Did you know, Sweet Child O’ Mine from Guns N’ Roses was actually written in 5 minutes?
Here’s the story, Slash and Izzy were having a jam session and fooling around with their instruments, when Slash decided to make a Circus-Themed riff. They started joking around when Axl Rose heard the riff and came downstairs and the conversation went something like this…
Axl Rose: “Dude! That shit is awesome that’s going to be our next hit!”
Slash: “What? No man, I was just … I was joking around. That can’t be a song. It’s just nonsense.”
Axl Rose: “No no, it’s perfect! I wrote this poem about my girlfriend a little while ago. We can use it for the lyrics.”
It took the band a while to come up with the beat but they got it afterwards.
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 asked Slash to play it again, meanwhile Axl was upstairs in his room and heard the ‘jam session’ going on downstairs and couldn’t help but write lyrics. He based it on his girlfriend Erin Everly. With Steven Adler’s added drum part, Izzy Stradlin’s chords and Duff McKagan’s bassline the harmony became the core of the song.
Originally, there was a third verse to the song. However, this verse was later cut from recording as the band’s producer, Mike Clink, felt the song would carry on for too long. The final dramatic breakdown was not added until Clink 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?” Clink suggested that he sing that, and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was born.
Sweet Child O’ Mine was the ninth track on the Appetite For Destruction album and third single. Released on August 18, 1988, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the band’s first and only number-one single in the U.S.
In an interview with Hit Parader magazine in 1988, bassist Duff McKagan noted:
“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.”
The 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.
Sweet Child O’ Mine picked up the award for Best Heavy Metal Video at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.
Axl Rose was dating Erin Everly at the time and the lyrics of the song were written about her.
Duff’s girlfriend Mandy from the all-female rock band The Lame Flames was there, as was Steven Adler’s girlfriend Cheryl. Izzy Stradlin’s dog was also featured. The video was extremely successful on MTV, and helped launch the song to success on mainstream radio.
The song that was written in 5 minutes is currently ranked as the 90th greatest song of all time, as well as the best song of 1987, by Acclaimed Music.
As of March 2012, Sweet Child O’ Mine has sold 2,609,000 digital copies in the US.