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For the MTV generation, Guns n' Roses defined what a rock band should be
The sweeping piano solo that opens "November Rain" will always give an anthemic rush to a certain generation in India, speaking to them in a way no other song can ever do. This generation emerged into a new age signposted by MTV. The rules of the game were different now.
The music video was equally epic. The visuals, with the wedding-turned-funeral, seemed to be layered with baroque meanings. And with that extended guitar solo, the top-hatted Slash became the default setting for the Indian imagination of how a rockstar should be and Guns n' Roses the default rockband.
Above all was that sound, that distinctive never-forgotten Axl scream. There was Chris Cornell with his howl from the abyss, Eddie Vedder's god-with-a-hangover but there was only one Axl, screaming out a nihilistic inferno. In Axl's world, truth did not set you free, it drove you insane.
Wikipedia obligingly tells me that Guns n' Roses is a fusion of punk, glam and blues rock. Till MTV came around all we knew was "English music". English music really meant Samantha Fox at that point.
"November Rain" led to a rush to buy the double album, Use your illusions, which featured the song. Hostel rooms, dorms all over the country were strewn with the cassettes with the iconic cover, a detail from Raphael's painting, The School of Athens, in orange and blue.
We huddled around the speakers for "Get in the Ring" or "Double talkin' Jive", marvelling in profane awe at the volcanic eruptions of "bad language". Then there were sprawling compositions like "Coma" with its sound effects and "Civil War" with spoken-word excerpts. Illusions was a rite of passage, a gateway to a musical journey.
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