Could Guns N’ Roses’ 1988 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Sweet Child O’ Mine” have been cribbed from an early ’80s Australian band that never achieved fame in the U.S.? As left-field as it sounds, the controversy has grown legs since popping up in a recent article posted on the Australian music site Max.
Take a listen to Australian Crawl’s “Unpublished Critics” (off their 1981 album Sirocco) and decide for yourself:
Do those guitars and vocal hooks sound too close for comfort to the Guns N’ Roses track, which was written six years later? Australian Crawl singer James Reyne hears a similarity, but he’s not about to press charges.
“It is not inconceivable that there are similarities between the two songs,” he told The Daily Mail. “It’s also not inconceivable that when they came out they were quite open in interviews that they liked a lot of Australian bands… It’s also not inconceivable that they wouldn’t have been aware of certain Australian songs. God forbid I had an active publishing company and they investigated the possibility.”
For Reyne, one thing that is inconceivable would be taking Slash and company to court: “I’m not about to take on the might of the Guns N’ Roses lawyers,” he said.
The controversy got all the way to former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. “It is pretty stunning,” he told Radio.com, commenting on a video comparing the two songs. “But we didn’t steal it from them! I never heard that song until a couple of days ago,” he swore, hand on heart.
Between 1980 and 1985, Australian Crawl released four studio full lengths and gained popularity in their homeland before disbanding. Though they never made a commercial impact in the United States, they are enshrined in the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame.
Billboard reached out to representatives for Slash for comment.