Let’s travel back to the beginning of the 90s – I promise you, it’s totally worth it!
I was looking for a song that was released on the year I was born in – 1992 and I suddenly realized that one of the most touching, emotionally-intense and well-written rock ballads EVER came out the same year. That’s right, I’m talking about Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain”. The song is, without doubt, a true masterpiece and in my opinion probably their greatest one. In addition to appreciating the true value of this work of art, I thought that it’s quite essential to familiarize ourselves and truly understand the meaning of the song, its lyrics and music video, as well. I don’t know about you guys, but if you are a lyrics-lover like me, I believe you can’t but be moved by the beauty of those words… Let’s dive into the song…
Even though “November Rain” was released as a single in 1992, it actually featured in their 1991 album “Use Your Illusion I”. By the way, it’s an awesome album and in my opinion their most admirable one. Not to mention that it was certified 7x times platinum by the RIAA, got a bunch of Grammy nominations and peaked at number 2 on the Billboard charts. (I feel like I should just mention that “Use Your Illusion I” and “Use Your Illusion II” were released simultaneously, however I still stand for what I said in terms of which one is better)
“November Rain” was written by Guns N’ Roses’ lead singer – Axl Rose and was recorded sometime between 1990 and 1991. He actually wrote it on his piano in the early 80s…The power-ballad style song made a huge statement the moment it was released to the public. In the USA, it got to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and worldwide it reached top 10 positions in countries such as Australia, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, Ireland and others. Furthermore, “November Rain” is the longest song in history to enter the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 chart – it runs for 8:57 minutes. The original version, by the way, was 25-minutes long – wow! However, they had to cut it short – a completely understandable move, having in mind the radio and TV limitations back then. I would honestly love to listen to this song for almost half an hour, though.
When we were doing that EP for L.A. Guns, like ’83? He was playing “November Rain” — and it was called “November Rain” — you know, on piano. The guitar solo is amazing. Way back then. It was the only thing he knew how to play, but it was his. He’d go, “Someday this song is gonna be really cool.” And I’d go, “It’s cool now.” “But it’s not done”, you know, he used to say. And, like, anytime we’d be at a hotel or anywhere, there’d be a piano; he’d just kinda play that music. And I’d go, “When are you gonna finish that already”, you know? And he’d go, “I don’t know what to do with it. I need Moody’s help,” said Tracii Guns, founding member of Guns ‘N Roses about Axl Rose working on this song since at least 1983.
Interesting fact, the song contains the longest ever guitar solo in a Top 10 single. Actually, Slash plays a few guitar solos in the song ( depending on how you see it). As I said, the lengthy artistic visions of Rose had to be cut down, along with the guitar solos of Slash… (the song was shortened to almost 9 minutes).
During the Chinese Democracy Tour, back in 2006, Axl Rose shared with the audience that the other band members were opposing the production and release of this song. He stated that his ideas and visions for a more symphonic, power-ballad style rock song were rejected from Slash and McKagan. According to him, they wanted for the band to stick to rough rock music and don’t go with a song like this one. He said that eventually he managed to convince them that this could be a good direction for the band. I am not sure how truthful those statements are because Axl Rose likes to make up stories every now and then. I should say that based on my research, Slash completely disagreed and contradicted such claims.
On an interesting note, it seems like Axl was always striving towards making a song that resembles “Stairway to Heaven” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”. In a several occasions, he mentioned that Zeppelin and Queen, especially, were a huge influence to him and his career. “November Rain” has a few similarities with both those songs which can be observed in the advancement and progression of the melody and quick changes of the rhythm.
Now let’s talk about the music video…
The music video was directed by Andy Morahan – a noted English music video director who worked with artists such as George Michael, Ozzy Osbourne, Cyndi Lauper, Simply Red, Tina Turner and many others. The essence of the video is its narrative quality – it tells us a story about love and many other things that come and go with it…
Naturally, one could imagine how expensive such lengthy and beautifully made music video would cost – in our case, the video costs were over $1.5 million – it makes it one of the most expensive MVs in history. The price was high, however what the band got out of it was much more valuable and it proved that it was a totally worthy investment. Not only the video got A LOT of play on MTV (and by A LOT I mean that people were watching the video literally every second), but it won them a “best cinematography” award at the 1992 MTV Music Awards where it also got a Video Vanguard award (by the way, the performed the song with Elton John on piano during the show – it’s such a beautiful performance). In addition, MTV also placed it at #1 on their 100 videos of 1992. It was also voted as the “BEST video clip” in Metal Edge’s 1992 Readers Choice Awards. Back to 2016 – it is the most viewed music video on YouTube that was not made in the 21st century – as of this moment, it has 549,443,803 views.
Check out the live performance I was telling you, guys about… ❤⬇
“We got into doing these huge production videos and by ‘November Rain’ it was too much, just too involved. At the end of the day it was a great video but that’s when I started realizing that it was getting out of hand,” said Slash to Q magazine on July 2004.
There are so many facts and intriguing details about the music video. For your and actually mine convenience, I decided to prepare a few bullet points, instead of just filling up the space with lengthy and dense amount of text…
- Actress and model Stephanie Seymour – Axl Rose’s girlfriend at that time is the main female protagonist of the music video.
- The video portrays a lavish wedding between her and Axl Rose, interrupted by a rainfall; the wedding scenes intercut with a live performance of the song in a theater.
- Slash is Axl’s best man
- There has been some speculation as to how she dies in the video. Some people say that she died from a gunshot, while others say that she was struck by lightning during the storm. Personally, I think she was driven to suicide…
- “November Rain” is based on the short story “Without You”, written by Del James and published in his book “The Language of Fear” a few years later. The story is basically about a rock star, grieving over the death of his girlfriend, who had committed suicide. It was inspired by Axl Rose’s troubled relationship with Erin Everly.
- Some people say that the MVs for “November Rain“, “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged” form an unofficial trilogy, though it was never officially confirmed. (I’ve never thought about it, to be honest…)
- The priest was an Italian man named Gianantonio, who was also a friend of Axl. The church from the video is actually where he served for many years, before the shooting of the video.
- The video was shot in LA and New Mexico.
- The MV was filmed during the winter season.
- The MV uses the full version of the song, including all the guitar solos and symphonic performances (not the 30 minute version, but the almost 9 minute one)
- The guy who ruins the wedding cake by crashing into it (around the 7-minute mark of the video) is Riki Rachtman – a host of the MTV show Headbangers Ball. He is also one of Axl’s good buddies.
- The awesome rock ‘n’ roll outfit worn by Slash in the music video can be seen at Hard Rock Café in Orlando, Florida.
You can watch the making of the video here :
In terms of lyrics, as Axl himself once said, the song is about “not wanting to be in a state of having to deal with unrequited love.” Those words are difficult to interpret, though…
This song can relate to so many people who are or were in a similar situation, however I can still feel how personal this is to him – I think a lot of his experiences and emotions were placed together in those lyrics and that’s the reason why when I listen to the song, I feel like a bit of an outsider, rather than a participant. I don’t know – maybe it’s just me …. I get all weird with songs sometimes…
Hearts can change and even a candle that once burned bright cannot stay lit in the cold November rain… A love that once used to mean everything and was shining with the brightest colors can change through time. One day, people might wake up and realize that they might lose their loved one and be left all alone…
However, there’s some positive note in the song – he says that “everybody needs somebody” and just like the November rain cannot last forever, the wounds might heal over time and the two of them can be together again. There’s a suggestion that both of them just need a little bit more time but at the end – they will find their way back to each other.
The words are so beautiful – no second opinion about it. There’s nothing more sincere and true in this world than realizing that you need another person in your life and instead of hating and hurting each other, two people should find a way to be together. Life will end – just like the “November rain” – so it’s better to live it with the person you love and think of every day…
❤🎸🎶 When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But darlin’ when I hold you
Don’t you know I feel the same
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain
We’ve been through this such a long long time
Just tryin’ to kill the pain
But lovers always come and lovers always go
And no one’s really sure who’s lettin’ go today
If we could take the time
To lay it on the line
I could rest my head
Just knowin’ that you were mine
So if you want to love me
Then darlin’ don’t refrain
Or I’ll just end up walkin’
In the cold November rain
Do you need some time…on your own
Do you need some time…all alone
Everybody needs some time… on their own
Don’t you know you need some time…all alone
I know it’s hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn’t time be out to charm you
Sometimes I need some time…on my own
Sometimes I need some time…all alone
Everybody needs some time… on their own
Don’t you know you need some time…all alone
And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain
I know that you can love me
When there’s no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever
Even cold November rain
Don’t ya think that you need somebody
Don’t ya think that you need someone
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one
You’re not the only one ❤🎸🎶
This song is one of those classic work of art which will never die. Axl’s vocal delivery and Slash’s virtuosity created something so beautiful and so unique – a song of a generation. I remember when I was just a few years old and I saw the music video on MTV – I had no idea what the whole thing was all about. However, some scenes – like Slash playing the guitar on the field and Axl kissing his girlfriend remained forever in my head – it just looked so beautiful. I couldn’t speak English back then but I knew that the song tells a touching and romantic story – I could feel it…
I hope you guys love this song as much as I do…It’s just one unbelievable masterpiece…
By the way, I’m still searching for the 30 minute version of the song…
5 thoughts on “The Story of Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain””
Good blog. Almost too much information even for me….;-).. Almost.
That’s interesting on November Rain having the longest solo/s for a top 10 single.
The song is simply an epic. I really like the last 2-3 minutes of the song…..not because it is ending, but the final verse and then it stops. Then comes back in with the piano and drums and Axl wailing ‘you’re not the only one’. I actually prefer the song by itself rather than the video. But it’s no surprise it is popular and won some awards.
I remember in early 1992, I owned both Use your Illusion albums. I said to some friends if Gn’R release November Rain as a single it will be a hit. Didn’t know if it would be an edited version or the full song. In fact I’m sure I remember a short live video clip being shown on Australian music shows. But then they released the full video clip. I even bought the cassette single – as it had Patience and Sweet Child on it.
For a cool trivia fact – I didn’t need to look this up – November Rain made #5 and was the 2nd biggest selling single of 1992 in Australia. In 1st place was the ‘classic’ Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus……..Haha! If you don’t know that song you can look it up………though you may wish you hadn’t.
Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.
Ian! hello, again!
Wow – such a long comment – thank you for it! It’s always so nice to read what other people think or feel about a certain song…as well as know more about their memories that come together with the song….
I know Billy Ray, of course – long before his daughter became famous haha…
And by the way – I share your opinion on loving the song more than the MV – I mean it’s awesome of course – but I’m more of an audio than visual person haha !
my favorite part of the song was when he sings “everybody needs somebody”- he used to have such an amazing voice…what happened 😦