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Music

The only Guns N' Roses song to credit all five members

@SamWKemp

For their legions of fans, Guns N’ Roses represent the very pinnacle of American hard rock. Formed in Los Angeles in 1985 by frontman Axl Rose and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, the group injected a needleful of twang into late ’80s heavy metal music. With the aid of enigmatic lead guitarist Slash, pretty boy bassist Duff McKagan, and riotous drummer Steven Adler, they defined the sound of ’80s guitar music and are still regarded as one of the most emblematic classic rock groups of all time.

Guns N’ Roses were able to establish themselves in this way because they had something many of their hair metal contemporaries lacked: a firm grasp on songcraft. While it seems like a strange comparison now, back in the ’80s, Guns N Roses were frequently compared to The Rolling Stones. Why? Well, for two reasons; the first being that no other group attracted quite the same fan worship as GNR did, and the second being that they had a remarkable ability to churn out hit after hit. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, ‘Welcome To The Jungle, ‘You Could Be Mine, few groups had such a cartographical knowledge of anthemic rock.

But it turns out that only one of those hit tunes was a group effort: the 1987 Appetite For Destruction track ‘Paradise City. This was the first track the original Guns N’ Roses lineup wrote as a team and credited to all five members. According to McKagan, the track was born out of some lyrics the bassist had bought with him to one of the band’s first rehearsals.

Much like its album mate ‘Welcome to The Jungle, the song explores the band’s relationship with the big city. Many argue that the big city in question is Los Angeles, where the band were living at the time. In ‘Paradise City’, LA is depicted as a polluted den of inequity, where “everyone’s doin’ time” and living on the bread line. “Strapped in the chair of the city’s gas chamber,” Rose sings. “Why I’m here I can’t quite remember / The surgeon general says it’s hazardous to breathe / I’d have another cigarette but I can’t see / Tell me who you’re gonna believe.” In contrast, the dreamlike Paradise City is an Edenic pasture inspired by Rose’s memories of his upbringing in the Midwest. In this sense, ‘Paradise City’ can be interpreted not only as a song about escaping the city but of escaping adulthood and returning to the blissful ignorance of youth.

Slash, on the other hand, seems to have been more than happy to embrace the foibles of adulthood. Apparently, he wanted the song’s chorus to go: “Take me down to the Paradise City where the girls are fat and they got big t–ties.” True to form, the guitarist felt the “Grass is green” line to be a little, oh, I don’t know, sentimental. Thankfully, the rest of the band overruled him on the basis that the line would make the song impossible to play on the radio. What they perhaps didn’t realise is that the non-specific nature of that line would also allow listeners to imagine their own home town as a sort of Paradise City, a feature that has undoubtedly aided the tracks enduring appeal.