“Hard Skool” by Guns N’ Roses

The title of this song (“Hard Skool”), as used in the lyrics, is a compound adjective, if you will. Who it is being applied to is the addressee. And what it most simply means, using more conventional language, is that this individual is painfully hard-headed.

Now it has been put forth that said addressee may have been one of Axl Rose’s former bandmates from the era in which “Hard Skool” was conceived. This was during the 1990s in which the membership of Guns N’ Roses underwent a massive upheaval – one that apparently still affects the band, as alluded to later in the article, to this day.

But in any event, as the story plays out it becomes evident that the vocalist and addressee have had their issues alright. However, the former has been able to put such behind him and pretty much proceed with the relationship as if nothing had happened. 

However, the implication is that such required compromise – something that the latter just couldn’t get with. Instead, he or she ‘had to do it their way’. And the said insistence ultimately led to the dissolution of this relationship. 

Is the Addressee really a former bandmate?

One clue that Axl may well have been singing to a former bandmate is because he states that, in the process of being such a hard a-s, the said individual ‘threw it all away’. And once again, whereas the members who resigned were ultimately replaced (or much later rejoined), that whole episode in the history of Guns N’ Roses sorta destroyed the band’s capacity to continue dropping studio albums. That is the main reason why, despite being extant for several decades, they only have 6 in their catalog.

Or put differently, it is clear that the relationship this song is based on extends beyond conventional friendship. If it is one along those lines, it would likely be akin to a serious romance, i.e. an association in which one party not going with the flow has deeper ramifications than just hurt feelings. But such is never specified, i.e. the nature of the relationship between the singer and addressee. 

And at the end of the day, what the lyrics fundamentally break down to is the vocalist chastising a former associate. He criticizes this associate for choosing his own path instead of the one, like the vocalist himself had, which would have led to the perpetuation of their relationship.

Guns N’ Roses, "Hard Skool" Lyrics

When was “Hard Skool” released?

Though released as a standalone single on 24 September 2021, “Hard Skool” is a song dating back to the late-1990s. This was during the era in which Guns N’ Roses was putting together “Chinese Democracy”. And to note, even though “Chinese Democracy” didn’t come out until 2008, it was the first studio album Guns N’ Roses put out during the 21st century and their last one to date.

The working title of this track was “Jackie Chan”. And that version did get leaked in part in 2006 and in full in 2019 (though the 2006 leak was entitled “Checkmate”).

The first teasing of this track’s official release came about a week before such transpired. And it was not done so by Guns N’ Roses themselves but rather a fan who had a personal conversation with Axl Rose, who told her that they would soon be issuing the tune.

The labels that put this song out are Geffen Records and UMG.

Interesting Facts

It is quite peculiar that Guns N’ Roses, unanimously considered to be one of the greatest American rock bands of all time, don’t have many albums to their credit.

The band only got around to releasing one studio album since the five they put out between 1987 and 1993:

  • 1987’s Appetite for Destruction
  • 1988’s G N’ R Lies
  • 1991’s Use Your Illusion I
  • 1991’s Use Your Illusion II 
  • 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident?

As the story goes, the said reality was primarily the result of inner strife. There actually has been a lot of fluctuation in membership since the early 1990s. However, we do have an idea of who was down with the crew when “Hard Skool” was put together, due to the official writing credits. And that would be the following:

  • Axl Rose
  • Dizzy Reed
  • Robin Finck
  • Josh Freese
  • Chris Pitman
  • Paul Tobias

And indeed, all six of those individuals would have been members of Guns N’ Roses concurrently right around the turn of the century.


As it stands, Guns N’ Roses’ founder Axl and keyboardist Reed, who joined in 1990, are the longest-tenured continuous members of the group. Legendary guitarist the Slash was also down since the early goings, though quit in 1996 and rejoined in 2016. And for the record, the other current members of Guns N’ Roses are bassist Duff McKagan (who, like the Slash, left in the mid-1990s and rejoined in the mid-2010s). Then there is guitarist Richard Fortus (since 2002). There is also drummer Frank Ferrer (since 2006). Finally there is keyboardist Melissa Reese (since 2016).

That said, it’s not like Guns N’ Roses are into releasing new music these days. In fact by the looks of things, the band hasn’t done so since 2008. And “Hard Skool” is only the third single they have dropped since then and their second of the 2020s, after “Absurd”.

The last single Guns N’ Roses released, about a month prior to this one, which is entitled “Absurd” (2021). And it also shares a similar history as “Hard Skool”.

Hard Skool

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