The best Guns N’ Roses songs of all time
It's time to sling on the imaginary Les Paul for an air guitar session.
Have your headbands, oversized top hats, and leather jackets at the ready. Guns N’ Roses are all set to rock Glastonbury’s Saturday headliner slot. It promises to be a clear high point for a band that has experienced its fair share of peaks and troughs over the years - as this 'best Guns N’ Roses songs' guide proves.
Ever since forming in 1985, LA’s Guns N’ Roses have courted controversy and polarised opinion. The band’s hedonistic repackaging of classic hard rock riffs took the charts by storm throughout the late 80s, while a turn towards more histrionic, MTV-friendly fare gave them a stake in the turbulent music scene of the early ’90s.
Throughout it all there have been several break ups and reformations, with countless line-up changes along the way. The one constant through all of these shifts has been controversial vocalist Axl Rose, whose distinctive rasp has come to define the band’s sound even as some of his unsavoury comments and lyrics have drawn criticism.
Also noteworthy is Stoke on Trent’s very own Slash, the original – if not ever-present – top-hatted guitar wizard responsible for all of the band’s most famous riffs. And boy, there are a lot of them.
Here, then, are the ten best songs released by Guns N’ Roses. Make sure to vote for your favourite GNR track if you want to see it scoring higher.
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10 best Guns N’ Roses songs
1. Sweet Child O’ MineListen now at Amazon
The first experience of Sweet Child O' Mine for a lot of people back in 1987 would have been as the ninth track on Appetite For Destruction, the band’s debut album. After eight of the muckiest heavy rock tracks since the ’70s, to be suddenly confronted with one of the sweetest ballads of the era must have felt like a breath of bracingly fresh air.
It still feels that way today. The lyrics are impossibly soppy, of course, but you just try and resist that melodic guitar lead or Axl Rose’s lovestruck croon.
2. Welcome to the JungleListen now at Amazon
As the opening track on debut album Appetite For Destruction, Welcome to the Jungle pretty much serves as a mission statement from the band. It lets you know that, from here on in, there will be thunderous riffs, squalling solos, down and dirty lyrics, and vocals that sound like a hyena having its nuts squeezed in a vice.
Welcome to the Jungle is the perfect introduction to Guns N’ Roses, and thus by default it’s also one of the band’s best songs. Simple.
3. Paradise CityListen now at Amazon
If you’re talking about the most famous or iconic GNR song, there can surely be only one winner. It’s Paradise City, in all its infectious power-anthem glory.
From the glorious country-tinged jangle of its opening chords, though cavernous drums and an ear worm chorus, the song lollops along at a pace that could almost be termed sedate. Then, two minutes before the end, the band puts the pedal to the metal and takes off for the horizon. It’s thrilling stuff.
4. November RainListen now at Amazon
Viewed objectively, November Rain is an utterly preposterous song, one that almost falls apart under the weight of its many constituent parts. Those parts include a schmaltzy piano-and-synthesised-orchestral opening and three guitar solos, the latter of which forms a portentous instrumental coda.
Would we change any second of its protracted nine minute run time, though? No, reader, we would not – though the band itself tried, inserting a more tasteful orchestral score in a 2022 rerelease. For our money, though, it’s perfect pomp-rock just as it is.
5. Civil WarListen now at Amazon
Featuring the infamous spoken aside of “What’s so civil about war anyway?”, it’s fair to say that Civil War isn’t the most nuanced of protest songs. Still, given the – ahem – questionable nature of many of GNR’s lyrics, Civil War’s anti-conflict message represents an all-too-rare thoughtful moment from the band.
While it was written in 1988 and initially recorded in 1990, Civil War also fits in nicely with Use Your Illusion II’s sprawling rock-opera stylings. Indeed, it’s a clear album highlight.
6. You Could Be MineListen now at Amazon
As Terminator 2: Judgment Day hit cinemas in 1991, Edward Furlong became the coolest kid on Earth since Macaulay Culkin. By association, GNR’s You Could be Mine – which blared away whilst young John Connor hared off on his dirt bike – became the coolest song on Earth.
While it can be found on the bloated Use Your Illusion II, You Could Be Mine is a relatively lean slice of hard rock that seems to have been airlifted in from an earlier incarnation of the band.
7. PatienceListen now at Amazon
What’s this? Acoustic guitars? Whistling? As the first single released from G N’ R Lies, the band’s speedy EP follow-up to its uncompromisingly raucous debut album, Patience was not what anyone expected at the time.
As a way of demonstrating Guns N’ Roses were about more than just hard rock riffs and odes to partying, however, Patience was a resounding success. Besides scoring the band another momentum-sustaining hit, Patience heralded the move to a more sprawling, ambitious, and - yes – softer sound over the coming years.
8. Don’t CryListen now at Amazon
Don’t Cry existed from pretty early on in GNR’s life, but it wasn’t committed to tape until the Use Your Illusion sessions. Even so, the band obviously had a lot of affection for the track, choosing to record it twice in quick succession – one for Use Your Illusion I and the other for Use Your Illusion II.
There isn’t a huge difference between the two tracks sonically, if we’re being honest, but the alternative version features much more bitter and cynical lyrics, if that’s more your bag.
9. EstrangedListen now at Amazon
As notable for its lavish $4 million video (dolphins, oil tankers, Slash shredding on water like a rock-n-roll Jesus) as for its epic structure, Estranged pretty much typifies the whole ludicrous bombast of the band’s early-’90s double album era.
This nine-minute mid-tempo ballad effectively takes on the ‘November Rain’ role for Use Your Illusion II. Estranged throws in multiple parts, a couple of guitar solos, and quite possibly the kitchen sink in its bid to hit the rock melodrama jackpot. Suffice to say, it succeeds.
10. Rocket QueenListen now at Amazon
Rocket Queen earns its place on this list as much for the story of its, how shall we say, ‘backing vocals’ as for its status as a rock song. On those latter terms, it certainly ticks all the right boxes, and is perhaps most notable for its rumbling Duff McKagan bass line.
As for those amorous backing vocals, they were supplied by Axl Rose and friend of the band Adriana Smith, who went at it in a fully mic’d up vocal booth. And they say romance is dead.