Friday, March 13, 2009

Rainy Day Music, #1 Through 15

Which is worse, going to a bad party you expected to be bad, or going to a miserable party you expected to be good? Say:

1) An office crawfish boil in a parking lot, in August, in Houston. The heat's insane, the conversation's stuffier than the air, everyone's sweating like stuck pigs and looking like hell. But, you know, it's only an hour, and crawfish are tasty.


2) A friend's holiday party, where he promises a bounty of gold, myrrh, unattached women, delicious adult beverages, presents, cheer, merriment, probably a guest appearance by Blitzen, and snuggly fireside chats with aforementioned women and beverages. In reality, the only single woman is his in-law, the gifts exchanged are those of "awkward silences" and "passive aggression" and the adult beverage is, you know, spritzer-inspired.

So, guess which one is the weather in February and which one is March.

Last Friday I basked in the glory of sunshine and daffodils, Bradford pears and joy. Girls in Sundresses were on parade past my house. I played badminton in a meadow with bears and bees alike. I rented a convertible for a day so I could put the top down, drive around the neighborhood, and wash other peoples' cars in slow motion to the tune of Joe Satriani's "Summer Song."

Today, I write you from what can only be described as a "cave of ice and despair," wearing a beige parka and golashes and a frown, wind and freezing rain pelting my iglooroof, a constant rapping that sounds like death itself knocking on my door, thinking only "this must be what Russia feels like," and "pass the gruel," and "do polar bears play badmin--ahh, what's the use?"

In the words of Denny Green..."March, you are what we thought you were!"

All this to say, it's raining water and sadness, so how about a few musical recommendations to suit the horrific weather? Here now, a few of my favorite...

Songs About Rain!

(***NOTE: You can hear the "Songs About Rain" playlist on the right sidebar..enjoy!)

"Stormy Weather," Etta James/Reigning Sound
"Stormy Weather" is something of a standard, covered by everyone from Miss James to cult punk heroes the Reigning Sound. It's a terrificly versatile song, equally convincing as a crooner or as a rocker.

"I Can't Stand the Rain," Albert King
Another oft-covered tune (most famously sampled by Missy Elliot for "Supafly"), Albert King's version is penned-up and punchy, full of frustrated energy and a terrific vocal.

"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," Burt Bacharach
If for no other reason than its involvement with Butch Cassidy.

"Red Rain," White Stripes
One of White's most Zeppelin-derivative songs, from the major-minor interplay to the slide guitar to the screeching-t0-a-breaking-point vocal. After "My Doorbell," this might is my favorite track from Get Behind Me Satan. I've included a live performance on the iMeem playlist, since iMeem inexplicably didn't have the album version handy.

"I Wish It Would Rain," Temptations
Not much to say here I haven't said before. Some of the smartest and most effective background vocals I've ever heard.

"Rain," John Lennon
Not the best song John ever wrote, but it sounds like the best song Teenage Fanclub never wrote. Plus sitar. Good enough for me.

"Buckets of Rain," Bob Dylan
"Rainy Day Women" and "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" are less about rain and more about, well, everything else, but "Buckets" is in our wheelhouse. Proof that Dylan does "simple and lovely" as well as he ever did "epic and complex."

"Sit and Listen to the Rain," Whiskeytown
There is a time and a place for a 4-minute song that sounds like a monotonous rainfall. That time is now, that place is here.

"Rainy Day, Dream Away," Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix often tried to approximate the sound of water/rain, most successfully on "May This Be Love?" Here, he goes in the opposite direction with a song that's neither water-logged or dream-like. The result is one of his best.

"Who'll Stop the Rain," Creedence Clearwater Revival
John Fogerty wrote three melodies in his life. This was one of them. It's my favorite.

"Fool in the Rain," Led Zeppelin
Like Hendrix, Zeppelin liked to juxtapose a sad lyric with an upbeat song. "Fool in the Rain" is one of their tightest, most listenable compositions. It feels perfect from its first second to its last. Naturally, it's not listed on iMeem, so the playlist has Zeppelin's "Rain Song" instead.

"Tell It to the Rain," Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
For all their sentimentality and superficial sheen, some of the goofier oldies sound as real to me as anything. There's a lot of truth beneath the gloss.

"Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," Willie Nelson
A classic song, but an even better vocal. It's astonishing.

"Raining in Baltimore," Counting Crows
No way, no how was Adam "The Rain King" Duritz not making this list. Since "Rain King" itself already made the Songs for March, the naked gloom and beauty of "Raining in Baltimore" gets the nod.
(Side note: When Augustana's "Boston" came out, I thought, "Hmm, that's pretty much the same song as 'Raining in Baltimore.' It's good, but, uh, it's clearly their rewrite of 'Raining in Baltimore.'" Three months later, "Boston" hit, they were opening for the Counting Crows off Adam Duritz's personal recommendation, and order was restored to the universe.)

"No Rain," Blind Melon
Because at least one song--one song--on this list has to be about the absence of rain, storms, dread, fear, death, and despair.

And, a special bonus....

Wait for it....

"November Rain," by Guns N' Roses
Sans irony.

What are your favorite Songs About Rain?

Ain't no monkey but I know what I like,


Lady M said...

Songs about/inspired by rain are some of my favorite. So, here we go:

"I'm Only Happy When it Rains" by Garbage because every girl has dark days where she just wants to be a bad ass. And because Shirley Manson is pretty freaking awesome and quite wonderful in person.

"Like the Rain" by Clint Black because something really is magical about being with someone in the rain.

"Singin' in the Rain" with Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds because splashing through puddles with friends is fun.

"Rain All Day"-Fleming & John because as fun and magical as it is being out in the rain with someone, a rainy day is a perfect excuse to stay in bed all day.

"London Rain" by Heather Nova because nothing heals me like you do. Actually, this is just a song that reminds me of some good times with good people.

"Covered in Rain" by John Mayer because you already covered Counting Crows and I stood through a John Mayer/Counting Crows concert in the rain and it was worth it.

"Hurricane" by Mindy Smith because sometimes people really need a clean slate.

"Transatlanticism" by Death Cab never actually says the word rain, but paints a beautiful picture of the ocean being formed by a downpour that creates the bleakest kind of loneliness and isolation.

"Still Rainin'" by Jonny Lang because it's Jonny Lang...who I also saw in the rain.

The Jayhawks hit the nail on the head with their ENTIRE Rainy Day Music album. It really is a one-stop-rainy-day-shop.

And, of course, Patty Griffin's "Rain" for every reason in the world.

Hillary Brooke said...

I can't believe you didn't put Joe Purdy's, "I Love the Rain the Most", so disappointed in you CM. Shaking my head as I type. The only good thing about March is our Annual Ice Float BBCruise. Where all the locals take chain saws to the icebergs & bbq/drink/debaucherize to the fullest whilst floating merrily along Lake Michigan.

Hillary Brooke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TownCharacter said...

"Kathy's Song", Paul Simon
And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I.

"Stormy Weather" by Harold Arlen
Leana Horne's version, of course

"Cold Blow and the Rainy Night" by the irish trad. group Planxty in the late 1970s

ross k. said...

Very good, Mr. Milam, but you've missed one heavy favorite of mine: Alice in Chains's "Rain When I Die." No explanation needed.

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