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Slash didn’t like the chord progression of Sweet Child O’ Mine – so he wrote the intro to try and “get rid” of it

Duff McKagan says the intro, in its early state, was “this twisted, just atonal thing”.

Duff McKagan and Slash on stage. They are turned towards each other. Duff is looking over his shoulder and Slash is looking down. They both have their guitars in hand.

Image: Kevin Winter / Getty

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Slash wrote the iconic guitar intro of Sweet Child O’ Mine to try and “get rid of the song” as he didn’t like the chord progression fellow Guns N’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin had come up with, according to a new interview with bassist Duff McKagan.

Of course, the sabotage attempt didn’t work out as he may have hoped; the track went on to become one of the most easily recognisable rock songs of our time thanks to that very intro.

Speaking in an episode of the Songcraft podcast, McKagan explains how the song evolved from a set of three simple chords into the track we know it as now: “Izzy had the three chords,” McKagan states (transcribed via NME). “OK, well that’s… ‘What do you do with that?’ Axl liked it [so he said] ‘OK, well let’s try to make this work somehow’… The intro for Sweet Child o’ Mine, Slash just did not like the three D, C, G [chord progression].”

According to McKagan, Slash said, “We’ve got to get rid of this song somehow”, and went on to write the famous intro which McKagan says in its early state was “this twisted, just atonal thing”. “It just goes to show that everything was clicking with that band at that point,” he says.

“Of course that part to try to get rid of the song, totally worked,” he jokes. “It was this amazing intro to the song, and suddenly we had this ballad.”

Last year, McKagan also shared during an interview with Reverb that back during the Appetite For Destruction era, the band only rehearsed twice a day: “What’s maybe not known totally about early Guns N’ Roses, and still to this day, we rehearsed twice a day. That’s all we fucking did.”

He added, “So, we worked on parts, where Slash’s guitar would go in that part, and where Izzy [Stradlin]’s guitar [would go]. Everybody would find their piece, and Steven [Adler, drums] wouldn’t fill through somebody else’s lick. Every little piece of Appetite for Destruction was super thought out. And then, ‘Just play it and be a rock band.’”

Duff McKagan’s latest solo record, Lighthouse, is out now.

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