Monday, June 25, 2007

Music Mystery #1: November Rain

If you're my age or older, chances are at some point, you have heard the Guns n' Roses song "November Rain". It was a very popular song when it came out in 1990-1991 with heavy radio play. Perhaps you've even seen the music video, which came out in 1991, I believe. The song was popular for at least a couple years, but pretty much faded from most radio stations in the mid-to-late nineties. Nowadays it's mostly forgotten and overlooked, but I firmly believe after 20-30 years of it being out, it'll be remembered as a classic. Matter of fact, Guns n' Roses are one of the bands from that time that will be remembered, right along with Metallica. Back when they still had their hair, were true to their roots, and were basically in their prime - but Metallica is a story for another day. Anyway, back to November Rain, the video for which was a mystery for over 10 years to most people - and sadly the mystery was forgotten, as it was never solved within the song's reign on the charts. But I reveal it to you here. I've posted it before, and that post (I had it saved for quick posting) was copied by others, so maybe you have heard this, or even read it. Well, here it is again. Not copied from the original, but completely rewritten.

Not sure you've seen the video? Maybe this will jog your memory. Axl Rose awakens from what appears to be a nightmare. We see a huge opera house (I guess that's what you'd call it) with a crowd watching Guns n' Roses perform on-stage. Axl is on piano, and they have a symphony with them. We see a wedding, between Axl and model Stephanie Seymour, to whom he was really married for some time. The video goes through the wedding, and after Axl kisses Stephanie, guitarist Slashs steps outside and performs a wicked solo in the desert, the camera all over the place. Guitarists love this part. It goes back to the opera house from time to time, and then back to the happy couple, now at the reception. Everyone's having a good time, and I swear Pierce Brosnan (ex-James Bond actor) was a waiter, though I don't think IMDb agrees with me. At some point it starts raining, and everyone runs like people started shooting (but no violence is seen). A dude dives over a table through the wedding cake. Red wine runs down a white table cloth. The VERY next scene, back to the opera house, song slows down - this is before the heavy part at the end - and Slash gets up on the piano and lets 'er rip. We see Axl in a pew, same church (I think), in tears, and pallbearers are carrying a coffin down the aisle. We see Stephanie in the casket, unmarked and undamaged but very dead. Axl's in tears, the priest says some words, they have the funeral. It ends with Axl alone at the grave. Flash back to Stephanie as a happy bride throwing the bouquet, fade to the coffin - the roses, once red, bleed out to white. The picture fades and "Based on the short story "Without You" by Del James pops up.

If you're asking what the problem is, it's this: We aren't told why Stephanie dies or how she died. There are clues, but they're vague. When the car pulls away from the church, the couple making their getaway, and Stephanie briefly looks at the camera and her face just says "this is the beginning of the end" or perhaps "now I'm stuck with him"; "now my fate is sealed". Shortly after, a figure is seen walking into a store, camera pulls back and it says GUNS above. But I can't tell if it's Axl or Stephanie - their hair is about the same length and style, and they're of a similar build, and it's from the back, so you couldn't see breasts (or absence thereof), and the clothes are baggy, so you can't see figure.

Your first thought now might be "well, read the story". That's very insightful and not a bad idea, but there's a problem with that. Del James published a collection of short stories, called "The Language of Fear", out of a small publishing company in Scotland - which went bankrupt just after the book was published. In fact they got less than 1,000 copies out. This was when the Internet was young, at least to most people. One of eBay's early most-traded items must be this book. It sold for hundreds of dollars, even thousands at first. Because they wanted to read that one story. And those that did, never spoke a word of it. Because they knew if they answered the question everyone wanted to know, they wouldn't be able to sell it again and make some of their money back - maybe even a profit. Every few years I searched - first the search engines, and later those plus the filesharing networks.

Finally in 2003 the silence was broken, and one brave soul decided to post the text of the short story "Without You". (The rest of the book remains unavailable, last time I checked.) I got it, and have posted it on various forums. Some admins frown upon my doing so, but the legal rights to "Without You" are tangled up. The only people who have any complaint with the story being posted are the collectors, and they have no more right to dictate what happens with the story than I do. So I've read it, and I'll provide a link to it below.

Now, the following, I must warn you, is not safe for work and is not appropriate for children under 16. Profanity and descriptions of sex and violence. If this does not offend you, go ahead and read Del James' Without You, followed by parts of the foreword to "The Language of Fear", written by none other than Axl Rose. Whoever posted this, typed it - they didn't have a way of importing it automatically. There will be mistakes. I corrected those that Word had a problem with, but mostly I'm leaving it intact. If you are a Guns n' Roses fan, I encourage you to read it. Were it in the book, it would be at most 10 pages long. It's not written traditionally or conservatively at all. This isn't the kind of thing you read in school; it's not "Walden". It's not even like any bestseller - well, except maybe for Fight Club (the book, it's written just like the movie). Del James writes like you'd expect a rockstar to write. Give it a chance - it will hook you. (And if foul language offends you, read my own summary as follows.)

Read the story here.

Basically the story is about a band called Suicide Solution, meant to be Guns n' Roses, and their vocalist, Mayne Mann, who is of course supposed to be Axl. Mayne has a girlfriend or wife, Elizabeth - you guessed it, she's Stephanie. So SS are on tour, and it's the last stop. A tour's last stop most often means one or both of two trends - first, that they end (and start) in their hometown; second, that it's the best show of the tour. Mayne wants to celebrate after the show with Elizabeth, but she's called out of town on business (I think she's a model, too). Mayne's mad, so he picks up a groupie after the show, and they're making magic in his hotel room. Matter of fact I think there are two girls, they're having a threesome. The drummer comes by, and Mayne offers him a girl; he turns him down. Then it turns out Elizabeth's trip was at the last moment. She finds out what room he's in, and goes there to surprise him. Mayne hears a knock, thinks his drummer is back, so he answers the door nude with a girl on each arm, nude as well. He's lookin right at his wife, and she takes off. He gets dressed and gives chase. She loses him, gets home, and when he finds her, she's playing "Without You" (which is the fictional "November Rain") at full volume on loop, and she's shot herself in the head

From that, I assume that the band seen in the November Rain video was actually Suicide Solution, not Guns n' Roses. And that we're not seeing Axl and Stephanie marry, but Mayne and Elizabeth. And that Elizabeth dies and Mayne is mourning her. The nightmares are because he's haunted by his stupid mistake that cost him the woman he loved. I can't explain Elizabeth's look. Maybe she realized Mayne wasn't going to settle down, I dunno. But I believe it was Elizabeth who went to the gun store. As for the rain panic, I can't explain that. Maybe that was just their reaction to being rained on in their Sunday best.

And as for Elizabeth looking untouched in the coffin, this is another thing I found out (thanks to Amber from WI for pointing this out!): When the coffin is shown for the second time, if your copy of the video is high-quality, freeze frame it and you will see a mirror splitting the coffin, her left side hidden. And yes, you guessed it, a funeral home would do this to allow an open-casket funeral for someone whose face or body was damaged on one side. That about cinches the deal - she must have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, from the barrel being inserted into the mouth and the bullet traveling up and to the left, so she held the gun with her right hand. They cleaned up the right side, but the left side they couldn't fix. Hence the mirror.

As I understand from watching "Making F'n Videos: November Rain", a documentary produced by Gn'R's label, Geffen, about the video. This revealed much more. Del James was a close personal friend of Axl Rose and the band itself. "Without You" was tied to more than just "November Rain". Two other Gn'R videos tied in as well: "Don't Cry" and "Estranged". I believe the order is Don't Cry - Estranged - November Rain, although the events in the videos are probably not in the right order. I have to wonder if Gn'R and Del James weren't going to make a movie containing the story, the events from those videos, and of course the song. It should also be noted that the last line in "Estranged" before the last chorus is, in fact, "Without You".

PS: In regards to the title, there will be another Music Mystery. It's about a more current band, but unless you're Jen and thus you know what it's going to be, you're going to have to wait and be surprised.

Use Your Illusion I by Guns n' Roses on
This album contains the original, studio version of November Rain.
Guns n' Roses: Welcome to the Videos DVD on
This DVD has most, but not all of their videos. November Rain is included. (Sadly, "You Could Be Mine" is not up here, but Don't Cry and Estranged are as well.) The quality is very high, so if you want to see the mirror in the casket, this is the way to go.
Guns n' Roses: Making F@*!Ing Videos, Vol. 2 VHS on
Sadly this is not available on DVD, but I found my copy on one filesharing network or another. If you have VHS, get this used because Amazon doesn't actually sell it themselves. I doubt it will be rereleased on DVD. I would like to discourage piracy, but if you want to see it, you do what you have to, right? If you want to stay on the straight and narrow with the law, you can always delete it when you're done watching it - no harm no foul, right? This awesome documentary covers all aspects of what I've been talking about and then some, plus it includes the video at the end.
The Language of Fear paperback by Del James on
Here is a link to the book. Currently the low price is $89.44 but that is subject to change. I want to read the rest of it, but I won't pay more than ten bucks.
The full text of Without You, and Axl's intro
I linked to this above but provide the link again for convenience.


Anonymous said...

About your synopsis, what I got from the story was that the incident with the three-some initiated their break-up, after which Mayne writes the song Without You. The popularity of this song allows him to go on another tour which stops in L.A. and it is after this concert that he finds her dead in her apartment. Its two different concerts.

Mang said...

Hi, thanks for sharing your analysis!

I wonder about Stephanie Seymour and Axl Rose actually being married. I believe Rose was married to Erin Everly and not Seymour. Both relationships were volatile, however.