Guns N’ Roses – November Rain (Lyrics Review and Song Meaning)
Strutting away from “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” we land at yet another epic ballad by Guns N’ Roses. The Rock band’s second best selling single to-date is “November Rain,” despite being crowned one of the most depressing songs in the music history ever!
Axl Rose penned the lyrics to “November Rain” for their double album release ‘Use Your Illusion I’ and ‘Use Your Illusion II’ released in September 1991. The song is part of the first album. The original version of the song is said to be a staggering 25-minute ballad, but later on, chopped down to its current version of 9 minutes.
“November Rain” became one of Guns N’ Roses’ best performing and best selling singles of all time. The song peaked at #3 on Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on UK Singles chart. The song also makes history for being the lengthiest song to feature on top 10 of the above charts.
The music video for “November Rain” is an icon of its own. MTV states that the production of the video cost the band an approximate $1.5million in 1991. Slash admitted that “‘November Rain’ it was too much, just too involved” on the aspect of video production. However, the music video won the award for ‘Best Cinematography’ at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards and also snagged the coveted ‘Video Vanguard Award.’ It is also one of the few videos on YouTube to have crossed the infamous 1 billion view mark. Watch the video below.
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The music video for “November Rain” stars Axl Rose’s then-girlfriend, American actress and model, Stephanie Seymour. The video depicts a scene of a wedding between Stephanie and Axl Rose where Slash serves as the best man. Most parts of the video are dedicated to the fond memories of the wedding; joyous and dreamy. A sudden rain crashes the outdoor ceremony and the scene immediately switches to the funeral of Stephanie. The rain is used as a symbol of sadness, chaos and gloom. Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour broke up in real life in 1993.
The first verse of “November Rain” sings about those unsteady feelings of being in a new relationship. There is a lot of trial and error; there are a lot of wounds to be healed from past experiences. So it is natural to have ‘restrained’ feelings at the beginning. Axl Rose sees these feelings in his girlfriend’s eyes and consoles her saying that he has the same feelings.
The chorus narrates a cold hard truth common to every human being; “nothing lasts forever.” Despite being a rockstar of the grandest nature, Axl Rose has grasped the idea that nothing, not even fame, fortune and love, lasts forever. At some point, we all have to give in to the only law that is constant in this universe-change. Whatever the feelings of distress she experienced in her past relationships will eventually change. She will make new memories with him. She will heal with him. Hearts do change too, for better or for worse.
Holding a candle is a universal symbol of mourning. It could also be a metaphor for holding on to someone or some feeling. When gloomy days (rain) takes over, it is hard to hold on to the things we love. It is a test of strength and bond. When he does not receive back the love he is offering her, it will only be a matter of time when the rain wipes out the flame of the candle. The unsteadiness of his lover might lead to the fire between them to extinguish forever.
In the second verse of “November Rain,” Axl Rose further tries to console her uneasy mind. He reminds her that they have been at this tug-of-war for quite some time looking for healing. But neither of them have really gone anywhere in the relationship mostly because of her un-surefootedness. This is killing the guy inside.
The second chorus asks the girl to be in or be out of the relationship. This feeling of ‘stuck-in-the-middle’ is not a position any lover wants to be in. Axl urges the girl to love him wholeheartedly or tell him otherwise so he could walk off his pain in the cold November rain.
The lyrics of the refrain see Axl Rose proposing his girlfriend that some time apart might help her realize what is important and what is not. He thinks that maybe she would have to lose what she has to realize the value of what she lost.
In the bridge, Axl Rose admits that it is not an easy thing to open up your heart to somebody in this cruel world. Everybody is out to get you, and the worst part is they wear pretty masks. But if they were to mend their hearts and move on, it would be the best thing in their lives forever for them.
Watch Guns N’ Roses and Elton John Perform “November Rain” Live at MTV VMAs 1992
In the third verse of “November Rain,” Axl Rose is still found being optimistic about their love. He knows that at some point her fears will subside and she will have new room in her heart for love. When she stops thinking about the people who hurt her in the past and when she sees that Axl has been holding a candle out for her all this time, then she will be open for love.
The third chorus of the song is even more optimistic and forward-looking. Axl Rose knows that they are going through some gloomy days and nights. But he is confident that even the rain has to stop at some point. The good thing about ‘change’ is that even the bad times are subject to change. So it is a matter of realigning our own perspectives and attitudes to face adverse times.
The outro of the song is a repetition of Axl’s cry for his girlfriend to depend on somebody and look for help. Be it to recover from her heartache or motivate her into the future, she needs someone’s help. If he is not the person she can rely on, Axl wants her to look for anybody for help. Axl Rose justifies this claim by attempting to generalize that everyone seeks help at some point or the other. This level of pleading by Axl for his girlfriend to seek help with her situation has spurred the idea that the girlfriend’s death in the video was due to suicide. She must be going through a lot inside her head and Axl was not able to make her open up to him. These cursed feelings inside anyone’s head can crack them from the inside.
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