Lead Guitarist Slash has been quoted as having a disdain for the song due to its roots as simply a “string skipping” exercise and a joke at the time. In a VH1 special, it was stated that Slash played the riff in a jam session as a joke. Drummer Steven Adler and Slash were warming up and Slash began to play a “circus” melody while making faces at Steven. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin asked Slash to play it again. Meanwhile lead singer Axl Rose was upstairs in his room and heard the ‘jam session’ going on downstairs and couldn’t help but write lyrics – based on his girlfriend Erin Everly.
Originally, there was a third verse to the song. However, this verse was later cut from recording as the band’s producer, Mike Clink, felt the song would carry on for too long. The final dramatic breakdown was not added until Clink suggested the band add one. They agreed, but weren’t sure what to do. Axl started saying to himself, “Where do we go? Where do we go now?” Clink suggested that he sing that, and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was born. In an interview with Hit Parader magazine in 1988, Duff McKagan noted:
“The thing about ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine,’ it was written in five minutes. It was one of those songs, only three chords. You know that guitar lick Slash does at the beginning? It was kinda like a joke because we thought, ‘What is this song? It’s gonna be nothing, it’ll be filler on the record.’ And except that vocal-wise, it’s very sweet and sincere, Slash was just fuckin’ around when he first wrote that lick.”