Song Lyrics – Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle
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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.
Today, I want to talk about the lyrics to Welcome to the Jungle, by Guns N’ Roses. This was the first track on Guns N’ Roses debut album which came out in 1987. I remember the video for another track on this album, Paradise City was on TV all the time for a while and when I was a young teenager, I loved this album. I still play it from time to time when I’m exercising. This song was requested by David so I hope you enjoy this podcast.
New project – English Focus
Before I get to the song lyrics, I want to tell you about another project I’ve been working on for a year. I have a new website called English Focus which is a speaking based online English school. I believe you need three things to learn English. You need motivation. Learning a language is hard so you need to be motivated. You need information about the language, that is vocabulary, grammar, discourse, register – so you know what language is right in different situations and you need an opportunity to practise. Motivation, information and practise. There are loads of courses online that offer really good information and some podcasts like this one and the British Council free resources. But you need the opportunity to practise using this language, especially speaking, to develop fluency and that’s what my new courses are offering. In the lessons, you’ll be presented with speaking tasks. I’ll demonstrate the activities and give you information about the language and then you’ll get to practise speaking with a partner, just like you would if you went to a class at a teaching centre. If you are interested, visit EnglishFocus.com and take a placement test to see if I have a course that’s the right level for you. OK, back to the song lyrics.
Welcome to the Jungle
The lyrics to Welcome to the Jungle are quite simple. I ran them through a vocabulary profiler and the most advanced vocabulary in the song is B1 with a few B2 phrases so this should be a good podcast for B1 or intermediate learners.
I will go through the lyrics, verse by verse and talk about the interesting vocabulary and try to interpret the meaning as I go.
Let’s start with the title. Welcome to the jungle. A jungle is normally a tropical forest. Jungles are wild places with lots of plants and wildlife. I have visited a jungle in Indonesia and it was so dense, there was no way you could walk through it. There was a trail for people to kike on, but either side, the plants were so thick that you’d need a machete to cut your way through. However, in the song, Axl Rose is not welcoming tourists on a jungle trek. He’s referring to the city of Los Angeles in California. When people describe a city as a jungle, they are using the metaphor to say that the city is a wild and dangerous place. My introduction to jungles came from the Disney film of the Rudyard Kipling book, The Jungle Book about a boy who is raised by wolves and a bear in a Jungle in India. There are dangerous animals, a snake and a tiger living in the jungle. In L.A. there are dangerous people.
In the first verse, we hear:
Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games
We got everything you want honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey, we got your disease
In the jungle, welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your sha-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n knees, knees
Mwah, I, I wanna watch you bleed
Fun and games is a collocation that means entertaining activities. It’s quite informal. You might hear someone say there will be lots of fun and games at a child’s birthday party. Or that they have fun and games planned when their family visits.
We’ve got everything you want, honey. Honey is the sticky sweet food made by bees. And it’s also a common informal way to address someone you like. It’s a bit like darling or sweetheart. If you use it with people you don’t know, it can be a bit too familiar and that can show a lack of respect. He goes on to sing: we are the people that can find whatever you need. If you got the money, honey, we got your disease. Normally a disease is a serious illness. But in this case, it’s a figurative reference to drugs or other vices. So he’s saying you can get anything you want in the jungle which might sound tempting, but then he says ‘watch it bring you to your knees.
If you are on your knees, it means you’re resting, not on your feet, but on your knees, with your legs bent and your feet and ankles behind you. People who are forced to beg for help sometimes drop to their knees so if you are on your knees you are desperate. If something brings you to your knees, it means it takes your resources and leaves you in a desperate situation. So the jungle offers you anything you want. There are drugs and other vices and parties and lots of entertaining activities, but it can be dangerous because it can take everything away from you and bring you to your knees. I think that this is especially true of addictive drugs.
The first verse ends with the rather mean line: I want to watch you bleed. To bleed means to have an open injury like a cut or worse so that your blood leaks out of your body. If you cut yourself, you might say: I’m bleeding, meaning you need a bandage to stop the blood. In the song, this is also figurative, if you are bleeding, you are losing blood, but this can be a metaphor to say that you are losing money. In the song, I think it also means your self-respect and dignity.
Let’s look at the next verse.
Welcome to the jungle, we take it day by day
If you want it you’re gonna bleed but it’s the price to pay
And you’re a very sexy girl who’s very hard to please
You can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free
In the jungle, welcome to the jungle
Feel my, my, my, my serpentine
Ooh, ah, I want to hear you scream
We take it day by day. This is a common phrase that means to approach a problem or a situation slowly focusing on the immediate situation and not thinking about longer plans. So you hear people who are recovering from an illness or after a serious accident saying that they are taking it day by day. This can make dealing with a big problem easier. If you worry too much about the long term, it can be overwhelming so if you take things day by day, they are somehow easier. However in the song, Axl means that they don’t make long term plans. I think this means they are a bit careless and irresponsible rather than that they are dealing with a problem.
And if you want it you’re gonna bleed but it’s the price to pay. I described the verb to bleed earlier so I hope that’s straight forward.
And you’re a very sexy girl. Now, sexy is a very difficult adjective to describe. It means attractive and somehow suggestive. My six-year-old asked me what sexy meant and I found it very difficult to describe. I think that the clearest answer is that someone is sexy if you want to have sex with them. Though that answer would not have been appropriate for my six-year-old son.
You can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free.
If you can taste something, normally it means you touch it with your tongue to sense the flavour. However, we also talk about tasting something meaning sampling or trying something before you eat it. So as well as tasting food, you can taste or at least try a taster of other things. There’s a gym near my house that offers taster sessions of some of their groups. These are short classes that you can use to try the activities before you pay for a full course. We also use the expression: so close you could taste it, meaning that something a person wants is almost available. I’m so close I can taste it … This is the meaning from the song. When you are in LA, you can taste the bright lights, the stardom, the movies and hollywood, but you can’t get them, you can’t get there unless you are prepared to pay for them.
Let’s look at the last verse. There are only a couple of items to talk about.
Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day
You learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see, you’ll take it eventually
You can have anything you want but you better not take it from me
In the jungle, welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your sha-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-knees, knees
Mwah, I’m gonna watch you bleed
OK. You learn to live like an animal. To live like an animal means to live very badly. To be dirty and live in a dirty home. To not really look after yourself or your surroundings. I don’t think this is really fair on animals, but the idea is that people who live badly are not living like humans, that they have become less than human.
If you’ve got a hunger for what you see, you’ll take it eventually.
The adverb eventually, is used to say that something will happen in the end, but you may have to wait. So we say that something happened eventually if it was late or there were lots of problems along the way. I think it’s most commonly used when talking about long journeys, especially if there are delays and problems on the journey. I got there eventually, but I was very late and had missed the party.
One last item is you better not. You can have anything you want but you better not take it from me. In British English, we’d say you had better not or you’d better not. This phrase is like a modal verb – we use it to give strong advice, often strong negative advice. However, it is also quite threatening. It means it would be better if you did something else. Why it would be better is not clear. It might just be that the result is better. Or it might be that someone will hurt you if you choose to do this so it would be better if you chose something else.
The song has a bridge now and then a final chorus. The bridge starts:
And when you’re high, you never ever wanna come down
So down, so down, so down, yeah
This meaning of high I think comes from the phrase high-spirits however, it has come to mean intoxicated by drugs. When people are intoxicated by alcohol, they say they are drunk. But for drugs like cannabis, people say they are high.
To come down, means to experience the effects of the drug wearing off. However, the high that Axl is singing about is not just the temporary state of intoxication, but the excitement and happiness from living this exciting jungle lifestyle where you are close to stars and the bright lights of hollywood. He’s saying that you never want to leave this state. In the next couple of lines, though, he sings:
You know where you are?
You’re in the jungle, baby, you’re gonna die
So although the jungle is exciting and there are fun and games and whatever you want, it is still the jungle and there are dangers. If you are not careful, if you overdo the jungle lifestyle, you will not survive.
The song ends with repeats of the chorus and the line: Feel my, my, my, serpentine. I wasn’t sure what that meant as the word serpentine is either an adjective meaning like a snake or it could be the name of a winding lake in a London park. But that didn’t make any sense. SO I went online and apparently, Axl Rose had a trademark dance that was called the serpentine or the snake dance.
The last line in the song is: it’s gonna bring you down. To bring someone down means to cause someone to lose power or to make a happy person become unhappy. So this city, this jungle is not really a nice place. It seems exciting at first but eventually, it will bring you down.
I don’t think that this song is actually a very good tourism advert for Los Angeles, however, back when I was 13 and thought Guns N’ Roses were really cool, I would still have loved to visit.
I will post the youtube video for this song with the transcript on the page for this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. So you can listen to the music and hopefully enjoy it all the more.
I hope you have enjoyed this podcast. As always, I love reading your comments so please leave me a comment on the site or a rating or a review on Apple podcasts. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. Thank you also to those of you that have bought me a coffee. I really appreciate it.
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Thanks for listening.