Sweet Child o’ Mine

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“Sweet Child o’ Mine” is a song by the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. It was released on their debut album Appetite for Destruction on July 21, 1987. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was Guns N’ Roses‘ first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, spending two weeks at the top spot in September 1988.

The song is credited as being written by Guns N’ Roses as a band; more specifically it contains Slash‘s riff, Izzy’s chords, Axl’s lyrics, McKagan’s bass line, and Adler’s drum line. The subject of the song is lead singer Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend and eventual wife, Erin Everly.

Former Guns N’ Roses‘ lead guitarist, Slash, has been quoted as having a disdain for the song due to its roots as simply a ‘string skipping’ exercise and a joke at the time. In a VH1 special, it was stated that Slash played the riff in a jam session as a joke. Drummer Steven Adler and Slash were warming up and Slash began to play a “circus” melody while making faces at Steven. Izzy looked at Slash and said “What is that”? Slash Replied “I don’t know just messing around.” Izzy said in reply “Do it again”. Adler asked him to play the riff again, and Izzy Stradlin came in with the chords. A

xl was listening in his room and wrote lyrics, which he brought to the band the next day, where they finished the song out. However, the final dramatic breakdown was not added until producer Spencer Proffer suggested the band add one. They agreed, but weren’t sure what to do. Axl started saying to himself, “Where do we go? Where do we go now?” Spencer suggested that he sing that, and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was born. In an interview with Hit Parader magazine in 1988, bassist Duff McKagan noted:

“The thing about ‘Sweet Child,’ it was written in five minutes. It was one of those songs, only three chords. You know that guitar lick Slash does at the beginning? It was kinda like a joke because we thought, ‘What is this song? It’s gonna be nothin’, it’ll be filler on the record.’ And except that vocal-wise, it’s very sweet and sincere, Slash was fuckin’ around when he first wrote that lick.”

The song has four guitar solos — one after each of the three times the chorus is sung: The first is a short, simple one, the second is one of regular length, and the third a long, elaborate one, which is the most notable. The fourth is after the song’s breakdown.

The “Sweet Child o’ Mine” video depicts the band rehearsing in an abandoned theater, surrounded by crew members. Several of the band members’ girlfriends were shown in the clip. The video was extremely successful on MTV, and helped launch the song to success on mainstream radio.

In an effort to make “Sweet Child o’ Mine” more marketable to MTV and radio stations, the song was cut from 5:56 minutes to 4:20, with much of Slash‘s guitar solo removed. This move drew the ire of the band members, including Axl Rose, who commented on it in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone: “I hate the edit of ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine.’ Radio stations said, “Well, your vocals aren’t cut.” “My favorite part of the song is Slash‘s slow solo; it’s the heaviest part for me. There’s no reason for it to be missing except to create more space for commercials, so the radio-station owners can get more advertising dollars. When you get the chopped version of ‘Paradise City’ or half of ‘Sweet Child’ and ‘Patience’ cut, you’re getting screwed.”

On an interview on Eddie Trunk’s New York radio show in May 2006, Axl Rose stated that his original concept for the video focused on the theme of drug trafficking. According to Rose, the video was to depict an Asian woman carrying a baby into a foreign land, only to discover at the end that the child was dead and filled with heroin. This concept was rejected by Geffen Records.

There is also an alternative video for “Sweet Child o’ Mine” with different captures and the footage entirely in black and white.

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” placed #37 on Guitar World’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos.” It also came in at number three on Blender’s 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born, and at number 196 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at number 6 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. The introduction’s famous riff was also voted number-one riff of all-time by the readers of Total Guitar magazine. It was also in Rolling Stones 40 Greatest Songs that Changed the World. It places number 7 in VH1′s “100 Best Songs of the 80s”, and placed #210 on the RIAA Songs of the Century list. On a recent BBC poll, the song was voted to have the “greatest guitar riff ever”.

The song has been covered by many artists including most recently Texas, Most Precious Blood, Akasha featuring Neneh Cherry, DJ Dougall, Schmoof, Flat Pack, Luna, Chester the Pup, Dead Tongues, DJ Dex & A, and The Aluminium Group. The song was also performed in many live concerts by country singer Carrie Underwood, opening with her alone on acoustic guitar and using her voice to reference Slash‘s intro guitar tones, before launching into a full band rock-out. Bonnie Tyler performed it on the for Charity DVD Rock for Asia in 2005.

It was partially performed by Linkin Park at Rock am Ring on March 6, 2001, and was also performed by them on September 5, 2004. The Manic Street Preachers also frequently play it as an introduction to their song “Motown Junk” in live concerts. The main riff is also replayed by Red Hot Chili Peppers at the end of the song “Punk Rock Classic”. The intro is also sampled in a song on the Fort Minor mixtape, titled “S.C.O.M.”(Sweet Child o’ Mine). Avenged Sevenfold frequently use the opening riff as a segue between songs during live concerts.

In 1999, the song was covered by Sheryl Crow and re-recorded by the then-new Guns N’ Roses members for the film Big Daddy. Crow‘s version earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The new Guns N’ Roses version which morphed into a live version half way through was not featured on the original soundtrack album of the movie, but can be heard during the movie’s ending credits. The song was also featured in the 1990 film State of Grace, in a bar during a brawl.

The first time this song appeared in a movie was in 1988, it played as the credits were rolling for the movie Bad Dreams.

It was performed on December 2, 2006 at the Nokia Theatre Times Square in New York City by jam band Umphrey’s McGee.

Black Eyed Peas usually performs the first verses of this song as well during their live shows. Turbonegro uses the intro as Introlick for the Song Bad Mongo played live.

A cover of the song is featured as a special encore in the music video game Guitar Hero II.

Part of the song is featured at the beginning of the episode “Witch Hunt” of the hit CBS show NCIS. Part of the song is used in scenes of a little girl. The song ends when a sound of a gunshot is heard indicating that the girl in the scenes is the deceased daughter of the show’s main character Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

In 2005, dance group Flat Pack released a version of the song. It was a minor club hit in Australia.

Steve Morse from Deep Purple played the intro and interlude in Deep Purple‘s recent UK tour 2007.

Juelz Santana samples the intro riff in his song “From Bottom to Top”

British synthpop due Schmoof covered this song in 2005.

In 2007 indie pop band Taken By Trees covered the song.

Also in 2007, Finnish rock band Second Coming has also made a cover of Sweet Child o’ Mine and song usually ends their show.

The song was covered by a Hindustani Music set for Channel V featuring sitars and a tabla.

In 2008 “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was covered in an acoustic version by Taken By Trees, the solo project of Victoria Bergsman, former lead singer for The Concretes.

* The UK oompah band Oompah Brass recorded an 3/4 oompah version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on their album Oompocalypse Now (2008). – adapted from Wikipedia

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