Saturday, May 11, 2013

Song Meaning & Background: November Rain by Guns N' Roses

ARTIST: Guns n' roses | ALBUM: use your illusion i | RELEASED: 1992
This used to be my favorite song for a while as it gave me great comfort when I was going to through some rough times in my life.

Guns N' Roses' classic, Appetite for Destruction, saw the band bring hard rock music back to mainstream, that is, the singles off of the album were very well received on MTV and radio stations around the world. Front-man Axl Rose, however, determined to change course despite the enormous success of their debut album, in favor of more commercial friendly, ballad-like music. That's the foundation of the Illusion albums.

"November Rain" was written well in advance; Axl wrote it on his piano in early 1980s, but never considered putting it on the Appetite album, maybe it wasn't as "heavy" as they liked it to be. Furthermore, much more distorted-sound "Sweet Child O' Mine" was already included so the band decided to do away with "November Rain" at the time.


On an interesting historical note, Axl has said he always wanted to create a song similar to "Stairway to Heaven" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." In fact it's no secret that Axl was a huge fan of Queen. He described them as the single most important musical influence of his  rock n' roll career. Musically, "November Rain" has a close resemblance to both of these songs, highlighted by the increasing tempo changes and chord progression.

As for the meaning of the lyrics, according to Axl himself, the song is about "not wanting to be in a state of having to deal with unrequited love." This could be interpreted as one person, maybe Axl, is in love with a women, or willing to give love, but unable to receive similar admiration from his lover. I believe Axl was married at the time of the release of the single so his personal experiences might have aided him to polish the final cut of the song. In fact, the wedding depicted in the music video features Axl and his girlfriend at the time getting married.
Analysis of lyrics:

As far as my interpretation of the song goes, I believe it's about a young man seeking lighter days while being in the midst of a turmoil with his girlfriend.1,2,3,4 They both have come to terms that if they can't get along any longer, it's better for both of them to part ways.

I can see a love restrained1 - young man ( protagonist of the song ) is saying to his lover that love isn't as deep as it was when they started the relationship

And we both know hearts can change6 - this line is similar to that of Shakespeare's "Sonnet 116", which reads, " Love is not love /  Which alters when it alteration finds." Both G N' R and Shakespeare is saying that over time love changes when the lovers find someone new/better. In fact, "November Rain" has many similar thematic aspects to "Sonnet 116."

We've been through this such a long, long time / Just trying to kill the pain10,11 - they struck with each other through thick and thin because they love each other more than they hate each other.

I could rest my head just knowing that you were mine, all mine15 - we like to hanker after the fun times once those days are well beyond us

Or I'll just end up walking in the cold November rain17 - usual November rain consists of cold wind chills and even freezing rain. So it a great symbolism of what's about to come if the couple doesn't sort out their personal problems.

Do you need some time on your own?19 - as my grandma used to say, time eventually heals all wounds. So what this line means is that if the couple is in rough shape, spending time away from each other may be the best.

I know it's hard to keep an open heart24 - this is a strong line. It means in a time where everybody's out there live off of you, you cannot trust anybody, even your very close friends or loved ones.

Wouldn't time be out to charm you?27 - this possesses a similar to mean to "Do you need some time on your own?"19

Lines 34 to 41 - these few lines mean, even though maintaining a relationship can be hard, it's important to realize that they both need each other more than they hate each other. So it's best to "find a way" to live together because life does "last forever," it ends at some point like the "November rain."
That's my analysis of "November rain," a well written and lyrically deep, song. I think I did an excellent job breaking down the lyrics:-) But I want to know what you think of the song, especially if you happen to be a Guns N' Roses fan. Leave a comment below.


  1. When I look into your eyes
  2. I can see a love restrained
  3. But darling, when I hold you
  4. Don't you know I feel the same?
  5. Nothing lasts forever
  6. And we both know hearts can change
  7. And it's hard to hold a candle
  8. In the cold November rain

  9. We've been through this such a long, long time
  10. Just trying to kill the pain
  11. But love is always coming and lover is always going
  12. And no one's really sure who's letting go today, walking away
  13. If we could take the time to lay it on the line
  14. I could rest my head just knowing that you were mine, all mine
  15. If you want to love me then darling, don't refrain
  16. Or I'll just end up walking in the cold November rain

  17. Do you need some time on your own?
  18. Do you need some time all alone?
  19. Everybody needs some time on their own
  20. Don't you know you need some time all alone?

  21. I know it's hard to keep an open heart
  22. When even friends seem out to harm you
  23. But if you could heal a broken heart
  24. Wouldn't time be out to charm you?

  25. Sometimes I need some time on my own
  26. Sometimes I need some time all alone
  27. Everybody needs some time on their own
  28. Don't you know you need some time all alone?

  29. And when your fears subside
  30. And shadows still remain
  31. I know that you can love me
  32. When there's no one left to blame
  33. So never mind the darkness
  34. We still can find a way
  35. 'Cause nothing lasts forever
  36. Even cold November rain

  37. Don't you think that you need somebody?
  38. Don't you think that you need someone?
  39. Everybody needs somebody
  40. You're not the only one
  41. You're not the only one
  42. Don't you think that you need somebody?
  43. Don't you think that you need someone?
  44. Everybody needs somebody
  45. You're not the only one
  46. You're not the only one
  47. Don't you think that you need somebody?
  48. Don't you think that you need someone?
  49. Everybody needs somebody
  50. You're not the only one
  51. You're not the only one
  52. Don't you think that you need somebody?
  53. Don't you think that you need someone?
  54. Everybody needs somebody

17 comments:

  1. I agree with you overall, but interpret the lines diferently.

    "I can see a love restrained".....there is a holding back, a fear...this stresses the relationship.

    "I could rest my head just knowing that you were mine".....he would be at peace if he knew for certain she was his, just his.....she would have to "lay it on the line" by moving past fear and surrendering to love.

    "And when your fears subside and shadows still remain, I know that you can love me, when there's no one left to blame"....there is a fear based disorder on the side of the girl. The guy can see this and knows how the way forward. The girl fights this, but most likely doesn't know why and has an internal conflict.

    The song ends on a sad note with the guy pleading logic to the girl.

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  2. That was a nice interpretation, i think you got it right in the heart of Axl.. am a fan :)

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  3. I agree! I think you nailed it. Its my favorite song of all time. :)

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  4. Replies
    1. I agree, i think this song is about a break up, and he can't deal with it, so this song is reaching out to her in some way!

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  5. I got exactly what I needed.Thanku :)

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  6. You have the whole thing wrong from the Sonnet, Although I appreciate your effort let me correct you of my understanding from the sonnet itself

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments.

    Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove:

    - Basically (True) Love is not "love" that just alters when alterations are found or bends to the remover (another man). Marriage of True minds.

    Here's the rest of the Sonnet.

    O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle's compass come;
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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  7. Actually this is about him leaving his girl in Indiana when he left for California. They both had a lot to think about..

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  8. I used to listen to this song as a little girl i loved it ,i am now 37 and still love this song..this is real meaningfull music..not like the stuff on the radio now :(

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  9. Very well done. Huge fan. And my favorite song from GnR

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  10. Very well done. Huge fan. And my favorite song from GnR

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  11. I believe it's about his ending his love affair with his substance/ drug of choice and burying his addiction hence strapped to his bed going thru withdrawal.....

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  12. I believe it's about his ending his love affair with his substance/ drug of choice and burying his addiction hence strapped to his bed going thru withdrawal.....

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  13. MY EX BOYFRIEND ONCE TOLD ME THAT THIS SONG WAS ABOUT GIVING UP ON LIFE AND KILLING YOURSELF. THIS IS WHEN WE WERE GOING THROUGH VERY BAD TIMES AND I FOUND OUT HE WAS CHEATING ON ME. SO I INTEREPT THE WORDS AS SCREW IT AND DUMP THE CREEP. YOU CAN START A NEW LIFE IN NOVEMBER WHICH HAPPENS TO BE MY BIRTHDAY AS WELL. I USED THIS SONG TO HELP ME GET OVER HIM.

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  14. I agree with the second reply. He wants her to lay it on the line so they can get over the holding back and he'll be able to relax knowing she is his.

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