Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.
This month, I have a contender for the worst rock epic ever recorded, if that's at all possible.
The cock rock wave of the late eighties was something of a wonder. How could the kids of the late eighties be so blind as to not see what a colossal embarrassment this was for rock and roll?
Guns n' Roses usually get lumped in with this particular school of rock, but this itself is embarrassing. Cock rock, or hair metal or glam metal as it was also sometimes known, was an execrably poor representation of rock and roll, best exemplified by the worst acts of the genre such as Poison, Mötley Crüe, Van Halen and the appallingly bad Warrant and Ratt. The common thread was that lead guitarists who appeared to get off on their own instruments were lauded as the Nordic gods the players also tried to look like.
Guns 'n Roses were usually regarded as being somewhat better then their competition. Consequently, as an example of an eighties cock rock outfit, they're not the best example. Especially since, they actually had some good tunes.
"November rain" wasn't one of these. It was one of the tracks on Use your illusion I, one of GnR's Use your illusion double set. Use your illusion was the bookend for cock rock - a celebration of the genre in all its glory, delivered in an over the top double album package. Not only that, but there was no discount here - if you wanted the full package, you had to pay twice.
And the albums did have some mighty fine tunes, even if the best ones such as "Dust n' bones" and "14 years" were written by Izzy Stradlin and thus, will probably never be performed live ever again.
On to "November rain".
This is one of the most overwrought ballads ever recorded. And you know, for the money that was spent on recording this, GnR could have done a lot better than the cheesy keyboards and synth flute lines employed throughout. Particularly since they also used a string section.
Axl Rose's voice is pretty much the main instrument in this. There must be about nine verses to this because it seems to go on forever, and it's probably at this point that he sees himself as the new Elton John.
But at three guitar solos and 8:53, is it any wonder that cock rock imploded after this?
Former Guns n Roses guitarist Tracii Guns reckoned that Rose had been working on the song since well before 1983, when Guns was in the band. It's certainly possible - Rose is known for, if nothing else, taking his own sweet time in realising his ideas.
The video that accompanied the release of this song as a single was enormously expensive, but probably featured the peak of cock rock's fortunes - the moment in the third guitar solo where Saul "Slash" Hudson climbs onto Rose's piano and solos away happily, oblivious to the impending market collapse facing cock rockers everywhere.
In fact, the combined effect of this song, the bombast of the accompanying video and the sheer overweight bloatedness of Guns 'n Roses musical ideas did more to kill off cock rock than the grunge explosion.
Here it is in all its glory. Enjoy.