Guns N' Roses: Top 10 Songs
Guns N' Roses were one of the most volatile bands on the Sunset Strip during a time when excess was the norm. The band was a perfect storm of personality, aggression, drive, and addiction. The classic lineup of Axl Rose on vocals, Slash on lead guitar, Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar, Duff McKagan on bass, and Steven Adler on drums terrorized bar and club owners from day one. The path they were about to go down was a dark and violent one, even though they became the biggest rock band on the planet, living under the brightest lights.
Axl in 1986: “I watch MTV, and it’s hard not to throw shit at the TV set because it’s so fucking boring. Even the bands around here in LA are the same way, the whole music industry. We meet these people, and they say, ‘Do this, do that.’ And we go, ‘Fuck it, fuck you!’ Because it’s just not us. We do whatever we want to…”
That quote is reminiscent of what was to come and is still true decades later. They rose to heights few bands have reached, all while doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. That’s rare for a band at the top, but the resulting fall was all too familiar, and people still wonder what could’ve been. The band was on a trajectory to land in the very small group of bands that would be considered the greatest ever, but addiction, ego, and excess derailed that, even though they’re still considered one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time.
The Guns N’ Roses catalog is diverse, considering they started as a sleaze-rock band from Los Angeles.
Here is a list of the Top 10 Guns N’ Roses Songs:
10: “Better” - ‘Chinese Democracy’
Yes. ‘Chinese Democracy’ is a real album. It seemed like it took decades to release since the last original work from GN’R were the ‘Use Your Illusions’ albums released in 1991, and ‘Chinese Democracy’ wasn’t ready until 2008. Geffen Records originally planned to release it in 1999, but everyone decided it should be rerecorded in 2000.
It was the most expensive rock album ever produced, costing more than thirteen million dollars. It was finally released in November of 2008, headfirst into a pile of legal issues.
There was zero chance the album could ever live up to the hype, but there are a couple of tracks that are classic Axl, and “Better” is definitely one of them. It’s the best song on the album and maybe the most underrated from their entire catalog.
9: “You Could Be Mine” - ‘Use Your Illusion II’
When a behemoth rock band collaborates with its Hollywood match, big things are bound to happen. When the video for “You Could Be Mine” was released, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the Terminator 2 soundtrack, the song was immediately chart bound. The single reached number twenty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100. It’s become a staple GN’R track with vintage lyrics and vocals from Axl and a chaotic guitar rhythm from Slash.
8: “November Rain” - ‘Use Your Illusion I’
The most popular of the band's power ballads, it was the best example of Axl’s vision to transform the band into something new; something that the other band members wanted nothing to do with. Slash commented that Axl wrote the song “about a time someone bent his fingers back like he was a little baby.” I’m guessing Slash wasn’t a fan of Axl swimming with Dolphins in the video.
Regardless of the turmoil surrounding it, it’s a beautiful song and was a huge hit, reaching number three on the US Billboard Hot 100.
7: “It’s So Easy” - ‘Appetite For Destruction’
This was the first single from the ‘Appetite For Destruction’ album, and it didn’t take off like the next two (mentioned later in this article) did. However, “It’s So Easy” is as good a rock song as they’ve ever recorded, and one of the best rock songs of the 80’s. Listen to Duff’s opening bass riff, and it all becomes clear.
6: “Rocket Queen” -‘Appetite For Destruction’
The "Rocket Queen" is a woman named Barbi Von Greif. The ‘Appetite For Destruction’ liner notes thank "Barbi (Rocket Queen) Von Greif." Featuring yet another classic guitar riff, the story behind the recording of the song is sleazier than the song itself.
The moaning and other sex sounds that appear in the middle of the song were recorded while Axl Rose was having sex with Steven Adler's girlfriend..in the studio. Michael Barbiero, who mixed the album, wanted nothing to do with recording the sex scene in the studio, so after setting up the microphones, he had assistant engineer Victor Deyglio record it.
Mention this song, and you’ll inevitably hear suggestions that it’s the band’s best, yet it might not even be the best song on the album about a woman; “My Michelle” could be in this spot.
5: “Estranged” - ‘‘Use Your Illusion II’
This is a winding trip; the second longest in GN’R lore. The video represents part three of the grandiose, swimming-with-dolphins video series that pissed off Chris Cornell for being too egotistical, and alienated Slash from Axl for taking the band too far from their rock band roots.
It’s a great song, that became a staple of their live shows, and though it represents the beginning of the end, it’s also a reminder of just how great they were.
4: “Paradise City” - ‘Appetite For Destruction’
Everyone knows this song. It’s one of the great rock anthems of all-time. It was the first song all of the original members wrote together and were credited for. This song would be number one on most bands’ lists of top songs, but GN’R’s catalog is incredible.
3: “Patience” - ‘GN’R Lies’
The most popular ballad by the hard rockers deserves to be third on this list. It’s the only single released from the ‘Lies’ album. The album wasn’t promoted with the vigor of ‘Appetite’ or the ‘Illusions’ albums due to Axl’s choice of lyrical grievances on a couple of tracks. Regardless, “Patience” is timeless.
2: “Sweet Child O’ Mine” - ‘Appetite For Destruction’
According to GN’R lore, Slash came up with the riff when he was playing around on his guitar. He treated it as a joke, but Axl loved it. Izzy added some chords, and the song was created. Duff McKagan's 2012 autobiography claims that Slash has always considered it the worst Guns N' Roses song. That’s ironic, since it’s one of the best rock songs ever written, and the opening guitar riff is as iconic as any riff in rock history. The official Youtube video has well over one billion views.
1: “Welcome To The Jungle” - ‘Appetite For Destruction’
The opening riff to the opening track of the best-selling debut album in rock history sells the entire record. ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ is your introduction to something you’ve never experienced. Slash revealed: "I was at my house and I had that riff happening and Axl came over and he got those lyrics together, and then the band sort of arranged it. We got an arrangement for the whole band, 'cause that's how we work. Someone comes in with an idea and someone else has input and in that way everyone's happy. That came together really quickly too, that was arranged in one day."
There are two conflicting accounts of how a certain lyric came to be. In 2007, Axl told Rolling Stone about spending a night in a schoolyard in Queens: “This black guy said, ‘You're in the jungle! You gonna die.” Contradicting that, a friend of Axl’s told a radio station: “When Axl Rose hitchhiked to Los Angeles, California, on the last leg, a truck driver drove him to Los Angeles, and when Rose got out of the truck, the truck driver said, 'Welcome to the Jungle.”
Either could be true, or neither. I choose to believe that both are true, and I just let it add to the mystique of one of the greatest rock albums of all-time.