“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 summarizes 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”.
“Welcome to the Jungle” is often used as the opener at Guns N’ Roses concerts, being played at almost every show on the Appetite for Destruction Tour and Use Your Illusion Tour. From 2001-2007, on the Chinese Democracy Tour, “Welcome to the Jungle” was used exclusively as the show opener, until 2009, when it was replaced by “Chinese Democracy”. It now occupies the second spot on the setlist. When performed live, the song often begins with the line: “Do you know where the fuck you are? You’re in the jungle baby! Wake up! Time to Die!”, in reference to the song’s bridge.
The song was used as the concert introduction during Shakira’s world tour, the Tour of the Mongoose. Australian rock band Mammal frequently cover “Welcome to the Jungle” live, incorporating the first verse and chorus of the song as part of their own song, “Inciting”. Pink performed the song at her 2003 Try This Tour.