Who was 'Sweet Child O' Mine' written for? How Guns N' Roses hit sparked Axl Rose and Erin Everly's romance
With Slash recently teasing a comeback for Guns N' Roses, you might be feeling some nostalgia along with high anticipation. It's easy to get lost in all things Guns N' Roses, and for those who want to know more about the origins or meanings of 'Sweet Child O' Mine', we've got you covered.
A timeless classic
Upon hitting play on 'Sweet Child O' Mine' or listening to it on the radio for the first time as a fan, it was clear that Guns N' Roses had tapped into something special. There was an intoxicating sense of sentiment or (dare we say) love tethered to the sounds of hard rock that was easily felt. Surprisingly, such wasn't evident until shortly after its release, as it took some time to catch on in mainstream media. Even if you weren't around in the '80s to witness the surge of visionary rock 'n' roll and heard the song later, you could see that 'Sweet Child O' Mine' raised the bar and it still enters many playlists today.
Fresh off the band's debut studio album 'Appetite for Destruction' and released as its third single in 1988, 'Sweet Child O' Mine' quickly rose to success. Paired with other hits, 'Welcome to the Jungle', 'Paradise City', and more from the LP, the song proved that Guns N' Roses were explosive, breaking barriers, and becoming a formidable force in the industry.
"Sweet Child O' Mine" impacted the Billboard's Hot 100 on June 25, 1988, and later took the crown at No. 1 in September that year where it stayed for two weeks. Meanwhile, 'Appetite for Destruction' topped the Billboard 200 and became the best-selling debut album of all time, as well as the 11th best-selling album of all time in the United States. 'Sweet Child O' Mine' is the band's first and only No. 1 single.
The song's roots began with a riff - you know the one - and was deemed a joke at the time. In 2005, Slash told now-ceased Q Magazine that he "was fucking around with this stupid little riff." He then quoted frontman Axl Rose who responded "Hold the fucking phones! That's amazing!" As further layers were added in by the musicians, the song slowly took shape. "Within an hour, my guitar exercise had become something else," Slash expressed in his 2007 autobiography.
Slash had initially felt some disdain towards the song due to him feeling like it was a string skipping exercise and the grueling rehearsal process. "Writing and rehearsing it to make it a complete song was like pulling teeth," Slash told Q. "For me, at the time, it was a very sappy ballad." But he eventually warmed up to it. "I hated it for years," he said. "But it would cause such a reaction - just playing the first stupid notes used to evoke this hysteria - so I've finally gotten to appreciate it."
Slash also told Rolling Stone that the song is "a combination of influences. From Jeff Beck, Cream and Zeppelin to stuff you'd be surprised at: the solos in Manfred Mann's version of 'Blinded By The Light' and Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street.'"
Who was it written for?
Moving on to the song's lyrics, Axl Rose found inspiration to write them when he heard the musicians playing together from his room, according to Wikipedia. Albeit, what music they were playing is unclear. The lyrics were done within a day, which he completed by the following afternoon, although a third verse he wrote was edited out because the record label thought it made the song too long.
The lyrics were a poem based on his girlfriend at the time, Erin Everly. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she is the daughter of Don Everly of the '50s rock duo the Everly Brothers. Her mother is Venetia Stevenson, a British actress turned clothing designer, and her parents divorced in the '70s, primarily due to Don Everly's battle with drug addiction.
“I had written this poem, reached a dead end with it and put it on the shelf,” Axl stated, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. “Then Slash and Izzy got working together on songs and I came in, Izzy hit a rhythm, and all of a sudden this poem popped into my head.”
Axl has also shared that Lynyrd Skynyrd served as an inspiration "to make sure that we'd got that heartfelt feeling".
If you haven't heard the song before, the famous first verse goes, "She's got a smile that it seems to me. Reminds me of childhood memories. Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky. Now and then when I see her face. She takes me away to that special place. And if I stare too long, I'd probably break down and cry."
Axl married Erin Everly in April 1990 at Cupid's Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. She was his first wife but their marriage was short-lived as they annulled it less than a year later. The couple met for the first time at a party in 1986 when Erin was 19 years old and Axl was 22. Marc Canter, a friend of Slash who was familiar with the couple, said of Erin's view of 'Sweet Child O' Mine', "I know she's proud of the song. I mean even to this day, 'I'm sure she's proud of it. That song will always be attached to her and she's in the video. She was in love with Axl and Axl was in love with her and they were a good couple."