Greatest Songs, #453: “Paradise City” by Guns n’ Roses

Album: Appetite for Destruction (Geffen Records)
Year: 1987
Written by: Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin, Slash, & Steven Adler
Billboard Hot 100: #5

 From Rolling Stone:

“Paradise City” elevated Axl and Slash to rock’s Mount Olympus. For nearly seven minutes, they expound on the joys of green grass, pretty girls and toxic chemicals. In a typically tasteful G n’ R move, the video features footage of the band’s 1988 gig at Castle Donington in the U.K. — where two fans were crushed to death

From Wikipedia:

Slash states that the song was written in the back of a rental van as they were on their way back from playing a gig in San Francisco with the band Rock N Riders. He states that the band was in the back of the van, drinking and playing acoustic guitars when he came up with the intro. Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin started playing along. Slash started humming a melody when Axl Rose sang, “Take me down to the Paradise City.” Slash chimed in with “Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” Axl sang the first line again, where Slash shouted out “Where the girls are fat and they’ve got big titties.” Axl finished with “Take . . . me . . . home!” Slash preferred his second line but the rest of the band thought different. He was overpowered and they used the first line. The band then expanded upon the rest of the lyrics in rounds. Finally Slash wrapped up by coming up with the heavy riff that drives the song.

“Paradise City” is thought by some to be about Los Angeles and its corruption at the time. Some believe the song to be written about Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin’s hometown of Lafayette, Indiana and the nearby Purdue University campus. During a 1988 interview, Rose told Hit Parader Magazine that “the verses are more about being in the jungle; the chorus is like being back in the Midwest or somewhere”. Matt Sorum, despite not being in the band when the song was written, has stated on occasion that the song is written about Ireland. Others believe it is about Lake Geneva, WI where the band spent their time during the production of Appetite for Destruction. They rented a mansion right on Lake Geneva.

In the last two minutes of the song it changes to double-time and the chorus is repeated several times while Slash plays a guitar solo in the background.

Hanoi Rocks guitarist Andy McCoy has said that the song is copy from a couple riffs of Hanoi Rocks. He said the chorus is just the same as riff in Lost in the City, just slowed down. Axl Rose has often cited Hanoi Rocks as Guns N’ Roses’ biggest influence. The style of the main riff of Paradise City (involving an ascending chromatic riff) has also been used by many former Guns N’ Roses members in new projects. This can be seen in Izzy Stradlin’s “Bomb” and Velvet Revolver’s “Do It For the Kids”.