Rain Songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Blind Lemon, Led Zeppelin + others: Odd Couples

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How many songs are there about the weather? Specifically, how many rain songs? Lots: at least hundreds, and likely well into thousands, if you count passing references found in many songs about lost love, lost innocence, or lost puppies. So instead of the usual one-on-one battle for supremacy, here’s a special edition ODD COUPLES column where the usual rules are waived in a no holds barred, last song standing battle royale to determine the heavyweight champion in that newly minted musical category: Rock ‘n’ Roll Rain Songs.

Why so many rain songs? Probably for the same reasons there are so many conversations about the weather: It’s a typically neutral topic which allows speakers or singers a chance to ease into the real gist of what they want to say. As well, though rain is necessary for crops and life in general, it still makes most people miserable if they have to stand outside in a downpour for too long.

So, let’s start with the pre-fight weigh in and technical matters:

Right away, we need eliminate a whole pile of entrants like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (B.J. Thomas) or “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feelin’ Again” (the Fortunes) that are good rain songs, but are simply too light to wander in off the street into the heavyweight ring and expect a chance of surviving. After all, safety first. (Actually, in rock ‘n roll, safety is usually near the bottom of the list.)

Next is a more complicated problem. There are any number songs that may or not be about rain, but since “rain” isn’t actually mentioned in the title, it’s a little unfair to the rest of the competitors. Too bad; songs like “Riders on the Storm” (the Doors) or “A Horse With No Name” (America) really showcase the wet stuff (or lack of it). In particular, Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” is a truly great rain song; every visual image is tied to the opening phrase, “It was raining hard in ‘Frisco …” But rules are rules. This has to be a fair fight, secret weapons excluded.

Enough of the academic stuff. On to the actual rain song rumble:

No surprise that the first piece of action we see is the field ganging up on two of the fan-favorite rain songs, Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and the Beatles’ “Rain.” Better to get rid of them right away: Beatles’ fans in particular being the way they are, if the Fab Four would have reached the Final Four and lost, you’d hear them yelling “fix!” faster (and louder) than you can say “Paul is dead.” Two down.

Next, in a surprise move Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain” tosses its older, more ponderous brother “The Rain Song” through the ropes. Similarly, Creedence Clearwater Revivial’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” turns on “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” saying, “There’s only room enough for one rain song in this band’s catalog.” Wow – headlong into the first row. Talk about sibling rivalry. The remaining contestants subsequently toss these two for familial disloyalty. That’s four more sent to the showers early.

Then there comes a long period of exploiting the weaknesses of the remaining rain song contenders. Songs like “So. Central Rain” (R.E.M.) and “Rain Dance” (the Guess Who) are too oblique, like much of the rest of those two bands’ material. And some like “Yesterday’s Rain” (the Sweet) and “Rain on the Scarecrow” (John Mellencamp) just don’t have the staying power. Even strong contenders from the British Pop Division like “It’s Raining Again” (Supertramp) and “Here Comes the Rain Again” (Eurythmics) run out of steam in this marathon of muscle.

We’re down to the last half dozen. Against the odds, old timer “Singing in the Rain” (from the movie soundtrack featuring Gene Kelly) is still in, but gets knocked into unconsciousness by a springboard clothesline move delivered by Prince’s “Purple Rain” — who has mistakenly confused Kelly’s version of the song with the more recent one by Usher. This leaves room for the slow-burning blues of ZZ Top’s “Sure Got Cold after the Rain Fell” to come in and finish off the purple power ballad with a well-aimed elbow smash from behind. Suddenly, one of the odds-on favorites, “(Here Comes the) Rain” (the Cult) steps in and head butt’s ZZ Top’s tune, but it results in a rare double knockout, each song cancelling the other for lack of common ground.

After the officials clear out the ring, the crowd tenses as they prepare to witness the final spectacle: the gladiator-like rain song struggle of the final two combatants for the crown and the glory. Who will be delivering whom into obscurity with a hard driving flying turnbuckle move? Suddenly, the referee is waving his arms, signalling that the match is over! Apparently, a decision has come down that the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” has been disqualified for not having “rain” in the title of the song!

Now writer Pete Townshend himself is ringside at the judges table arguing for artistic integrity, saying the image of “rain” and “reign” are connected not just by their similar pronunciation, but the context of the entire Quadrophenia storyline. The judges are buying none of it. They’re telling Townshend he should’ve used “Rain” in the title and trusted his audience to figure it out for themselves. It’s too artsy; and to add insult to injury, the contraction “o’er” as a substitute for “over” is just showing off his command of the mechanics of English grammar and not necessary to the presentation of the song itself.

Ladies and gentlemen! In light of this decision, the title of Heavyweight Champion Rock ‘n’ Roll Rain Song goes to … “No Rain” by Blind Melon! Juxtaposing the thoughts “I like watchin’ the puddles gather rain” with “I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today” over some retro southern hippie jam band jazz pop, this song sneaked into the Top 20 and helped the band’s debut album go quadruple platinum. And though singer Shannon Hoon died a couple of years later, through this song his voice lives on in high rotation on classic rock radio. And don’t forget the “bee girl” video — an unforgettable bonus.

So, let’s again congratulate tonight’s big rain song winner: Blind Melon’s “No Rain!” Ladies and gentlemen — thank you for your attendance! Good night, and drive safely!

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