Rain (Beatles song)
US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|Released||30 May 1966|
14 and 16 April 1966|
EMI Studios, London
|The Beatles UK singles chronology|
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
"Rain" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles first released in May 1966 as the B-side of the "Paperback Writer" single. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for the album Revolver although neither appears on that album.
Written by John Lennon although credited to Lennon–McCartney, it is noted for its slowed-down rhythm track and backwards vocals, both of which were a hint of things to come on Revolver, released two months later. The single's release marked the first time that reversed sounds had appeared in a pop song, although the Beatles used the same technique on the Revolver track "Tomorrow Never Knows", released in August 1966.
Three promotional films were made for the song "Rain".
Music and lyrics
The inspiration for "Rain" is agreed on by Neil Aspinall, the Beatles' roadie, and John Lennon. They both described the band's arrival in Sydney, Australia, marked by rain and poor weather. Lennon said, "I've never seen rain as hard as that, except in Tahiti", and later explained that "Rain" was "about people moaning about the weather all the time". Another interpretation is that the song's "rain" and "sun" are phenomena experienced during a benign LSD trip.
"Rain" has a simple musical structure. Set in the key of G major (the final mix pitches it about a quarter of a semitone below this, while the backing track was taped in G sharp), it begins with what Alan W. Pollack calls, "a ra-ta-tat half-measure's fanfare of solo snare drums", followed by a guitar intro of the first chord. The verses are nine measures long, and the song is in 4
4 time. Each verse is based on the G, C, and D chords (I, IV, and V). The refrain contains only I and IV chords, and is twelve measures long (the repetition of a six-measure pattern). The first two measures are the G chord. The third and fourth measures are the C chord. The third measure has the C chord in the so-called 6
4 (second) inversion. The fifth and sixth measures return to the G chord. Pollack says the refrain seems slower than the verse, though it is at the same tempo, an illusion achieved by "the change of beat for the first four measures from its erstwhile bounce to something more plodding and regular". After four verses and two refrains, a short solo for guitar and drums is played, with complete silence for one beat. Following this, the music returns accompanied by what Pollack terms "historically significant" reverse lyrics. Musicologist Walter Everett cites this closing section as an example of how the Beatles pioneered the "fade-out–fade-in coda", a device used again by them on "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Helter Skelter", and by Led Zeppelin on "Thank You".
Allan Kozinn describes McCartney's bass as "an ingenious counterpoint that takes him all over the fretboard ... while Lennon and McCartney harmonize in fourths on a melody with a slightly Middle Eastern tinge, McCartney first points up the song's droning character by hammering on a high G (approached with a quick slide from the F natural just below it), playing it steadily on the beat for twenty successive beats."
Recording began on 14 April 1966, in the same session as "Paperback Writer", and concluded on 16 April, with a series of overdubs before mixing on the same day. At that time, the Beatles were enthusiastic about experimenting in the studio to achieve new sounds and effects. These experiments were showcased in their seventh album, Revolver. Geoff Emerick, who was the engineer for both sessions, described one technique he used to alter the sonic texture of the track by recording the backing track "faster than normal." When played back, slightly slower than the usual speed, "the music had a radically different tonal quality. The opposite technique was used to alter the tone of Lennon's lead vocal: it was recorded with the tape machine slowed down, making Lennon's voice sound higher when played back.
The last verse of "Rain" includes backwards vocals, the first use of this technique on a record. (the hit novelty song "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! ", where side B is side A played backwards, was released later that year of 1966). The backwards vocals are Lennon singing the lyrics of the song: "When the sun shines," "Rain," and "If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads." Both Lennon and producer George Martin have claimed credit for the idea; Lennon said:
|“||After we'd done the session on that particular song—it ended at about four or five in the morning—I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very stoned and tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder and it came out backwards. And I liked it better. So that's how it happened.||”|
Emerick confirms Lennon's creative accident, but Martin remembers it differently:
|“||I was always playing around with tapes and I thought it might be fun to do something extra with John's voice. So I lifted a bit of his main vocal off the four-track, put it on another spool, turned it around and then slid it back and forth until it fitted. John was out at the time but when he came back he was amazed.||”|
Later, in 1980, John claimed:
|“||I got home from the studio and I was stoned out of my mind on marijuana and, as I usually do, I listened to what I'd recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on, with a big hash joint. I ran in the next day and said, 'I know what to do with it, I know... Listen to this!' So I made them all play it backwards. The fade is me actually singing backwards with the guitars going backwards. [Singing backwards] Sharethsmnowthsmeaness... [Laughter] That one was the gift of God, of Jah, actually, the god of marijuana, right? So Jah gave me that one.||”|
The "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" single was the first release to use a new device invented by the maintenance department at Abbey Road called "ATOC" for "Automatic Transient Overload Control". The new device allowed the record to be cut at a louder volume, louder than any other single up to that time. On the final mix of the single, Lennon played a 1965 Gretsch Nashville, Paul McCartney a 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S bass, Harrison a 1964 Gibson SG, and Ringo Starr used Ludwig drums.
Release and reception
First released as a B-side to "Paperback Writer" in the United States (Capitol 5651) on 30 May 1966 and in the UK on 10 June 1966, the single was later released part of a Record Store Day reissue in 2010. It later appeared on the compilations Hey Jude in the US and Rarities in the UK. It also appeared on the Past Masters CD.
In the United States, the song peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 9 July 1966, and remained in that position the following week. The "Paperback Writer" single reached number one in the UK (for two weeks starting on 23 June 1966). Rolling Stone magazine ranks "Rain" 463rd in its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". On a similar list compiled by the New York radio station Q104.3, the song appeared at number 382.
"Rain" is notable for Ringo Starr's drumming, which Starr rates as his best recorded performance. Critics agreed: both Ian MacDonald and Rolling Stone described his drumming on the track as "superb", while Richie Unterberger of AllMusic praised his "creative drum breaks". In 1984, Starr said: "I think it's the best out of all the records I've ever made. 'Rain' blows me away … I know me and I know my playing … and then there's 'Rain'."
Music critic Jim DeRogatis describes it as "the Beatles' first great psychedelic rock song". It has been noted for its slowed-down rhythm track and backwards vocals, both of which were a hint of things to come on Revolver, released two months later.
The Beatles created three promotional films for "Rain" which are considered among the early precursors of music videos. These videos, along with other Beatles videos at the time, sparked George Harrison to say during the Beatles Anthology, "So I suppose, in a way, we invented MTV."
The films were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who worked with them earlier on the pop 1960 television programme Ready Steady Go! One features the Beatles walking and singing in a garden and a greenhouse (filmed 20 May 1966 at Chiswick House in London). The other two feature the band performing on a sound stage (filmed 19 May 1966, one in colour for Ed Sullivan and the other in black and white for the UK). McCartney was injured in a moped accident on 26 December 1965, six months prior to the filming of "Rain" and closeups in the film reveal a scarred lip and a chipped tooth. McCartney's appearance in the film played a role in the "Paul is dead" rumours from 1969.
The Beatles' Anthology documentary video includes a re-edit of two of these three clips, full of rhythmic fast cuts and several shots that went unused in the original videos. This creates an impression that the videos were more technically complex, fast-paced, and innovative than was the case. For example, the backwards film effects shown here are 1990s creations. Such effects were actually first deployed in the "Strawberry Fields Forever" promotional film of January 1967.
Covers, samples, and media references
U2 has played the song in whole or in part throughout many of their tours, usually during outdoor concerts when it has started to rain. Pearl Jam improvised the song into their song "Jeremy" during their 1992 Pinkpop Festival show and played it in full at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2012. Kula Shaker covered the song live at Reading Festival in 1996 as did Fairport Convention, featuring Dan Ar Braz, at the Cropredy Festival in 1997. Todd Rundgren has also covered the song, as has the late Dan Fogelberg, who reprised it as part of his own cover of "Rhythm of the Rain". The Grateful Dead played it twenty times throughout the early 1990s.
- John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar
- Paul McCartney – backing vocals, bass
- George Harrison – backing vocals, lead guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
- Reising & LeBlanc 2009, pp. 94, 95.
- Neaverson 2009.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 140.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 212.
- Revolution in the Head - MacDonald 2005, p. 196-7.
- Pollack 1993.
- Everett 2009, p. 154.
- Allan Kozinn (1995). The Beatles. London: Phaidon. p. 143.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 74.
- Fontenot 2008.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 70.
- Emerick 2006, p. 117.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 83.
- Playboy Magazine & April, 1981, p. 194.
- YouTube: Rain Finale backwards 1995.
- The Beatles Interview Database 2007.
- Gilliland 1969, show 37, track 4.
- "88 – 'Rain'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 196.
- Beatles, The – Paperback Writer / Rain (Vinyl) at Discogs
- "The Hot 100: July 9th 1966". billboard.com. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
- Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter J. (1976). All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. p. 349. ISBN 0-345-25680-8.
- Rolling Stone 2004b.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
- Miles 1997, p. 280.
- Unterberger 2007.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 198.
- Rolling Stone 2004a.
- DeRogatis 2003, p. 43.
- Sheff 2000, p. 197.
- BBC 2008.
- The Beatles 2000, p. 214.
- Miles 1998.
- Ritchie 2008.
- Anthology DVD 2003, Episode 3, "Rain".
- Unterberger 2006, p. 320.
- Unterberger 2006, p. 322.
- U2gigs.com 2010.
- Isherwood, Charles. "Another Long and Winding Detour," New York Times (OCT. 26, 2010).
- "The Beatles and the Birth of the Music Video". BBC. 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
- The Beatles (2003). The Beatles Anthology (DVD). Apple Corps Limited.
- DeRogatis, Jim (2003). Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-0-634-05548-5.
- Emerick, Geoff; Massey, Howard (2006). Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 1-59240-179-1.
- Everett, Walter (2009). The Foundations of Rock: From "Blue Suede Shoes" to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-531024-5.
- Fontenot, Robert (2008). "Rain". About.com. Retrieved 5 March 2008.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6.
- Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles: A Diary. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-6315-0.
- Neaverson, Bob (2009). "Beatles Videography". Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
- Pollack, Alan W. (12 December 1993). "Notes on "Paperback Writer" and "Rain"". Notes on ... Series.
- "Rain". The Beatles Interview Database. 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
- "Rain". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004a.
- "Rain". U2gigs.com. 2010.
- Reising, Russell; LeBlanc, Jim (2009). "Magical Mystery Tours, and Other Trips: Yellow submarines, newspaper taxis, and the Beatles' psychedelic years". In Womack, Kenneth (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68976-2.
- Ritchie, Paul (2008). "The Beatles Rain Video". Archived from the original on 6 January 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
- "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004b.
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
- "Top 3000 Songs: The Top Songs from 1966". Acclaimed Music. 2007a. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
- "Top Artists: The Beatles". Acclaimed Music. 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
- Unterberger, Richie (2006). The Unreleased Beatles: Music & Film. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-87930-892-3.
- "Rain Finale Backwards". YouTube. 1995. Retrieved June 2010. Check date values in:
- Unterberger, Richie (2007). "Review of "Rain"". Allmusic. Retrieved 22 December 2007.