Civil War (1991) – Guns N’ Roses

Axl Rose and Slash in Rio 1991

Civil War is my preferred song from Guns N’ Roses. Sure, I liked Sweet Child of Mine, November Rain, and Knocking on Heaven’s Door when I first heard them, but they get played to death even to this day in Colombia. I don’t enjoy them like I once did. Civil War on the other hand I find has stood the test of time at least for me. Hard-Rock is probably not high up on my list of favored genres in music, but I certainly enjoy this gritty track. There are a lot of associations you can make between its content and the turbulent world we find ourselves in.

I don’t need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin’ soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain’t that fresh
I don’t need your civil war
Ow, oh no, no, no, no, no

Civil War originally appeared on the 1990 compilation Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal and later on the band’s 1991 album, Use Your Illusion II. It’s the brainchild of band members Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan. Slash stated that the song was originally an instrumental he had written, and later Axl wrote lyrics and it was worked into a proper song at a soundcheck in Melbourne, Australia. Civil War reached number four on the Mainstream Rock chart in Billboard.

Allusions and sampling (wikipedia)

*The song samples Strother Martin’s speech in the 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.”

*It quotes a speech by a Peruvian Shining Path guerrilla officer saying “We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer”.

*The song also includes the American Civil War song, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, whistled by Axl Rose in the intro and outro.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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9 comments on “Civil War (1991) – Guns N’ Roses
  1. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    I haven’t heard this one in quite a while. Musically they were important…them and Nirvana pretty much wiped out hair fluff bands.
    You dont’ hear many hard rock songs getting deep as this.

  2. Haven’t heard much of Guns N’ Roses for yonks. In the ’90s they were nearly always played at funerals of young people – because “they were the dead person’s favourite”. So I fairly quickly grew to dislike them! However, listening to this today I can see why they were so well liked!

    • I didn’t know they featured so prominently at young people’s funerals.
      I too can definitely see the attraction to their music although on the whole they are not my cup of tea. But ‘Civil War’ I like a great deal.

  3. Reely Bernie says:

    Remember when they used to sell cassette tape “singles?” You had an A side and a B side. I got one for “Civil War,” but, for the life of me, I can’t think of what the other side had on it. Great song. There’s something about Axl Rose’s knack for the epic, even if it comes across as pretentious. I still listen to this and “November Rain,” and I still enjoy their over-the-top glory!

    • Hi Bernie!! It’s great to read from you. Yes, I remember when those beasts did the rounds. God knows how much teenage money I spent on those single cassette tapes. Haha. It’s impressive you remember having bought the cassette of this song. I have no idea how I came across it.

      I’m sorry to say, but I’ve fallen out with November Rain. I hear it played too often here. Like I try to ask politely please don’t play it again and then they put on a mainstream Queen hit. And I yell, Nooool!!!

      • Reely Bernie says:

        I hear you. “Free Bird” is my “November Rain” to you (if that makes sense). It’s just in my experience, I listened to it up to exhaustion. “November Rain” still ends up in my jogging playlist because of that ending. It gives me a little pep to sprint. It’s all about Slash’s guitar solo, and that piano.

      • I got ya. I love Free Bird. I don’t grow tired of it, not that I have been over-saturated with it unlike you.
        Jogging playlist lol. Sounds like me. I jog to my playlist. But f%cked if I’ll sprint haha

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