From their humble beginnings in the mid-80s, Guns N' Roses have risen to a position of immense success, earning a reputation as one of the most acclaimed rock bands in the Rock 2000 countdown.
1985 was one hell of a year for Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler as they joined forces right in the heart of Los Angeles. The result? An explosive hard rock band that would soon become known for their rebellious and controversial antics.
Throughout the years, the band's lineup has had a rollercoaster of a ride, with Axl Rose continuing the only member standing consistenly over the years. Slash and Duff McKagan left the band in the mid-1990s only to make their return in 2016.
From the ashes of two American bands, Guns N' Roses was formed by the combo of the L.A. Guns - a nod to guitarist Tracii Guns, who rocked the scene in the band's inception (before Slash took the spotlight). Meanwhile, Hollywood Rose added the 'Rose,' courtesy of none other than Axl Rose and the riff-wizard Izzy Stradlin.
The following list delves into data from across every single Rock 2000 countdown (including Rock 500, Rock 1000, and Rock 1500 countdowns), to explore Guns N' Roses' 15 most successful songs, as voted by Rock listeners.
THE BEST GUNS N’ ROSES SONGS RANKED FROM 20 YEARS OF ROCK 2000 COUNTDOWNS
15. I Used To Love Her (1988)
Telling a darkly humorous story about a man burying his girlfriend in his backyard after she annoyed him, the ‘I Used To Love Her’ lyrics were deemed controversial.
In an interview with Hit Parader magazine in 1989, Rose said: "The song's just about a joke, and anyone who takes it seriously is a lunatic."
It turns out the song was about his dog, not a woman, and that the song was written as a joke among the band members.
With an impressive 16 appearances in the countdown, the song has had a rollercoaster of a ride peaking at #303 in 2012.
14. Live and Let Die (1991)
Originally written by Paul McCartney and performed by his band Wings, Guns N' Roses covered ‘Live and Let Die’ in 1991 for the soundtrack of the movie ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, later including it on their album ‘Use Your Illusion I’.
Rock listeners can’t seem to get enough of the track, as it's appeared in every single Rock 2000 Countdown bar the first one. It sat around #538 in its time and scrapped into the top 100, peaking in that #100th position in 2003.
13. You Could Be Mine (1991)
Also written for the soundtrack of ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, director James Cameron directly reached out to Rose to write a song.
Rose has also said that the 'You Could Be Mine' lyrics describe his relationship with his first wife Erin Everly, daughter of singer Don Everly of the Everly Brothers.
Peaking in 2009 at #122, the track has featured in all countdowns, never dropping below #650.
12. Nightrain (1987)
The title of 'Nightrain' refers to Night Train Express, a low-cost, high-alcohol-content fortified wine that was popular among the band members due to its affordability during their struggling days before they achieved fame.
It’s appeared in the countdown 17 times, peaking at #65 in 2018.
11. Patience (1988)
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1992, Izzy Stradline explained the collaboration between him and Rose.
"Axl and I wrote 'Patience' sitting in my apartment. We were just f*cking around. He picked up a guitar and started singing, 'Shed a tear 'cause I'm missing you.' Just working off that chord progression, we came up with a lot of the changes in the song."
Rock listeners love it, as it's appeared in every single Rock 2000, peaking at #75 in 2007.
10. Don’t Cry (1991)
Featuring in all bar one countdown ‘Don’t Cry’ had nothing to be upset about in 2007, peaking at #40.
‘Don't Cry’ was unique in that it was released as two separate tracks on the ‘Use Your Illusion’ albums.
In an interview with MTV in 1991, Axl Rose explained the reason behind releasing two versions of ‘Don't Cry’: "There are two versions of 'Don't Cry,' but there's also two different songs. The lyrics are almost the same, but not quite. The first version is to this other person. The second version is like a letter to the fans."
9. Knockin’ On Heavens Door (1991)
Originally written by Bob Dylan in 1973, the GNR version of 'Knockin' On Heavens Door' includes an extended guitar solo while also still maintaining the emotional core of the original.
The tune peaked at #18 during its first appearance in the countdown and has hovered around the early 2000s for the last three years.
8. Estranged (1991)
Peaking at #12 in 2019 ‘Estranged’ comes in our ninth spot. The song has a lower average than both ‘Patience’ and ‘Knockin’ On Heavens Door’, but has had great success since 2015, not sitting any lower than #89.
In interviews, Rose mentioned that ‘Estranged’ reflects feelings of alienation, loneliness, and a sense of being disconnected from the world. He also stated that the song was inspired by his troubled relationships and his attempts to find some kind of resolution.
7. Mr. Brownstone (1987)
'Mr. Brown Stone' serves as a window into the darker aspects of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle during the late 1980s.
In a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Axl Rose discussed the song's inspiration and meaning: "When we started out it was uppers because we needed to stay awake to play the gigs, then it went to downers. Now we're into the hardest drugs there are. You become obsessed with that stuff because you can't believe how the people you're with and yourself react to it. That's why people die."
Featuring in every countdown and peaking at #44 in 2003, the track is a longstanding love of the Rock 2000 voters, maintaining an average placing of #184.
6. Civil War (1991)
‘Civil War’ incorporates Strother Martin's memorable dialogue from the 1967 film ‘Cool Hand Luke’ as well as a quote attributed to a Peruvian Shining Path guerrilla officer.
Axl Rose can also be heard whistling the song ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ in the intro and outro of the song.
Sitting at a solid average of #145 and peaking at #31 in 2007, the song has had a wild ride but continues to be a solid track for GNR in the Rock 2000.
5. Rocket Queen (1987)
‘Rocket Queen’ has only appeared in the countdown 15 times, but its impact is undeniable.
A special edition of ‘Rocket Queen’ was made available as part of the release of the video game ‘Guitar Hero III’ which may be part of the reason for the track joining the lineup in 2008. Since then the song has always sat above the 900th spot, peaking at #17 in 2013.
4. Welcome To The Jungle (1987)
Yet another GNR track featuring in all of the countdowns, ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ is always sitting well within the top 150 spots.
With an average placing of #64, it’s easily one of GNR’s top tracks.
Axl Rose has mentioned that the lyrics of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ were inspired by his personal experiences when he first arrived in Los Angeles. Coming from a small town in Indiana, he was struck by the stark contrast and challenges of life in a big city.
3. Paradise City (1987)
Peaking at #16 in 2002 and 2009, ‘Paradise City’ is a longstanding favourite of the Rock listeners never dropping below #91 and appearing in every countdown.
Slash wanted the chorus to sing: "Take me down to the Paradise City where the girls are fat and they got big t--ties."
Of course, the band overruled him and settled on the “grass is green” line to be more radio-friendly.
2. Sweet Child O’Mine (1987)
Undoubtedly one of Guns N' Roses' most recognizable tracks, ‘Sweet Child O'Mine’ has graced the countdowns every year. Achieving an impressive feat of reaching the Top 10 five times, peaking at #6 back to back in 2003 and 2004.
The song's iconic guitar riff was actually a warm-up exercise that lead guitarist Slash used to play before shows. The band was jamming one day when lead singer Axl Rose started humming a melody over the riff, and the song began to take shape.
The song is instantly recognizable by its distinctive opening guitar riff, which has become one of the most iconic and imitated riffs in rock history.
1. November Rain (1992)
The ‘November Rain’ video was shot at a cost of approximately USD $1.5 million, making it one of the most expensive music videos ever produced at the time.
Here in NZ, the song peaked at number seven but stayed in the top 20 for 24 non-consecutive weeks, ending 1992 as New Zealand's second best-selling single at the time.
The love for the song has never faded, making it GNR’s top Rock 2000 track appearing across all countdowns and taking out the #1 position in 2006.
It’s also had an impressive stint appearing in the top 10 a total of 12 times (2005-2011, 2014-2016, 2018 and 2020).
There is absolutely no argument that this track shouldn’t take out GNR’s top track of the Rock2000 countdown.