One in a Million (Guns N' Roses song)

One in a Million (Guns N' Roses song)
"One in a Million"
Song by Guns N' Roses from the album G N' R Lies
Released United States November 30, 1988
United Kingdom December 17, 1988
Recorded Rumbo Studios, Take One Studio & Image Studio
Genre Rock
Length 6:09
Label Geffen Records
Writer Axl Rose
Producer Guns N' Roses
Mike Clink
G N' R Lies track listing
"You're Crazy"
"One in a Million"

"One in a Million" is a song by American rock band Guns N' Roses. It is the eighth track on the album G N' R Lies and was released in 1988. The lyrics describe GN'R singer Axl Rose's experience of getting hustled in the Greyhound bus station upon first arriving in Los Angeles. The song is notable not only for its controversy (see below), but also for being one of the first Guns N' Roses songs that Axl Rose wrote solo. According to interviews, Rose wrote "One In A Million" on guitar (an instrument he was not proficient in at the time), using only the bottom two strings. This differs from other Rose-written Guns N' Roses songs, which Rose composed on piano or keyboards.



The song's lyrics caused great controversy among many different groups, and accusations of homophobia, nativism, and racism were leveled against Guns N' Roses' lead singer and song lyricist, Axl Rose. Music critic Jon Pareles noted that with the song:

With "One in a Million" on "G 'n' R Lies," the band tailored its image to appeal to white, heterosexual, nativist prejudices, denouncing blacks, immigrants and gays while coyly apologizing "to those who may take offense" in the album notes. Criticism only made the band dig in its heels. In the new "Don't Damn Me," Mr. Rose spits out his rejoinder: "I said what I meant and I never pretended" and "My words may disturb but at least there's a reaction." Apparently he still thinks sincerity excuses anything, except a sincere disagreement with him.

The cover of the GN'R Lies EP, which was designed as a mock-tabloid newspaper front page, actually contained an advance apology for the song, suggesting controversy was anticipated. A small "article" entitled "One in a Million", credited to Rose, ended: "This song is very simple and extremely generic or generalized, my apologies to those who may take offense." [2][3]

In response to the following accusations of homophobia, Rose initially stated that he was "pro-heterosexual" and did not understand homosexuals, and spoke of negative experiences in his past, such as a seemingly friendly man who let him crash on his hotel room floor and then tried to rape him.[4] He later softened this stance, and insisted that he was not homophobic, pointing out that some of his icons, such as Freddie Mercury and Elton John, as well as David Geffen, the head of his record label, were bisexual or gay.

Others, including some of his peers in the music industry, accused him of racism for the use of the word 'niggers' in the song.[5] When Guns N' Roses and Living Colour supported The Rolling Stones for a concert in Los Angeles in 1989, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid publicly commented on "One in a Million" during his band's set. After hearing this, Rose in turn suggested they play the song for their opening act "just to piss them off."

Axl Rose was also accused of being biased against police due to the negative lyrics in the song which mention them. Rose responded by claiming when he was a teenager he was once mistaken for a girl by two police officers, who then proceeded to make sexual comments towards him, infuriating him so much he attacked the officers, resulting in his arrest. [6]

Several times Axl defended his use of the word 'nigger'. In one 1989 interview, he stated that he had used the word to signify "somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem... the word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black," and referenced the John Lennon song "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" as using the word in a positive context.[4] Rose also discussed the use of the word by the hip hop group Niggaz With Attitude (NWA) and was occasionally photographed wearing an NWA hat from then on. Other times he recalled personal experiences which had driven him to write such lyrics, such as feeling intimidated by the black street merchants selling gold chains.[7] Rose also claimed that he had used the word because it was considered taboo.[8]

By 1992, however, Rose seemed to have gained new perspective on the song and its lyrics. In one interview, he conceded that the word had been used as an insult, but added, "I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism." [8]

Rose was consistent in strongly denying accusations that he was a racist. When "One in a Million"'s lyrics prompted members of the press to call Guns N' Roses "David Duke's house band,"[9] Rose countered, "I don't like being associated with that. I asked the crowd [at a Guns N' Roses concert]: "Is that what you get out of this, that we're racists and you're supporting it? 'Cause if that's the case, I'm gonna go home. That's not why we're here."[8] Former Guns N' Roses A&R rep Tom Zutaut later corroborated Rose's stance, stating in a 1999 interview "Axl...was also really pissed off about being called a racist." [6]

Rose also expressed concern and disapproval at those who used "One in a Million" to promote their own racist views, noting: "There's a lot of people who have chosen to use that song. However that song makes them feel, they think that must be what the song means. If they hate blacks, and they hear my lines and hate blacks even more, I'm sorry, but that's not how I meant it." [3] In his final public comments about "One in a Million" in 1992, Rose stated, "It was a way for me to express my anger at how vulnerable I felt in certain situations that had gone down in my life. It's not a song I would write now." [3]

Response from bandmates

Before the release of Lies the other members of the band tried in vain to make Rose drop the track from the record.[6] Fellow GN'R member, Slash, whose mother is black, noted that he did not condone the song but did not condemn his bandmate, commenting in a 1991 interview with Rolling Stone: "When Axl first came up with the song and really wanted to do it, I said I didn't think it was very cool... I don't regret doing 'One in a Million,' I just regret what we've been through because of it and the way people have perceived our personal feelings." [10]

In 1988, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin told rock critic Nick Kent that the lyrics simply reflected the poor race relations of inner-city Los Angeles.[11]

Cover versions

Marilyn Manson had planned to record a version of "One in a Million," lyrics intact,[12] but plans to do so were scrapped.[13] Ian Stuart Donaldson from the band Skrewdriver covered this song on his Patriotic Ballads album.



  1. ^ Pareles, Jon (15 September 1991). "Guns 'n' Roses Against the (Expletive) World". New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Cover art for GN'R Lies EP, 1988, Geffen
  3. ^ a b c "I, Axl" Del James, RIP Magazine - 1992
  4. ^ a b The Rolling Stone Interview With Axl Rose" Del James, Rolling Stone August 1989
  5. ^ "Axl Rose: American Hellhound" Damien Cave, Salon, July 7, 2001
  6. ^ a b c Just a little Patience SPIN magazine, 1999
  7. ^ Interview Magazine talks to Axl Rose, 1992
  8. ^ a b c Axl Rose: The RS Interview Kim Neely - Apr 02, 1992 - Issue 627
  9. ^ "Axl Rose" David Browne, Entertainment Weekly/The Entertainers, 1991
  10. ^ "Slash: The Rolling Stone interview" Jeffrey Ressner with Lonn M. Friend, Rolling Stone, February 1991
  11. ^ Kent, Nick. Pop, Iggy. The Dark Stuff: selected writings on rock music Page 232. Da Capo Press, 2002. ISBN 0306811820, 9780306811821
  12. ^ "Marilyn Manson talks about "One in a Million" (from, October 14, 1998
  13. ^ [1] MansonUSA Interview, July 6, 2002

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