Guns N’ Roses’ Revealed Their Cynical Side on ‘Garden of Eden’
Buoyed by a thrashing tempo and choppy guitars, as well as a lengthy, winding Slash solo, the song clocks in at under three minutes. Axl Rose sings impossibly fast, which no doubt explains why the song has very rarely been played live.
Lyrically, "Garden of Eden" seems rather prescient today, as it starts off referencing untrustworthy people -- "It's a critical solution, and the east coast got the blues / It's a mass of confusion, like the lies they sell to you" -- and details a scenario where something that's supposed to be idyllic (the titular garden) isn't.
If anything, however, the song feels hopeless with the state of the world, and cynical about what the moral depravity means: "Most organized religions make a mockery of humanity / Our governments are dangerous and out of control / The Garden of Eden is just another graveyard / Said, if they had someone to buy it, said I'm sure they'd sell my soul."
Appropriately, the song emerged during the raucous summer of 1989, when the band holed up in a theater space above legendary Chicago venue the Metro to work on new music. "It was perfect; we took over the theater and when we were done for the day, the coolest bar in the city was waiting for us downstairs," Slash wrote in his autobiography. "We rented out a two-unit, brown brick apartment building a few miles down the road on Clark Street, right by the elevated train, to live on."
Slash recalled he was drinking pretty heavily at that point, though he stayed rather active. "I had one of my BMX bikes out there and I used to ride it between the apartment and the rehearsal space, bunny-hopping over everything in sight, riding on the sidewalk. It was a good workout. Some days Duff [McKagan] and I even went to the gym, usually just after our morning vodkas. We'd go to one of those big public YMCAs with our security guard, Earl, to pump iron. We'd be down there in our jeans, doing sets between cigarette breaks — it was invigorating."
In between bar-hopping and working out, Guns N' Roses did work up a few songs, including "Estranged," "Bad Apples" and "Garden of Eden." Still, the sessions weren't as productive as they looked, in no small part because Rose was apparently late arriving. "Overall, I found our time in Chicago to be a huge waste, which will always be a point of contention between Axl and I," Slash recalled. "He seemed to think that we were really getting somewhere and that I was the one who ruined it all."
Still, the video was a 180 from the high-budget mini-movies the band filmed for "November Rain" and the rest of the trilogy. Instead, it's a one-camera take using a fisheye lens. Rose is up front, ready for his close-up, mugging for the camera and unleashing exaggerated moves as the rest of the band rocks out behind him. Of particular note are keyboardist Dizzy Reed and touring member Teddy Andreadis, who live it up behind them with some wild interpretive dance moves. (A version of the video featuring a ticker of the lyrics across the bottom of the screen also exists.)
Incidentally, the first-ever episode of Beavis and Butt-head featured the "Garden of Eden" clip. Naturally, the duo both liked and were befuddled by the video.
"Axl is cool," Butt-head said, before trying (and failing) to sing along with the motor-mouthed video. "Hey, Beavis: Do you know how to read?" He then attempts to follow along with the lyrics speeding by on screen before giving up entirely and just screaming incoherently along with the song in between bursts of headbanging.