This song caused a great deal of controversy because of its explicit references to "Immigrants and faggots" and its use of a certain racial epithet. The song led to the group being banned from an AIDS benefit concert in New York. Front man Axl Rose apologized in advance for causing offense on the album sleeve. Later he went further, explaining exactly why he wrote the song.
In an August 1989 interview with the magazine Rolling Stone, Rose said the song was written in the apartment of West Arkeen, "who's like the sixth member of the band." It was inspired partly by his experience of the Los Angeles Greyhound bus station and seeing people getting ripped off by street hustlers - hence the unflattering reference to young black men.
The verse about "Immigrants and faggots" referred to being treated by immigrant workers in convenience stores like you don't belong, something that clearly rubbed this "small town white boy" up the wrong way.
Regarding specifically "Faggots," Rose said, "I've had some very bad experiences with homosexuals" adding that when he was hitchhiking as a teenager a homosexual tried to sodomize him, which led to the man ending up on the wrong end of Axl's razor. Rose was born in Lafayette, Indiana on February 6, 1962, and had a turbulent youth which was colored by some very negative experiences including this encounter.
In a second interview with the same magazine, in April 1992, Rose said "I've had my share of dealings with aggressive gays, and I was bothered by it."
Rose is no racial bigot; the band's guitarist, Slash, was born July 23, 1965, the son of a white Englishman and a black American woman. He grew up in Stoke-on-Trent but later moved to California where the band was formed, and although he was no juvenile delinquent he is clearly cut from the same cloth as Rose.
Slash recalled to Q magazine April 2010 the fight he had with Rose about recording this song: "We had a big disagreement about it, and the more I argued about it, the more adamant he was about putting it out there. It probably says a lot about our relationship.
I'm sure he was aware of my heritage, but at the same time he had his own point of view that he was trying to put across, which he's spoken about plenty. I wasn't surprised at the level of controversy it caused. There'd been a lot of attention towards homosexuality at that time and as always - to racism and stuff, and I think the tone of that song was offensive. It didn't shock me that it was so controversial. It was just the way it was put, the words it used.
I'm not one to harbor regrets. I didn't agree with it when it came out and still don't, but no one really cares about it any more. It was unfortunate at the time, but it is what it is and what's done is done. You know what, I don't think about it any more. It was a big deal when it came out but I haven't heard it in so long. I don't think it did us any harm, not in the long run."
Despite his bad experiences with homosexuals, Axl performed Bohemian Rhapsody
with Elton John at the 1992 "Concert For Life" at Wembley Stadium. The concert was a tribute to Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS the year before.
Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
The song was cut from the band's 2018 Appetite for Destruction: Locked N' Loaded
edition due to its controversial lyrics. Slash told Rolling Stone
: "We collectively decided that it just didn't have any place in that box set. It didn't take long. There wasn't a big roundtable thing over it."
This song caused some tension when Guns N' Roses and the African-American rock band Living Colour were on the same bill as openers for The Rolling Stones for four nights in October 1989. Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid was asked about the song in a radio interview leading up to the shows, and he denounced it (Reid wasn't happy about being asked about that song instead of queried on his band's material). Rose responded on stage the first night in a clumsy rant where he said, "All you people calling me a racist, shove your head up your f--king ass." Reid responded the next night, telling the crowd, "If you don't have a problem with black people, then don't call them 'ni--ers.' I never met a ni--er in my life."