"Sweet Child o' Mine" is a song by the hard rock band Guns N' Roses. It was released on their debut album Appetite for Destruction on July 21, 1987. "Sweet Child o' Mine" was Guns N' Roses' first and, to date, only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, spending two weeks at the top spot in September 1988. In May 2008, the song was voted as #210 on the RIAA's list of the best songs of the 20th century.
Former Guns N' Roses' lead guitarist, Slash, has been quoted as having a disdain for the song due to its roots as simply a 'string skipping' exercise and a joke at the time. In a VH1 special, it was stated that Slash played the riff in a jam session as a joke. Drummer Steven Adler and Slash were warming up and Slash began to play a "circus" melody while making faces at Steven. Izzy asked Slash to play it again, and added chords to play with it. Steven Adler also added a drum part, and thus the core of Sweet Child O Mine was born. The lyrics of the song were originally a poem/love letter to Axl's girlfriend at the time, Erin Everly. Originally, there was a third verse to the song. However, this verse was later cut from recording as the band's producer, Spencer Proffer, felt the song would carry on for too long. The final dramatic breakdown was not added until Proffer suggested the band add one. They agreed, but weren't sure what to do. Axl started saying to himself, "Where do we go? Where do we go now?" Spencer suggested that he sing that, and "Sweet Child o' Mine" was born. In an interview with Hit Parader magazine in 1988, bassist Duff McKagan noted:
The thing about 'Sweet Child,' it was written in five minutes. It was one of those songs, only three chords. You know that guitar lick Slash does at the beginning? It was kinda like a joke because we thought, 'What is this song? It's gonna be nothin', it'll be filler on the record.' And except that vocal-wise, it's very sweet and sincere, Slash was fuckin' around when he first wrote that lick.
Slash found it difficult to record his guitar part as the song begins with a long guitar intro before the rest of the band comes in, but the backing track had been recorded without a hi-hat or click track for reference. Slash had to play the intro and hope that when the drums came in he was in time with what had already been recorded; this took many tries before he managed to get it right.
In an effort to make "Sweet Child o' Mine" more marketable to MTV and radio stations, the song was cut from 5:56 minutes to 4:20, with much of Slash's guitar solo removed. This move drew the ire of the band members, including Axl Rose, who commented on it in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone: "I hate the edit of 'Sweet Child o' Mine.' Radio stations said, "Well, your vocals aren't cut." "My favorite part of the song is Slash's slow solo; it's the heaviest part for me. There's no reason for it to be missing except to create more space for commercials, so the radio-station owners can get more advertising dollars. When you get the chopped version of 'Paradise City' or half of 'Sweet Child' and 'Patience' cut, you're getting screwed.
On an interview on Eddie Trunk's New York radio show in May 2006, Axl Rose stated that his original concept for the video focused on the theme of drug trafficking. According to Rose, the video was to depict an Asian woman carrying a baby into a foreign land, only to discover at the end that the child was dead and filled with heroin. This concept was rejected by Geffen Records.
There is also an alternative video for "Sweet Child o' Mine" with different captures and the footage entirely in black and white.
The song has been covered by many artists including Texas, Most Precious Blood, Akasha featuring Neneh Cherry, DJ Dougall, Schmoof, Flat Pack, Luna, Chester the Pup, Dead Tongues, DJ Dex & A, and The Aluminium Group. The song was also performed in many live concerts by country singer Carrie Underwood, opening with her alone on acoustic guitar and using her voice to reference Slash's intro guitar tones, before launching into a full band rock-out. Bonnie Tyler performed it on the for Charity DVD Rock for Asia in 2005.
It was partially performed by Linkin Park at Rock am Ring on March 6, 2001, and was also performed by them on September 5, 2004, as well as on Projekt Revolution in 2008. The Manic Street Preachers also frequently play it as an introduction to their song "Motown Junk" in live concerts. The main riff is also replayed by Red Hot Chili Peppers at the end of the song "Punk Rock Classic". The intro is also sampled in a song on the Fort Minor mixtape, titled "S.C.O.M."(Sweet Child o' Mine). Avenged Sevenfold frequently use the opening riff as a segue between songs during live concerts.
In 1999, the song was covered by Sheryl Crow and re-recorded by the then-new Guns N' Roses members for the film Big Daddy. Crow's version earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The new Guns N' Roses version which morphed into a live version half way through was not featured on the original soundtrack album of the movie, but can be heard during the movie's ending credits. The song was also featured in the 1990 film State of Grace, in a bar during a brawl.
The first time this song appeared in a movie was in 1988, it played as the credits were rolling for the movie Bad Dreams.
A cover of the song is featured as a special encore in the music video game Guitar Hero II.
Part of the song is featured at the beginning of the episode "Witch Hunt" of the hit CBS show NCIS. Part of the song is used in scenes of a little girl. The song ends when a sound of a gunshot is heard indicating that the girl in the scenes is the deceased daughter of the show's main character Leroy Jethro Gibbs.