For many of us, the Guns N’ Roses song “November Rain” will always conjure the image of Slash storming out of a chapel in the middle of a desert, playing a guitar solo while the helicopter filming him swoops majestically around him. “November Rain” is a piece of absolute stunning rock-star bombast, and it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than a piece of absolute stunning rock-star bombast. (This is not a song that people cover at acoustic open-mic nights.) But when Guns N’ Roses released “November Rain” in 1991, the song was actually five years old. And today, we get to hear it in its original demo form.
As it turns out, GN’R recorded a demo version of “November Rain” in 1986 — the year before their classic debut Appetite For Destruction came out. Tomorrow, the band will release the expensive, expansive, overstuffed box-set reissue of Appetite. Among those bonus tracks, we’ve already heard the excellent outtake “Shadow Of Your Love.” And now, they’ve also shared the original Sound City 1986 demo of “November Rain.”
The demo features only Axl Rose singing over a piano, with backing vocals and, on the fiery conclusion, shakers, and it’s pretty amazing to hear how close the song was to being fully intact even then. It’s not the same song, of course, without the orchestra or the guitar solo or all the other flourishes. And the band did subtly rewrite a few parts later. But you can still hear the skeleton of the final version very clearly. Listen below. And while you’re at it, watch the music video, if only because it fucking rules.
The box-set reissue of Appetite For Destruction is out 6/29 on Universal Music Group.