Civil War (song)

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"Civil War"
Guns n roses-civil war s.jpg
Single by Guns N' Roses
from the album Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal and Use Your Illusion II
A-side"Civil War" (LP Version)
B-side"Exclusive Interview with Slash" (March 1993)
FormatCD single, cassette single
RecordedJune 1990
GenreHard rock, heavy metal
Songwriter(s)Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan
Producer(s)Mike Clink, Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses singles chronology
"Civil War"
"Ain't It Fun"

"Civil War" is a song by the American rock band Guns N' Roses which originally appeared on the 1990 compilation Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal, and later on the 1991 album Use Your Illusion II. It is a protest song on war, referring to all war as "civil war" and stating that war only "feeds the rich while it buries the poor". In the song, lead singer Axl Rose asks, "What's so civil about war, anyway?"

The song was originally released in 1990, when it peaked at number four on the US Album Rock Tracks chart (now the Mainstream Rock chart). It was then released worldwide in 1993, reaching number one in Poland, number two in Spain, and also charting in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand. Several regions instead saw the release of The "Civil War" EP, including Ireland and the United Kingdom. The EP reached number 11 on the UK Singles Chart and number 15 on the Irish Singles Chart.


"Civil War" was the brainchild of the Guns N' Roses artists Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan. Slash stated that the song was an instrumental he had written right before the band left for the Japanese leg of its Appetite for Destruction world tour. Axl wrote lyrics and it was worked into a proper song at a sound check in Melbourne, Australia.[1] On September 27, 1993, Duff McKagan explained where the song came from in an interview on Rockline:

Basically it was a riff that we would do at sound-checks. Axl came up with a couple of lines at the beginning. And... I went in a peace march, when I was a little kid, with my mom. I was like four years old. For Martin Luther King. And that's when: "Did you wear the black arm band when they shot the man who said: 'Peace could last forever'?" It's just true-life experiences, really.[2]


"Civil War" reached number four on the Mainstream Rock chart in Billboard magazine.

Live version[edit]

The song was first played at Farm Aid 1990, the first and last time the song was played with original drummer Steven Adler. The song was played many times from 1991 through 1993, though after 1993 the song was not performed again until December 4, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. As of 2017, the song is played at almost every show.

Track listings[edit]

UK CD (The "Civil War" EP)
1."Civil War" (LP Version) 
2."Garden of Eden" (LP Version) 
3."Dead Horse" (LP Version) 
4."Exclusive Interview with Slash" (March 1993) 
Germany CD
1."Civil War" (LP Version) 
2."Garden of Eden" (LP Version) 
3."Exclusive Interview with Slash" (March 1993) 
Australia and Japan CD
1."Civil War" (LP Version) 
2."Don't Damn Me" (LP Version) 
3."Back off Bitch" (LP Version) 
4."Exclusive Interview with Slash" (March 1993) 



Chart (1990) Peak
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[3] 4
Chart (1993) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[4] 45
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[5] 39
Ireland (IRMA)[6]
The "Civil War" EP
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[7] 22
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 27
Norway (VG-lista)[9] 10
Poland (LP3)[10] 1
Spain (AFYVE)[11] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12]
The "Civil War" EP

Allusions, sampling, and covers[edit]

The song samples Strother Martin's speech in the 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke: "What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men."[13]

It quotes a speech by a Peruvian Shining Path guerrilla officer saying "We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer".[14]

The song also includes the American Civil War song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", whistled by Axl Rose in the intro and outro.

"Civil War" is the B-side track to the June 1991 release of Guns N' Roses "You Could Be Mine" single, the promotional single for Terminator 2: Judgment Day. However, "Civil War" was not featured in the film.

Of the 30 combined tracks on Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, "Civil War" (Track No. 1 on Use Your Illusion II) is the sole track to be recorded featuring original Guns N' Roses drummer, Steven Adler, who was fired shortly after the track's recording in 1990. Adler was replaced by then-drummer for The Cult, Matt Sorum, the drummer for all other 29 tracks on the two-disc set.

This song was covered by the band Hoobastank for a "stripped" or acoustic set.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bozza, Anthony, & Slash (2007). Slash. Harper Entertainment: New York. p. 239
  2. ^ McKagan, Duff (September 27, 1993). "Interview". Rockline (Interview). Interviewed by Bob Coburn. Los Angeles.
  3. ^ "Guns N' Roses Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  4. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Civil War". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  5. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Civil War" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Guns N' Roses". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  7. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Civil War" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  8. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Civil War". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  9. ^ " – Guns N' Roses – Civil War". VG-lista. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  10. ^ "Notowanie nr598" (in Polish). LP3. July 30, 1993. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  11. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  12. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  13. ^ Bond, Callan (February 8, 2006). "Questions and Answers". Cool Movie Trivia.
  14. ^ de Lama, George (July 9, 1989). "`More War Will Bring Peace,` Say Peru`s Maoists After 15,000 Die". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 4, 2014.

External links[edit]