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-- Lexi Feinberg
1991 wasn’t exactly a wondrous year in U.S. history. It marked the beginning of the Gulf War, which is still wreaking political havoc 16 years later. The Soviet Union went kaput. Basketball great Magic Johnson announced he contracted HIV. And of course there was that ever-humiliating (and endlessly mockable) Pee-Wee Herman incident.
But there was one great thing, a lone soldier, to come out of that year: “November Rain.”
Say what you will about Guns N’ Roses and its negative-press-yielding frontman Axl Rose, but “November Rain” is an amazing song, complemented by an unforgettably morbid video. The fact that such a mesmerizing rock ballad was delivered by the band who brought us the headbang-worthy “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” makes it all the more noteworthy.
“November Rain,” which premiered on Use Your Illusion Vol. 1, clocks in at nearly nine minutes and is the definition of an epic tune, a sort of rock opera. It would fit nicely on a play list with such sweeping opuses as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.”
The great thing about the song is that it constantly reinvents itself as it goes, never heading in a direction that you can pinpoint. Axl doesn’t even begin crooning until the 1:15 mark, there are several un-fucking-believable guitar solos by Slash and an ear-pleasing choir that pops up in the background. It’s a song that demands your attention and never makes you regret volunteering it.
I don’t just think “November Rain” is one of the best GNR songs--I think it’s one of the best of the past few decades, especially on an instrumental level. When Axl sings “Nothin’ lasts forever,” he clearly wasn’t taking into account the surefire longevity of this classic song.
-- Brendan Butler
It’s supposed to be GNR’s grand staple, its ballad opus to commemorate, again and again, the band’s emergence into rock immortality. Ever since elementary school, I’ve been told that “November Rain” is not a great song, but an amazing song, on the same playing field as “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven.” That it also resonates emotionally with head-bangers of all ages, thus rendering anybody who dislikes it is an uncool buffoon who won’t get laid in high school.
And while that last part may have sadly rang true, I take issue with the persecution I received when all I would ask when the bloated tune received its usual praise was, “even though the singer sounds like a toddler murmuring in his sleep?” You’d think I’d shot somebody’s mother.
Axl’s never been the best singer, most of us know this, but I’ve had no qualms with his delivery on stuff like “Paradise City” or the gentle, albeit a little boring, ballad “Patience.” But the thing with “November Rain” is that just about every piece is perfectly in place: the symphony backdrop, the poignant lyrics and Slash’s phenomenal guitar solos (especially those final two minutes), everything except for those grainy vocals.
The writer of a song isn’t always the best person to sing it, and this one makes that truth all the more vivid. Plus, what’s with the video? It, too, has been hailed a work of genius, much to my dismay, and has the biggest overreaction to rainfall I’ve ever seen.
It would be exonerating to find more people who’ve felt the same way I have about “November Rain” and invite them into a community of support, care and trust, but it’s more likely I’ll be told to fuck myself.
Not worth the hype. I stand by that.