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10 Insanely Great Guns N’ Roses Songs Only Hardcore Fans Know

Hear B sides, alternate versions and other crucial rarities from resurgent hard-rock gods

Guns n Roses

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When classic-era Guns N' Roses members Axl RoseSlash and Duff McKagan kicked off a massive stadium tour with an explosive L.A. gig last week – their first together in decades – it marked the reunion of some of hard rock's best (and most dangerous) hit makers. Even in the band's earliest days in 1985, they were writing anthemic rockers ("Welcome to the Jungle"), heartfelt ballads ("Don't Cry") and multi-part epics ("Rocket Queen"). They've put out five albums and an EP since first terrifying rock radio and MTV with 1987's vicious Appetite for Destruction hits, but along the way, several would-be great songs have fallen by the wayside, languishing on demo tapes, floating around on concert bootlegs and occupying the grooves of long-forgotten B sides. For every regrettable "One in a Million," "Don't Damn Me" and "My World" that made it onto one of their records, there exists a soaring "Goodnight Tonight," poppy "Just Another Sunday" and ripping "Shadow of Your Love" that could have been a smash. Here, Rolling Stone collects the best of the rest.

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“Bring It Back Home”

Guns N' Roses' affection for Aerosmith and Nazareth is hard to miss in this bluesy demo from around the Use Your Illusion sessions. With a chunky, Rocks-style riff and Rose relying on his lower register, "Bring It Back Home" doesn't as much charge out of the gate as stomp. It's greasy, gritty and full of street-strutting attitude — which makes you wonder how the overly slick UYI albums might have sounded had Guns continued down this path. In fact, it's the more natural progression from Appetite. Even Rose's delivery, as he spits out lines about a "dog in heat" and how his "baby gives it up for free," has more in common with the rhythm of "Nightrain" and Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog" (which GN'R covered on "The Spaghetti Incident?") than anything on UYI. Tying it all together are two signature Rose ad libs — a growling, elastic "oooh" to kick things off and, as a coda, a maniacal funhouse laugh. The only thing funny about "Bring It Back Home," however, is how a track this promising never saw the light of day.

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“Crash Diet”

West Arkeen was a close friend of Guns N' Roses and received co-writing credit on "It's So Easy," "The Garden" and "Yesterdays." He also helped them pen "Car Crash Diet" during the Use Your Illusion sessions. The song is a dark, metallic number with a soaring, chilling chorus. Much like "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, it's a cautionary tale about the dangers of the rock & roll lifestyle. "Drink 'n drive white lightning faster," Rose sings. "Taking your last ride/Better be so careful or you'll be dead before your time/Drinking and drive white lightning, baby." Sadly, Arkeen died in 1997 from an accidental drug overdose.

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“November Rain” (Acoustic Demo)

Axl Rose began tinkering around with "November Rain" back in 1983, two years before Guns N' Roses even formed. For a long time it was just a rough sketch of a song he would play on the piano, but shortly before work formally began on Appetite for Destruction in 1986, the group laid down a long version that Rose ultimately felt wasn't up to his standards. He knew he had something special and he wanted it to be perfect. A handful of stripped-down versions were attempted in the early Use Your Illusion sessions, including this one that features just Axl and an acoustic guitar. It lacks the majesty of the finished version (not to mention the Slash guitar solo), but is somehow even more gut-wrenching.

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“Catcher in the Rye” (Brian May Demo)

One of Chinese Democracy's inarguable high points, "Catcher in the Rye" contains every Axl Rose hallmark: swirling production, Taupin-esque lyrics ("On an ordinary day/Not in an ordinary way/All at once the song I heard/ No longer wouldn't play") and outrageous girth (runtime: nearly six minutes). But it's a shame he second-guessed the demo version he cut, which was buoyed by an ebullient solo from Brian May. The Queen guitar ace provided a soothing counterpoint to Rose's mercurial energy — it wasn't the first time the two collaborated, having played together at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992 — but the head Gun ultimately chose to excise May's contribution. During an online message-board chat in 2008, he said the final solo (played by Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal) was nonetheless inspired by May. "It's entirely constructed from edits based around one specific note Brian hit in a throwaway take," Rose wrote. "And though Brian seems to have warmed a bit to it, at least publicly, he was unfortunately none too pleased at the time with our handiwork. I remember looking at Brian standing to my left and him staring at the big studio speakers a bit aghast saying, 'But that's not what I played.'"

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