I’m a child of the eighties and proud of it. Musically, it was a funny old decade with some serious songs but also many bizarre ones as well. I think of the eighties as a colourful, fun decade of dominant cheesy pop but with some timeless masterpieces not far behind the chart toppers. Over the next ten days I will attempt to disclose what are for me the ten greatest songs of the eighties. It’s always hard to compile a list of this nature and my opinion is likely to change in the near future, but for now here are my golden ten.
I am indebted to www.songmeanings.net and to all those that have contributed to some very interesting discussions about all the songs featured here. It’s important that everyone finds their own meaning in any song but some of the opinions I heard were certainly eye openers for me. I intend to share my own thoughts on these songs and how, after all these years, they still have a profound impact on my life.
Guns ‘N’ Roses: Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)
First released in the UK in August 1988, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” peaked at no.24 before a remix the following year helped propel it to no.6 in the UK charts, while in the US it became the band’s only no.1 single. Ironically, the song is said to have been born out of Slash messing around with guitar riffs and happening upon a melody that the rest of the band liked. Axl Rose wrote lyrics around the music for his then girlfriend, Erin Everly, and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was the result. Due to its origins, Slash apparently hated the song and the rest of the group initially didn’t see it as a huge hit, which probably explains why it was the third song to be released from their debut album, “Appetite For Destruction.” It would, however, be their most popular.
The music video appears to be the group in the midst of rehearsals while a film crew and the band’s girlfriends, including the song’s inspiration Erin Everly, look on. Watching the video it does make you nostalgic and sad at the sight of a group who had all the potential to be one of the greatest for years to come. That unforgettable guitar solo from Slash, slowly joined by Duff, Izzy and Steve, makes for a brilliant introduction before Axl steps forward and delivers those memorable opening lines, “She’s got a smile that it seems to me, reminds me of childhood memories.” “Appetite For Destruction” was always going to be a tough album to follow and though “Use Your Illusion I and II” were not of the same standard, I do consider them worthy sequels to Guns ‘N’ Roses’ debut. The long gap between “The Spaghetti Incident” (1993) and “Chinese Democracy” (2008) have seen the band somewhat lost in the wilderness with music having changed so much, particularly in the charts.
My earliest memory of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is listening to my mother’s cassettes in the car. She used to compile dozens of tapes with songs off the radio and Guns ‘N’ Roses were very familiar. Growing up I once took the song’s title to be literal, a parent singing about a child but today I do see it as a love song. Groups like Guns ‘N’ Roses, sadly, don’t seem to have a place high in the charts anymore. It’s examples like this that make me more disillusioned with popular music and more likely to seek out those artists that are not commercially successful but retain loyal followings, such as The Decemberists, British Sea Power and Porcupine Tree. However long Guns ‘N’ Roses remain they will always attract large crowds for whatever is top of the charts this weekend will likely be forgotten in twelve months, whereas a song like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” will still be thriving.
Top Ten so far:
9) Guns ‘N’ Roses: Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)
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