Guns N’ Roses formed in Los Angeles in 1985, and the history of rock music changed forever. Their debut album produced some of classic rock’s biggest hits, and they would follow it up with more of the same legendary rock ballads. Icons of the glam rock era, they have gone through their fair share of controversy in spite of their success but remain one of the most important bands of the 90s. In this article, we’ll go over the 25 best Guns N’ Roses songs of all time.
1. November Rain
November Rain served as the third single from Guns N’ Roses’ third studio album Use Your Illusion in 1992. While it’s incredibly long for a radio single, it remains one of the best power ballads of all time. The song rose to number three on the US Billboard Hot 100, and at the time of its release, it was the longest track to ever enter the top 10. It went on to reach the top 10 in several other countries as well, becoming a fan favorite that was voted their best song of all time in a Rolling Stone reader’s poll and one of their signature tracks.
Axl Rose spent years working on the song, with some accounts saying he started as early as 1983. But it’s Slash who remains the star of this track. The guitar solo at the end stands as one of the greatest of all time and November Rain itself is one of the most epic songs in rock history.
2. Sweet Child O’ Mine
While November Rain might occupy a fonder place in fan’s minds than Sweet Child O’ Mine, it’s this song that eventually became Guns N’ Roses’ most successful single. Coming from their debut studio album Appetite For Destruction in 1987, it is their only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching that spot in August 1988.
Slash has produced some iconic guitar riffs during his career, but the one in this song might be the most iconic thing he was ever able to produce. While famous, the “Where do we go?” lines in the track weren’t meant to be there. They were just a substitute that was created because Axl Rose didn’t know what the lines were supposed to be at the time.
3. Welcome To The Jungle
Welcome To The Jungle was initially released as the second single from Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction album. At several points, it’s been named the greatest hard rock song of all time despite being just cheesy enough—especially with the music video—to make other rock artists of the day grimace. The track mainly discusses the madness of life in the big city, but it’s summed up so well that this would become an all-time classic.
Over the years, it has been inextricably linked to sporting events. No matter where you go in the US or what sport you’re watching, you’re probably going to hear this track over the loudspeakers. So, while it isn’t their best work, even the younger crowds know it. In the end, it peaked at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100.
4. Paradise City
Paradise City was a song that stood out on Appetite For Destruction, mainly for being the only track on the album to use a synthesizer. Written in their early days, it had a massive impact on the rock landscape, shifting the way people viewed metal and hard rock and shaping it into something new.
The song would eventually be released as a single in January 1989, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming their third track to break into the top 10 of that chart. While some publications have ranked it as one of their worst works, there’s no denying the success and epicness that came along with the song.
Estranged runs for over nine minutes in length and is Guns N’ Roses’ second longest song. Coming from their Use Your Illusion II album in 1991, it was a move towards the experimental. There’s no set chorus, a lot of verses, and several solos with either the guitar or the piano. The nearly 10-minute epic was written during a time when just about everyone in the band was in a bad place, and the heartbreak resonating through the chords of the track is palpable.
The music video was meant to wrap up a trilogy of songs that included Don’t Cry and November Rain, but Axl Rose had separated from the girlfriend he filmed the other two with. While he ended up swimming with dolphins for it, it remains the least popular video—but one of the most popular tracks—of the three classics.
Patience derived all of its emotion from the tumultuous relationship between Axl Rose and Erin Everly, though this was never actually confirmed in interviews. It served as one of the singles to come from the G N’ R Lies album, released in 1989 to great reviews. Even today, this song is considered a hair metal classic ballad.
The track served to show their tender side, as it was played on three acoustic guitars, and featured whistling and even whispered singing sections. A far cry from the bad boy image they had built with Appetite For Destruction, it still brought them nothing but newfound fans. The flavor of the song would even shape their work going forward, evidenced by the Use Your Illusion albums.
7. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
I think this song would be a bit higher on the list of Guns N’ Roses’ best works if it hadn’t been a cover. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door was one of Bob Dylan’s most beloved tracks, but despite being covered by numerous artists, it sort of died after the 70s.
Guns N’ Roses breathed new life into the song, reworking it on several occasions for live performances and their 1991 Use Your Illusions II album. It served as the second single from that album, and despite not charting on the US Hot 100, the track became one of their most iconic entries and a classic of the genre.
8. Live and Let Die
Live And Let Die is another prime example of Guns N’ Roses covering a song and taking it to another level. It was originally the title track of the 1973 James Bond film and was performed by rock band Wings. It became a huge hit for Wings, rising to the top of the charts, but it’s Guns N’ Roses’ electrified version we have to talk about here. Their cover of the song appeared on their 1991 Use Your Illusion I album and would earn the band a Grammy Nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.
9. Mr. Brownstone
Mr. Brownstone is one of the best songs to come from Guns N’ Roses without having Axl Rose as a principal writer. Slash and Izzy Stradlin put the track together when they were hanging around and complaining about their heroin addiction, with “Brownstone” being a slang term for the drug.
It was their first single release outside of the US and appeared as the B-side to Welcome To The Jungle inside the US. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll might be the famous line, and they were reveling in it during this time. The track itself sort of laughs at the addiction rather than condemns it, but it wound up being a huge fan favorite.
10. Don’t Cry
Don’t Cry is another one of Guns N’ Roses’s softer entries, and it even came in two versions. Though the music stays the same, a different lyrical version appeared on both of the Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II albums. It was an awesome power ballad that reached number eight on the UK Singles Chart and number 10 on the US Hot 100.
11. Rocket Queen
Rocket Queen always ranks pretty high when you take a poll of Guns N’ Roses fans for their greatest songs of all time. One of the many classics to come from Appetite For Destruction, the track itself was meant to be a positive end to an album full of the sleazier parts of Los Angeles.
It wasn’t released as a single, and frankly, it couldn’t have been. One of the most notable things about the track is the moaning woman you can hear throughout, making it a bit too risque for radio in the 80s and 90s. The moans were actually a recording of Adriana Smith as she had sex with Axl Rose.
12. You Could Be Mine
You Could Be Mine was one of the hardest rocking songs on Use Your Illusion II, a callback to their Appetite For Destruction album and the first single released from the double album. It was initially released as a track on the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day and made it to number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100. They even used the scene from the film in which it appeared for part of the song’s official music video.
13. Civil War
Protest songs weren’t just a thing for rock musicians in the 60s and 70s, Guns N’ Roses did it just as well. Civil War serves as their best protest track, discussing the way the rich feed off of wars that kill the lower classes and asking the philosophical question “What’s so civil about war anyway?” It originally appeared on their 1990 compilation Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal but would be included on Use Your Illusion II. It’s a slow, epic song released just after America finished the first Gulf War.
14. My Michelle
It would be hard to miss that a lot of their greatest works came from Appetite For Destruction, and My Michelle is no different. Interestingly, Slash actually used a different setup for this song, swapping from a Gibson Les Paul to a 60s Gibson SG. With a largely underrated riff from him, the band describes the life of a girl they knew back in high school and throws away the thrashy traits apparent in the rest of the album without getting rid of their tempo.
Nightrain was as Guns N’ Roses an homage as you can get. It refers to a brand of cheap fortified wine in California that they often enjoyed in their early days thanks to its low price and high alcohol content. It served as the third song on Appetite For Destruction and was released as the fifth and final single of the album. It just broke onto the Hot 100 by peaking at number 93, but has made it onto several lists of best drinking tracks, including Guitar World’s list of the Top 10 Drinking Songs.
16. Since I Don’t Have You
Since I Don’t Have You was originally a doo-wop song that was a 1958 hit single for the Skyliners. Country singer Ronnie Milsap would also turn it into a hit in 1991, but it was Guns N’ Roses who brought it back to the fore in 1994. Their version would break into the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
17. Chinese Democracy
Chinese Democracy served as the title track for Guns N’ Roses’s sixth studio album and was released as a radio single in 2008. It was the first single released by them that was original material since 1994’s Estranged. While not the major hit of their heyday, it ended up breaking the top five of the US Mainstream Rock chart.
18. Used to Love Her
Many people believe Used To Love Her was written about one of Axl Rose’s girlfriends, but it was actually written as a joke thanks to Stradlin hearing a guy complain on the radio about a girl treating him badly. It served as the B-side single for Paradise City and appeared first on the 1988 album G N’ R Lies. The lyrics are just vague enough that people come up with all sorts of meanings for the song, from putting down a dog to being about Rose’s ex.
19. Sympathy For the Devil
Sympathy For The Devil is a song I still hear on modern rock stations today. It was one of Rolling Stones’ most sinister tracks, seeing the narrator of the song literally confronted by the Devil and serving as the lead track of their 1968 album Beggars Banquet. Guns N’ Roses would cover the song in 1994 for the movie Interview With A Vampire and is one of the few releases to come from them since The Spaghetti Incident? that features the classic lineup of the band.
20. It’s So Easy
Guns N’ Roses were well known for their sexual conquests and their rock and roll lifestyles, something they actually addressed pretty often. It’s So Easy was a literal reference to how easy it was for the members to find women to hook up with after shows, evidenced by Steven Adler’s autobiography. The sign served as the first single to come from Appetite For Destruction, shifting from an initial surf rock sound to one of their absolute classics.
21. Right Next Door to Hell
Right Next Door To Hell was the first track on the 1991 Use Your Illusion album. The track itself has been stated to have been about Axl Rose’s then-neighbor Bagriella Kantor, a woman who accused him of assaulting her with a wine bottle and a piece of chicken. The call-and-answer chorus is one of their best, and the song itself seems to be them clinging to their roots on an album that ran the gamut of styles.
Better is another one of the newest Guns N’ Roses songs to make the list, coming from their Chinese Democracy album. It was sent out as the second radio promo from the album but was never released as a commercial single. It was something new for them, mixing industrial rock and electronic sounds to make something that might be more in line with Nine Inch Nails’ style than Guns N’ Roses’s, but Axl Rose nailed this one, and it remains a worthy entry to their—extremely slowing—growing catalog of music.
23. Double Talkin’ Jive
Guns N’ Roses isn’t really known for making dance music, but if you took a dance song and made it one of theirs you’d be left with Double Talkin’ Jive. Izzy Stradlin took over the lead vocals for this hard rock stomper, but it would be remiss of us to not point out that all of the awesome guitar riffs you’d expect from them are still in there.
Chinese Democracy took so long to come out that no matter how good it was, someone wasn’t going to be happy. Madagascar is one of the few songs on the album whose quality isn’t debated. The six-minute masterpiece of orchestral metal does everything you could ask for in a modern Guns N’ Roses track, incorporating all of the elements that inspired them throughout their careers without losing the edge that made them the icons we know them as today.
Yesterdays was a reflective track to come from the Use Your Illusion era of the band. More of a vintage clues-rock song than a banger hard rock track or something experimental, it was a straightforward and easy-to-digest song. Eventually, it would make its way to number 72 on the Hot 100, but today, it’s one of their most underrated ballads.
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