10 Best Guns N’ Roses Songs
Since exploding onto the scene in the 1980s, Guns N’ Roses have taken on many forms and featured an array of members in the ranks. While GN’R of 1987 look nothing like GN’R of 2012, save for W. Axl Rose as the frontman, the band’s legacy is undeniable. That’s why we poured over their material and their catalog to select the 10 Best Guns N’ Roses Songs. When they catapulted out of Los Angeles to gain fame on the national stage, they were considered the most dangerous band in the world, a reputation they carefully cultivated, curated and groomed. They did so thanks to an arsenal of riffs and solos that were distinct as fingerprints, all delivered courtesy of Slash and unsung hero Izzy Stradlin. Lest we forget the unbridled rage and willingness to push the envelope that was part and parcel of Rose’s style. It almost didn’t matter what the singer said; it was how he said it. The band’s songs are a mixed bag of fire-in-the-belly anthems that could start wars and contemplative ballads that never sacrificed bite despite having a sensitive side. So, take a trip to the jungle and check out our list of the 10 Best Guns N’ Roses Songs:
You know you want to knock one back right now at the mere mention of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Nightrain.’ Slash and Izzy get credit for the amazing riffs that drive this song, though Christopher Walken might be very happy with the amount of cowbell Steven Adler uses in the track. Slash said in his autobiography, “That song has a rhythm to it in the verses that from the start always made me go crazy … When we had our huge stage later on, I’d run the length of it, jump off the amplifiers, and lose it every single time we played it.”
What is it with Axl Rose and whistling? We’re not sure, but every time he puckers up, it rocks us to the core. On ‘Civil War,’ though, there’s so much more to the track that makes it one of our 10 Best Guns N’ Roses Songs. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of the ‘Cool Hand Luke’ speech at the beginning. Maybe it’s the darkly melodic and touching Slash guitar riffs. Or it could just be that Rose hit on something deeply moving discussing the battle for civil rights, military conflicts, and politically motivated assassinations. Whatever the draw, ‘Civil War’ simply rocks.
‘Used to Love Her’
‘Used to Love Her’ may not have been quite as controversial as ‘One in a Million,’ but this catchy acoustic track from the ‘Lies’ EP garnered a lot of negative attention for its lyric, ‘I used to love her / But I had to kill her / She b—-ed so much / She drove me nuts.” However, the song is reportedly about Axl Rose’s dog, not a woman. Controversial content aside, the tune offered up an unforgettable groove and is the perfect sing-along song when drowning your sorrows following a breakup.
“I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do it / So the little got more and more” said it all. The song addressed drug abuse and addiction, and was an ode, of sorts, to a drug dealer who supplied the magic potions. Slash and Izzy Stradlin pounded out bluesy, unusual riffs and Rose’s refusal to avoid a taboo lyrical topic once again produced a song that stuck in our skulls because of its melodic maelstrom and the band’s overall desire to be in your face. That’s what made them so dangerous.
Epic doesn’t even begin to describe Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Estranged.’ By 1991, the band had some pretty grandiose plans for their ‘Use Your Illusion’ discs and ‘Estranged’ definitely landed on the more experimental side of things. The track had no discernable chorus and featured several style shifts, yet it was pure genius. From Slash’s memorable guitar riffing to Matt Sorum’s taps-style drumming, ‘Estranged’ took Axl Rose’s melancholy musings and turned them into a triumph.
This fiery anthem certainly had us wanting to pack our bags and move to the place where “the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” Rose sang with a fury that’s nearly unmatched and Slash ripped through definitive riffs that are strategically placed in the beginning, middle and end of the song. Ultimately, GN’R created a track with the kind of escalating tension you just can’t fake. By the time it reaches the crescendo, you can barely keep up. It moves at such a quickened pace that it scrambles the brains inside your head. A flawlessly executed rock song.
‘November Rain’ is one of the most epic, expansive, lush, rich and complex power ballads ever penned by a rock band, so that’s why it’s one of the 10 Best Guns N’ Roses songs. Rose plays piano and lays his emotional cards face up on the table from the get-go, giving us almost 10 minutes of unrestricted access to his not-often-seen vulnerable side. The song is full of ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, and by the time we get to the “Don’t ya think that you need somebody” crescendo, we’re overjoyed, exhausted and lying in a heap from the intensity. That’s the power of good music. Essentially, it’s GN’R’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
‘Welcome to the Jungle’
You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re gonna DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!! ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ was GN’R’s take-no-prisoners opening salvo and was most rock fans first experience with the band. It came out of the gates kicking, screaming and demanding to be heard with its airhorn guitar opening, reminding all the fathers out there of everything they feared about rockers and their daughters. Musically, it meshes punk rock and metal, a Molotov cocktail of youth, skill, rage, hormones and the desire to come face-to-face with the unknown. It’ll bring to your sh-na-na-na-na-knees.
A true ballad in every sense of the word, ‘Patience’ is the most stripped down and uncomplicated we’ve ever seen or heard GN’R and Axl Rose be. The nerves are exposed from the very beginning, as the song opens with a lilting whistle. It sees Axl switching between a low, clean vocal, which carries him through the first two-thirds of the song, to the bewitching and haunting ending, where he admits ‘I’ve been walking the streets at night / Just trying to get it right’ and ‘I ain’t got time for the game / Cuz I need you.” It demonstrates the redemptive power of song and the catharsis that is possible via rock music.
‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
The swirling riff that opens the song is Slash’s most definitive GN’R moment. It was the song that made mothers and sisters like GN’R, as it showed the softer side of rock’s most dangerous band. But as stated previously, the band never blunted or dulled its edge. In fact, these more sensitive moments only served to prove just how dangerous and rock ‘n’ roll GN’R really were. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ is not only among 10 Best Guns N’ Roses songs, it’s one of the best rock songs ever put to tape.