In 1992, Guns N’ Roses unveiled their epic November Rain video. It was, at the time, the most expensive promo ever made, costing the label $1.5 million. Geffen had to stump up $150,000 to build the white chapel in the desert alone.
Taking into account the budget to get a helicopter to film aerial shots, Axl Rose’s velvety coat and the costs of staging a lavish wedding complete with a fake rainstorm, it’s no surprise to see how a band could burn through that amount of cheddar for a nine-minute mini-film. It's since become one of the biggest rock music videos ever made.
If you’ve not seen the video recently, let’s refresh your memory and get to the root of the plot…
00:00: We see Axl alone in a draughty, darkened bedroom. He stubs out a cigarette and takes some pills. He does that unnecessary shudder everyone does to help them down the hatch.
00:16: We’re treated to a wide shot of a concert. It’s a grand room.
00:22: Is that Weird Al Yankovic conducting an orchestra?
00:23: Probably not. But Axl’s sat at a piano, bathed in light which suggests he’s not about to ask for reggae any time soon. It looks like he’s wearing a velvet jacket. That’s going to stink by the end of the tour.
00:33: He’s hammering those chords like a man with a point to prove. He’s basically an angry Elton John at this moment in time. Elton John in a bandana and a velvety coat.
00:36: There’s a cutaway to a little wooden chapel in the middle of nowhere. Have you seen Preacher? God, that’s good. The chapel looks like it’s had a fresh coat of paint. They’ve done a good job. It’s been emptied inside so Axl can practice his angry chords on his massive piano. The room seems much smaller than the exterior would suggest.
00:43: A montage of orchestra players, Jesus on the cross, a candle and Weird Al. Definitely no reggae requests today.
00:52: There’s Slash and his guitar appears to have a nicotine habit. Axl’s practice room disappears, leaving him tinkling in the open air. Storm clouds gather. What the fuck is going on?
01:07: Now we’re at a wedding in a brick church. A flower girl lobs petals around. Cut to Axl, tossing and turning in bed.
01:36: Stephanie Seymour walks down the aisle, like a tall meringue.
01:48: There’s the groom, Axl Rose, looking a bit doe-eyed. Surprised he didn’t arrive three hours late, actually. The things you do for love, eh?
01:53: Cut to the concert. Matt Sorum appears to have suffered a horrific flashback.
02:15: Axl lifts her veil. Yep, definitely his wife-to-be.
02:19: Cut to the Rainbow on the Strip. Everyone’s smoking indoors. It’s pre-1992. You can’t even fart on the street in Hollywood now without someone doing a passive-aggressive cough. Then crying.
02:40: A lady tries on Slash’s top hat for a laugh. She’s having a lovely time. Ah, we get it. We’re witnessing the early days of their courtship. Clever plot device.
03:00: The priest is saying stuff and clearly admires Axl’s hair. Has Slash forgotten the fucking ring? He even does the ol’ jacket pat down for comic effect.
03:08: Yes, he’s forgotten the ring. Duff steps in to save the day. You had one job, Slash.
03:27: The rings are exchanged. Dizzy Reed has a nap on his date’s shoulder.
03:33: Ooh, a bit of necking. It’s OK, they’re Axl and wife now. Slash leaves early. Maybe public displays of affection leave him cold.
03:56: Our mistake, he’s gone to play his guitar outside the little church with no means of amplification.
04:13: Cut to the solo. Shot from above for maximum dramatic impact. The helicopter is making the dust go into his face. Slash doesn’t give a fuck. He’s in the moment.
04:55: Slash's cowboy boots clearly have no grip, and he overdoes his power stance, almost doing the splits.
05:03: Lots of confetti now – the bane of every church cleaner. The couple get into a fancy open-topped car. Mrs. Rose looks away. Has she made a big mistake?
05:25: Too late now, lady. You’ve signed the papers. You belong to Axl now.
05:38: Axl walks through what appears to be the set of Back To The Future 3. It’s cold and tinged with a blue filter, so you know it’s sad or something.
06:01: We’re two thirds of the way through now. God, this song is long. They’re cutting their cake. The missus has cheered up now. How can you be sad when you’re about to have cake?
06:10: She’s licking the icing off the knife. Dangerous, that. MTV VJ of the past Riki Rachtman laughs at the potentially awful outcome. Maybe he’s chuckling at the idea of grunge.
06:30: There’s dancing, children running about and a man with bad hair plays the sax. It appears that Hollywood weddings are the same as everyone else’s.
06:42: A child looks to the sky in fear. It starts raining – raining boiling water judging by the way everyone’s running around the terrace like screaming chimps.
06:51: Duff hides under a table. Some idiot dives through a cake for no reason at all. It’s just rain, mate.
07:00: A bottle of red wine is spilled. Is this a clever bridge to the third act?
07:05: The piano bit. Brace yourselves. Shit’s about to get real.
07:09: Axl’s bride is in an open coffin. As the story doesn’t really go into how she dies, we can only assume she’s suffered a fatal allergy to rain. Axl looks to the sky. He’s wearing glasses.
07:25: Slash delivers another solo on top of the grand piano. Hope it’s not a rental. Flicks back and forward to scenes of the burial.
08:22: It’s started raining again. We get it.
08:34: Axl is reliving the funeral in his nightmares. Flashback to Mrs. Rose throwing the bouquet, which eventually lands on her own coffin. Did she throw it to the moon?
08:53: Axl is at her graveside, dressed as the Count from Sesame Street. It’s still raining. It must be… November. The end.
What did we learn from November Rain?
Very little, although we’ve since discovered the director Andy Morahan made videos for Wham!. We’re still none the wiser as to how Axl’s bride passed away. And why did Slash feel the need to walk out of his bandmate’s wedding to perform that solo outside of an old chapel in the desert? Was he that embarrassed by forgetting the ring? I mean, really. One thing we’ve taken from this is that, if you’re at a rock star wedding and it begins to rain, there’ll be some idiot who feels the need to dive headfirst through the cake in dramatic, slow-motion. That’s it, really. But it’s worth remembering.
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