Duff McKagan Reveals How Slash Tried To Sabotage A Guns n’ Roses Classic
Duff McKagan in Joey Diaz's podcast, The Church Of What's Happening Now - Joey Diaz / Youtube
Prepare to have your rock history rocked! In a recent bombshell revelation, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan dropped a surprising tidbit about the iconic ballad “Sweet Child o’ Mine”.
The Guns N’ Roses’ iconic ballad might have a surprising twist in its creation story as McKagan revealed on a Songcraft podcast episode that guitarist Slash wasn’t initially a fan of the song and even attempted to sabotage it.
McKagan shared the song’s origins, starting with a simple three-chord progression from rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin. While Axl Rose liked the basic idea, McKagan described the initial uncertainty: “OK, well that’s… What do you do with that?” Enter Slash, seemingly with a mischievous plan…
What subversive tactic did Slash employ to “get rid” of this potential hit? And how did his alleged sabotage ultimately lead to the creation of a global rock anthem? Thankfully, the guitar legend failed.
The song’s initial three-chord foundation wasn’t to Slash’s liking
As it turned out, the birth of the legendary GnR ballad “Sweet Child o’ Mine” wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Duff’s recent revelation paints a picture of creative friction within the band, particularly from guitarist Slash.
McKagan shared that Slash wasn’t a fan of the song’s core foundation – the simple three-chord progression crafted by Izzy.
The iconic lead guitarist even voiced his disapproval directly to McKagan, declaring, “We’ve got to get rid of this song somehow.”
This initial resistance from Slash adds a layer of intrigue to the story of “Sweet Child o’ Mine”. We’re left wondering: what exactly did Slash dislike about the song?
Slash’s “twisted, atonal” alteration worked
Instead of embracing the three-chord foundation, Slash took a surprising turn. McKagan revealed that the guitarist crafted a “twisted, just atonal thing” as the intro, seemingly intending to derail the entire song.
But fate, and perhaps a touch of Guns N’ Roses magic, had other plans. “And of course, that part to try to get rid of the song, totally worked,” McKagan remarked with a hint of amusement. “It was this amazing intro to the song, and suddenly we had this ballad.”
The unexpected beauty of the intro served as a catalyst, transforming the initial uncertainty into a powerful ballad. Looking back, McKagan saw this fortuitous turn as a reflection of the band’s dynamic at the time.
“It just goes to show that everything was clicking with that band at that point,” he explained. The discordant intro, intended as sabotage, became the cornerstone of a global rock anthem, a testament to the unique alchemy that fueled Guns N’ Roses during their peak.
Slash remembers things differently
Duff’s revelation portrays a rebellious Slash actively trying to “sabotage” the song with the now-loved intro. However, this clashes with Slash’s own past accounts, where he describes a more organic creation process of jamming with bandmates.
In a 2022 interview with Eddie Trunk, Slash detailed the intro’s birth as a spontaneous riff, later embellished by Izzy’s chords and Axl’s vocals. While acknowledging initial hesitation, he called it “just me messing around”, not a deliberate sabotage attempt.
However, Slash has admitted he wasn’t initially sold on the song itself. He described it as “a very sappy ballad” that didn’t resonate with him initially.
This clash of perspectives adds a captivating layer to the song’s legacy. Whether Slash deliberately derailed a now-iconic song or not, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” still sits on a throne that Guns N’ Roses weren’t able to replicate.
The inimitable legacy of a “circus” melody
The song, off their breakout debut studio album, Appetite for Destruction, quickly topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts on its release in 1987, becoming the GnR’s sole US number-one single.
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” has cemented its place in rock history, not just with fans, but with music experts too. The song’s legendary guitar solo was ranked 37th on Guitar World‘s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” list, solidifying its place among the greats.
That’s not all. Blender magazine hailed it as the third greatest song since the 80s, and Rolling Stone even included it in their prestigious “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, ranking it at #198 (and even higher at #88 in their 2021 update).
Beyond guitar heroics, the song itself has garnered widespread acclaim. The Recording Industry Association of America acknowledged its lasting legacy by placing it on their “Songs of the Century” list at #210.
With accolades spanning various publications and categories, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” stands as a testament to its enduring popularity and influence. It’s a rock anthem that continues to resonate with listeners across generations.