Guns N’ Roses released their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, in 1987, and though critics were initially on the fence with the album, it went on to be the seventh highest-selling record of all time and the best-ever selling debut.
Appetite for Destruction spawned some of the best-known rock ‘n’ roll tunes ever conceived in ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ and ‘Paradise City’. Yet following the second, third and fourth singles released from the album, there lay one final single to be released — a deep cut by the name of ‘Nightrain’. We recently ranked ‘Nightrain’ as the fourth best song on Appetite for Destruction in our complete ranking of the track on the album, where we claimed it to be Guns N’ Roses at their funkiest and most effortless.
‘Nightrain’ was reportedly written spontaneously by Slash and Izzy Stradlin whilst they were sitting on the floor of the band’s practice room, messing around with riff ideas. Duff McKagan came in the following day and finished writing the track with Stradlin as Slash had been unwell. However, the song, though finished in terms of composition, had no lyrics. They found the limelight, however, when one night, the band were walking down Palm Avenue in Los Angeles – an inconspicuous street tucked away in between Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica.
The band had been chugging down a bottle of Night Train, a cheap but high volume wine that was popular amongst the homeless community. Out of nowhere, someone yelled: “I’m on the night train”. Suddenly the song had its chorus, with Axl Rose filling in the lines with ad-libbed “Bottoms up!” and “Fill my cup!”
The song is essentially about the band being too poor to drink anything but Night Train, though they were too crazy to care. The track has all the signs of a rock classic, with the signature tones of Slash coming through in full force, while a cowbell is employed in good measure amongst drums and percussion that blast the song through to its conclusion.
Slash also once claimed that ‘Nightrain’ is his favourite song to perform live. “That song has a rhythm to it in the verses that from the start always made me go crazy,” he said. “The first time we played it, even, I started jumping up and down – I couldn’t help it. When we had our huge stage later on, I’d run the length of it, jump off the amplifiers, and lose it just about every single time we played it. I’m not sure why, but no other song we’ve ever played live made me move like that.”
You can check out our full ranking of the tracks from Appetite for Destruction here.