30 songs in 30 days: #27 – “Paradise City” (Guns ‘n’ Roses)

Day 27: A song you wish you could play

It begins with sonorous guitar, ringing like bells on a clear spring day. The spare rhythm of a bass-and-snare-drum duo marches in, keeping time as a chorus of voices beseeches soulfully to be taken home. The vocals are replaced by euphoric, slightly distorted guitar chords, which are then overlaid with an at once proud and wistful guitar solo. And then, when the beauty of the introduction peaks, the blare of a safety whistle un-tames the beast, and all hell breaks loose.

Little seven-year-old me was captivated by Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Paradise City.” I would eagerly play my brother’s vinyl 45 on the family stereo’s turntable as I rocked out with a toy guitar-and-microphone set. I never seriously tried to learn guitar and be in a rock band; the closest I came was playing around with my brother’s briefly-owned acoustic guitar and growing quickly frustrated with it. But what kid or teen hasn’t dreamt, at least fleetingly, of being on the stage and performing, whether it be rock, pop, classical, or even some non-musical pursuit like acting or dancing? Hell, I still air drum whenever I’m alone with music. And I’ve always said if I were to learn a rock-band instrument, my first choice would be bass guitar. But for Paradise City, I’d be satisfied with playing any part in the band. Hell, I’d even be the guy standing off to the side, blowing the safety whistle at the end of the intro. Close to thirty years later, there are, of course, tons of songs I wish I could play, but the badass Paradise City was certainly the first, inspiring my rock-star dreams and introducing me to a music world beyond the beloved oldies I grew up on.

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