In 1987, there was no rock band more dangerous than Guns N Roses.
As the band got started on Use Your Illusion, they expanded their taste to eclectic songwriters.
In a recent interview, drummer Matt Sorum remembered being thrown for a loop when he first arrived and was greeted with pianos saying,
“At first when I joined the band and the pianos were involved and the strings, I was like, ‘Whoa! I thought I was joining a two-guitar, bass and drum band.’ But when we started working, I understood.”
On the epic side of the Illusion albums, Sorum mentioned listening to more grandiose material with Axl Rose saying,
“For songs like ‘November Rain’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Estranged’ — these big, sort of epic pieces — me and Axl sat, I believe over there on the floor, we ordered some Russian caviar, we had a bottle of vodka… and we listened to ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ by Elton John.”
When you listen to John’s classic ballad, the opening piano figure of “Rain” has a few things in common with the pop superstar.
While Sorum was confused at first, he mentioned Rose’s vision to create something big saying,
“We couldn’t make the same record twice. We wanted to go forward, we wanted to move into a bigger arena… It was in Axl’s mindset to make this grandiose piece of music.”
Though the original song stands at 9 minutes, Sorum remembered the song as part of a medley with other GNR classics saying,
“It was segued into “Estranged” and it was this huge, 20-something minute, epic thing, right? We cut it in half and made it separate, but it was part of what Axl called ‘The Trilogy’ — ‘Don’t Cry’ was included in that. So it all sort of was a story.”
Despite Rose wanting to make something epic, this was more than an intense ballad. This was getting into prog-rock territory.