November Rain by Guns n' Roses

I make music videos in my head all the time. I’ll hear a piece of music, I’ll think about it, I’ll get a random thought, and suddenly I’ll have a nugget of story. That’s what I chew on, working away on the thought until I have something that, at least to me, sounds good.

Sometimes I start with the story. In the midst of my last year of high school, Chris and I, sometimes Stuart, engaged in exchanged salvos of creative writing, often involving ourselves and the others in the onzaine as characters. Thanks to Chris, these often had a darker, Twilight Zone effect (such as one story I wrote, I think called “The E”, where Stuart found the final “E” bottlecap of a Pepsi promotion they were running at the time to win an Eagle Talon, and of course the car was possessed). Chris always turned up the discomfort to 11, including one story where a hapless (unnamed character) found his tongue falling to the floor with a “wet thud” (I still remember those words).

One story I wrote, a lengthier one, was about the entire group under psuedonyms. I remember neither the title of the story or most of the psuedonyms, but I do remember the plot.

My character, Ben, awakes after a presumably fatal car crash to find that there’s a cubic object wedged in his brain. It turns out to be a portal to another dimension, which causes him to develop fantastic powers. He uses those powers to augment all of his friends (to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck), who are not particularly thrilled with the alterations. Which of course is when the Big Bad Evil™ shows up and the group has to defeat the BBE (to Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight). Ben dies in the process (self sacrifice, of course, to Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory), and is buried with great sadness (to Guns n’ Roses’ Don’t Cry).

But that’s only Part 1. Part 2 opens to Metallica’s Enter Sandman to Ben’s initial resurrection, only to be possessed by the spirit of the defeated BBE, who now wants revenge. I don’t quite remember the rest, nor the climatic end (which I think was to Metallic’s One), but you get the idea.

Sometimes, I use the music to create the story. Such was the case with Guns n’ Roses’ November Rain. If you’ve seen the video, it’s a long drawn-out bit of depression that leaves everyone kinda scratching their heads about what’s going on. But it looks cool, I’ll give them that.

In my version, it’s about the (very fictional) band Class M Planet (which was handily ripped off from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which several of us watched religiously). More specifically, about their last final concert.

The story, only in my head – it’s never been written down – is the article from a long-time music columnist with an unnamed paper in an unnamed city who has caught himself seeing what has become the final concert of this long-storied band that made it famous playing other people’s music, but making spectacle out of it.

It’s the encore. It’s the encore’s encore, the audience is charged, it’s the hometown, everyone loves the band. It’s a big band, too, 20-some people, including two drummers, four guitarists, two bassists, several multi-instrumentalists, and an AV guy (my character, ‘cuz I couldn’t play anything and my singing should still be listed as a WMD under international charter) who does everything they can to make the on-stage experience amazing. Everyone sang (my character was bass chorus).

The stage is surrounded by screens, two on each side, one smaller one above it. The upper screen shows CMP’s logo, a crystal globe of the earth that spins slowly throughout the show, sometimes changing colour, sometimes reacting to what happens on stage. It’s a constant element that is emblazoned on everything that CMP has produced for the last 25 years.

The song starts, as it does on the album, with a piano and a MIDI string backup (though in my head, it’s either a far better MIDI or an outright string section; I’ve changed it many, many times over the years).

It’s a new song for the audience, even the biggest fands know it’s not a song that’s been heard before. In fact, Class M Planet has never played it before, publicly. They’ve rehearsed it countless times because they needed it be perfect on this one performance.

The song progresses, the voices sound amazing (Axel might have written a great song, but his voice is a bit grating, I’m not gonna lie) and throughout the song, the screens show the “story” of CMP, images from their past all the way back to when they all met in high school.

Then the strings die out, there’s an ominous rumble. It goes on a while. Because the piano player is hestitating. She doesn’t want to play the next part. She knows what’s about to happen. The cameras on stage are focused on her face, tense with the indecision. But she forces her hands down, and they automatically begin the final chapter. On the screen, the words appear:

And the rest of the band cuts into a wild moaning cry, guitars wailing, and with the low “You’re not the only one”, the images start to appear on screen.

I never quite figured out all the specifics of this bit, but the premise is that all the artists who influenced CMP – the ones who created all the songs that made CMP famous – would appear like this:

and so on. The final point would be:

And as the final cries of the singer die away, the instruments fade, the individual lights over each member turns off, the first over the piano player, who is briefly seen running off stage. The other lights go off, one by one by one, until all that’s left is the lone AV guy, who pulls a large switch that no-one’s really noticed until now, which seems to cut the crystal globe free in the screen at the top, and still on-screen, it seems to tumble and fall, spinning in all the ways the world shouldn’t spin, until, with the final tone of the song, it crashes into the surface and shatters.

There was a part of me that actually wanted to create Class M Planet with all the people I knew in the music department at Oakville Trafalgar High School in 1991. We had so many ridicuously talented people. None of them, to my knowledge, ever pursued it professionally beyond high school, which I do find a bit sad.

Maybe somewhere, in some parallel universe, this happened and there was a Class M Planet that lived to perform this. I would love to see that concert, to know if it lived to my dreams.

I wonder if they would have it on VHS?