For all the praise and controversy Guns N' Roses have generated with their formidable discography, they’ve stoked equal intrigue with their robust catalog of unreleased songs.

Perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise, given frontman Axl Rose's perfectionistic tendencies and the glacial pace at which the band makes music. In the last 25 years, Guns N' Roses have only released one studio album, the commercially underwhelming and unfairly maligned Chinese Democracy. The 2008 LP was reportedly supposed to be a trilogy, and when a slew of Chinese Democracy-era demos leaked online in 2019, it lent credence to the idea that Rose still had a lot left in the tank.

There's also a wealth of unreleased material dating back to Guns N' Roses' late-'80s and early-'90s heyday, from pre-Appetite for Destruction jams to outtakes from the exhaustive Use Your Illusion sessions, which lasted a whopping 18 months. Some of these unreleased songs, like the raucous "Goodnight Tonight," showed the band in all its unadulterated punk-metal glory. Others, like the yearning "Just Another Sunday," demonstrated Rose's desire to break new musical ground almost as soon as Guns' career took off.

Ever since Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan reunited in 2016, fans have clamored for a new album, which would be the first to feature the three classic-era members since 1993's "The Spaghetti Incident?" The August 2021 release of new single "Absurd" only amplified fans' excitement, and they continued calling for the official release of other widely circulated demos, such as "Hardschool" and "Atlas Shrugged." Suddenly, a new album from the semi-reunited Guns N' Roses — which for decades seemed like a pipe dream — now appeared to be a distinct possibility.

Of course, Guns N' Roses have never been a band to do things on anybody else's timetable, and there's no telling if or when they'll release a new album. In the meantime, take a deep dive into their collection of demos, outtakes and live jams with our list of the 10 Most Intriguing Unreleased Guns N' Roses Songs.

 

"Hardschool"

From: Chinese Democracy sessions, leaked in 2019

Of all the songs recorded during the seemingly endless Chinese Democracy sessions, "Hardschool" is arguably the most vintage-sounding GN'R tune of the bunch. The up-tempo hard rocker is bursting with slinky, muscular riffs, while Rose shifts effortlessly between a clean, mid-range croon and sandpapery howl. The frontman's lyrics strike that classic balance between mournful and vitriolic, as he wails in the chorus, "But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way / Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away."

 

"Atlas Shrugged"

From: Chinese Democracy sessions, leaked in 2019

Guns N' Roses sat out the mid-'90s alternative revolution as the lineup fractured and Rose replaced classic-era members with a rotating cast of hired guns. But the Chinese Democracy-era track "Atlas Shrugged" offers a fascinating glimpse into an alternate universe in which Rose was keeping step with the likes of Spacehog and Tiny Music-era Stone Temple Pilots (a fitting touchpoint, as Slash, McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum later teamed up with ex-STP frontman Scott Weiland to form Velvet Revolver). The singer delivers an uncharacteristically sweet, yearning vocal melody over shimmering guitar chords, and the chorus is understated but still eminently catchy. The song also features Brian May, a nod to Rose's '70s rock roots and grandiose ambitions.

 

"Perhaps"

From: Chinese Democracy sessions, leaked in 2019

Rose had no shortage of mid-tempo, piano-driven rockers during the Chinese Democracy sessions, as further evidenced by the bouncy "Perhaps." Similar in tempo and construction to Chinese Democracy's "Catcher in the Rye," "Perhaps" once again features May on guitar, while its lyrics show Rose at his most dejected and bitter, seemingly ruminating on a crumbled relationship. "My sense of rejection is no excuse for my behavior," he sings. "You pulled the gun that shot and crucified my savior."

 

"Crash Diet"

From: pre-Appetite for Destruction

Inspired by Vince Neil's 1984 drunk driving accident which killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley, Rose cowrote the menacing "Crash Diet" with Asphalt Ballet guitarist Danny Clarke and longtime friends and collaborators West Arkeen and Del James. (The latter two claim writing credits on "The Garden" and "Yesterday," and Arkeen also contributed to "Bad Obsession" and "It’s So Easy.") The track is fueled by ominous, descending arpeggios and crunchy power chords, while Rose rasps about the perils of booze and drugs. "Drink 'n' drive white lightning, faster, baby / Then it's your last ride," he roars. "Now better be so careful or you'll be dead before your time." The song proved tragically prescient, as Arkeen died of an opiate overdose in 1997 at the age of 36. Asphalt Ballet later recorded a version of "Crash Diet" for their 1993 sophomore album, Pigs, and the glam-metal band WildSide released it on their 2004 compilation The Wasted Years, though they recorded it in 1990. (Capitol Records blocked its release after Rose expressed his displeasure with the band's rendition.)

 

"Just Another Sunday"

From: Use Your Illusion sessions

The beleaguered Use Your Illusion sessions yielded dozens of songs, many of which didn't make the 30-track set. One of the most fascinating songs left on the cutting-room floor was "Just Another Sunday," a breezy pop number that sounds closer to Culture Club than Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. Musically, the demo is primitive, consisting mostly of a drum machine and noodly guitar licks. But Rose's vocals are present in all their raspy, heartsick glory, as he laments his seemingly routine relationship woes. "There's something I need to say before it's too late / But I won't hold you back while I'm begging you to stay," he wails before singing resignedly, "Just another Sunday."

 

"Goodnight Tonight"

From: pre-Appetite for Destruction

No, this isn't another Wings cover. Back when they were still a ferocious club band, Guns N' Roses used to jam on this scorching, loose-limbed rocker. Lyrically, it's just one verse followed by a gazillion refrains of "Goodnight tonight, goodnight tonight, goodnight." But it still rocks with an infectious energy, and the punky tempo and frenetic riffs would have fit neatly on Side 2 of Appetite alongside "You're Crazy" and "Anything Goes." Longtime band friend and author Marc Canter said Guns only played "Goodnight Tonight" live once, at the Roxy in January 1986, of which blurry footage still exists on YouTube. Izzy Stradlin later revived it while touring with the Ju Ju Hounds in the '90s. "He may have wrote it," Canter said. "I don't know when it was written or why they never did anything with it."

 

"Bring it Back Home"

From: Use Your Illusion sessions

Another leftover from the Use Your Illusion sessions, "Bring it Back Home" is a filthy, mid-tempo stomper that shows Guns N' Roses getting back in touch with their hard-rock roots. The lurching guitar riff sounds like a cross between Rocks-era Aerosmith and Whitesnake's cover of "Day Tripper," while Rose's lyrics and phrasing borrow directly from Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog," which the band covered on "The Spaghetti Incident?" Needless to say, a lot of GN'R fans still desperately want them to record a proper version of "Bring it Back Home."

 

"Eye on You"

From: Chinese Democracy sessions, leaked in 2019

During his self-imposed exile in the second half of the '90s, Rose was enamored of cutting-edge industrial rock and electronic acts like Nine Inch Nails and the Prodigy. That preoccupation rears its head on Chinese Democracy demo "Eye on You," a grinding alt-metal tune augmented by a hip-hop-influenced drum beat and atmospheric electronic flourishes. Rose's soaring vocals are the focal point, as he belts the chorus in his upper register and unleashes piercing screams over doomy guitar riffs. Like Chinese Democracy cuts "Better" and "I.R.S.," "Eye on You" shows Rose updating the classic GN'R sound while retaining his righteous fury.

 

 

"Too Much Too Soon"

From: Use Your Illusion sessions

The title of this Use Your Illusion outtake pays homage to McKagan's musical hero and punk legend Johnny Thunders, who played on the New York Dolls' sophomore LP Too Much Too Soon and recorded a minute-long acoustic ditty of the same name in 1983. With its jaunty, boogie-woogie beat, walking bassline and peppy hand claps, it's no wonder the retro-sounding "Too Much Too Soon" didn't make the sprawling, genre-hopping Use Your Illusion set. Still, it's a joy to hear the band members shed their inhibitions and play some old school rock 'n' roll. Rose, in particular, sounds like he's having a blast, unleashing effortless vocal runs and hamming it up like David Lee Roth at the beginning of the track. Of course, that free-spiritedness wouldn't make it onto the Illusion albums.

 

"It Tastes Good, Don't It"

From: Use Your Illusion sessions (played live in 1988, 1992)

Guns N' Roses were never shy about their hip-hop affections; Rose was often seen wearing an N.W.A hat, and the two troublemaking groups nearly toured together before financial disagreements derailed the plans. Guns' dalliances with rap-rock date back to the late '80s, when they began workshopping a crude piss-take called "It Tastes Good, Don't It." They tested it on the road while opening for Iron Maiden in 1988, with Rose introducing it by saying wryly, "This is Guns N’ Roses’ version of a rap song." But most Guns fans will recognize "It Tastes Good, Don't It" from their 1992 Tokyo performance, when they injected part of it into "Rocket Queen." Rose's lyrics are hardly high poetry ("I'm a fast motherfucker / Lemme tell you bout it sucker / Said you fuck with me / And I’ll fuck your mother"), but it's still a catchy, funky rave-up with plenty of attitude, suggesting they could have successfully transitioned into rap-rock if they had pursued it seriously.

 

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