The lyrics came from a poem Axl Rose was working on. He wrote the song about his girlfriend, Erin Everly, who is the daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. They married in 1990 but divorced a month later.
Appetite For Destruction
was Guns N' Roses first album, and it took a while for the band to catch on. This didn't hit US #1 until a year after the album was released. It was the third single, following "It's So Easy
" and "Welcome To The Jungle
," which both flopped, although "Welcome To The Jungle" became a hit when it was re-released in the wake of "Sweet Child"'s success.
Slash came up with the riff when he was playing around on his guitar. He thought it was silly and wanted nothing to do with it, but Axl loved it and had him keep playing it. Izzy Stradlin added some chords, and the song came together. According to Duff McKagan's 2012 autobiography, Slash always considered it the worst Guns N' Roses song.
Slash told Rolling Stone
magazine: "It's a combination of influences. From Jeff Beck, Cream and Zeppelin to stuff you'd be surprised at: the solos in Manfred Mann's version of 'Blinded By The Light
' and Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street
.'" (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Axl listened to a bunch of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs before recording his vocal. He liked their down-home, genuine sound and wanted to duplicate it on this track.
This won Best Single, Heavy Metal/Hard Rock at the 1989 American Music Awards. The group performed "Patience" at the show with Don Henley sitting in for Steven Alder (who was sick) on drums.
In 1989, this won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Heavy Metal Video.
A third verse Axl wrote was edited out because the record company thought it made the song too long.
The song hit #1 in America on September 10, 1988, and stayed there for two weeks. While it was climbing to the top spot, Guns N' Roses was touring as the opening act for Aerosmith. By the end of the tour on September 15, G N' R had eclipsed their headliners in popularity and were chosen for the cover of Rolling Stone for their November 17 issue.
The tour went very well thanks to a ground rule Aerosmith set up: no drugs in their presence. The now-rehabbed Aerosmith could see Guns' N' Roses heading down the same path of addiction, but made no effort to preach to them about the dangers, as they knew the Gunners would have to make their own mistakes. Aerosmith did, however, give T-shirts to the band listing the rehab centers they had been through instead of tour dates, which they felt was their statement.
In the video, a few moments before Slash's solo takes off, Axl can be seen taking off his jacket. Axl had so many bracelets on his arms, he had trouble getting his jacket off, which made them do a number of retakes. Axl stated in a 2006 radio interview with Eddie Trunk that, "the video they wanted to do for the song was supposed to be of an Asian woman carrying a baby into the United States. At the end of the video, the baby is cut open and there is heroin inside because that's what the song is about." (thanks, Jacob - Stockholm, Sweden)
This was remixed and re-released in England in May, 1989, where it went to #6. When first released in Aug, 1988, it was UK #24.
Sheryl Crow covered this in 1999 for the movie Big Daddy, scoring a #30 hit in England. Her version appears near the middle of the movie right after they take the kid away; the Guns 'N' Roses original is played at the end with the credits. (thanks, shelby - Westfield, IN)
The guitar solo is ranked #37 in Guitar World
magazine reader's poll for the top 100 greatest guitar solos of all time (Slash's "November Rain
" solo ranks #6). (thanks, elliot - Toronto, Canada)
In an interview with Uncut
magazine February 2008 Slash was asked where the weirdest place that he'd heard one of his songs was. He replied: "I've heard 'Paradise City
' and 'Patience
' in some odd places, but the weirdest thing is hearing Muzak versions of 'Sweet Child O' Mine' in elevators and shopping malls. I've even heard an arrangement of it for harp. Recently I was in a hotel and the lounge pianist was playing it. I get a mixture of emotions when that happens. Part of it is 'hey wow, that's our tune!,' part of it's embarrassment at even noticing it, part of it's bewilderment of somebody else playing your music, someone who knows nothing about you, who has never met you, who is just playing your music as part of a thousand pieces of material that they have to play. Imagine how, say, Paul McCartney must feel, hearing his music absolutely everywhere."
In 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America declared Appetite for Destruction the best selling debut album in the US with 18 million copies sold. The previous record holder was Boston.
This song featured near the end of the 2008 movie The Wrestler, when Mickey Rourke's character makes his entrance into the ring. Axl Rose, who is friends with Rourke, allowed the low-budget film to use the song for almost nothing, something Rourke thanked Axl for at the Golden Globe awards when he won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama.
In 2009 a mellow jazz version by Taken By Trees, aka the Swedish singer Victoria Bergsman, reached the UK Top 40 thanks to its use in TV commercials for department store John Lewis.
The single version is about a minute shorter. The intro is cut down and the second solo, after the second verse, is removed. (thanks, Tom - Trowbridge, England)
The song revealed a sensitive side that Rose hadn't shown before and has done so sporadically since: "A lot of rock bands are too wimpy to have any sentiment or any emotion in any of their stuff unless they are in pain," said Rose at the time. "Sweet Child O' Mine is the first positive love song I've ever written, but I never had anyone to write anything about before."
This is the most covered song that Slash has ever written. He told UK's Metro newspaper: "There are some really good instrumental versions for the piano or violin, but I've been horrified by some muzak versions. I've been sitting in a doctor's office thinking, 'That sounds familiar,' and then realizing it's someone's interpretation of what I've written. That can be a creepy feeling."
Speaking with the radio station WEBN in Cincinnati, Ohio, Slash admitted that he isn't fond of this song apart from its riff. He explained: "You know, Guns 'N' Roses was always a real hardcore, sort of, AC/DC kind of hard rock band with a lot of attitude. If we did any kind of ballads, it was bluesy. This was an uptempo ballad. That's one of the gayest things you can write. But at the same time, it's a great song — I'm not knocking it — but at the time, it just did not fit in with the rest of our, sot of, schtick. And, of course, it would be the biggest hit we ever had."
Slash broke out the wah-wah pedal for his guitar solo, which landed at #3 on Guitar World's 2015 list of greatest wah solos of all time.