Hear Guns N’ Roses’ First Performance of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’

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Audio of the first time Guns N’ Roses played “Sweet Child O’ Mine” onstage has surfaced.

The performance comes from Guns N’ Roses’ Aug. 23, 1986, set at the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood (via Louder Sound). Axl Rose introduces the song by saying, “All right, this one’s a new one. This is one of our newer ballads. This is something called ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine.’”

You can listen to it below.

The song began life as a riff Slash had been playing to warm up at a rehearsal. “Axl said, ‘Hold the fucking phones! That’s amazing!'” the guitarist recalled in 2005. The other band members figured out how to build on the riff over the next hour, even though Slash was dubious at the time. He thought even less of the song when Rose pulled out a poem he had written for his girlfriend, fashioning lyrics from it. Slash called it a “sappy ballad.” Producer Spencer Proffer, who was recording demos with the band, suggested the song’s closing section, with Rose using a question he asked about the track’s direction: “Where do we go?

Bassist Duff McKagan agreed with Slash. “It was like a joke,” he recalled. “We thought, ‘What is this song? It’s gonna be nothing.'” They considered it to be filler.

But Mike Clink, who was hired to produce GNR’s debut, Appetite for Destruction, disagreed. “That song made the hairs on my arms stand up,” he said. “It was magical.” When the album’s first two singles, “It’s So Easy” and “Welcome to the Jungle,” failed to chart, Geffen Records released the mid-tempo ballad in June 1988, 11 months after the album’s release. It slowly climbed Billboard‘s Hot 100, reaching No. 1 in early September and stayed there for two weeks. Guns N’ Roses were suddenly the biggest band around.

Still, it took a while for the song’s cowriter to realize why “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was so special. “I hated it for years,” Slash said. “But it would cause such a reaction – just playing the first stupid notes used to evoke this hysteria – so I’ve finally gotten to appreciate it.”

 

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