Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Part 1: intro

B: “When I look into your eyes, I can see the love restrained.”

Girl: “What the f*** does that mean?”

B: “Well, uh, I was just trying to be romantic.”

Girl: “Romantic? I just asked if you wanted a gift receipt or not.”

B: “No thanks.”

Girl: “Then please get out of the Barnes n’ Noble.”

So that line didn’t work on the girl at the Barnes n’ Noble, but it did work for the guys in the Guns n’ Roses back in 1992, as the lengthy, artsy video for the song “November Rain” received almost non-stop play on MTV.

(insert “Back in my day MTV actually played music videos!” joke here)

Along with “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged,” the video is unofficially part of a trilogy of weird, expensive, pretentious videos from the band. At the time they were awesome. In hindsight they are still awesome, but kind of in the real way and kind of in the fake way. Also in hindsight they represent the end of pure rock n’ roll in the public consciousness, but that last comment is as pretentious as a rock star swimming with dolphins, so it’s probably best ignored.

Join me won’t you, as I take you on an illustrated journey through one of the best known music videos of all time.

Part 2: axl

Before we get into the specifics of November Rain, let’s meet the players.

This is Axl Rose. Many years ago he arrived in L.A. a naïve young hayseed with a fondness for wheat stalks and eye make-up.

He was quickly corrupted by the city, or “jungle,” where sin and temptation were around every corner. For example, look at this steamy billboard:

I mean, that billboard alone could turn any innocent youngster from this:

into this:

Axl has been accused of being homophobic, but I just don’t see how that’s possible.

He’s the singer in the band, but sometimes he prefers to whistle.

He’s terribly afraid of being hit by a foul ball, so he always wears a chest protector on stage.

By 1988 Axl’s persona couldn’t have been further from that hick that stepped off the bus. Look at him. The quintessential rock star.

Like Mick and Keith rolled into one. Like a less effeminate Robert Plant. Like a more dangerous Steven Tyler.

Yep, he was one cool guy. A totally….authentic…

rocker... and...

What the hell?

Okay, so his coolness didn’t even last as long as the George Bush administration. Around the release of the multi-platinum albums Use Your Illusion I and II he turned from bad-ass rocker to pompous douche bag. This is also around the same time he started dating Victoria’s Secret model Stephanie Seymour, the second character in our story.

Part 3: stephanie

So pretty. You know, I should really use a better picture of her. Hang on just a second while I do a google image search.



Oh wow.

Cool, sixteen more pages.

What? No, what were talking about? Oh right! Here you go.

Her face is very symmetrical. This is important for models. It’s also important for our story. More on that later.

Although she made a name for herself as a supermodel she’s probably best known as an adult acne survivor. She appeared in infomercials for The Proactiv Solution but she is no longer mentioned on the website. I wonder what the story is there?

It may have seemed like Axl and Stephanie had a stable relationship, what with all the cemetery picnics.

But sometimes they’d get into fights.

And don’t even think of giving that blonde tramp at the bar free piano lessons.

'cause that makes Stephanie really mad.

and then Slash gets frightened.

Part 4: slash

Slash. The greatest guitarist of all time. Well maybe not all time, but definitely the greatest guitarist of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. One of the greatest. Look, he was a competent axeman, okay?

Sometimes he prefers the company of a boa constrictor –

-to the company of a good woman.

When his girlfriend gets mad at him-

-his solution is to drive the car off a cliff.

Part 5: bass player

Oh, there's also a Bass Player in the band.

But no one cares about Bass Player. In fact he’s so unimportant he has to carry his own room service tray, even in the fancy hotels.

This makes the ladies giggle.

Part 6: november rain

Okay, I think the introduction is more than sufficient. On to “November Rain.” As I recall, the video made its debut on Fox late on a Friday night. Maybe it was after Arsenio Hall. The next day at my little league game everyone was talking about it. I pretended to have seen it but I actually didn’t, as I always liked to get a good night’s sleep before a big game (it’s what good athletes do).

The song clocks in at almost nine minutes. Kind of like “Freebird.” I think people should start yelling out “November Rain!” at concerts.

We start in Axl’s bedroom. He takes some pills and then goes to bed. At first he felt his room wasn’t creepy enough so he had them install a giant blue spotlight outside the window. I think that might be the reason for his bad dreams.

Cut to a Guns n’ Roses concert at Carnegie Hall.

This video has a non-linear timeline and this concert takes place after the events depicted in the rest of the video.

The conductor of the accompanying orchestra decided to go with a traditional tux w/ tails, cummerbund, and moustache.

Axl decided to go with a Sergeant Pepper jacket and matching bandana.
Apparently at some point in his career he switched his affiliation from the crips to the bloods.

Now we go back in time to when Axl was learning to play the piano. He practiced in an old church in the middle of nowhere because the acoustics were incredible, man.

Every once in a while he’d play outside. Look at those storm clouds on the horizon. Remember the name of the song? “November Rain.” Storm clouds usually mean rain. That’s called “foreshadowing” (it’s what good writers do).

Part 7: the wedding

Hey look, someone is getting married.

It's Stephanie.

Well doesn’t she look sweet in her dress and HOLY CRAP GET A LOAD OF THOSE GAMS!
Hotchuma hotchuma.

Uh oh, I sense some trepidation in Stephanie’s expression. Is it possible she’s having some regrets?

Axl sings the lyrics “Love is always coming love is always going.” More foreshadowing, kids.

Don’t you want to just punch Axl's smug face as hard as you can?

A flashback within a flashback? That’s what I call artsy! I believe this is the engagement party. Look how happy everybody is.

But perhaps Slash’s smile hides his true pain.

In fact, Slash (the best man) forgot the ring. A simple act of drug-induced forgetfulness, or an act of passive aggression?

Luckily Bass Player (the better man) has it.

Like Tom Cruise, Axl tries to promote his religion whenever possible. That pinky ring shows that he has pledged his loyalty to the Dark Lord Sauron.

Slash leaves the ceremony early.

Part 8: a note about Slash

Slash's reasons for leaving are twofold. One, he is in love with Stephanie. Two, every once in a while a great guitarist has to take a break to bust out an awesome guitar solo. It’s just an urge they have, not unlike a smoker’s urge to smoke or a non-smoker’s urge to pee.

Here are some other documented incidents of Slash taking an awesome solo break.

After he’s done with a solo he just tosses the guitar aside like a cigarette butt.

Let’s get back to November Rain and enjoy that solo a little bit longer.

After the ceremony we see another look of regret from Stephanie.

She gazes back into the church wondering, “Where’s Slash?”

If only he could express himself with words as well as he can express himself with notes.