A soundtrack for rainy days, washed out weekends and being huddled up indoors.
If there’s one thing that fundamentally defines the experience of living in Britain, it’s rain. Specifically, the curious ability to experience all four seasons in a day just by walking to the shops, but also the way in which rain – its absence, its imminence or its recent presence – constitutes such a significant topic of debate for the inhabitants of these dampened isles.
As the temperature drops and the days get shorter in the run-up to Christmas, we’ve listed ten songs about rainy days – but also about the autumn and winter, the cold and the wind, and being wrapped up in the warm as raindrops patter on the window. Some aren’t about weather at all, but simply about having to while away a day huddled in shelter from the elements.
The Doors – ‘Riders On The Storm’
Beginning with a soft crash of thunder and the sound of rain falling, the quiet ambience of ‘Riders On The Storm’ is an all-time rock classic, but its unnerving lyrics of murderous madmen makes it subtly unsettling. This well-known epic appeared as the last track on the final Doors album in Jim Morrison’s lifetime, L.A. Woman.
The Beatles – ‘Rain’
This absolute gem of a Fab Four song remains a comparative unknown, at least next to so many of their best known songs. ‘Rain’ was a B-side to 1966 single ‘Paperback Writer’, and recorded at the same time as that year’s much-praised Revolver album. With its uneasy, faintly seasick rhythm, the chiming guitars and some quietly psychedelic Lennon lyrics, it’s a brilliant track hiding in plain view!
Travis – ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’
Travis’s career-defining song, which took their breakthrough album The Man Who from modest commercial success to the homes of millions in 1999, was bound to make its way onto here. Moulding and softening the complaint-rock of Radiohead into something more widely appealing, the package is completed by that memorable sing-along chorus.
Buddy Holly – ‘Raining In My Heart’
Tucked away on the B-side of 1959 single ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, this lushly orchestrated Buddy Holly tune is one of the most spectacularly miserable pop songs of all time. With its plucked strings evoking the raindrops falling in its author’s soul as he tries to put on a brave face for the outside world, it really ought to have been a hit in its own right.
Ann Peebles – ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’
Subsequently made into a Top Five hit by Eruption in the late Seventies and then done by Tina Turner for her massively successful Private Dancer album, American singer Ann Peebles first recorded this slinky and soulful track in 1973, and one that has been sampled on dozens of occasions since.
Pogues – ‘Rainy Night In Soho’
One of the most hopelessly romantic moments in a back catalogue often remembered for more riotously fun tracks, ‘Rainy Night In Soho’ is a slow dancer adorned with orchestration and beautiful tin whistles. Singer and songwriter Shane MacGowan and producer Elvis Costello butted heads over the final mix, reportedly, but what resulted was a diamond of a track that became a minor hit in 1986.
Blur – ‘This Is A Low’
Right near the end of the now slightly-dated panto-Britpop of Blur’s 1994 breakout album Parklife was a stunning show-stopper in ‘This Is A Low’, of the band’s very finest moments. Set to a brooding backdrop and a soaring chorus, Albarn’s lyrics referring to “Saturdays locked away on the pier” is hauntingly evocative of rainy afternoons and washed-out weekends. Sublime.
Nick Drake – ‘Northern Sky’
The late folk singer Nick Drake, now much more famous posthumously than he ever was during his lifetime when he dwelled in almost total obscurity, wrote more than his fair share of heart-stoppingly beautiful songs. ‘Northern Sky’, whose gentle, dark sound evokes the same wind and rain as its title does, was one of his very, very best.
Garbage – ‘Only Happy When It Rains’
A hit single from the band’s 1995 self-titled debut album, ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ is a slate-grey moment of joyous revelry in outsiderdom, of jumping up and down in the rain as everybody else runs for cover.
Rihanna ft. Jay-Z – ‘Umbrella’
Of course this was going to make it on this list! A track that spent ten consecutive weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart back in the summer of 2007, ‘Umbrella’ is absolutely nailed on to make you feel good even as the heavens pour outside.
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