From Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” to the song that introduced “Die Hard With A Vengeance,” ”Summer In The City,” and even before the original “Boys of Summer,” The Beach Boys surfed into music history, the weather of summer has inspired some great songs. To answer the rhetorical question posed by Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe in “Pop Song ’89,” “Should we talk about the weather?” let us now praise that most evocative of summer phenomenon, the summer rain.
When the parched, dusty ground is begging for a shower, and the smell of coming rain is in the air, and the first few drops elicit steam from the hot pavement, that’s when you should listen for these odes to that welcome respite from the summer heat.
The man who produced The 5th Dimension and sang of the “Secret Agent Man,” Johnny Rivers, also provided one of the prototypical nods to “Summer Rain,” a single that reached No. 14 on the Billboard singles chart from his 1968 release Realization (which peaked at No. 5 on the albums chart). Penned by former Mugwump James Hendricks, the track begins with the sounds of summer rain and successfully captures the “end of the ’60s” nostalgia that was to come. Lushly orchestrated, with brass accents, the focus is on Rivers’ soulful and silky smooth tenor, as he sings “all summer long we kept grooving in the sand, everybody kept on playin’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, all that matters to him in the end is that his baby is by his side. At the end of the track, the listener is fooled into thinking that the summer rain has returned, but really it’s the sound of a crowd assembling and a band preparing to play.
Former Go-Go Belinda Carlisle’s third solo album, released in 1989, contained the adult contemporary single “Summer Rain.” Past the smoothly produced sheen of what sounds like a half-hearted attempt to replicate the success of her first single, “Heaven Is A Place on Earth” is the story of a woman who is mourning the loss of her husband to war. She is remembering saying goodbye to him on the platform, as he boarded a train to his death amidst the summer rain. Now, when thunder and lightning approach, she remembers her loss.
Just last year, “Glee’s” Matthew Morrison released a paean to “Summer Rain” as the first single from his eponymous debut. For Morrison, who needs Lover’s Lane? “Let’s make love on this rooftop in the summer rain,” he sings, over a highly polished (and sanitized for your protection) lilting reggae-inspired beat.
The second record from British group The Primitives featured lead singer Tracy Tracy singing an ode to walking through summer rain as a way of washing all of her troubles away—“I don’t feel anything today,” she sings dispassionately over swirling guitars and synths. The cut concludes with her repeating “I’m lost in summer rain” as it fades out.
Acid House Kings are a Swedish indie pop group that have seemingly invented the Swee genre, and have produced so many summery songs that one compilation was entitled Sounds of Summer. But for a related take on summer rain, we must turn to a related duo called Club 8 (Johan Angergård of the Labrador label being a member of both groups). From their 1998 release, A Friend I Once Had, Club 8 produce a highly danceable exercise in wistfulness.
Mountain’s “A Sunny Summer Rain” begins as an acid-soaked ballad, but morphs into a sonic stomper soaked in fuzzy psychedelia. The rain of time should not have washed this one away.
The power pop pride of Zion, Ill., Shoes produced a lovely “Summer Rain” for their Boomerang release in 1982. If crystal clear guitar chords are what you like to see in your summer downpours, then this one is for you.
The most iconic of the 1980’s odes to summer rain came from the also-rans of earnestness, The Alarm. “I love to feel the rain in the summertime, “ Welsh lead singer Mike Peters sang, “oh, I love to feel the rain on my face,” he continued, and he employs it as a mechanism for leaving “all the pain and sadness behind.”
It’s easy to forget that the crown princes of earnestness, who tapped The Alarm to open for them on their Boy tour, U2, also produced a song called “Summer Rain.” Included on a separate CD with their 2000 return to rock, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, it definitely didn’t fit in with the sprawling, anthemic rock of the rest of the record. Framed around an acoustic guitar part, it does share a common thematic thread with the lyrics of the rest of the record—”It’s not how you’re weak, but what will make you strong,” Bono concludes. After all, the summer rain may bend the flowers of the fields, but ultimately they become stronger for it.