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Only Happy When It Rains

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"Only Happy When It Rains"
A stylized G on a blue background. On the upper left corner is a pink square with a fluffy texture, and the text "Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage"  in black letters.
Single by Garbage
from the album Garbage
B-side "Girl Don't Come"
Released September 18, 1995
Recorded 1994–95
Smart Studios,
Madison, Wisconsin
Length 3:56
Writer(s) Garbage
Producer(s) Garbage
Garbage singles chronology
"Only Happy When It Rains"
Music video
"Only Happy When It Rains" on YouTube

"Only Happy When It Rains" is a song written and produced by alternative rock group Garbage for the band's self-titled debut studio album. The song was recorded at the band's own recording studio, Smart Studios, in Madison, Wisconsin, being mixed twice before its release. The bleak content of the lyrics was intended as a parody of the angst-filled themes present in mid-1990s alternative rock, as well as a sarcastic reference to Garbage's own preference for darker themes.

"Only Happy When it Rains" was released as the third single from the campaign for Garbage in both the United Kingdom (in September 1995) and North America (in February 1996), being issued in three formats vinyl, CD maxi, and cassette. The song received positive reviews, praising the production and Shirley Manson's singing, and became the band's breakthrough single, charting strongly on both the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100. It also crossed over to pop radio formats, propelling their debut album into the Top 100 of the Billboard 200 for the first time, and the song's music video, directed by Samuel Bayer, received much airplay on MTV. "Only Happy When it Rains" has gone on to be an enduring work for the group, being featured in the video game Guitar Hero 5 and receiving covers by Richard Cheese, Katerina Graham and Metallica.

Composition and recording[edit]

"Only Happy When It Rains" was written and recorded between March 1994 and May 1995, with the composition happening in sessions between band members Duke Erikson, Shirley Manson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig in Marker's basement recording studio, and the recording itself being done at their own Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin.[4] Bass on "Only Happy When It Rains" was played by Mike Kashou, and additional percussion by Pauli Ryan.[5] In the latter stages of the album recording, Garbage mixed "Only Happy When It Rains" twice before it was sent for mastering. At the last minute, Vig decided to increase the mix of the guitar tracks louder; he later claimed that the song still did not sound the way he wanted it to, in his head.[6] The mixing was noted for Manson's voice being at the same volume level as the instruments, while in mainstream pop the singing is louder than the musical backdrop.[7] The song is written in the key of G# minor, set in time signature of common time with a tempo of 120 beats per minute, and the chord progression is G#m–F#–E–C#m–E–F# in the verses and C#-F#-G#-A in the chorus.[8]

The song's bleak lyrics were explained by Marker as a mockery of the angsty "wearing your heart on your sleeve thing" themes prevalent in mid-1990s alternative rock songs, as well as a self-deprecating reference to Garbage's own dark lyrics,[9] with Manson explaining that the song was "a dig at ourselves because we like records that don't make us feel very happy, and at this so-called 'alternative' scene of 'we're so weird and more wonderful than everybody else'".[10] Vig added that "'Only Happy When It Rains' was about what happened with grunge and the angst-filled thing which has dominated the American alternative rock scene. With us there's self-deprecation, we have to poke fun at ourselves because we're so incredibly obsessive about the songs and the lyrics, which makes us filled with self-loathing, hurhur."[11] Garbage said they referenced both the title of The Jesus and Mary Chain song "Happy When It Rains" (1987) and Manson's own Scottish psyche.[12] Lyrically, Manson described "Only Happy When It Rains" as "about wanting love but knowing life will always get in the way.... yet not being obliterated by that. It's a song for people that know what it is like to live on the dark side of life. It's about devotion but a different kind. A devotion to the truth and to freedom... and to hell with the consequences."[13]

When "Only Happy When It Rains" was to be remastered in 2007 for Garbage's greatest hits album Absolute Garbage,[14] the song had to be reverse engineered from a damaged backup DAT due to the analog masters for the debut album being lost, resulting in some discernible differences in the remaster.[15]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon both the release of Garbage, and of "Only Happy When It Rains" as a single, the song received a positive reception from music journalists. In reviews for the single release Patrick Brennan of Hot Press declared "Only Happy When It Rains" his Single of the Fortnight, writing "it's hugely refreshing to come across a song which celebrates all those sad moments of loneliness that can be so life affirming",[16] while Billboard's Larry Flick described the song as "solid all the way through" praising the overall production.[17] A reviewer for Kerrang! wrote, "A truly inspired single... Garbage combine a slightly sinister acidic approach with an infectious melodic atmosphere and an alternative punch. The result is awesome,"[18] and a reviewer for Music Week stated that "Shirley Manson's vocals veer between fuzzy darkness, grinding catchy and crystal brilliance."[19] Alastair Mabbot, writing for The List, described the song as "Spitting Image's notion of alternative rock",[20] In reviews for the debut album, Robert Yates of Q wrote that there was "a nice self-deflating Morrissey touch to [the song]",[21] while Jackie Hinden of Hot Press felt that "Only Happy When It Rains" was "like a Pretenders for the nineties".[22] Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian described the song as "perversely pretty",[23] while Leo Finlay of Music Week compared the song to Mazzy Star, and that it "employs the current hip status of country music to devastating effect".[24] Spin's Eric Weissard said the song was the only one he hated in Garbage's debut album, but reacted positively to the intro where "backward guitars produce a chiming solo."[25] At the end of 1995, Melody Maker rated "Only Happy When It Rains" the 49th best Song of the Year, writing up: "In a year of sunny Britpop, reservoir supplies of ironic bubblegum pop-noir were dangerously low. This burst of mocking miserablism helped".[26] The track has been described as Garbage's signature song,[27][28] and in 2000 was ranked as 69th in a list of 100 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time jointly compiled by Rolling Stone and MTV.[29]

Single release and chart performance[edit]

Initially, Mushroom Records had scheduled "Queer" to be the lead single for the UK release of the debut album Garbage, matching the single release strategy internationally. At last minute, it was decided to release "Only Happy When It Rains" upfront of the album, with "Queer" rescheduled to later in 1995.[10] "Only Happy When It Rains" was quickly picked up by radio, and was C-listed by Radio One,[30] and reached #47 on the airplay chart.[31] Mushroom issued the single on a limited edition 7" vinyl, CD and cassette on September 18, 1995. All formats were backed with two new tracks specifically recorded for the single; "Girl Don't Come" and "Sleep".[9] After its first week on-sale, "Only Happy When it Rains" debuted on the UK Singles Chart at #29.[32] At the end of the month, Garbage made their debut live appearance to perform the single on Top of The Pops,[33] providing momentum for the album Garbage to debut on the album chart at #12.[34]

In United States, Almo Sounds first sent "Only Happy When It Rains" to alternative radio at the start of January 1996,[35] earning much airplay in both college and alternate rock radio stations.[36] The physical single was issued on February 20 in two formats, CD maxi and cassette single,[37] both featuring "Girl Don't Come" and "Sleep" as b-sides.[38] A single remix of the song was also issued to Top 40 radio on March 26 as the single escalated up the pop charts.[39] Notable live performances of "Only Happy When It Rains" included Garbage's network television debut on Saturday Night Special on April 27,[40] and during the 1996 MTV Movie Awards.[41] The song spent twenty weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #55,[42][43] plus nineteen weeks at the Modern Rock Tracks, peaking at #16 at the end of May,[44][45] and peaked at #54 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart.[46] The single's success also lead to a sales increase of the band's debut album, which managed to enter the Billboard 200 chart six months after its release.[47] having sold 238,000 units at this point.[39][48]

In Australia and New Zealand, Garbage's Australasian record label, White, released "Only Happy When it Rains" as the follow-up to "Stupid Girl" on May 28, 1996. The single was issued on CD single and cassette, backed with "Driving Lesson" and a house remix of album track "Dog New Tricks",[38][49] both of which had been recorded by the band earlier in the year.[39] On June 16, 1996, "Only Happy When it Rains" debuted on the ARIA singles chart and spent nine weeks in the top 100, peaking at #80.[50] A month later, the song debuted at #42 on the New Zealand singles chart, peaking the following week at 38th.[51]

Across Europe, Mushroom Records international distributor BMG released "Only Happy When It Rains" in two formats, a two-track card sleeve CD single with "Dog New Tricks",[52] or a four-track maxi single with "Dog New Tricks", a remix of "Stupid Girl" by Red Snapper and a remix of "Queer" by Danny Saber.[53] Following the band's performance at the Lowlands Festival, the single was a success in the Netherlands where it spent the month of September 1996 on the charts, peaking at #36 on the Single Top 100.[54]

In 1999, B-side "Girl Don't Come" was used in the PlayStation game F1 Racing Championship.

Music video[edit]

The promotional video for "Only Happy When It Rains" was filmed in mid-January 1996 in Los Angeles by director Samuel Bayer, simultaneously with the video for single "Stupid Girl".[55] As Almo Sounds thought "Only Happy When It Rains" would be more successful, its video was given a higher budget than "Stupid Girl".[56] The video debuted in the United States on February 12, 1996,[57] being certified one day later by MTV as a "Buzz clip", which would guarantee heavy rotation on their network.[11]

The video begins a short prologue sequence with several children dressed in animal costumes playing in an overcast field, before cutting to Garbage upon the commencement of the song. Garbage are located in a litter-strewn warehouse, where the male members of the band destroy vinyl records, videotape and musical instruments as Manson performs to the camera. Some sequences feature Manson performing the song while on her own in dilapidated toilet stalls. The video ends with inter-cut footage of Manson joining the children on the field.[57]

The "Only Happy When It Rains" video was first commercially released - along with out-take footage shot while filming - on VHS and Video-CD on 1996's Garbage Video.[58] A remastered version of the video was later included on Garbage's 2007 greatest hits DVD Absolute Garbage[14] and made available as a digital download via online music services the same year.[59]

In popular culture[edit]


In 2009, "Only Happy When it Rains" was featured as a playable song in the videogame Guitar Hero 5. By playing the song in "Career Mode", a virtual avatar of Shirley Manson could be unlocked for use elsewhere within the game.[60] As one of Garbage's signature songs, "Only Happy When it Rains" has been covered by a number of artists over the years. In 2000, comedic musician Richard Cheese performed a lounge arrangement of the song on his album Lounge Against the Machine.[61] Actress Katerina Graham recorded a pop rock cover for use in The Vampire Diaries' second season episode "The Sacrifice".[62] In 2007, Metallica covered the song during an acoustic performance at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit show.[63]


The song also appeared in an episode of The X-Files entitled "Terms of Endearment".[64]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Continuing their theme of collectible 7" vinyl releases, which had seen "Vow" packaged in an aluminium sleeve and "Subhuman" in black rubber, Mushroom packaged the 7" format for "Only Happy When It Rains" in a "Prismaboard" (rain-effect) die-cut card sleeve, with a hologram logo sticker on the inner jacket. The b-side of the vinyl was pressed with a double-groove, so that either "Girl Don't Come" or "Sleep" played depending on where the stylus landed; the songs were shorter on the vinyl than they were on the CD or cassette formats to accommodate both on one side of the disc. This pressing was limited to 5,000 copies.[10] The original design for the vinyl was for the sleeve to be made from wood, or corrugated cardboard, with wing-nuts in each corner like a flower-press. The nuts would have to have been unscrewed to find the vinyl disc inside - between ten layers of different types of cardboard.[10]

Credits and Personnel[edit]

Comprehensive charts[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[68] 27
UK Singles (OCC)[32] 29
Chart (1996) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[69][50] 80
Canada Top 100 Singles (RPM)[70] 79
Canada Alternative 30 (RPM)[70] 11
Netherlands Single Top 100 (GfK)[54] 36
New Zealand Singles (RIANZ)[51] 38
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[42] 55
U.S. Hot Modern Rock Tracks (Billboard)[45] 16

Release history[edit]

Release Date Territory Record Label Format(s)
September 18, 1995 United Kingdom Mushroom Records UK 7" single, CD single, cassette single[65][66]
January 20, 1996 United States Almo Sounds Airplay: Modern Rock[35]
February 20, 1996 CD single, cassette single[37][38]
March 26, 1996 Airplay: CHR/Top 40[39]
May 28, 1996 Australia White Records CD single, cassette single[49]
Europe BMG CD maxi, CD single[52][53]


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External links[edit]