*2.01-RAIN (Beatles)




If the rain comes
They run and hide their heads.
They might as well be dead.
If the rain comes, if the rain comes.

When the sun shines
They slip into the shade
        (When the sun shines down.)
And sip their lemonade.
        (When the sun shines down.)
When the sun shines, when the sun shines.

        I don't mind.
        The weather's fine.

I can show you
That when it starts to rain
        (When the rain comes down.)
Everything's the same.
        (When the rain comes down.)
I can show you, I can show you.


Can you hear me
That when it rains and shines,
        (When it rains and shines.)
It's just a state of mind?
        (When it rains and shines.)
Can you hear me, can you hear me?

[Coda (backwards verse)]

April of 1966 was a big month in the development of Beatles, when the psychedelic aspect of their music began to take off. The earliest track that signaled this shift, completed April 11th, was George Harrison's Love You To, a significant development in the mastery of sitar over Norwegian Wood, this time in a song he wrote. Paul McCartney finished his fairly straight rock song Paperback Writer on April 13th. Lennon finished his song Rain on April 16th. Also from that month were Dr. Robert on April 19th, Tomorrow Never Knows on April 22nd, And Your Bird Can Sing on April 26th, and the finishing up of I'm Only Sleeping on May 6th. I'd always thought that I'm Only Sleeping was the first of the backwards tape experimentations, but its subtlety and appropriateness to the theme shows that it was more a matter of a refined product than a timid touch. No, the Beatles jumped right in.

The lyrics of Rain have the simple philosophical bent that Lennon began using with The Word, and would continue using through All You Need Is Love, past the psychedelic aesthetic into Give Peace a Chance and Power to the People. He knew how to create slogans for the masses. Lennon still connects this power of influence to himself in this record, but would soon surrender this to allow the song the float freely without self-reference. Then again, "I can show you" may refer to the song rather than to the singer. The lyrics express what might seem a hippie sentiment that "rain or shine" it's all the same. [Rain was recorded after the March 1966 interview that caused the We're more popular than Jesus scandal and the burning of Beatles records in the USA, but was the last single the Beatles released before the furor broke in August. In its transcendent response to criticism, Rain may be the Beatles version of Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women, in which everybody must get stoned.] But the tone, due to the music, is far from that of resignation, or fatalistic passivity, where nothing matters. Instead the music tells us plainly that this is an achieved state that involves breaking through illusion. It is as if there is an obverse reality (witness the backwards tape) to this reality, an alternate reality of mind (and not derived from another culture) that isn't scary or evil but beautiful, exotic, ecstatic.

Ringo Starr puts on a spirited performance of drums in Rain; the song is considered by many (including the drummer himself) as his finest moment. Ringo seemed to respond well to the varied beats of the psychedelic period in several songs, but he was not dependent on it. One of his best non-psychedelic workouts was on the restrained Come Together. Paul McCartney's bass in this record (and the A side Paperback Writer) begins a trend of pushing the bass up front and building bass counterpoint harmonies with the melody. It’s interesting to note that Rain uses the same instruments and many of the same recording techniques as the A side.

Of course, much of the achievement in this song is made possible through the fresh use of technological advances. Geoff Emerick, the engineer at the Rain sessions, wrote that he slowed down Lennon's voice on the recording so it would have a higher tone when played at a normal speed. Wikipedia states that 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. Looking for a way to make the bass sound fuller, recording engineer Ken Townshend had the idea to take a loudspeaker and reverse its polarity, which made the speaker into a microphone. That is why the bass sounds so much louder than it did on earlier recordings. Townshend was reprimanded by EMI for damaging company equipment.

The last verse of Rain includes backward vocals, and, so far as I know, is the earliest use of this technique on a record. Robert Fontenot writes (for about.com) “Despite some claims to the contrary, it is the first Beatles song recorded and released to use this effect -- although Tomorrow Never Knows, which was begun eight days earlier, features a backwards guitar solo, that track was actually added on April 22, eight days after completion of Rain. (The other song from the Revolver album sessions to feature a backwards solo, I'm Only Sleeping, was not completed until May 6.)” As proven on YouTube, the backward vocal is Lennon singing the first lyrics of the song: When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads. Both Lennon and producer George Martin have claimed credit for the idea of using tapes played backwards. Also with this record, the Beatles pioneered the fade out fade in coda that would later be used in many psychedelic records, most famously in the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever.

This inventive combination of elements in Rain made it sound unlike anything that had ever existed before...I felt at the time that a new world had been made available to us through the music, a new popular consciousness was being offered to us. I wasn't smoking marijuana or taking doses of LSD, but songs like this made me eager to experiment with new ways of thinking. To not be rattled by the aggravations of life but to rise above them somehow, to treat the inconveniences of living as trivialities! My adolescent soul, wracked with self-doubt and emotional sabotage, longed for such peace far more than for a car or a lover.