Lyric discussion by GNRLoves 

"November Rain is a song about not wanting to be in a state of having to deal with unrequited love." - Axl Rose

This song is absolutely fabulous, and my favourite of all time. The emotional intensity of the lyrics combines beautifully with the soaring melodies to take the listener on a journey from despair into hope. I'll now offer my interpretation of the lyrics, which I feel is true to Axl's original intention.

As Axl says, the song is about unrequited love. He is still very much in love with a woman, but she is no longer in love with him. He uses a metaphor to express how difficult it is to cope with unrequited love: "It's hard to hold a candle, in the cold November rain." Here, holding the candle stands for him trying to hold onto his love for her, while the cold November rain is the absence of her love. It is difficult to love someone who does not return the feeling. And inevitably, his love will also die, just as the candle will be extinguished by the rain. He does not want this to happen, but eventually it will, unless she can recover her love.

So that's the central message. I'll now do it fully, lyric by lyric.

"When I look into your eyes I can see a love restrained"

  • her love for him is no longer present, but he sees how it can be recovered. He feels that it is merely buried beneath the surface, so that she doesn't feel it. However, it is possible to unearth it once again, as it is still very much in existence.

"But darlin' when I hold you Don't you know I feel the same"

  • he is still in love with her, although she doesn't realise it. The use of "hold you" suggests the couple is still in a relationship, although they are simply going through the motions of one rather than actively participating. In theory they are both single, they just haven't officially broken up, but the love is gone.

''Cause nothin' lasts forever And we both know hearts can change"

  • he is hopeful that this absence of love will pass, and sees the potential for her to fall back in love - 'hearts can change'.

"And it's hard to hold a candle In the cold November rain"

  • this is the metaphor for unrequited love, which I explained above.

"We've been through this such a long long time Just tryin' to kill the pain"

  • the relationship is a long term one, and it is possibly a case of 'familiarity breeds contempt' in the case of the woman. The relationship has long since stagnated and both have found ways of coping with the pain this has caused, rather than trying to heal it.

"But lovers always come and lovers always go An no one's really sure who's lettin' go today Walking away"

  • She has had several affairs in an attempt to find feelings of love outside of the stagnant relationship, but they are only temporary. Her deep, buried love for her partner is preventing her from leaving the relationship outright. These affairs have created confusion as it is difficult to separate the feelings of lust she feels for her lovers from what she feels for her partner and so neither of them know whether the next affair is the one that will end the relationship or whether the lover will be the one to walk away.

"If we could take the time to lay it on the line I could rest my head just knowin' that you were mine All mine"

  • if they were to actually stop and discuss the future of the relationship and make a final decision, it would put him out of his misery as he feels that she would choose to stay with him and end the affairs.

"So if you want to love me then darlin' don't refrain Or I'll just end up walkin' in the cold November rain"

  • If she has any love left for him he wants her to show him and let him know. Otherwise he'll remain in misery due to his love being unrequited. There is also a suggestion he might choose to leave the relationship - 'walking'. But if so, it will certainly be difficult to do so and he will suffer greatly.

"Do you need some time.. on your own Do you need some time.. all alone Everybody needs some time.. on their own Don't you know you need some time.. all alone"

  • a reminder that until we are happy within ourselves we cannot be happy within a relationship. He is suggesting that a personal problem is manifesting itself in her inability to maintain a relationship. He wants her to take the time to heal her inner problems, which in turn will enable her to acknowledge her love for him, thus healing the relationship.

"I know it's hard to keep an open heart When even friends seem out to harm you"

  • she has been hurt by those closest to her in the past and so she has closed herself off and will not allow herself to develop a strong relationship in case she gets hurt again. She has built a wall between herself and him.

"But if you could heal a broken heart Wouldn't time be out to charm you"

  • if she could heal herself and recover from the pain in her past, the future will be good, i.e. the relationship will be able to flourish.

"Sometimes I need some time.. on my own Sometimes I need some time.. all alone Everybody needs some time.. on their own Don't you know you need some time.. all alone"

  • He also needs to take a step back from the relationship, for his own well-being. We all need time to ourselves, one cannot exist solely through others. Our relationships do not define us. She has allowed herself to be defined by her relationships and so has been hurt more than others when the relationships have collapsed. She is now afraid to enter new relationships in attempt to avoid similar hurt in the future. He's telling her she has to take a step back and re-evaluate this, taking some time to herself.

"And when your fears subside and shadows still remain"

  • she must slowly take tentative steps back into the relationship, although it will be difficult at first. Gradually she will become more confident, although doubts will linger.

"I know that you can love me when there's no one left to blame"

  • once she has recovered from past hurts she will be able to rediscover her love for him. She must remove the wall she has built up as a result of pain others have caused her, i.e. 'when there's no one left to blame'. When she does this the love will blossom once more.

'So never mind the darkness we still can find a way'

  • although the absence of her love currently seems hopeless, (darkness is traditionally a symbol of hopelessness. November is a dark, wintry month and rain cloud is heavy, overcast and dull. As previously mentioned, the November rain is a metaphor for the absence of her love.) he sees a way out, back to a loving relationship.

"'Cause nothin' lasts forever even cold November rain"

  • now he inverts the previous metaphor into one of hope. Just as earlier he said that love doesn't last forever, now he reminds us that if love doesn't last forever, neither does the absence of love. This unrequited love will pass and the relationship will flourish once more. There is hope.

Here the music changes completely from the more melodious orchestra to what sounds like a breakdown, with wailing guitars and sinister chanting. Although there is hope for the future, the current situation is still causing him immense pain.

"Don't ya think that you need somebody Don't ya think that you need someone Everybody needs somebody You're not the only one You're not the only one"

  • Although earlier he said everyone needs to be alone, now he says everybody needs somebody else. He is desperate for this relationship to work and he wants her to want him and needs her to need him. There is an almost accusatory tone as he warns 'you're not the only one' - he resents the pain that she has caused him.

I am in shock. This is literally exactly how my last relationship went that ended over a month ago. The details aren't exact, but the situation is spot

@GNRLoves I can relate so much with this song. Sometimes I feel I'm both the girl(her doubts in love and building the wall around her and inability to flourish) and the guy because I keep holding the candle in the rain. To have someone put all my feelings in words and defining each verse, is phenomenal, so thanks man, I'm appreciatin this song even more.

@GNRLoves I think the part

"But lovers always come and lovers always go An no one's really sure who's lettin' go today Walking away"

From the way he phrases it, i think its just a general statement of how always people were and will come together and leave each other. I mean he describes that both loving someone and understanding a relationship will not work out, will always happen, he is just unsure who will take the first step in their relationship. I dont think he meant that the girl had many lovers before.

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