The definitive Guns N' Roses playlist
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The definitive Guns N' Roses playlist

More than 30 years after the release of its massively successful Appetite for Destruction debut, Guns N' Roses is still relevant. Sure, the classic lineup of Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin, and Steven Adler is no more, but the band, with three of those members intact, has made a resurgence through its ongoing reunion tour, which kicked off in 2016.

As a new generation of fans get into the group, here's our list of 25 songs that encompass what G N' R is all about. In our preferred listening order. 

Full disclosure, you will not find anything from 1993's cover album The Spaghetti Incident? or the severely overhyped Chinese Democracy (2008) on this list.

 
1 of 25

"It's So Easy"

"It's So Easy"
Guns N' Roses

Guns N' Roses fans might forget that this was actually the first single off the band's smash debut Appetite for Destruction. One of the many "reality" songs that fill Appetite, "It's So Easy" is about the group being so poor and downtrodden during its early days, that members survived thanks to female fans who would buy them food, alcohol and offer a place to crash. It's long been a staple during live Guns' sets. 

 
2 of 25

"Mr. Brownstone"

"Mr. Brownstone"
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Another gem off Appetite for Destruction. Slash and then-fellow guitarist Izzy Stradlin wrote this song about their dependence on heroin, with "Mr. Bownstone" their nickname for the potent drug. Over the years, singer Axl Rose has stated that the band didn't always know what song it planned to open live shows with, but that "Mr. Brownstone" would always be played second. That continues to be the case.

 
3 of 25

"Welcome to the Jungle"

"Welcome to the Jungle"
YouTube

Released from Appetite in the United Kingdom in the Fall 1987, then in the United States more than a year later. "Welcome to the Jungle" was the band's first top-10 hit, peaking at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100. Much of the song's success can also be attributed to the music video (complete with Alx Rose's teased glam metal hair) that was in heavy rotation on MTV. The song highlights Rose's depiction of the seedy parts of Hollywood, obviously much different than what he was used to growing up in the rural Midwest. The song continues to be used in sports arenas and stadiums to excite the home crowd.

 
4 of 25

"Civil War"

"Civil War"
Guns N' Roses

As G N' R fans awaited new music from the band in the wake of Appetite for Destruction and half live/half acoustic G N' R Lies (1988), "Civil War" was released in 1990, ahead of its inclusion on the Use Your Illusion II album, which was released in tandem with Use Your Illusion I on September 1991. This is the Guns' "protest" song of all wars. While it reached No. 4 on the Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, "Civil War" never achieved the level of commercial success as other songs on the album. 

 
5 of 25

"Nightrain"

"Nightrain"
Ke.Mazur/WireImage)

Back in the early days of the band, when it had little money, members would spend the little cash they had on booze. They were particularly fond of "Night Train Express." The fortified wine that's cheap, but also has an alcohol content of 17.5 percent. This song is a celebration of the drink and those lean years before striking it big with Appetite for Destruction. Though the tune barely cracked the Hot 100, it's been a live favorite over the years. 

 
6 of 25

"Yesterdays"

"Yesterdays"
Ke.Mazur/WireImage

One of the shorter Guns N' Roses' tracks, coming in a 3 minutes, 13 seconds in its studio form off Use Your Illusion II. It's one of those "look back" or "recollection" songs. It's also a bit of a musical respite from the over-indulgence, opus-type material that filled up a good chunk of UYI IIIt's a solid rock song that has been part of Guns N' Roses live sets since the band reunited in 2016. 

 
7 of 25

"You Could Be Mine"

"You Could Be Mine"
YouTube

"You Could Be Mine" earned mainstream success from its inclusion on the Terminator 2: Judgment Day soundtrackIt was also the first single officially released off the Use Your Illusion II record, and arguably the most popular number from that project. Complete with its memorable drum and guitar intro, the track was co-written by Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin prior to the release of Appetite of Destruction, but never found a home on the band's smash debut album.

 
8 of 25

"Live and Let Die"

"Live and Let Die"
Mick Hutson/Redferns

The first of two covers on this list. Guns' version of the Paul McCartney and Wings' classic doesn't veer too much from the original release. Of course, Axl Rose' unique and trademark wailing made it quite popular with mainstream rock fans. Off the Use Your Illusion I album, the band earned a Grammy Award nomination for this version and it has become a live staple during the reunion tour that never seems to end. 

 
9 of 25

"My Michelle"

"My Michelle"
Mick Hutson/Redferns

One of several underrated tracks off Appetite for Destruction. Axl Rose penned the lyrics about the rather hard life of a longtime female friend of Slash, who also befriended the band. And just like the harsh lyrics, the real Michelle was dealing with a drug addiction, the loss of her mother and father who worked in the pornography business. "My Michelle" was never released as a single, but is one of G N' R's best deep cuts. 

 
10 of 25

"Right Next Door to Hell"

"Right Next Door to Hell"
Guns N' Roses

The opening track to Use Your Illusion I, "Right Next Door to Hell" begins with a grunge-like Duff McKagan bass riff and tears into gear from there. Though never released as a single, it's a solid G N' R deep cut that is in the spirit of the edgier, gritter Appetite of Destruction. Of the two Use Your Illusion records, is by far the harder, faster record. This is a good start to a seven-times platinum album that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

 
11 of 25

"Estranged"

"Estranged"
YouTube

Among a handful of super-sized tracks found on the Use Your Illusion albums. "Estranged" has a running time of 9 minutes, 23 seconds, and is part of a song/music video "trilogy" (more to come about that) inspired by the short story Without You, by writer/musician Del James. It's one of the band's most emotional songs, and rather pretentious, especially considering Axl Rose's penchant for drawing attention to himself (Come on, he's apparently swimming with dolphins in the video). While it might seem like a jump-the-shark moment for the band, "Estranged" remains one of Guns' most recognizable songs. 

 
12 of 25

"Get in the Ring"

"Get in the Ring"
Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns

Nothing better than starting a fight, or at least challenging music critics and magazine founders, to one via a song. "Get in the Ring" is an obscenity-laden, whine fest from Rose aimed at those who seemingly wronged the band through print. Complete with boxing-like introductions, crowd noise and a round bell, it's one of the band's more animated offerings and an underrated presence on the Use Your Illusion II album.

 
13 of 25

"Dead Horse"

"Dead Horse"
Photo by Pete Still/Redferns

Another somewhat hidden gem from Use Your Illusion I. It's one of the band's more creative musical compositions. Axl Rose wrote the opening acoustic guitar part before the "nutcracker" transition into a blistering rock journey that can hold its own with any other song on the album. It's also been played at various times during Guns N Roses' reunion tour.

 
14 of 25

"Breakdown"

"Breakdown"
Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images

From Use Your Illusion II, "Breakdown" is among the deepest cuts within the Guns N' Roses catalog. The song is a likable, fast-paced romp that has a Jim Steinman-Meat Loaf-type vibe to it. Really, it's nothing like what we'd come to expect from the band. Yet, it's an example of how fans should expect the unexpected from Guns, whether in their music or personal lives. 

 
15 of 25

"One in a Million"

"One in a Million"
Guns N' Roses

As we now, G N' R never shied away from controversy -- on or off stage. When it comes to its actual material, "One in a Million," off the Appetite follow-up G N' R Lies (1988), might be the group's most controversial tune. Axl Rose seemed to offend just about every one with his angst-ridden lyrics that branded him a racist, homophobe and cop hater. As usual, Rose claimed he was being honest and expressing his feelings about certain situations he found himself in at the time.

 
16 of 25

"Bad Obsession"

"Bad Obsession"
Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Izzy Stradlin contributed significantly to the Use Your Illusion albums, though got sober and left the band before both records blew up. "Bad Obession" was one of his stronger contributions. A bluesy tune about Stradlin's then dependence on drugs is still played at current G N' R live shows. Hanoi Rocks frontman and longtime friend of the band Michael Monroe played harmonica and saxophone on this track.

 
17 of 25

"Coma"

"Coma"
Larry Marano/Getty Images

Clocking in at 10 minutes, 14 seconds to close Use Your Illusion I, "Coma" is the longest song Guns N' Roses has ever recorded. Slash reportedly wrote the music during a heroin binge, while Axl Rose's lyrics, in part, came from his recollection of some seemingly out-of-body experience during and coming out of a prior pill overdose episode. Despite its epic duration, "Coma" is an intense listening experience that became a regular part of the group's live set during the reunion shows.

 
18 of 25

"Used to Love Her"

"Used to Love Her"
Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

No, none of the members of Guns N' Roses tried to kill an old girlfriend or significant other. It was simply a joke of a song, a little dark humor for a band that had no problem pushing the envelope with its musical subject matter. Another acoustic cut off the Lies record, "Used to Love Her" continues to be played on the bands' reunion tour that continues to make its way around the world.

 
19 of 25

"Don't Cry"

"Don't Cry"
YouTube

As most Guns' fans know, there are two versions of "Don't Cry," which, in its original recorded form, failed to make the cut on Appetite for Destruction. Instead, the most recognized, commercial version was released on Use Your Illusion I, and peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Hot 100. At the same time, a take with alternative lyrics was part of Use Your Illusion II. "Don't Cry, along with "Estranged" is part of the aforementioned song trilogy inspired Del James' Without You.

 
20 of 25

"Sweet Child o' Mine"

"Sweet Child o' Mine"
YouTube

"Sweet Child o' Mine" is the only No. 1 U.S. single in the history of the band. This and "Welcome to the Jungle," are the band's two most recognizable songs and helped make Appetite for Destruction the most successful-selling debut album of all time with more than 30 million copies sold. Axl Rose penned the lyrics to this rock ballad for model and then-girlfriend (and eventual wife) Erin Everly. Slash, initially, was not fond of the tune, but his guitar intro remains one of the most recognizable in music history.

 
21 of 25

"Rocket Queen"

"Rocket Queen"
Ke.Mazur/WireImage

One of the great album finales of all time, this Appetite closer is packed with hard-rock emotion that's almost like a musical roller coaster with a passionate climax. Though never released as a single, "Rocket Queen" has long been a fan favorite and a regular during live sets. The track, perhaps, most infamously known for featuring the recording of an actual sex act on the studio version. We see it as a solid way to end a show before heading into the encore portion of this list.

 
22 of 25

"Patience"

"Patience"
YouTube

The only single released off G N' R Lies"Patience" remains one of Guns N' Roses' most popular songs. It reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 and could be considered the start of hard rock/metal bands stripping down their sound with an acoustic track. In this case a ballad. The song still seemed more raw and honest than the power ballads coming out of the hair/glam metal scene. The version from Live Era '87–'93 should not be missed. 

 
23 of 25

"November Rain"

"November Rain"
YouTube

Part of the so-called song trilogy with the predecessor "Don't Cry" and followed by "Estranged," November Rain is an example of how the band, more specifically Axl Rose, was becoming more grandiose than desired. Hard rock ballads don't get more over-the-top than this nearly nine-minute piece that reached No. 3 on the Hot 100. And, the popular music video was even more dramatic (Remember the guy diving into the wedding cake?) -- featuring Rose's girlfriend at the time, model Stephanie Seymour. Rose's focus on writing and producing more high-brow tracks like this proved to be part of his growing riff with bandmates Slash and Duff McKagan, who preferred a more straight-forward, rock approach.

 
24 of 25

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
YouTube

The other notable G N' R cover is from that of another music legend. The band does a strong job of amping up this Bob Dylan track, and most rock fans are probably more familiar with the latter than the former. While Guns' studio version can be found on the Days of Thunder soundtrack and an altered take on Use Your Illusion II, this cover always seems best when played live. Most notably during the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

 
25 of 25

"Paradise City"

"Paradise City"
KMazur/WireImage

Slash came up with the famed intro and the driving guitar riff that runs throughout the song. He also considers this his favorite Guns N' Roses number. Reaching No. 5 on the Hot 100 chart, "Paradise City" was the third track off Appetite for Destruction to crack the top 10. It's also long been the closing number for the band's live sets. During the reunion tour, it's come complete with pyrotechnics, confetti and even fireworks at some outdoor stops. 

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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