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Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits: 11 Top Tracks, Ranked

Ever since the release of "Appetite for Destruction", fans have hungered for more songs from these titans of rock.

For frontman Axl Rose, music has always been an escape. Raised in a suffocatingly strict Pentecostal home in the middle of Indiana, he wasn’t allowed to listen to rock when he was growing up. Still, he was drawn to the genre. “Music was my best friend,” he once told the Los Angeles Times. “It was everything, so I’d find ways to listen to it. I remember once my friend Dave called me and played Supertramp over the phone. I just acted like I was talking to him so no one would know.”

In a twist maybe even he didn’t see coming at the time, Rose’s upbringing paved the way for his future stardom. “In some ways I hate the way I was raised,” he’s noted, “but in some ways I can’t hate it because it gave me this sense of drive — this mission to do something with my life.”

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Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits
Guns N’ Roses (1988) L. Busacca / Contributor / Getty

Once he broke free from the confines of home and landed in LA making music with the likes of Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler — it was game on, and Rose and the band soon wrote some classics that would become Guns N’ Roses greatest hits. Rose, for one, was always willing to suffer for his art. “I live for the songs. If I go through a bad time, well, anything I have to go through is worth it if I’ve got a song out of it,” he told Music Connection magazine in 1986, early into his career.

“If I had to sleep in a parking garage and I hated it and I wanted to give up, I just kept going, and then I got a song out of it from the experience. I’m so glad that I had to go through a ton of sh—.” His passion seamlessly transferred to the stage. “I try to put every single thought I possibly can into every performance and every line,” he said, “and that’s why I might be known as histrionic, ’cause I go full out.”

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Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits
Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan (2023) Kevin Mazur / Contributor / Getty

Audiences certainly responded to his and the band’s authenticity, as did industry bigwigs. “There are the singers, drummers, guitarists and bass players who sit around trying to figure out how to write songs so they can get [sex] every night, and there are artists who create what is inside of them, and they put it out because they have to get it out. That’s the way Guns N’ Roses seemed from the beginning,” Tom Zutaut, the Geffen suit who signed the band, once explained.

Though the band’s lineup has changed many times through the years — with Matt Sorum, Steven Adler, Dizzy Reed, among others — cycling in to replace some of the original lineup, Guns N’ Roses greatest hits have consistently thrilled their fans and their peers with their no-holds-barred fusion of rock, metal, and punk. As Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong said when he inducted the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, “They did it [all] for the love of playing loud-ass rock ’n’ roll music. The thing that set them apart from everyone else is guts, heart and soul. And most importantly, they told the truth and painted a picture of the mad world that they lived in.”

Here, a collection of some of Guns N’ Roses greatest hits that represent the mark they’ve left on rock ’n’ roll forever.

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11. “Chinese Democracy” (2008): Guns N’ Roses greatest hits

Though this song (and album) divides some fans, SPIN praised the track’s “muscular four-chord riff and that Axl banshee wail,” though it did question its complete absence of a hook. Still, “Chinese Democracy” hit No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and even reached No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock charts. (Norway loved it so much, by the way, it ruled at No. 1 there!)

10. “Nightrain” (1989)

“We’d drink the Night Train, this cheap booze. It was — I don’t know — $1.27 cents a bottle,” Duff McKagan told the Broken Record podcast of this tune co-written by him, Slash, Axl Rose, and Izzy Stradlin. The guys found themselves singing it while pasting up flyers all over town for one of their early gigs. “We’d kind of written [it] — we all got together, I think, at Izzy’s apartment beforehand and came up with the genesis of [the song], and we were singing it. Because we didn’t have phones and sh— to record stuff. So you’d have to remember what you wrote.” And Slash, as Paste notes, ends the track with “one of the most heroic outro solos this side of Led Zeppelin.”

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9. “You Could Be Mine” (1991): Guns N’ Roses greatest hits

“‘You Could Be Mine’ was one of Izzy’s riffs, and as always with Izzy [Stradlin], he’d play something and it would catch my ear, and I’d play along, but in my own sort of style,” Slash shared with Total Guitar about this song that was later featured in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shows up in the band’s video. And as Music Radar notes, the song’s “slamming brick-wall tone and breakneck pace were the perfect soundtrack to being chased by a relentless shape-shifting assassin from the future.”

8. “Civil War” (1993)

Serial whistler Axl Rose performs bits of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” during this politically charged song’s beginning and end. Also in the mix are an audio clip from Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke, lyrics that reference everything from Vietnam to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and Rose singing, “I don’t need your civil war / It feeds the rich, while it buries the poor” while conjuring up images of women crying while  young men are dying.

7. “Estranged” (1994): Guns N’ Roses greatest hits

Serving as a bit of a follow-up to “November Rain” [see below], this tune, songwriter Axl Rose, explained in 1994, is about acknowledging that a relationship has ended, then “having to figure out what the f— to do…because the things you wanted and worked for just can not happen. And there’s nothing you can f—ing do about it.” Paste raves that this lengthy mega-ballad “plows through multiple movements in nine minutes, anchored by Slash’s aching guitar melodies and Rose’s explosive, melancholy vocals.”

6. “Patience” (1989)

This acoustic entry, with its folksy whistle opening, finds Guns N’ Roses arguably at their quietest, using no drums and just three acoustic guitars. Still, the only song officially released off of the band’s second album, 1988’s G N’ R Lies, made big noise on the charts, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone noted that “Patience,” along with the record’s other “calm folk-rock” tracks, contains melodies that “reveal yet another welcome facet of Guns N’ Roses,” and that their strength should “end any further mutterings from the doubting Thomases out there who are still making snide comments about the band’s potential for longevity.”

5. “Don’t Cry” (1991): Guns N’ Roses greatest hits

“The first GN’R song that we wrote for the band was ‘Don’t Cry,’” Axl Rose told the radio show Rockline in 1991. “We saved it, ’cause we really liked it and it was our most successful song here in Hollywood, on the club circuit. And so we saved it ’cause we didn’t know if we were gonna sell five records or a million records of the first one, so we wanted to make sure we had a good song ready for the second.” The band wound up releasing two versions of “Don’t Cry” (with two different sets of lyrics on the verses) on two of their albums: Use Your Illusion 1 and Use Your Illusion II.

4. “November Rain” (1992)

This is a tune, according to Axl Rose, about “not wanting to be in a state of having to deal with unrequited love.” In a 1994 interview, the singer added that he “wrote the song basically about who I am and how I feel, and the breakup of my marriage with Erin [Everly] and how I didn’t want it to die. But I also apply it to a lot of other situations, or friendships, or family things, where you knew it had to end.” The ballad’s impressive piano section actually came to him in a dream, he shared, and he woke up and headed off to try to recreate it while adding lyrics.

3. “Paradise City” (1989): Guns N’ Roses greatest hits

“After we got that whole chorus rolling, that’s when I slammed into the big heavy riff that anchors the song. And that’s the moment that ‘Paradise City’ became my favorite Guns N’ Roses song,” Slash notes in his 2007 autobiography, adding that the members were improvising the lyrics “as if we were on a bus heading off to rock and roll summer camp.” As Ultimate Classic Rock notes, the result, like “many of the band’s songs from this fertile period…almost immediately earned its classic status,” and it became the band’s go-to closing number during their wild stage shows.

2. “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987)

“The opening riff…is a descending trip into the underworld of Los Angeles. This ride was not about parties, glamour or power ballads. It was about the seedy underworld of misfits, drug addicts, paranoia, sex, violence, love, anger and the cracks of Hollywood. It was a breath of fresh air!” Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong raved of this tune, which Axl Rose has noted is about the culture shock that jolted him after moving from Indiana to the City of Angels in the early 80s.

1. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (1988): Guns N’ Roses greatest hits

“The ‘blue sky’ line actually was one of my first childhood memories — looking at the blue sky and wishing I could disappear in it because it was so beautiful,” Axl Rose told the LA Times of his band’s only No. 1 song, which was inspired by his romance with Erin Everly, the daughter of The Everly Brothers’ Don Everly. “The saving grace for me was the solo section,” Slash told Total Guitar of the song he’s gone on record about not being so crazy about, though he’s noted, “Ironically it turned out to be the biggest song we ever did.”

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