Skool’s in, for autumn! And maybe that’s why Guns N’ Roses have released another new song, “Hard Skool,” their second new song of the year. They previously released “Absurd” a few months ago.
According to Loudwire, the writing of “Hard Skool” began during the sessions for Guns N’ Roses’ 2008 album Chinese Democracy, an album recorded before Slash and Duff McKagan rejoined the band. However, both guys definitely make their presence felt in the song — it kicks off with a bass intro that is unmistakably Duff.
Are Axl, Slash and Duff planning a new Guns N’ Roses album? The three haven’t been on a GNR album since 1993’s “The Spaghetti Incident?”. And they haven’t made an announcement about a record. They’ve still got a few more U.S. tour dates before going to Australia and New Zealand and then Europe.
Guns N’ Roses: All 87 Songs Ranked
There are two songs in particular in the GN'R catalog that are top contenders for the band's worst song. One of them is a stylistic nightmare, while the other is a racist/homophobic/xenophobic mess that was controversial when released over three decades ago. The latter is "One in a Million" from 'GN' R Lies.' It's so bad that when 'Lies' was included on the reissue of 'Appetite For Destruction' in 2018, "One in a Million" was omitted. Just look up the lyrics to figure out why.
Is Axl Rose trying to rap or put his take on industrial music? Perhaps it's both. Regardless of what exactly is going on here, this brought an underwhelming and bizarre end to an otherwise solid double album. While it only clocks in at 1:26, it's 1:26 too long. But hey, at least it doesn't contain hate speech!
No one asked for a cover of a Charles Manson song back in 1993, and frankly, no one wants the cover now. The song was a hidden track on 'The Spaghetti Incident?' for a reason...or maybe reasons. Let's just move on, shall we?
"The Plague" was a germ of an idea, but it didn't really develop past the 55 second clip recorded as part of the 1986 Sound City Studio Sessions. The band obviously had better ideas in the tank that they pursued and understandably so.
"Oh My God" would be the first song released under the GN'R name in five years, with the previous being the band's cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" featured on the soundtrack of 'Interview with the Vampire.' Another soundtrack song, "Oh My God" sounds like Axl trying to channel his best Marilyn Manson but coming up short.
Give credit to GN'R for taking such a risk with this Skyliners cover, but this cover just doesn't land.
Believed to be about the then-Iraq war, "Riad N' the Bedouins" just fails to truly impress unlike other songs on 'Chinese Democracy.'
A lot of double albums could use some pruning, and 'Use Your Illusion I & II' is no exception. "Bad Apples" is definitely a track that could've been left off, and no one would really miss it.
Look...this U.K. Subs cover is in no way bad, but Axl Rose's attempt at an English accent while singing is far too distracting to truly enjoy the song.
Not sure if there's an award for "Catchiest Songs About Murdering Your Significant Other," but if there is, "Used to Love Her" would at the very least be in the running. The only thing about this song that has really aged well is its melody, which is still a solid earworm.
Covering T.Rex's "Buick Makane" totally makes sense considering Marc Bolan's influence on glam and punk, but mashing the song together with Soundgarden's "Big Dumb Sex" is still a head scratcher all these years later.
"Perfect Crime" follows "Don't Cry" in the 'Use Your Illusion I' tracklisting, and perhaps it was included as a quick pallet clenser after such a bombastic ballad. The song isn't bad by any stretch, but GN'R have plenty other songs in their catalog that are more memorable.
Clocking in at 10:13, "Coma" is the longest song in the entire GN'R catalog. While they have plenty of epics, this one just struggles to hold the listener's attention.
I took a "History of Rock and Roll" class in college, and the instructor said he wasn't a "big lyrics guy" and cared more about the musical composition of the song. If you're looking for a prime example of lyrics mattering, look to the alt. version of "Don't Cry" found on 'Use Your Illusion II.' The song is musically the same as the version of "Don't Cry" on 'Use Your Illusion I,' but the lyrics just don't land the same and it's difficult to ignore.
"Locomotive" is quite the journey clocking in at 8:42. Fortunatley, there's some stops along the way in the form of guitar solos from Slash. (There's four to be exact.)
If you ever imagined what Axl Rose would be like if he were a professional wrestler, just listen to the very appropriately titled "Get In The Ring," which is basically Axl cutting an angry promo on various music journalists. The lyrics seem almost right at home during "Attitude Era" WWE, but they're a bit cringy now, much like a lot of "Attitude Era" WWE.
The industrial influence is strong with this track, as is its incredibly catchy chorus. "Shackler's Revenge" was the first 'Chinese Democracy' song to receive an official release when it was included on 'Rock Band 2.'
Banjo, piano AND the return of Axl's whistlling? There's something here for everyone! No really...there's even a spoken word portion of Axl reciting a monologue from the 1971 film 'Vanishing Point.' Bonus points, however, go to this lyric: "Funny how everything was roses when we held on to the guns." We see what you did there, Mr. Rose.
Axl's signature wail is on full display on "Scraped," as is the feeling of exreme defiance which is made pretty clear in lyrics like, "Sometimes I feel like the world is on top of me/Breaking me down with an endless monotony/Sometimes I feel like there's nothing that's stopping me/All things are possible, I am unstoppable."
Nothing says "jilted lover" quite like calling on the President, a private eye, the I.R.S and the F.B.I. in order to "make this a federal case...wave it right down in your face." Basically, if you ever wanted to get the feeling of what it would be like to have a messy breakup with Axl Rose, just listen to "I.R.S."
Notable for the guest vocals of Sebastian Bach, "Sorry" is super moody and makes you wonder who exactly pissed Axl off with lyrics like, "You know that I got under your skin/You sold your soul but I won't let you win/You talk too much, you say I do/Difference is nobody cares about you." Sick burn!
"I hoped she'd never leave me/Please God you must believe me/I've searched the universe/And found myself/Within' her eyes." Seriously, Axl...who did this to you?!
The 6:41 "There Was A Time" is a ballad with a hard rock chorus that also features some very dramatic strings and piano. To put it lightly, there's a lot going on here. Then again, that is kind of the overarching theme of 'Chinese Democracy' as a whole.
"Don't Damn Me" is perhaps the most impish song about censorship ever. It's also punctuated with one of the most unintentionally funny lyrics ever: "Smoke 'em if you got 'em/Alright, that sucked!"
Is it a rock song or an exercise in how to regulate your breathing while singing at a break-neck pace? Maybe it's both. Also, it's difficult to hear this song and not think about its fish eye lens music video, which was the effect of choice in so many '90s music videos.
Four tracks into 'Chinese Democracy,' listeners are greeted to this grandiose left-turn of a ballad. Once you adjust to the sudden genre whiplash, it's rather enjoyable. The kids on 'Glee' would've sang the s--- out of it, and I do mean that in a nice way.
By time "Back Off Bitch" came out on 'Use Your Illusion I,' the song had been ten years in the works. The origins for the song are far more deeper than any breakup, too. Rose said of the song in a 1992 'Rolling Stone' interview, "I’ve been doing a lot of work and found out I’ve had a lot of hatred for women. Basically, I’ve been rejected by my mother since I was a baby. She’s picked my stepfather over me ever since he was around and watched me get beaten by him. She stood back most of the time. Unless it got too bad, and then she’d come and hold you afterward. She wasn’t there for me. My grandmother had a problem with men. I’ve gone back and done the work and found out I overheard my grandma going off on men when I was four. And I’ve had problems with my own masculinity because of that. I was pissed off at my grandmother for her problem with men and how it made me feel about being a man. So I wrote about my feelings in the songs."
Another woman done broke Axl's heart, but fortunately this time he gets pretty clever with the lyrics: "I was only a small child when the thought first came to me/That I'm a son of a gun and the gun of a son that brought back the devil in me."
"Anything Goes" alluded to S&M, but "Pretty Tied Up" dives right into the world of kink and brings the sitar along for the metaphorical ride.
GN'R's take on Fear's "I Don't Care About You" would've been the perfect way to close out 'The Spaghetti Incident?'. It's a screaming delight! But no, the perfect ending was mucked up with the hidden track of the Charles Manson song "Look at Your Game, Girl," which, once again, no one asked for.
"Black Leather" was a deep-deep cut from the Sex Pistols that would later be recorded and released by The Professionals, the post-Pistols group formed by Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Considering the punk influence on 'The Spaghetti Incident?', it's no surprise a song like this made the cut. Jones and McKagan are noted pals in the rock world and even were in a band together, the Neurotic Outsiders, following McKagan's exit from GN'R.
Whomever or whatever Axl is mad at on "Shotgun Blues" clearly brought out some of his most colorful insults this side of "Get In The Ring": "And you, you can suck my ass an' I think it is so low class/Me? I'm just so concerned, I'm still waitin' for your ass to burn."
There's no other way to explain this, but "If the World" is the sound of Axl Rose trying to seduce someone, and to seal the deal, he's brought some hot-ass bass to the party. Despite how that reads, these are not bad things.
Best song about an annoying neighbor ever? Okay, so maybe it's the only known song about having an annoying neighbor, but thank goodness Axl (alegedly) hit his neighbor with a wine bottle, was sued over the incident which let to him being pissed off enough to write this aggressive tune.
A instrumental track from the 1986 Sound City Studio Sessions, "Ain't Goin' Down No More" is yet another example that even before Guns N' Roses became the biggest band in the world, they were definitely rock stars in the making and some serious magic was cooking between these musicians.
GN'R's resident punk Duff McKagan shines on this track, which he wrote and serves as a tribute to one of McKagan's late heroes, Johnny Thunders. As great of a frontman as Axl Rose is, it's amazing that GN'R still had two incredible singers-- McKagan and Izzy Stradlin' -- in the band, too.
A jaunty instrumental, "New Work Tune" is the sound of Slash and Izzy Stradlin just messing around with a great groove. Even before they became guitar gods, "New Work Tune" serves as an early sign that there was something very special about their partnership.
As far as GN'R's covers go, this is perhaps one of the deepest cuts they have in their catalog. Off of Black Sabbath's 1976 album 'Technical Ecstacy' and sung by drummer Bill Ward, this stripped live cover featuring Axl at the piano shows Mr. Rose's range and his obvious appreciation for the legends that paved the way for him and the rest of the band.
Once again, have we mentioned there's a lot going on on 'Chinese Democracy'? Well, to drive home that point, take a listen to "Madagascar," which features audio clips from 'Cool Hand Luke' (clearly a favorite film of Axl's), 'Braveheart' and 'Seven.' As if that weren't enough, also included in the track's audio samples is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Brash and fast (both in literal tempo and time length), this Misfits cover is yet another showcase for resident punk Duff McKagan and yet another example of maybe GN'R should've featured more punk elements in their sound.
The guitars of Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Paul Tobias are simply outstanding on "Catcher in the Rye," an incredibly over-the-top ballad.
Duff McKagan is the star of this cover, literally. Not only is he the lead vocalist, he also provides the guitar, bass and drum tracks, too. Seriously, if you needed a reminder of how badass McKagan is, just take a listen to "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory."
The title track of 'Chinese Democracy' was the only official single release from this infamous album, and considering the pressure there was upon its release, it fair pretty well on the charts where it peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at no. 34. It also was a regular part of the setlist on GN'R's "Not In This Lifetime" reunion tour with Slash and Duff McKagan. And yes...while it's been said countless times, it is still weird to see Slash and Duff play 'Chinese Democracy'-era songs.
Elvis Presley didn't live to hear GN'R's cover of "Heartbreak Hotel." It's anyone's guess what he would've thought of it, but he probably would've got a kick out of a bunch of kids in 1986 embrassing the song, who would also go on to make parents nervous similar to how he did in the 1950s. The Sound City Studios Sessions track surfaced thanks to the 2018 reissue of 'Appetite.'
If you're a fan of acoustic slide guitar, then you probably love "You Ain't the First," a solid, straight-forward breakup song. Also, if you aren't a fan of acoustic slide guitar, what is wrong with you?
GN'R's 1986 Sound City Studios Sessions featured on the massive 2018 reissue of 'Appetite' features a number of interesting gems, including this cover of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which really just sounds like a bunch of young musicians rocking out to one of their favorite songs and having a lot of fun in the process. If you haven't listened to this cut before, do so because there's a lot of joy to be had here.
If you would've told Axl Rose back when this live cover of "Whole Lotta Rosie" was recorded that he'd be fronting AC/DC three decades later, he probably wouldn't believe you, and you couldn't blame him, really. However, this cover is definitely early proof of Axl's fandom of the Aussie icons. Unrelated note: Axl really doesn't get enough credit for getting deeper Bon Scott cuts added to the set list when he was on the road with AC/DC.
A supremely over-the-top album should have a grand conclusion, and "Prostitute" more than fits the bill. The guitars are big, as is Axl's voice, and supposedly, actor Nicolas Cage loves this song. (You can file that fun fact under, "Huh...neat.")
"Turned into my worst phobia/A crazy man's utopia/If you're lost no one can show ya/But it sure was glad to know ya." Between the song's lyrics and its music video full of Manhattan visuals, "The Garden" is almost like a New York answer to The Eagles' "Hotel California," which is very weird considering GN'R is based firmly in Los Angeles. Bonus points for featuring vocals from Alice Cooper, who is like the bacon of rock and roll; adding him to anything just makes it better.
Much like "November Rain," it's difficult to think of "Estranged" and not think about its music video. (FYI: It's the final installment of the Del James-inspired trilogy following "Don't Cry" and the aforementioned "November Rain." Personally, I refer to the video as "The one where Axl jumps off a massive ship and swims with dolphins.") Anyway, this song is good, but it could've been great if it just trimmed a verse/bridge or two. I understand excess, but sometimes "more" is "too much."
In case you didn't think The Stooges' "Raw Power" couldn't get more frenetic, just take a listen to GN'R's version. Plus, Axl and Duff sharing the lead vocals is just a nice touch.
'The Spaghetti Incident?' is really just a fun experiment of what GN'R would've been like if they leaned more into their punk influences and if Duff McKagan had more control of the reins. Their cover of The Damned's "New Rose" with McKagan on lead vocals is one of the best examples of that.
Fact: If everyone listened to the New York Dolls more often, we'd just be better people. Considering the energy brought to this cover, GN'R likely concured. Also, who doesn't love the fact Axl's kazoo playing was so prolific that it warranted credit on the track?
If you ever questioned whether Guns N' Roses were the rowdier, bastard children of Aerosmith, just listen to their take on "Mama Kin." They don't stray too far away from the source material, but with a classic like this, you really don't have to.
Simply put, this cover of this Nazareth classic is one of the highlights on 'The Spaghetti Incident?' The song already dripped with attitude, and then GN'R put their stank on it. Just a fun jam all around.
Guns N' Roses was born from the group Hollywood Rose, and "Reckless Life" was written while this group was still active. Think of it as almost GN'R's origin story of sorts. It's gritty, memorable, and it showed the potential of the musicians who wrote it.
If you weren't familiar with Dead Boys, you might be tricked into thinking GN'R snuck some lost original track on their covers album, but that's not the case. Add in Hanoi Rocks' Michael Monroe on co-lead vocals, and you really have a bright spot on an album that would be the last studio appearances under the GN'R name from Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.
There's something very admirable about Guns N' Roses and their ability (or chutzpah) for taking on some of the biggest, most popular rock songs of all time and making them their own while also paying tribute to those who made those songs famous. GN'R was certainly the Rolling Stones for a new generation and that sentiment was driven home with this cover of "Sympathy for the Devil."
"Shadow Of Your Love" was released as part of the 1988 'Guns N' Roses' EP that was only released in Japan, but the track would finally get its first official release in the United States in 2018 as part of the Super Deluxe reissue of 'Appetite for Destruction.' It's kind of amazing it took so long for the track to get an official release, because it certainly stands up to much of 'Appetite'-era tracks. I guess file this one under "Better late than never."
When it comes to 'Appetite,' most might point to "Sweet Child O' Mine" as the prime example of GN'R showing their softer side, but people shouldn't sleep on "Think About You." It may not have been a massive hit single like "Sweet Child..." but it's just as sweet.
Anyone who thinks horns don't belong in hard rock really needs to listen to "Move to the City." Izzy Stradlin is the lead songwriter on this track, and even if you didn't know that, the entire song drips with his style and influence.
Before making a big splash with "You Could Be Mine" in 'Terminator II,' GN'R's first big soundtrack appearance came with this recorded cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" for the 1990 Tom Cruise vehicle 'Days of Thunder.' Certainly less gritty than the version featured in an MTV GN'R concert special from 1988, it's just as powerful.
Another 'Chinese Democracy'-era song heavily featured on the set list of the "Not In This Lifetime" reunion tour with Slash and Duff McKagan, the song is put over the top thanks to the backing vocals of Tommy Stinson, Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman.
"Anything Goes" isn't going to win points for subtlty or romance, unless you think lyrics like "Panties round your knees/With your ass in debris" is romantic. (If you do, no judgement.) Where it does win points is for being a straight forward, gritty, unapologetic hard rock song. Nothing fancy, just badass.
"You're Crazy" is an incredibly strong track, but there are so many iconic tracks on 'Appetite' that it can almost just lost in the shuffle. Of course, you'll read more about the acoustic vesion of "You're Crazy" in a little bit.
A bitter-sweet tune about growing up and moving on, "Yesterdays" is the type of tune that hits right in the feels if you're not fond of taking trips down memory lane. After all, "Time just fades the pages/In my book of memories."
Another song written by Izzy Stradlin, and it's yet another example of just how damn cool he is and what he brought to GN'R. It can't be stressed how much he would've brought to GN'R's "Not In This Lifetime" reunion, especially with killer grooves like "Double Talkin' Jive."
A standout track on 'Use Your Illusion I,' think of "Bad Obsession" as the bluesier sister song to "Mr. Brownstone." Its heavy blues influence makes loads of sense since its primary songwriter was Stradlin.
Few individuals can make paranoia sound badass quite like Axl Rose. Who knows what he's being accused of, but by the end of the song, it's hard not to side with Axl in being "f*cking innocent."
Easily one of the best covers in GN'R's catalog (and there are plenty), the band's take on the Wings classic gives the song a heavy dose of edge and attitude. The cover would earn GN'R a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal, but they would lose out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away."
Music history is litered with beautiful songs that feature womens' names in the title, but this one is far from a warm, fuzzy ode. The real-life influence for this track was Michelle Young, a classmate of Slash and Steven Adler's. Michelle said in passing to Axl Rose while in the car with him how she wished someone wrote a song about her after hearing Elton John's "Your Song" on the radio. So, this wasn't really what she'd envisioned. On the plus side, Michelle would go on to live a pleasant life.
In what might be a mild controversial pick on this entire list, the acoustic version of "You're Crazy" outranks the electric version from 'Appetite.' Truthfully, the acoustic version somehow has more bite, but it just wouldn't have worked on 'Appetite' for obvious reasons.
One of the most underrated contributions Guns N' Roses made to rock was introduce a number of people to Rose Tattoo thanks to their cover of the Aussie band's "Nice Boys" from their 1978 self-titled debut. GN'R put their own blistering take on the track, and it's a standout cover in their catalog that's littered with covers.
"14 Years" is yet another example to point to at how cool and missed Izzy Stradlin is, especially with the current GN'R reunion. If you're not convinced, track down the live version of "14 Years" from 2012 when Stradlin made a surprise appearance during the band's show at London's O2 Arena. (And no, the fact that "14 Years" is number 14 on this ranking wasn't planned. That was just a happy accident.)
The last thing fans likely expected from GN'R post 'Appetite' and 'Lies' was an anti-war song, but that's what they got with "Civil War." The track first appeared on the 1990 compilation album 'Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal' before being released as the opening track to 'Use Your Illusion II.' Its poignancy still resonates today and likely will for many years to come.
Mixing raunch and tenderness, "Rocket Queen" brings 'Appetite' to a unique and very memorable ending. Its lyrics are surprisingly loving, but then there's the infamous bridge with the...ahem...actual sounds of love making between Axl and Adriana Smith, the then-girlfriend of Steven Adler, in the recording studio. However, once the sounds of GN'R (and the moaning) bring the album to a close, you realize that you heard one of the greatest albums of all time.
"I used to do a little, but a little wouldn't do, so the little got more and more. I just keep trying to get a little better, said a little better than before." With lyrics like those and the title itself, the only other song in rock history that's more obvious about being about heroin is the Velvet Underground's "Heroin." Despite its grizzly subject matter, "Mr. Brownstone" remains one of the strongest songs in GN'R's entire catalog.
Izzy Stradlin was sorely missed on GN'R's "Not In This Lifetime" reunion tour for many reasons, but "Dust N' Bones" might be the biggest reason why. While pretty much everything the band released before 'Use Your Illusion' dripped with swagger, Stradlin's vocals added a heavy dose of bluesy sophistication to the equation that no one in the band's lineup history has been able to come close to breaching. Had Stradlin rejoined the band and if "Dust N' Bones" was part of the setlist, it would undoubtedly be a standout moment every night.
As far as songs about cheap wine go, "Nightrain" is definitely the most badass and for sure has the best hook. Also, it features easily one of the best uses of cowbell ever. (No one tell Gene Frankel/Will Ferrell.)
When most think of Guns N' Roses, they think of a badass rock band, but their catalog is filled with plenty of downright sweet love songs, and "Don't Cry" is certainly one of their best. Plus, when you add in the guest vocals of the late Shannon Hoon (before Blind Melon's debut was released) harmonizing with Axl Rose, it just puts this song over the top.
This song could just be Duff McKagan's opening bass riff and it would still be incredible. Of course, everyone is firing on all cylinders, epecially Axl who ends this hard rock gem with some of the best screeching in recorded history.
The only thing more stunning than the thought of an actual Paradise City (where the grass is green and the girls are pretty) is the fact that this nearly seven minute banger doesn't seem that long at all AND it still gets played on the radio today in its entirety. Aside from "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Paradise City" is easily the most accessible track on 'Appetite for Destruction' proving that hard rock can be for everyone.
"November Rain" is both a sonic and visual epic. Axl and his piano and Slash and his two massive guitar solos are the stars of this nearly nine-minute ballad, which technically qualifies as a power ballad but manages not to cross into the relm of cheese. Of course, even when listening to "November Rain," you can't help but think of its decadent music video. From Slash walking out of the church to Stephanie Seymour's mullet wedding dress, some of the scenes are the most-memorable in music video history. Fun fact: "November Rain" was the first music video released before the invention of YouTube to reach 1 billion views.
Great whistle solo or greatest whistle solo? Wherever you fall on that debate, there's no question that "Patience" is one of the best rock ballads of all time and proof that even when performing acoustic and when Axl brings his trademark wail and growl down to a purr, GN'R could still manage to move mountains.
"You Could Be Mine" provided two intros (besides the sweet 1:06 one on the song itself): It was the first peek at what fans could expect from the 'Use Your Illusion' albums, and it was the first track from GN'R to feature new drummer Matt Sorum who was brought in after Steven Adler was kicked out of the band after infamously taking too many drugs. Sorum's drum track is outstanding as is everyone on "You Could Be Mine." It's big without sounding bloated and polished but not lacking grit. James Cameron couldn't have asked for a better theme for 'Terminator II.'
For those that aren't hard rock fans and don't really know a lot about Guns N' Roses, they likely at least know "Sweet Child o' Mine." Slash, of course, shines on this classic from his instantly recognizable intro riff to his massive solo. And let's face it: most of us at point or another has thrown on a headband and did that swaying dance Axl Rose does in the video while lip syncing the song in the mirror. (Don't make that face. Yes, you did! No one likes a liar!)
What can really be said about "Welcome to the Jungle" that hasn't already been said? One of the best, if not THE best opening track on a debut album ever? Yes. A warning shot to sub-par hair bands taking up too much space on the Sunset Strip? Undoubtedly. In the passing years, "Welcome to the Jungle" has become a magical tune that's a staple on Active Rock and now Classic Rock radio. Sure, the song may fall under the Classic Rock label based on its age, but "Welcome to the Jungle" still sounds as fresh as ever. It's the timeless statement that every rock band dreams of writing, and this will likely be so until the sun finally explodes and the world ends or climate change finally gets us. Whichever comes first!