I’m a true introvert so I need a lot of alone time to recharge, especially when there’s more stress than usual in my life, as there was last Fall. During that season, I got into the habit of leaving work on my supper break and walking down by the river, a nice little half-hour of solitude that got me through the shift. Sometimes I would put headphones on and listen to music; and it was during one of those times (I remember the occasion well) that I first heard the song for today’s episode of People Who Create Awesome Things: November Rain by Guns N’ Roses.
I had never listened to much Guns N’ Roses before, even though they were one of the best bands around during my childhood years, because rock was strictly verboten in my household. But I had downloaded Use Your Illusion I and II onto my iPod and was listening to it on shuffle. The soaring melody and Axl’s gritty vocals already had me hooked and I was paying closer attention than usual; so when he asked, “Do you need some time on your own?” my affirmative reaction was immediate and instinctual. I knew the song was for me. To this day, when people press too close and I start to feel stressed out, I can hear Axl singing that question again in my head and it’s like the first unspoken promise of alone time to come that I cling to.
I found the music video a little later. It’s everything awesome about ’80s hard rock – a little bizarre, a little creepy, a little dark, and way ostentatious. But at the core, it’s just good music, a big, symphonic sound couched in a primal scream. There’s a story to it – a wedding-cum-funeral that appears at the end to have possibly been the dream of Axl’s drug-addled brain, depending on how you interpret it – with some good footage of a live concert that looks sort of like a carnival meeting in an opera house. But the best part of the video is Slash’s first guitar solo, where he swaggers up in front of a picturesque old church building with a guitar in his hands and that ubiquitous cigarette hanging out of his mouth and makes those strings moan. That high, keening sound is mesmerizing. The guitar solo at the end of the song is maybe even better.