When you think of Heavy Metal legends Guns N’ Roses, the first thing to come to mind is typically their abrasive rocking energy, a lust for the flesh & some of the most wicked guitar solos in the industry courtesy of lead guitarist Slash, packing the raunchy, rebellious spirit of the eighties into neat little packages you’d expect to hear at some sort of strip club; On the other hand, you don’t typically associate them with longing ballads of sorrow & hardship, trying desperately to hold a monogamous relationship together at its bitter end when all else has failed, as it doesn’t particularly gel with their bad-boy personas & less-than-equal view of the female gender. With their 1991 magnum opus “November Rain,” all of these expectations are slashed – no pun intended – as GNR deliver an epic nine minute tale of love & loss, giving audiences the band’s most theatrical piece yet as well as allowing vocalist Axl Rose to finally show off the piano melody he’d been working on for nearly a decade – Based on the literary work of Del James, the narrative of this tune sees Rose attempting to placate his distraught girlfriend as their relationship begins to fall apart. It’s apparent that their partnership has been wrought with difficulties in the past, constant quarrelling bringing about a deep darkness within his lover that has led to distrust, paranoia & the fear that she’ll never be able to experience true happiness if she couldn’t even keep this love from failing. Rose does everything in his power to give her some space & assure her everything’s okay, lines like “lovers always come and always go” & “everybody needs some time on their own” sheepishly informing her that this uneasy feeling of sorrow is normal for everyone, but it’s clear he’s speaking to his own desires rather than considering her feelings, the following lines “I know that you can love me when there’s no one left to blame” absolving himself of guilt by claiming her problems lie elsewhere in the world – This narrative is strange, as it feels less like Rose is working to resolve the couple’s issues & more like he’s demanding that she get over herself & just love him, illustrating that the real battle with insecurity lies within his own heart, made painfully obvious as he chants “don’t ya think that you need somebody […] someone? Everybody needs somebody, you’re not the only one!” ad nauseum in the song’s outro, literally begging for her not to leave him broken & alone in the end.
As mentioned at the top, the melodic structure of this revolves around a piano line Rose had been playing off & on for nearly a decade whenever he could get a moment, never quite having all the pieces to make it a full song. He plays a decidedly simplistic melody, a pulsating chromatic downscale chord progression with an all-too-serious tone, accompanied by synth strings, soothing percussion sequences & some mellow riffing by Slash, a formulaic ballad structure most Heavy Metal bands had adopted at the time. This all builds up over time as Rose squeezes out achy vocals, becoming more intense & grandiose with time, but the real ticket seller is of course the halfway point in the tune when Slash is unleashed for his second guitar solo, ripping out one of the most iconic solos in Rock history as the rest of the band transitions from corny ballad to the more traditional thrashing of their signature style, punctuating the pain of Rose’s lyrics as his Slash’s guitar ever-so-violently weeps – But they weren’t satisfied with merely producing the biggest track of their lives, turning the accompanying music video into a cinematic event larger in scope than they could handle. It featured Rose marrying a quintessential Rocker Girl in a church out in the middle of nowhere, all his friends & family in attendance for this most festive occasion, suddenly switching tones as Slash – the solemn ring bearer – walks outside for his first solo, marking the arrival of darkness in the young couple’s relationship as her face goes awry. Their reception seems to be going well, but it begins to rain a torrential downpour over the event, everyone running in terror just in time for Slash to bang out the solo everyone came for right as the bride passes to an apparent suicide, leaving Rose to cry in the rain at her funeral instead of enjoying the life that had started out so bright & shiny. Though it’s a bit overdramatic & disjointed, some say that the video gains much more substance & meaning after you’ve read Del James’ story ‘Without You,’ although if you need an extended reading recommendation to enjoy a music video isn’t it easier to just admit the production was to big for its britches? – Whatever the case, “November Rain” remains the most emotionally-charged song GNR has ever written & still stands up today as an incredibly entertaining song to turn on when you’re going through the thick of it, in the mood for a good ugly-cry when normal sad songs just won’t cut it anymore.
"November Rain" is a power ballad by the American hard rock band Guns N' Roses. Written by the band's lead singer Axl Rose, the song was released as a single in 1992 from their third studio album, Use Your Illusion I (1991). It features a sweeping orchestral backing and is one of Guns N' Roses' longest songs.