Here We Go Again with Another Charge of Plagiarism, This Time with Guns ‘N Roses [UPDATE]

Slash’s riff from “Sweet Child O’ Mine” been named one of the best-ever countless times since its release in 1988. Now, 27 years later, a theory is being floated that the song might not be entirely original.

This story comes via Max TV, an Australian website, who notes certain similarities between “Child” and “Unpublished Critics,” a 1981 song by a group called Australian Crawl. Enter this into evidence.

You can see the problem. But plagiarism? That’s a serious charge, so let’s sort it out.

  • Sirocco, the album from which “Unpublished Critics” came, was a #1 album in Australia but pretty much unknown anywhere else in the world.
  • Guns ‘N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction has sold an estimated 30 million albums. “Child” was a #1 hit i the US, a #5 hit in the UK and a #5 hit in New Zealand. I haven’t been able to track down its chart position in Australia, but if it was Top 10 for the Kiwis, chances are it did just as well in Oz. You’d think that someone would have noticed this by now and have taken everything to court.
  • And let’s be clear: To declare “plagiarism” means that the copying was done with conscious intent. I somehow doubt that the Gunners made a conscious decision to rip off some obscure Australian group. It’s more likely that the Gunners independently discovered the same song structure–which, when you think about it, isn’t that complicated.

Let’s not get crazy, people. It’s just one of those unfortunate sonic coincidences that crop up every once in a while. (Go here, here and here for examples.) This is just another empty gotcha moment for people who like to spot these things.

Then again, there’s the current “Stairway to Heaven” lawsuit, so who knows what might happen.

UPDATE: James Reyne of Australian Crawl has come out with a statement. He’s not about to do anything about this. And as expected, Duff McKagan says the idea of GnR stealing the song is crazy.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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