DUFF MCKAGAN Says Similarity Between 'Sweet Child O' Mine' And Any Older Song Is 'Complete Happenstance'
May 14, 2015
Former GUNS N' ROSES members Duff McKagan (bass) and Gilby Clarke (guitar) have both commented on speculation that GN'R might have taken inspiration from an Australian band while composing its biggest hit, "Sweet Child O' Mine".
Australian blog MAX TV recently pointed out similarities between "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Unpublished Critics", a song by AUSTRALIAN CRAWL.
"Unpublished Critics", which was released in 1981 — six years before "Sweet Child O' Mine" — contains "the same chugging chord progression, a similarly sweeping lead break, the verse melody, and the elongated one-syllable vocal in the chorus," according to the site.
During an appearance on the "Opie Radio" talk show, McKagan stated about the comparison between the two songs: "Any bands I've been in, you do the smell check. You always run into [the Tom Petty song] 'Free Fallin''. 'Oh, man, that's 'Free Fallin''.' It's always some Tom Petty song, right?! He's the master… Anything [with only] three chords… 'Oh, crap.' It's a [THE ROLLING] STONES song or a Tom Petty [track]… But that band, GUNS, at that point, we would have… We were striving to be so original and different and do our own thing, there's just no way; we would have referenced anything… So if there's any similarity, it's complete happenstance."
Clarke echoed McKagan's sentiments while talking to Andy Preston from 98.7 The Gater in West Palm Beach, Florida on Wednesday (May 13). He said: "You know what?! I honesty don't know. I mean, obviously, when I heard them play [the songs back to back], it's definitely a 'wow,' but I don't think there's any connection. In all honesty, there isn't a connection. This band was always about being original, being the first, and not taking no crap from nobody, so it's really not in the DNA to be a part of something like that, I think."
He continued: "Look, there's only 12 notes out there — we haven't been able to create any new ones in this fifty-plus years of rock and roll. And a couple of notes are gonna go together the same on a couple of bands."
James Reyne, a member of AUSTRALIAN CRAWL, said that he had no intentions of taking GUNS N' ROSES to court over the matter.
"It is not inconceivable that there are similarities between the two songs. It's also not inconceivable that there may be vaguely legs in something," he explained to Daily Mail. "It's also not inconceivable that when they came out they were quite open in interviews that they liked a lot of Australian bands. It's also not inconceivable that they wouldn't have been aware of certain Australian songs. God forbid I had an active publishing company and they investigated the possibility."
But he added: "I'm not about to take on the might of the GUNS N' ROSES lawyers."
Former GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Slash told a Cincinnati radio station last year that he wasn't a fan at first of "Sweet Child O' Mine". He explained, "I didn't hate it, but I wasn't fond of 'Sweet Child O' Mine'. And that gives you a good idea of how credible my opinion is. The actual riff itself I love, but the song itself…"
Slash added: "GUNS N' ROSES was always a real hardcore sort of AC/DC kind of hard rock band with a lot of attitude. If we did any kind of ballads, it was bluesy. This was an uptempo ballad. That's one of the gayest things you can write… It's a great song — I'm not knocking it — but at the same time, it just did not fit in with the rest of our, sort of, schtick. And, of course, it would be the biggest hit we ever had."
"Sweet Child O' Mine" eventually hit No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart and helped propel "Appetite For Destruction" to sales of millions of copies.
In addition to being the biggest hit from that album, "Sweet Child O' Mine" has been covered by artists ranging from Sheryl Crow to Luna.
Slash was asked in a U.K. interview to name the most lucrative song he ever wrote. He replied, "I'd guess 'Sweet Child O' Mine', because it's the most covered."