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The True Meaning of the Lyrics and the Video to “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses

The True Meaning of the Lyrics and the Video to “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses transitioned from being one of the world’s premier heavy-metal bands of the 1980s into being one of the biggest arena groups of the 1990s. And they did this on the strength of power ballads like “November Rain.” It was an ambitious project, and the meaning of the lyrics, as well as that of the music video, remain mysterious.

Time and consistent fan appreciation have turned “November Rain” into a modern classic. This is why today I’m looking at the true meaning of the lyrics and of the intricate music video of Guns n’ Roses’ “November Rain.”

The True Meaning of the Lyrics and the Video to “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses

Guns n’ Roses’ Journey to Making “November Rain”

Guns n’ Roses was the band meant to bring angry, excessive rock n’ roll back on its perch. Despite all the odds against them doing so, or surviving for that matter, Gn’R did just that with their album “Appetite for Destruction.” But apart from one rather famous song, “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the band didn’t do tender songs.

But could they make the leap to the big time without power ballads? Early Guns n’ Roses had opened for the likes of Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones and saw how it was done. Guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin may have wanted none of it. But Axl Rose had a vision for world domination. And it involved songs that sounded like they’d been written by Elton John.

Pre-“Appetite for Destruction” Composition

Embarking on the journey to create what would become one of rock’s most enduring anthems, “November Rain,” Guns N’ Roses navigated through a decade defined by both excess and unparalleled musical creativity. In the mid-1980s, amidst the burgeoning LA rock scene, Axl Rose’s vision for the song began to take shape, long before the band had solidified its place in rock history with the groundbreaking “Appetite for Destruction.” This period, ripe with artistic exploration yet fraught with internal discord, saw “November Rain” evolve from a mere concept into a complex, emotive masterpiece. Initially crafted in 1986 during a session with Nazareth’s Manny Charlton, this early rendition, extending over 18 minutes, showcased the ambitious scope of Axl’s vision, one that sought to transcend the confines of traditional rock balladry.

The path to “November Rain”‘s completion was anything but straightforward. Axl’s commitment to the song’s intricate composition highlighted a growing divergence within the band, particularly with members Slash and Duff McKagan, who were wary of straying too far from their hard rock roots. This tension underscored the creative battles that defined Guns N’ Roses’ early years, as they struggled to balance their raw, energetic ethos with Axl’s more expansive artistic ambitions. Despite these challenges, the late 1980s and early 1990s marked a period of unparalleled creativity for the band, culminating in the dual release of “Use Your Illusion I” and “II.” It was within this prolific era that “November Rain” finally found its place, not just as a song, but as a symbol of Guns N’ Roses’ tumultuous, yet ultimately triumphant, artistic journey.

The Meaning of the Lyrics to “November Rain”

“November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses isn’t just your average rock ballad. It digs deep, touching on themes of love’s complexities and the unavoidable fact that nothing, not even love, lasts forever. Axl Rose, pulling from his own rollercoaster relationship with Erin Everly, crafts lyrics that strike a chord with anyone who’s loved and lost. The song, with its epic scale and rich orchestration, feels bigger than life, yet it’s essentially about the simple truth that we’re all here for a short time, and during that time, we face the highs and lows of relationships.

Inspired by Del James’ story “Without You,” the lyrics of “November Rain” paint a vivid picture of a love story that’s both intense and doomed from the start. The recurring image of the November rain serves as a powerful metaphor for the inevitable challenges and pains we face. This song manages to capture the universal experience of dealing with love’s fleeting nature, urging listeners to hold onto those rare moments of happiness amidst life’s inevitable storms. It’s a rock anthem that goes beyond mere entertainment, offering a raw look at the human experience of loving and letting go.

The True Meaning of the Lyrics and the Video to “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses

The Meaning of the “November Rain” Music Video and Axl’s Power-Ballad Trilogy

The music video for “November Rain” is like a mini-movie, packing a visual punch that complements the song’s deep dive into love and loss. Directed by Andy Morahan, who brought his experience from working on big-name videos, this Guns N’ Roses epic takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions, blending a rock star’s love story with cinematic flair. The storyline, inspired by Del James’ “Without You,” showcases Axl Rose in a tumultuous relationship mirrored by his real-life ups and downs with Erin Everly. Instead of Erin, it’s Axl’s then-girlfriend, Stephanie Seymour, playing the bride, adding another layer of intrigue to the video. From the grand wedding scene to the sudden shift to a funeral, the video leaves viewers piecing together the narrative, pondering the blurred lines between reality and dreams, much like the song’s exploration of ephemeral love.

No Expenses Sparred

What really sets the “November Rain” video apart are its iconic scenes – Slash’s desert guitar solo, the chaotic wedding reception turned funeral, and the mysterious ending with Axl waking up, hinting that it might have all been a dream. These elements inject a sense of mystery and ambiguity, encouraging multiple interpretations. The video’s lavish production, costing over $1.5 million, paid off by becoming one of the most memorable and talked-about music videos of the time, breaking records on MTV and YouTube decades later. Through its blend of storytelling, visual spectacle, and rock ‘n’ roll attitude, the “November Rain” video captures the essence of Guns N’ Roses while inviting viewers to reflect on the song’s themes of love, loss, and the fleeting nature of happiness.

One music video like this might have been considered excessive. But Axl had a trilogy in mind. “Estranged” and “Don’t Cry” soon received the same treatment. Axl swam with dolphins, the band played on New York skyscrapers, and the videos were in constant rotation on MTV.

The Legacy of “November Rain”

W. Axl Rose may have been perceived as a destructive force. But, by the early 1990s, other than Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, no other rockstar was as globally famous. It hadn’t happened by accident. It had been a matter of ambition and, perhaps, of pushing the rest of Guns N’ Roses’ members into doing his will.

“November Rain” was a hit in the U.S. and all over the world. The song was played in a duet with Elton John at the 1992 MTV Music Awards. In the meantime, Gn’R toured the world, graduating with the status of stadium rock group.

Its legacy is cemented by its record-breaking music video and the distinction of being one of the longest songs to ever enter the Billboard Hot 100. Pitchfork included it in their list of “Top Tracks of the 1990s,” while VH1 nominated it as one of the best power ballads of all time.

But “November Rain” was also one of the songs that tore apart the initial line-up of Guns n’ Roses. Semi-reunited, they are still playing the song in 2024, with Axl and Slash again dueling on stage.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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