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Is Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Paradise City’ About a Real Place?

You’ve heard it, your parents have heard it and even your grandparents have probably heard it. Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” is undoubtedly one of the most well-known rock songs, but what place is it actually based on?

The track is a staple for the rockers. Featured on their 1987 debut album Appetite for Destruction, it’s been played at nearly every single one of their concerts [via Setlist.fm], and is almost always the closing song of the show. And in January of 2024 — 35 years after it was released as a single — it surpassed 1 billion streams on Spotify. The music video isn’t quite there yet on YouTube, but it still has a whopping 806 million views.

Needless to say, it’s a big song, and you probably know more people that have at least heard the chorus than people who haven’t. So, let’s dive into the history of it.

What Is the Backstory of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Paradise City’?

Slash wrote in his 2007 self-titled autobiography that the idea for “Paradise City” was born on the way home from a Jetboy show that Guns N’ Roses opened for in San Francisco. The guitarist was messing around on his acoustic guitar in their rental van and came up with the melody, and then Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin joined in too. Slash started humming, and then Axl Rose sang, “Take me down to the paradise city.”

Slash said he chimed in with the next few lines, “Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty,” but he thought it was corny. After Rose repeated his original line, Slash came up with a new one: “Where the girls are fat and they’ve got big titties.” 

Obviously, the latter phrase didn’t make it onto the final recording.

Is ‘Paradise City’ Based on a Real Place?

There’s no record of any of the members of Guns N’ Roses saying that “Paradise City” was inspired by a specific city or town, but Rose, who’s from Lafayette, Indiana, told Hit Parader in a 1988 interview that “the verses are more about being in the jungle; the chorus is like being back in the Midwest or somewhere.”

READ MORE: There Are Only Four Songs Guns N’ Roses Have Never Played Live

The “jungle” may have been a reference to a city such as New York or Los Angeles, both of which served as inspiration for the lyrics to their other massive Appetite song “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Where Was the ‘Paradise City’ Music Video Filmed?

The music video for “Paradise City” features footage from two of the band’s performances in 1988 — one of which took place at Giants Stadium in New Jersey while they were on tour with Aerosmith, and the other was at the legendary Monsters of Rock festival in Donington Park in England.

Guns N’ Roses – ‘Paradise City’

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