Axl Rose was working on “November Rain” before Guns N’ Roses even formed, back in 1983 when he was still part of L.A. Guns. He knew he was onto something big but kept revising the song until 1991 when Guns N’ Roses recorded the nearly nine-minute version that made it onto Use Your Illusion I. The song was inspired in part by Elton John, and Rose told Rolling Stone, “We’re competing with rock legends and we’re trying to do the best we can to possibly be honored with a position like that.” The recorded version features two guitar solos, a string arrangement and background vocals from Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon, who died of a drug OD just a few years later.
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