted to hear true hard rock that was redefining musical innovation, it was Led Zeppelin that had to be played. Not since the Beatles (and perhaps Elvis before them) had anyone changed the stratosphere of the music scene in such a prominent and permanent way.
When Led Zeppelin split up shortly after the death of John Bonham, the rock world was devastated and stunned. It was thought that there would never be another band as innovative, stylistic, and amazing as Zeppelin had been. The rock world would feel the loss for years to come. Then in 1987, a little known band from Hollywood, California, released an album called Appetite For Destruction.
Appetite For Destruction put Guns N Roses on the metal map, but it wasn’t that album that launched them into the Zeppelin conversation. That would come later. If Guns N Roses had recorded Appetite and Lies and then called it a day, they would be well remembered in rock history, but they wouldn’t be considered icons.
20 years ago, Guns N Roses released two albums on the same day— Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. It is these albums that really showed their innovative spirit and what these rock stars from California could do when they set their mind to it. Both Illusion albums would prove to be the band’s swan song (although they did release a covers disc two years later). It was a great mark to leave and 20 years later, the music on those records still holds up.
Zeppelin brought a whole new level of creating music with albums like Physical Graffiti and the untitled Led Zeppelin IV. Songs like “Kashmir,” “Black Dog,” and “Stairway To Heaven” had never even been conceived before, let alone heard. Guns N Roses produced a similar effect with the release of the Illusions.”Estranged,” “Coma,” and “Locomotive” are breath taking inspirations that only a genius could create. If “Stairway To Heaven” was the greatest rock song of its day, “November Rain” was the greatest rock song of its day nearly 30 years later.
Zeppelin was unique in all aspects of their music. From Jimmy Page’s incredible guitar and experimental styles, to Plant’s lyrics and song depth, Led Zeppelin had it all in a way that had never been witnessed before. Guns N Roses would follow in that suit. Slash’s solos on the Illusion albums are iconic and the depth of Axl Rose’s lyrics is for deep thinkers only. The way that each song was masterfully constructed truly left its mark on the history of music.
Led Zeppelin rarely recorded a bad song and the same could be said about Guns N Roses (if you don’t count the covers album). Each band has a catalog of incredible material that still holds up to this day and is better than most music being recorded in the modern era. Both bands would make a fortune on a reunion of original members (with son Jason replacing John on drums, obviously). Both bands called it quits at the height of their creative talents. Both bands were amazing in their own right and it would be a great challenge to find any other band that could be compared to either of these grand champions of musical invention.
If Led Zeppelin was the band of the 70s era generation, then Guns N Roses is the epitome of the 80s era generation. There will never be another Led Zeppelin. However, with that being said, there will never be another Guns N Roses either. Both bands are one of a kind and the sound of their generation.