The first thing about “November Rain” (1992) is that one has to ignore the music video. It’s a great video, but in terms of thinking about the song itself, it is unhelpful, and probably even confuses the matter.
“November Rain,” along with “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged,” supposedly tell a connected narrative through their music videos. Yet it would not be a good use of your time to really analyze the videos on that level. Perhaps more interesting is the story told by the lyrics themselves, stripped of the extraneous visuals.
With over two billion views, there is something special about the video for “November Rain.” Through this video, the song has reached well beyond Guns N’ Roses’ core audience. But again, we’ll stick to the song itself for the purpose of this analysis.
So when you listen to the song, don’t watch the video.
To listen to the music itself, the first thing that strikes one is that the vocal performance is quite ordinary in a way. Axl Rose stated that he wanted to sing the song in a way that would make anyone feel like they could sing along. Maybe that’s a stretch, but at any rate, the tone of the singing is meant to sound almost casual and off-the-cuff.
Let’s look at the first verse:
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?
Nothin' lasts forever And we both know hearts can change And it's hard to hold a candle In the cold November rain
That line, “Nothin’ lasts forever,” hits upon the theme of “November Rain.” Namely, the song suggests that there is not state of permanence in romantic relationships, that everything is in constant flux. In such a state of uncertainty, one cannot “rest my head” in a secure relationship, when after all, “no one’s really sure who’s letting go today.”
Anway, what exactly does “November Rain” refer to? It could be depression, or a feeling of unwellness, which mars one’s ability to maintain satisfying relationships. It could also refer to the chaotic state one finds oneself in once such an intimate relationship has been severed.
Love is always coming, love is always going No one's really sure who's lettin' go today Walking away
If we could take the time to lay it on the line I could rest my head just knowin' that you were mine All 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
Although love is always coming and going, it would be nice if the present relationship could achieve a state of permanence. The desire for this security is what makes the song sweet–when a couple agrees that their relationship is meaningful.
But the somber note that the song ends on suggests that it is not to be. Indeed, the coda of the song is ominous:
“Don’t you think that you need somebody? Don’t you think that you need someone? Everybody needs somebody, you’re not the only one.”
Guns N’ Roses is famous for their codas (the end section which is different than the rest of the song). “Sweet Child O’ Mine” has a similar structure, which is to say, verse-chorse-verse-chorus-solo-coda.
“November Rain’s” coda really changes the tone of the song and serves as an exclamation point. It seems to say that the conclusion of the rambling described in the main section of the song is ultimately loneliness. Because the end of a relationship is inevitable, that leaves one without any human connection. This poses the question:
“Don’t you think that you need somebody?”
The desolate tone of Slash’s guitar wailing in this end section seems to answer, “Yes, you do need someone.”
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