The song Axl Rose used to copy Lynyrd Skynyrd

Axl Rose

Rock and roll has always been a genre that has been influenced by those who came before it. Artists often regard The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as the pinnacle of the genre. Artists who take the lessons of the British invasion and slightly twist them to suit their own needs write some of the best rock songs of all time. Guns N’ Roses aimed to be a no-frills hard rock band. But one of their most successful songs was a cover of Southern rock.

Before the group even got together. It was clear that they weren’t going to be the same band that played hair metal anthems alongside their peers. Instead of succumbing to MTV’s demands, Axl Rose and Slash became the band’s defining figures. They played songs more in line with The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin than Poison and Def Leppard.

Their songs were unavoidable on MTV after Appetite for Destruction went viral and none of them were easy listening. Compared to their massive hooks, ‘Welcome to the Jungle‘ and ‘Paradise City‘ served as a diary of what the real Los Angeles looked like. It leaves light on those groups struggling to eat daily and barely surviving.

However, true artists’ music often reveals a sensitive side. Just as every hair metal band had their power ballad, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ would become the group’s go-to anthem. It was based on a riff written by Slash as a joke to mimic the sounds of a circus melody.

When Axl Rose heard it, he began to pour his heart out to his girlfriend at the time, Erin Everly. By the time everyone arrived to finish the track, their indecision about where to go next had resulted in the ‘Where do we go now?’ breakdown section. It restored the edge to their tame love song.

Rose claimed that when creating the melody, he used the same model he had heard in Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. Ronnie Van Zant turned the simplicity of rock and roll into musical magic with his songs. It created odes to his roots on ‘Sweet Home Alabama‘ and massive hymns of heartache on ‘Tuesdays Gone‘.

By the time Rose began writing, Skynyrd’s brand of melodic writing had infiltrated his usual style. He said,I’m from Indiana, where Lynyrd Skynyrd are considered God to the point that you ended up saying,I hate this f*cking band!‘”. And yet, for ‘Sweet Child,’ I went out and got some old Skynyrd tapes to ensure we’d got that heartfelt feeling.”

Whereas Van Zant’s track had a homey feel, Rose’s melody is entirely his own. It resulted in the type of earnest love song that can only come from someone who believes they have found their soulmate. Guns N’ Roses may not have been the type to write anything earnest or pleasant. But occasionally dipping into the pool of Southern rock can get you in tune with matters of the heart.

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