MTV celebrates an important moment in its history this week: 17 years ago, Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" premiered on "Headbangers Ball." Since the video dropped in 1992, plenty has changed: Axl Rose has hired and fired dozens of bandmembers (finally releasing the long-awaiting Chinese Democracy last year) and Slash has gone from solo artist to Velvet Revolver axeman. One thing hasn't changed, though: "November Rain" is still as inexplicable as it was when it first aired on MTV. If you haven't seen it, take the time to enjoy all 9 minutes of Axl's magnum opus, and then check out all the things you might have missed about it.
» "November Rain" was directed by a gentleman named Andy Morahan, whose résumé includes two other Guns clips ("Don't Cry" and "Estranged"), many videos for other artists (Michael Jackson's "Give in to Me," George Michael's "Faith," Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" and Van Halen's "Poundcake") and the feature film "Highlander III: The Sorcerer." He is currently in production on a project called "God's Spy," whose plot synopsis goes like this: "A Jesuit priest working undercover as a Wall Street trader becomes caught up in a political and financial conspiracy involving the Vatican Bank, the CIA, the Mafia, and Masonic Lodge P2."
» A few casting notes: Axl's wife is played by Stephanie Seymour, a model who made a name for herself posing for Sports Illustrated, Playboy and the Victoria's Secret catalog. Seymour was Rose's actual girlfriend at the time (he claims they were engaged, she denies this), but they broke up in 1993 when Axl accused Seymour of cheating on him (they also accused each other of domestic assault). Seymour also appears in the video for "Don't Cry." Meanwhile, one of the most famous shots in the video came care of MTV's own Riki Rachtman, who was the host of "Headbangers Ball," friends with Axl and the guy who dove through the wedding cake at the video's climax.
» At the time it was released, "November Rain" was considered the most expensive video ever made (it has since been eclipsed by a number of videos, most notably Michael & Janet Jackson's "Scream"). The total cost? $1.5 million. A tenth of the production budget came in the construction of the chapel in the desert.
» Though it appears as though the concert footage is real, the scenes of Guns N' Roses performing were entirely staged: the band rented a theater in Los Angeles and brought in 1,500 extras to play an audience. Rather than simply mime playing their instruments and lip-synching along to a pre-recorded track, Guns actually played through the song (as well as a number of other tunes in their canon) in order to keep the extras entertained.
» The video is actually based (albeit loosely) around a short story called "Without You," written by Del James. The story tells the tale of a blues musician who tries to cope with a girlfriend who has committed suicide. James was another friend of Axl's and co-wrote several Guns tunes, as well as songs for Testament and TNT.
» "November Rain" remains the longest song to ever crack the Billboard top 10, peaking at #2 in August of 1992 (it was kept out of the top spot by the likes of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and Boyz II Men's "End of the Road"). Despite its high profile, the video was only nominated for two Video Music Awards in 1992 (Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction) and beat out clips from Genesis, Tori Amos, Eric Clapton and En Vogue for the cinematography prize. However, it was picked as the top video of 1992 during MTV's year-end countdown.