Before all the controversy, before the Axl Rose-Slash feud, before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame fiasco about which band lineup was actually being inducted…before all that, Guns N’ Roses was a really good hard rock band, and in some ways the last of its kind. Their 1987 debut album Appetite for Destruction arrived in an open market when hard rock was basically being forgotten in favor of dance-pop and New Wave. It blew up across the world, going on to become the best-selling debut album of all time worldwide. (18x Platinum in the U.S. alone.)
Ironically enough, “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” that album’s third single (and the band’s signature song), also happens to be their only single to make it to Number 1 on the U.S. charts. To add to the irony, the song was originally intended to be a filler for the album, the signature opening riff created by Slash as something of a joke. The lyric was based on Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend Erin Everly (daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers). Little did anyone know that the song’s popularity would long outlast the relationship that inspired the lyric.
Rose also claims he drew inspiration from Lynyrd Skynyrd for this song, and you can definitely hear that inspiration in the music, right down to Slash’s brilliant solo work and the “Freebird”-esque breakdown passage toward the end.
Although “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was their only Number-one single, don’t feel sorry for these guys. Guns N’ Roses have sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, making them one of the biggest-selling bands in history.