Sweet Child o' Mine

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"Sweet Child o' Mine"
1988 US vinyl issue
Single by Guns N' Roses
from the album Appetite for Destruction
B-side
Released
  • August 17, 1988 (1988-08-17) (US)
  • May 29, 1989 (1989-05-29) (UK)
Format
Recorded 1987
Genre
Length
  • 5:56 (album version)
  • 3:57 (single version)
Label Geffen
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Mike Clink
Guns N' Roses singles chronology
"Welcome to the Jungle"
(1987)
"Sweet Child o' Mine"
(1988)
"Paradise City"
(1988)
Appetite for Destruction track listing
"Think About You"
(8)
"Sweet Child o' Mine"
(9)
"You're Crazy"
(10)
Greatest Hits track listing
"Welcome to the Jungle"
(1)
"Sweet Child o' Mine"
(2)
"Patience"
(3)
Music video
Sweet Child o' Mine on YouTube
Music sample

"Sweet Child o' Mine" is a song by the American rock band Guns N' Roses, featured on their debut studio album, Appetite for Destruction (1987). Released in August 1988 as the album's third single, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[3] becoming the band's first and only number-one single in the U.S. Billboard ranked it as the No. 5 song for 1988.[4] It reached number six on the UK Singles Chart, when re-released in 1989.[5]

Background and composition[edit]

The thing about 'Sweet Child O' Mine,' 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 nothing, it'll be filler on the record.' And except that vocal-wise, it's very sweet and sincere, Slash was just fuckin' around when he first wrote that lick.

Duff McKagan, 1988[6]

Lead guitarist Slash has been quoted as having an initial disdain for the song due to its roots as simply a "string skipping" exercise and a joke at the time.[6] During a jam session at the band's house in the Sunset Strip,[7] drummer Steven Adler and Slash were warming up and Slash began to play a "circus" melody while making faces at Adler. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin asked Slash to play it again. Stradlin came up with some chords, Duff McKagan created a bassline and Adler planned a beat. In his autobiography, Slash said "within an hour my guitar exercise had become something else". Meanwhile, lead singer Axl Rose was listening to the musicians upstairs in his room and was inspired to write lyrics, which became complete by the following afternoon.[8] He based it on his girlfriend Erin Everly, and declared that Lynyrd Skynyrd served as an inspiration "to make sure that we'd got that heartfelt feeling."[7] On the next composing session in Burbank, the band added both a bridge and a guitar solo.[8]

While the band was recording demos with producer Spencer Proffer, he suggested adding a breakdown at the song's end. The musicians agreed, but were not sure what to do. Listening to the demo in a loop, Axl started saying to himself, "Where do we go? Where do we go now?" and Proffer suggested that he sing that.[8]

The song is composed in the key of D flat major and played in the key of D major tuned down a half step on guitars and bass (as all their songs are). The ending solo is in E flat minor harmonic key.

Music video[edit]

The "Sweet Child o' Mine" video depicts the band rehearsing in the Huntington Ballroom at Huntington Beach, surrounded by crew members. All of the band members' girlfriends at the time were shown in the clip. Rose was dating Erin Everly at the time, whose father is Don Everly of The Everly Brothers fame. Duff's girlfriend Mandy from the all-female rock band The Lame Flames was there, as was Steven Adler's girlfriend Cheryl and Slash's girlfriend Sally. Izzy Stradlin's dog was also featured. 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 to 4:12, with much of Slash's guitar solo removed. This move drew the ire of the band members, including 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."

A 7-inch vinyl format and cassette single were released. The album version of the song was included on the US single release, while the UK single was the "edit/remix" version. The 12" vinyl format also contained the longer LP version. The b-side to the single is a non-album, live version of "It's So Easy".

On an interview on Eddie Trunk's New York radio show in May 2006, 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 shots, all in black and white.[9]

Reception[edit]

"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 #198 on Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[10] In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at #6 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. On a 2004 Total Guitar magazine poll, the introduction's famous riff was voted number-one riff of all-time by the readers of the magazine.[11] It was also in Rolling Stone's 40 Greatest Songs that Changed the World. It places #7 in VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the '80s", and placed #210 on the RIAA Songs of the Century list.

The song is currently ranked as the 104th greatest song of all time, as well as the best song of 1987, by Acclaimed Music.[12] The song has sold 2,609,000 digital copies in the US as of March 2012.[13]

Australian Crawl controversy[edit]

In 2015, the web page of the Australian music TV channel MAX published an article by music writer Nathan Jolly that noted similarities between "Sweet Child o' Mine" and the song "Unpublished Critics" by the Australian band Australian Crawl, from 1981.[14] The article included both songs, inviting readers to compare the two. It also cited a reader's comment on an earlier article[15] that had originally drawn attention to the similarities between the songs. As of May 2015, this comment no longer appeared on the earlier article. The story went viral[16] quickly, encouraging several comments on both the MAX article and the suggestion that "Unpublished Critics" had influenced "Sweet Child o' Mine",[17][18][19][20] including one from Duff McKagan, bass player with Guns N' Roses when "Sweet Child o' Mine" was written and recorded.[21] McKagan found the similarities between the songs "stunning," but admitted that he had not previously heard "Unpublished Critics."[22]

Legacy[edit]

The opening riff can be heard briefly (at the end) of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Punk Rock Classic" from the Mother's Milk album.

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

The song "S.C.O.M." from Fort Minor's mixtape We Major samples from the introductory riff of the song.

In Keith Urban and Brad Paisley's "Start a Band", a tribute to the main riff can be heard as the singers describe famous rock songs.

The Steel Panther song "Death to All but Metal" includes the riff in its pre-chorus.

SR-71's song, "Axl Rose", contains part of the opening riff.

The song is an Easter egg in the video game Diablo III, Act I, which is slow danced to by a red headed female Artisan near Tristram Cathedral after successfully serenading her with this phrase, "Disco! Sometimes I like 'em natural."

In film[edit]

The first time this song appeared in a movie was in 1988. It played as the credits were rolling for the movie Bad Dreams.[23]

"Sweet Child o' Mine" was featured in the 2008 film The Wrestler. The song is played when Randy "The Ram" Robinson (played by Mickey Rourke) makes his entrance to the ring at the end of the film. Rourke, who is friends with Axl Rose, persuaded him to allow the song to be played in the film for a fraction of what would have been normally charged.[24] Rourke himself used the song as his entrance music during his boxing career in the early 1990s.

The song is in the Sean Penn, Gary Oldman film State of Grace.

Sheryl Crow's cover of this song is featured in the Adam Sandler film, Big Daddy.

The Taken by Trees cover of this song appears at the end of the movie Life as We Know It. It also is used in the trailer for the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left.

The introductory riff is heard in the 2010 film Gulliver's Travels, starring Jack Black.

In Step Brothers, Derek and his family sing this song during a car ride, causing them to swerve into oncoming traffic.

The song is featured in the 2015 movie The Big Short (film) when Mark Baum (Steve Carell) realizes that there is a housing bubble that may explode at any moment and will be the cause of the Financial crisis of 2007–08.

A cover of the song, sung by the cast, is featured in the 2016 film Captain Fantastic starring Viggo Mortensen.

Artist covers[edit]

In 2000, the song was covered by Sheryl Crow and re-recorded by the then-new Guns N' Roses members for the film Big Daddy and was later included in her third studio album The Globe Sessions. Crow's version earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The recording was produced by Rick Rubin and Crow. A music video for Crow's version was also released, directed by Stéphane Sednaoui.[25] A separate Guns N' Roses version which morphed into a live version halfway through was not featured on the original Big Daddy soundtrack album of the film, but can be heard during the film's ending credits. This Guns N' Roses version of the song was also featured in the 1990 film State of Grace, in a bar during a brawl.

During the Super Bowl XLV halftime show, which featured the Black Eyed Peas, Slash joined with vocalist Fergie to perform the song.[26]

Formats and track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Guns N' Roses except where noted. 

US 7" vinyl (27963-7)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Sweet Child o' Mine" (LP Version)   5:55
2. "It's So Easy" (Live)    
UK 7" vinyl (GEF 43)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Sweet Child o' Mine" (Remix/Edit)   3:57
2. "Out Ta Get Me" (LP Version)   4:20
Total length:
8:17
UK 10" vinyl (GEF 43TE), 12" vinyl (GEF 43T), 12" vinyl Metallic Sleeve(GEF 43TV)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Sweet Child o' Mine" (LP Version)   5:55
2. "Out Ta Get Me" (LP Version)   4:20
3. "Rocket Queen" (LP Version)    
UK re-release 7" vinyl (GEF 55)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Sweet Child o' Mine" (Remix/Edit)   3:57
2. "Out Ta Get Me" (LP Version)   4:20
UK re-release 12" vinyl (GEF 55T), 3" CD (GEF 55CD)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Sweet Child o' Mine" (LP Version)   5:55
2. "Move to the City" (LP Version) Guns N' Roses, Del James, Chris Weber  
3. "Whole Lotta Rosie" (Live AC/DC Cover) Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott  
4. "It's So Easy" (Live) Guns N' Roses, West Arkeen  

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "VH1 Top 100 Hard Rock Songs". January 1, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2016. 
  2. ^ Martin Popoff (August 15, 2014). The Big Book of Hair Metal: The Illustrated Oral History of Heavy Metal's Debauched Decade. Voyageur Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-7603-4546-7. 
  3. ^ "Artist Chart History - Guns N' Roses". Billboard. Retrieved December 18, 2008. 
  4. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1988
  5. ^ "Guns N' Roses". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on July 21, 2012. Retrieved December 18, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Meaning Behind Songs - N.I.
  7. ^ a b "Here Today... Gone To Hell! - Articles > The Story Behind The Song - Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine"". heretodaygonetohell.com. 
  8. ^ a b c Slash; Bozza, Anthony (2007). Slash. Harper Entertainment. pp. 154–5. ISBN 978-0-00-725775-1. 
  9. ^ "Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine". YouTube. December 24, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  10. ^ "News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 10, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Guns N' Roses top rock riff poll". BBC News. May 2, 2004. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Acclaimed Music Top 3000 songs". Acclaimed Music. August 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Week Ending March 18, 2012. Songs: Your '80s Party Mix-Tape". Yahoo! Music. March 21, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  14. ^ "How similar is 'Sweet Child O Mine' to a 1981 Australian Crawl song?". maxtv.com.au. 
  15. ^ "Slash is open to a Gunners reunion: 'Never say never'". maxtv.com.au. 
  16. ^ "Guns N Roses Sweet Child O Mine comes under plagiarism charges - ViralNewsChart via Consequence of Sound". ViralNewsChart. May 10, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Australian Crawl fans spark online debate after pointing out similarities with Guns N' Roses hit". NewsComAu. 
  18. ^ "Did Guns N' Roses' 'Sweet Child O' Mine' Copy Australian Crawl's 'Unpublished Critics'?". Billboard. 
  19. ^ "Guns N' Roses 'Sweet Child O' Mine' Plagiarism Claims Laughed Off by Australian Crawl Singer". Ultimate Classic Rock. 
  20. ^ Monica Tan. "James Reyne responds to Guns N' Roses Sweet Child O' Mine plagiarism rumours". The Guardian. 
  21. ^ "Duff McKagan: Guns N' Roses Didn't Plagiarize on 'Sweet Child O' Mine'". Radio.com. 
  22. ^ "Duff McKagan on the Aussie Crawl song: 'It is pretty stunning... but we didn't steal it from them'". maxtv.com.au. 
  23. ^ richard cavellero (April 8, 1988). "Bad Dreams (1988)". Internet Movie Database. 
  24. ^ "The Wrestler Director Darren Aronofsky on Mickey Rourke and the Benefits of Having a Small Music Budget". Vulture. 
  25. ^ "Sheryl Crow to Release 'Sweet Child O' Mine,' Her Special Version of the Rock Classic, in June". Thefreelibrary.com. June 1, 1999. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Black Eyed Peas, guests wail; Aguilera wobbles". USA Today. February 6, 2011. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  28. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  29. ^ "Ultratop.be – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  30. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 48, No. 22, September 17, 1988". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  31. ^ "The Irish Charts". irishcharts.ie.com. Retrieved February 28, 2010.  Note:User must seek the title of the song.
  32. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine". Top 40 Singles.
  33. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  34. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine" Canciones Top 50.
  35. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine". Singles Top 100.
  36. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine". Swiss Singles Chart.
  37. ^ "Sweet Child O' Mine". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  38. ^ a b "Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 28, 2010. 
  39. ^ "2011 Top 40 Rock & Metal Singles Archive - 2nd April 2011". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Italian single certifications – Guns 'N Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved December 30, 2014.  Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Guns 'N Roses in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  41. ^ "British single certifications – Guns 'N Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Sweet Child O' Mine in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  42. ^ "American certifications – Guns N' Roses – Sweet Child O' Mine". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  43. ^ Paul Grein (February 19, 2014). "Chart Watch: 'Dark Horse' Holds Off 'Happy'". Yahoo!Music. Yahoo. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Monkey" by George Michael
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
September 10–17, 1988
Succeeded by
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin
Preceded by
"The Only Exception" by Paramore
"The Catalyst" by Linkin Park
UK Rock Chart number-one single
May 16–23, 2010
October 3–24, 2010
Succeeded by
"Make Me Wanna Die" by The Pretty Reckless
"Feeling Good" by Muse