Coming off with their debut studio album ‘Appetite for Destruction’ in 1988 and having the former two singles, “It’s So Easy” and “Welcome To The Jungle,” flopped, the third single “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was the life saviour for Guns N’ Roses. The kick-start the song produced for the band can be seen even today, after 3 decades later.
“Sweet Child Of Mine” fashioned as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” became the only chart topping single for the American Rock band Guns N’ Roses. The song released on August 10, 1988, reached #1 on Billboard Hot 100 chart in September and managed to hold the position for two more weeks. Within this momentum, “Welcome To The Jungle” was re-released and became a hit.
Guns N’ Roses’ most successful single is one of the least liked by group’s guitarist Slash; “I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t fond of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” And that gives you a good idea of how credible my opinion is… The actual riff itself I love, but the song itself… But at the same time, it’s a great song—I’m not knocking it—but at the same time, it just did not fit in with the rest of our, sort of, shtick.” Other time, he stated that the song “turned into a huge hit and now it makes me sick. I mean, I like it, but I hate what it represents.”
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” came together almost accidentally when the band was jamming in practice sessions at their house in Sunset Strip. Slash came up with the guitar riff and drummer Steven Adler came up with a beat. Vocalist Axl Rose was upstairs listening to this new music forming at their house and started working on the lyrics. Slash and Axl Rose were the major contributors to the lyrics of the song, which were based on Axl’s girlfriend at the time-Erin Everly.
Listen to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” Full Song by Guns N’ Roses
The music video shows the band rehearsing at the Huntington Ballroom in California. All of the band members’ girlfriends are shown in the video. It became a hit on MTV and won ‘Best Heavy Metal Video’ at MTV Video Music Awards in 1989.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
Axl Rose sings of the emotions that special girl-Erin Everly at the time, made him feel. Her smile takes him back to the days of childhood innocence. ‘A bright blue sky’ is a metaphor for trouble-less times and happy times. Axl may be thrown back to his childhood where things were much simpler and love was pure.
Axl is afraid that her haunting beauty could be bad for him. Axl Rose has suffered a childhood of abuse and molestation. So, his childhood memories, besides falling in love, may be of dark and gloomy nature. This would break him, again, and make him cry.
Calling his girlfriend “child” is a term of endearment. Any person is naturally most protective and loving towards their children. Axl Rose has similar feelings of love and companionship of his then girlfriend and future ex-wife, Erin Everly.
Axl goes on to sing about Erin’s blue eyes that reflected no troubles. Blue skies denote good weather and is a reference to a smooth life.
Looking back to his rough childhood, Axl Rose wants an escape from it. And Erin is his answer. Her smile and her hair reminds him of a safe place from the memories of abuse he suffered as a child. “Thunder and rain” are symbolic of troubled times, which was probably what Axl’s childhood was.
However, Axl Rose’ real-life with Erin Everly did not fare well. They divorced a month after their marriage. Erin left the singer suing him for physical and mental abuse. Although Axl sings “I hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain,” in “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” things took a drastic turn in his real life with Erin. According to Erin, she suffered frequent beatings from Ax Rose which left her bruised, bloodied and at times unconscious, and this was throughout the 4 years Erin knew Axl before they got officially married in 1990.
These lyrics “where do we go?” also spun out of accident for Guns N’ Roses. The song’s producer Spencer Proffer suggested a dramatic closing to the song and the band had no idea of such. Out of frustration, Axl started jabbering “Where do we go? Where do we go now?…” which Spencer suggested Axl to sing.
The real-life drama surrounding the song, the unambiguity of the destiny of the making of it, the massive talents of the likes of Axl Rose and Slash, and those serene lyrics makes “Sweet Child Of Mine” a timeless classic.
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Complete Lyrics to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses