One of the ‘November Rain’ Video’s Biggest Mysteries Has Been Solved
Few bands in rock history have music videos as epic as Guns N' Roses, especially their trilogy of "Don't Cry," "November Rain" and "Estranged." The storyline behind "November Rain" is incredibly complex, but one of its biggest mysteries has been solved.
Sorry, it's not how Stephanie Seymour's character died. That, we may never know the answer to. It's about the cake scene — and even still, what the f--k was up with that?
For context, the treatment for the "November Rain" video was based on Del James' short story "Without You," which is part of his book The Language of Fear. James is a longtime friend of Axl Rose's, and is now actually GN'R's road manager. James was inspired to write "Without You" by Rose's tumultuous relationship with model Erin Everly, whom the singer dated for several years in the late 1980s and married in 1990.
By the time Guns started working on the video for "Don't Cry," Everly and Rose were divorced, and the frontman started dating Seymour, who was cast in the music video. Therefore, she also starred alongside Rose and co. in the "November Rain" video, where she marries the singer and then... dies.
But, between those two enormous events, we get to see a bit of the wedding reception, which takes place in an outdoor courtyard somewhere. Everyone seems to be having a grand time celebrating the newlyweds, until it starts, ahem, raining, and we see someone jump through the wedding cake.
Not only did we not know who the man that jumped through the cake is, but why that scene was even added to the video at all. The brave souls over at Vice did a bit of digging, and found some answers.
Firstly, it's not former MTV personality Riki Rachtman, who was good friends with the band and actually did make an appearance in the video.
“We had been up all night shooting at the Rainbow,” Rachtman told Vice. "And then we went straight to the wedding reception scene the next morning. Axl wanted it to feel like a real wedding, so all his friends were there. It’s why I was there. When I see the video now, it’s a lot of faces from the old scene. But the biggest misconception of the whole video is that I was the guy getting thrown through the cake. That wasn't me. Everybody seems to think it was, but it wasn't.”
Daniel Pearl, a cinematographer who worked with Guns on the trilogy of videos, admitted that he wasn't actually a fan of the scene.
"I know we shot it very quickly. I have to say that your choice of verb, that we got the [actor] ‘jumping’ through the cake — it is jumping. It's not like he just falls through it or anything. When we shot it, I went, 'Well, that's no good, man.' It looks like the guy jumps into the cake, and we had only one cake. So there it is, that's it. That's what it is. My reaction at the time was that it looked wrong.”
Andy Morahan directed the videos, and he explained the concept of "November Rain" as being a bad dream. Which, if you watch the video, you'll notice that there are scenes of Rose going to sleep, suffering from a nightmare and, finally, waking up in a complete state of gasping panic.
“It’s like a bad dream. It was deliberately over the top. It's an allegory. When Daniel [Pearl] goes, ‘Oh, I didn't really like the guy going through the cake,’ I'm not saying it's a joke, but it is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek bad dream, where everything just goes to shit. For me, that scene was like pissing on the wedding reception in ‘The Godfather.’ It’s an upside-down nightmare version of that wedding," Morahan described.
As far as the cake scene goes, the director remembered that they'd already dumped all of the rain they had for the scene, so they just let it happen and shot the footage. Turns out, we still don't know exactly who jumped through the cake.
Morahan originally edited the snippet of the cake jump out of the final video, though. So why did it end up in the finished product?
Because Axl Rose wanted it there, that's why.
“I agree with Daniel. It looked a little bit too jokey to me," Morahan confessed. "But then I showed the cut to Axl, and he said, ‘Where’s the cake? I love the cake.’ So we put it back in.”
And guess what? It was the first music video from the 1990s to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, so obviously the whole team did something right. We still have a lot of questions about it — like how the chapel was in the middle of a desert for Slash's solo but not when Rose and Seymour came out the front doors after the ceremony — but sometimes mystery is what keeps things interesting.