The lyrics came from a poem Axl Rose was working on. He wrote the song about his girlfriend, Erin Everly, the daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. After dating for four years, they got married at a quickie wedding in Las Vegas on April 28, 1990, but just nine months later, the marriage was annulled, with Everly claiming abuse.
Appetite For Destruction
was Guns N' Roses' first album, released in July 1987. It took a long time to catch on, and three cracks at a hit single before it did.
"It's So Easy
" was the first single, followed by "Welcome To The Jungle
." Both flopped, but when "Sweet Child O' Mine" was released as the third single in June 1988, it made a steady climb to the top, bringing the album with it. The song hit #1 in September; the album reached the top spot in August. In the wake of the "Sweet Child" success, "Welcome To The Jungle" was re-released and this time became a hit.
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
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.
Axl Rose had a rough childhood, but in this song he recalls one pocket of light, remembering childhood memories "where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky."
He told the Los Angeles Times: "The 'blue sky' line actually was one of my first childhood memories - looking at the blue sky and wishing I could disappear in it because it was so beautiful."
The video was directed by Nigel Dick, who did the first five Guns N' Roses videos. Unlike their later epics for "November Rain" and "Don't Cry," the Sweet Child O' Mine video is just grainy, black-and-white footage of the band performing the song. It was good enough to win them 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 established: 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.
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."
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, "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."
Jacob - Stockholm, Sweden
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."
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.
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 on drums for an ailing Steven Alder.
This was remixed and re-released in the UK in May 1989, where it went to #6. When first released there in August 1988, it made #24.
Sheryl Crow covered this in 1999 for the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy
, scoring a #30 hit in the UK. 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.
Shelby - Westfield, IN
The guitar solo is ranked #37 in Guitar World
magazine's 2013 list of the 100 greatest guitar solos of all time (Slash's "November Rain
" solo ranks #6).
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's 1976 self-titled debut, which sold 17 million.
This song plays 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 #23 in the UK thanks to its use in TV commercials for the department store John Lewis.
The song runs 5:55 and was issued at that length as a single, which was fine for rock radio. When it became clear that the song also had tremendous pop appeal, Geffen Records distributed a truncated version running 3:42 with the intro cut down and the second guitar solo (after the second verse) removed. This was a good option for radio stations with listeners that would only tollerate so much rock guitar; it got the song on the air across a breadth of formats.
Tom - Trowbridge, England
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."
On October 15, 2019 this became the first music video from the '80s to reach one billion views on YouTube. The previous year, the band's "November Rain
" clip also became the first '90s video to reach the one billion mark on the platform.