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Welcome to the jungle
"Welcome to the Jungle" may be Guns N' Roses' signature song, but the line itself might have actually been borrowed from one of the band's own major influences: Hanoi Rocks, a Finnish glam-metal band popular in the early 1980s, has a song that contains the line "Welcome to the jungle."
Axl Rose told Rolling Stone that Hanoi Rocks was the biggest single influence on his own band's sound. Maybe that's why Guns N' Roses stole the Finnish rockers' hairstyles, too. But did GNR also steal the bones of "Welcome to the Jungle"?
The Hanoi Rocks song in which that lyric appears, "Underwater World," is strikingly similar to the Guns N' Roses hit single. Its lyrics feature the same, seedy speaker tempting a woman into the underbelly of the city, and the riff under the verse sections is similar to Slash's riff on "Jungle."
We got your disease
Following the line, "Whatever you may need," the disease here most likely refers to sex and other vices in addition to drugs.
For Guns N' Roses, there really wasn't any vice they couldn't enjoy if they wanted to. In fact, the band flourished in their "disease."
Several other songs on Appetite are about their nefarious activities. "Nightrain" refers to Night Train Express, a cheap liquor the band enjoyed. "Mr. Brownstone" deals with heroin usage. "My Michelle" addresses prostitution, while other songs like "Anything Goes" and "Rocket Queen" are about sex. You could even go as far as saying that the band needed the various "diseases" of the L.A. scene to survive.
When the gigs weren't paying the bills, guitarist Izzy Stradlin dealt heroin, and the entire band freeloaded off strippers and groupies to get some money and a place to stay.
In the jungle
The jungle has provided writers with a powerful metaphor for social chaos and confusion for at least the past 150 years.
Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle is perhaps the most famous example, using its title metaphor to describe an industrial society gone mad (not to mention meat gone seriously bad).
Other authors at the time, influenced by the imperialistic endeavors of the Western powers in Africa and in the East, used the jungle in a similar fashion. In The Wizard of Oz, published in 1904, the jungle represents the fear of what lurks off the beaten path—"lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"
And you're a very sexy girl
Very hard to please
You can taste the bright lights
But you won't get there for free
One lyrical theme that "Welcome to the Jungle" harps on is that everything has its price.
That price, as in the case here, doesn't necessarily have to be money. The suggestive, "you're a very sexy girl / Very hard to please," implies that for the girl—and probably, in the mind of the band, most women—the price of fame involves some sort of sacrifice of sexual dignity.
But then, for the speaker, this moral descent into the "jungle" is also a source of empowerment and celebration. That is, while an outsider would probably have plenty of moral problems with this sexual compromise, to those in the jungle, morals are less important than survival.
Feel my, my, my serpentine
Yep, we're pretty sure that's a rather crude sexual reference.
This kind of macho gesturing defines rock 'n' roll like no other lyrical theme. It's a little pig-headed, yeah, but at least for Guns N' Roses, the metaphor fits. "Serpentine" at the very least connects with the metaphor of the jungle in the song. The band has also been somewhat associated with snakes because Slash, their lead guitarist, owns a few big ones.
Something else worth mentioning is that another song on Appetite for Destruction, "Rocket Queen," involved some scream-inducing serpentine action. One of Steven Adler's girlfriends cheated on him with Axl Rose, and allowed him to record her for the album. That made it on the album, too.
Ya learn to live like an animal
In the jungle where we play
The song's predatory, intimidating lyrics make it a natural fit for sports teams looking for "jock jams" to fire up their fans.
The NFL's New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, play the song during every home game. Pro wrestler Mick Foley used to use it as his theme song. Others teams make even more prominent use of the song.
The Cincinnati Bengals' entire stadium is jungle-themed, so the song predictably finds its way onto the loudspeakers now and then. The Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and the Pittsburg State University Gorillas both use the song often, in conjunction with their jungle-themed mascots.
You know where you are?
You're in the jungle baby
You gonna die!
Every Guns N' Roses concert begins with that iconic delay-infused guitar lick and Axl Rose screaming these words, but substituting whatever town they're playing for "baby" to make things a bit more personal: "You're in the jungle, Boston, you gonna die!"
Axl Rose says his inspiration for this line was a real-life incident:
About five or six years ago I hitchhiked here [to New York] and ended up stuck out in the middle of this place...climbed up out of the freeway and this little old Black man comes up to me and my friend with our backpacks and about ten bucks between us, and he goes, 'You know where you are? You in jungle baby, you gonna die!'