“Welcome to the Jungle” is a song by American rock band Guns N’ Roses, featured on their debut album, Appetite for Destruction (1987). It was released as the album’s second single initially in the UK in September 1987 then again in October 1988 this time including the US, where it reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 24 on the UK Singles Chart.
On the 1987 release, the Maxi Single format was backed with a live version of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie”, the band’s debut single “It’s So Easy” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. In 2009 “Welcome to the Jungle” was named the greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.
Axl Rose wrote the lyrics while visiting a friend in Seattle. “It’s a big city, but at the same time, it’s still a small city compared to L.A. and the things that you’re gonna learn. It seemed a lot more rural up there. I just wrote how it looked to me. If someone comes to town and they want to find something, they can find whatever they want.” Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin summarises the song as “about Hollywood streets; true to life.”
Slash describes the development of the music of “Welcome to the Jungle” in his self-titled autobiography. As the band was trying to write new material, Axl remembered a riff Slash had played while he was living in the basement of Slash’s mother’s house. He played it and the band quickly laid down the foundations for the song, as Slash continued coming up with new guitar parts for it. He credits Duff McKagan as coming up with the breakdown. Duff contradicts this in his autobiography, It’s So Easy (and other Lies), saying it was from a song called “The Fake” that he wrote in 1978 for the Vains, a punk band he was in. He also said it was the first song he ever wrote, and that it was later released as a single by the band. According to Slash, the song was written in approximately three hours.
Rose claimed inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man while they were coming out of a bus into New York. Trying to put a scare into the young runaways, the man yelled at them, “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby; you’re gonna die!”
Martin Popoff included the song at number nineteen in his book The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time; it was ranked the second “greatest metal song” by VH1; it appeared at #467 on Rolling Stone‘ “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, it appeared as number seven hundred and sixty-four on Q‘s “1001 Best Songs Ever” chart; and the song was named the “greatest song about Los Angeles” in a poll in Blender. In 2009 it was named the greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. In 2009 the readers of Rolling Stone Magazine rated it the greatest sports anthem. In 2006, “Welcome to the Jungle” was also rated by VH1 #26 on its list of the “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s”
Geffen Records was having a hard time selling the video to MTV. David Geffen made a deal with the network, and the video was aired only one time around 5:00AM on a Sunday morning. As soon as the video was aired, the networks received numerous calls from people wanting to see the video again.
In spite of the early morning airtime, the song’s music video caught viewers’ attention and quickly became MTV’s most requested video. The video in question begins with a shot of Axl Rose disembarking a bus in Los Angeles and a drug dealer (portrayed by Izzy) is seen trying to sell his merchandise while Rose rejects it. As Rose stops to watch a television through a store window, clips of the band playing live can be seen and Slash can also be seen briefly, sitting against the store’s wall and drinking from a clear glass bottle in a brown paper bag. By the end of the video, Rose has transformed into a city punk, wearing the appropriate clothing, after going through a process similar to the Ludovico technique.
During an interview with Rolling Stone magazine about the music video, Guns N’ Roses’ manager at the time, Alan Niven, said that he “came up with the idea of stealing from three movies: Midnight Cowboy, The Man Who Fell to Earth and A Clockwork Orange.”
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