Greatest Songs, #467: “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses

Album: Appetite for Destruction (Geffen Records)
Year: 1987
Written by: Guns n’ Roses
Billboard Hot 100: #7

 From Rolling Stone:

In which G n’ R beckoned listeners into their sordid Hollywood milieu. Guns’ five-year reign as the globe’s biggest rock band begins here.

From Wikipedia:

“Welcome to the Jungle” was the first song co-written by lead vocalist Axl Rose and lead guitarist Slash. According to an interview published by Hit Parader in March 1988, “[Axl] wrote the words in Seattle. It’s a big city, but at the same time it’s still a small city compared to [Los Angeles] and the things that you’re gonna learn. It seemed a lot more rural up there. [Axl] just wrote how it looked to [him]. If someone comes to town and they want to find something, they can find whatever they want.” Hit Parader also quoted rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin as summarising the song as “about Hollywood streets; true to life.”

Slash describes the development of the music of “Welcome to the Jungle” in his self-titled autobiography. As the band was trying to write new material, Axl remembered a riff Slash had played while he was living in the basement of Slash’s mother’s house. He played it and the band quickly laid down the foundations for the song, as Slash kept on coming up with new guitar parts for it. He credits Duff McKagan as coming up with the breakdown. According to Slash, the song was written in approximately three hours.

From allmusic, reviewing the album:

Guns N’ Roses’ debut, Appetite for Destruction was a turning point for hard rock in the late ’80s — it was a dirty, dangerous, and mean record in a time when heavy metal meant nothing but a good time. On the surface, Guns N’ Roses may appear to celebrate the same things as their peers — namely, sex, liquor, drugs, and rock & roll — but there is a nasty edge to their songs, since Axl Rose doesn’t see much fun in the urban sprawl of L.A. and its parade of heavy metal thugs, cheap women, booze, and crime. The music is as nasty as the lyrics, wallowing in a bluesy, metallic hard rock borrowed from AerosmithAC/DC, and countless faceless hard rock bands of the early ’80s. It’s a primal, sleazy sound that adds grit to already grim tales. It also makes Rose’s misogyny, fear, and anger hard to dismiss as merely an artistic statement; this is music that sounds lived-in. And that’s exactly why Appetite for Destruction is such a powerful record — not only does Rose have fears, but he also is vulnerable… He also has a talent for conveying the fears and horrors of the decaying inner city… But as good as Rose’s lyrics and screeching vocals are, they wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the twin-guitar interplay of Slash and Izzy Stradlin, who spit out riffs and solos better than any band since the Rolling Stones, and that’s what makes Appetite for Destruction the best metal record of the late ’80s.