The iconic lineup of Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler made comprised the Los Angeles hard rock band Guns N’ Roses when they were created in the middle of the 1980s. The band got started on creating a first album after signing with Geffen Records in 1986. Only the love of rock ‘n’ roll kept the bunch of hedonistic teenagers afloat, and with the appearance of Appetite for Destruction in ’87, it became clear that this five-piece had a talent for contagious and virtuoso songwriting.
Thanks to a wealth of well-known songs from Appetite for Destruction, including “Paradise City,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Nightrain,” Guns N’ Roses became a household name. The album’s talisman, though, was ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine,’ which stood tall and proud. With an astounding 1.5 billion Spotify streams, it is still the band’s most well-known song.
Even the most ardent, long-haired, top hat-wearing fan could be excused for dismissing “Sweet Child o’ Mine” as a genuinely worn-out record in the present day, but Slash wasn’t all that interested, even on the day it was recorded. For years, Slash said, “I hated it.” But since it would result in such a response, he has learned to value it.
The lead guitarist clarified his concerns to WEBN when speaking, “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.”
In actuality, Slash’s fretboard practice arrangement provided the inspiration for the song. Slash compared it to some novelty circus music and pulled faces at his comrades, thinking it was a foolish throwaway tune. Rose, on the other hand, continued with the production after hearing something in it.
Slash described his guitar riff in a Rolling Stone interview. “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.'”
Lynyrd Skynyrd had a big influence on Rose at the time, and he also drew inspiration from his early years and his romantic muse Erin Everly for his melancholy songs. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Rose recently reminisced, “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.”
Rose added, speaking to Rip magazine in 1987, “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. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ is the first positive love song I’ve ever written, but I never had anyone to write anything about before.”