I recently had some friends visiting from the States. That’s right, kids; Not only do I not live in L.A. anymore, I don’t even live in America. It can be a bummer not being able to walk around with a handgun or five, and they don't even celebrate Independence Day here, but all in all, it seems to be working out.
Anyway, my friend from “across the pond” and I were discussing Guns N' Roses. He’s of the opinion that “November Rain” is a great song. I had to correct him on this matter, as one does. He’s used to it. In eighth grade I refused to start a band with him because he didn’t own a copy of Bleach.
“November Rain” is sort of the new “Layla.” The song itself sucks but the coda is pretty cool. If I could just stick the piano bit from “Layla” on the jukebox at a bar, I’d pump it full of quarters, put that sucker on repeat and stand at the bar pretending to be Ray Liotta in Goodfellas for a few hours. I’m not sure what film fantasy niche “November Rain” fills, but it’s hard to argue that Slash’s blazing solo at the end is anything less than impeccable. It’s not even that the Queen outtake that is the rest of “November Rain” is bad, it’s just bad for a GnFnR song.
My friend tried to name songs he thought I’d agree were worse than “November Rain.” He basically ended up picking a handful that I rank among GNR's best work from the Illusion era: “Double Talkin’ Jive,” “Shotgun Blues,” “Breakdown” and “Pretty Tied Up.” We’re used to disagreeing about such matters and I figured it was just time to drop my atom bomb on the subject.
“I’d rather listen to ‘My World.’”
It’s not bullshit. I would rather listen to “My World” than “November Rain.” What’s more, I think “My World” is a criminally underrated track. When I first heard it, tucked all the way at the end of Use Your Illusion II, I had the same thought I think a lot of guys my age did: “Is this a joke? Is Axl joking around?” On first pass it sounds like Axl attempting to rap, but when listened to with 25 years of hindsight, you can hear it for what it really is: Axl attempting Nine Inch Nails.
The backing track is really what gives it away. Those keyboards are straight off of Pretty Hate Machine. It’s no mistake that sometime NIN guitarist Robin Finck clocked many years in the increasingly bizarre Axl Rose solo project known as “Guns N’ Roses.” In this song, we see not a throwaway track, a bizarre inside joke or even the rest of the boys indulging Axl. What you’re seeing is the shape of Guns N’ Roses to come.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only rock critic to like either Lulu or Chinese Democracy, let alone both. The latter was in many ways a fusion of “November Rain” and “My World.” Songs heavy on the NIN sauce include “Better,” “Shackler’s Revenge” and the title track, while the ballads showcase Axl’s longtime obsession with Queen.
“My World” is a window into where Guns N’ Roses would go nearly 20 years after the release of the lllusion records. It’s an often-overlooked track from the greatest rock & roll band of all time. Give it a listen and see if you can’t just appreciate it on its own terms.