An Eclectic Gastronomy of Sound
April showers – it’s that wet month of the year again. Thinking about rain songs I like, I realized there’s a lot of songs about rain. A lot. Songs with rain in the title, songs with rain in the lyrics, rock songs, jazz songs, folk songs, country songs… Rain seems to bring out the creative side in people, apparently. Maybe because they’re stuck inside with nothing to do! Of course, rain is easy to attach lots of symbolism to – cleansing rain, redemptive rain, sadness, contemplation, the equating of rain with tears (which has been quite overdone). And there’s the whole other genre of storm songs, with their own symbolism. Usually illustrating something, um, stormy. Like a relationship or some ominous event .
When you compare rain songs with, say, sunny day songs, you’ll find moody or sad is usually absent from the sunny day songs. If you can think of a moody or sad sunny day song, I’d like to know about it ’cause I can’t think of any. However, there are some happy rain songs ( Clapton’s Let it Rain, The Beatles’ Rain, Neil Sedaka’s Laughter in the Rain, The Alarm’s Rain in the Summertime, and more). Rain is multifaceted in a way sun isn’t, at least as far as your average songwriter sees it. Some songwriters, such as Bruce Cockburn, have written pensive, slow rain songs (Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon) as well as cheerful, cozy rain songs (Rainfall).
Some rain songs are downright spooky (Dream 6’s Rain, Linda Perhacs’ Chimacum Rain, and even The Police’s Shadows in the Rain to some degree). Some curse the rain (and the weatherman) like Terry Callier’s gloriously moody “Occasional Rain”:
In the end, I think Jimi Hendrix has the right attitude though when he sings “Rainy day, rain all day/ Ain’t no use in gettin’ uptight/ Just let it groove its own way.”
It’s one thing to write a song about rain and use lyrics as well as music to get the song across. It’s another to try and convey that rainy feeling and mood in an instrumental. The word “rain” somewhere in the title helps, if the music’s not obviously “wet”. At least you’re steering the listener’s perception to what you want them to hear. For example, Shuggie Otis’s “Rainy Day” is a beautiful piece, but would it conjure images of rain if it had a title like “Snowy Day” (or “Sunny Day”, for that matter)?
Whereas, Pat Metheny’s “Rain River”, I’d argue, succeeds at sounding like a rain song with it’s fluid guitar synth like flowing water and droplets, and it’s shimmering chimes and light cymbal playing.
It helps if you add rain sound effects to your song. That way nobody’s going to be thinking the wrong thing (like that you’re performing a song about a poetic car race through the streets of Paris or something…). Those rain sound effects can really set the song up in the listener’s mind, as done so well in Michael Chapman’s “Rainmaker”, Jerry Douglas’ “Rain on Oliviatown”, and Blue Mountain’s short “Rain”.
Blue Mountain’s “Rain”:
“Even the ducks can groove, rain bathin’ in the park side pool”