The best Guns N' Roses songs remind you of how monumental a change the band made to the rock landscape when they first came out. The hard-rock scene in 1987 was polluted with flashy hair-metal bands and pop-leaning pretty boys with guitars. GNR were neither. They were fierce, they were scary, they celebrated filth and they screwed your mama. We focus on this peak era and its lasting impact with our list of the Top 10 Guns N' Roses Songs:
'It's So Easy'From: 'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)
"It's So Easy" actually preceded Appetite for Destruction by a month in the U.K. as the band's debut single. It was later overshadowed by the album's other hit songs, but it remains a standout moment on Appetite, a punk-style rocker with a tour de force vocal performance by Rose, who covers the entire spectrum here.
'Patience'From: 'Lies' (1988)
After Appetite for Destruction became a monster hit, the band's record company began itching for a follow-up. No way a new album was coming any time soon from the notoriously slow moving band, so the suits cobbled together an LP made up of GNR's self-released 1986 EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide plus four new tracks, including the acoustic power ballad "Patience," which hit the Top 5. A simple tonic to the usual bluster.
'You Could Be Mine'From: 'Use Your Illusion II' (1991)
Like a few of the band's other tracks (including one on our list of the Top 10 Guns N' Roses Songs), "You Could Be Mine" first appeared on something other than a GNR album. The song was originally released as the theme to the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day, preceding the two Use Your Illusion albums by three months. It eventually ended up on the Use Your Illusion II LP.
'Don't Cry'From: 'Use Your Illusion I' (1991)
Guns N' Roses liked "Don't Cry" so much, they released a different version on both of the Use Your Illusion albums. Or maybe they couldn't figure out how to structure the verses. Either way, the song (the hit single comes from the first Illusion) reached the Top 10 – their third power ballad to climb the charts.
'Civil War'From: 'Use Your Illusion II' (1991)
The Use Your Illusion projects were such a long, labored affair, tracks started leaking out long before the albums were ready (see No. 8 on our list of the Top 10 Guns N' Roses Songs). "Civil War" was the first, showing up on the 1990 benefit compilation Nobody's Child. It's a protest song, and a rather simple one at that. But it rocks. Hard.
'Mr. Brownstone'From: 'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)
One of Guns N' Roses' toughest moments draws inspiration from a couple of places. First, there's Slash's heroin addiction, which drives this song's not-so-thinly veiled lyrics. Then there's that Bo Diddley rhythm, a shuffling beat that erupts into a full-force torrent of guitars and howls by the end.
'Paradise City'From: 'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)
By the time "Paradise City" was pulled as their debut's fourth single, Guns N' Roses were the biggest hard-rock band in the world. The song was made for stadium singalongs, cutting a razor-sharp path down the middle of the field and heading straight to the bleachers. Slash pulls off one of his sleekest solos, too.
'November Rain'From: 'Use Your Illusion I' (1991)
Guns N' Roses were chin-deep in their invincibility when "November Rain" was issued as a single in 1992. How else to explain the decision to release a nine-minute power ballad to radio? Maybe they were invincible at that point – the track reached No. 3, the second-highest single of their career (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Guns N' Roses Songs for the highest-charting). Plaintive piano notes + dramatic orchestral sweep = total awesomeness.
'Sweet Child o' Mine'From: 'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)
Slash's opening guitar riff in "Sweet Child o' Mine" ranks as one of the greatest of its era. Rose's vocal acrobatics are pretty impressive too. But it's the way "Sweet Child o' Mine" (the band's only No. 1) drifts from power ballad to gutsy rocker in the span of five-plus minutes that makes it one of the defining records of the '80s.
'Welcome to the Jungle'From: 'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)
"Welcome to the Jungle" is more than just Guns N' Roses' breakthrough song and the opening track to one of the most important albums of its day; it's an invitation to join in on the band's snorting, screwing and messing around over the next few years. Rock music hadn't sounded this brutal in years. It took a group of Sunset Boulevard punks to inject some life into a dying scene. Once the original group got started, only their own internal dysfunctions could destroy them. And they eventually did. But what a glorious run it was. It all starts here.