Weather in songs is often wrong

  • Weather in songs is often wrong
    10.03.2011 16:14


    Rain, sunshine, thunder and snow are watchwords of the lyrical lexicon when it comes to popular music.

    Meteorological metaphors abound in the pop charts and always have done but with varying degrees of accuracy if we decide to give short shrift to poetic license.

    Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac was no doubt more interested in the lyricism of love than climatological exactitude when she wrote and sang “Dreams” in the 1970s. But let’s be uncharitable and flat out say that she was wrong when she averred in that song that “thunder only happens when it’s raining”.

    It is perfectly possible for lightning and thunder to occur without precipitation, Stevie, and a band called Brainstorm seems to argue that point with a song called “Thunder without Rain”.

    Vanessa Williams in “Save the Best for Last”, on the other hand, was quite correct in stating that “sometimes the snow comes down in June”; although astronomers would take issue with the subsequent eccentric assertion that “sometimes the sun goes ‘round the moon”.

    It is winter in the southern hemisphere in June, so it would be odd if it did not snow, and anyway the UK has seen snow in summer, and it is no stranger to higher northern latitudes.

    Which brings us to Crowded House who sang about “Four Seasons in One Day”; and anyone who lives in the British Isles will recognise that as a reasonable subject for song.

    Rain is of course often associated with sadness or misery, typified by the Everly Brothers in “Crying in the Rain”. Some may wonder that The Smiths did not write more about drizzle, especially given that they formed in Manchester. However, their glum reputation is somewhat overstated, as perhaps is Manchester’s clichéd wetness.

    Fran Healy of Travis once wondered “why does it always rain on me?” blaming it on the karma of having being a fibber as a teenager. It is not established, however, that the atmosphere is so judgmental.

    He went on to complain that “even when the sun is shining I can’t avoid the lightning”. Which might be true – lightning can strike from apparently clear skies, hence the proverbial “bolt from the blue” – but he would have to be spectacularly unlucky.

    Zoe’s “Sunshine on a Rainy Day” evidently made her soul “drip, drip, drip away”, and it’s hard to establish whether she thought that was a good or bad thing. But Garbage were “Only Happy when it Rains”, and The Weather Girls always seemed quite pleased, to say the least, that it was “Raining Men”, however unlikely that might be.

    Phil Collins addressed the issue of emotional precipitation differently in “I Wish it Would Rain Down”, representing rain as a purging and restorative force, as did Madonna with the concisely titled “Rain”. And who is to gainsay the feelings of multi-platinum artistes such as these?

    Bacharach and David eulogized cheery optimism through adversity in “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, although in the same year George Harrison and the Beatles expressed a preference for sunshine in “Here Comes the Sun”. Most of us would agree that “it’s all right”.

    Elton John, and later George Michael, also preferred the healing power of the sun in “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”. Katrina of Katrina and the Waves went further, with the chipper but atmospherically unlikely claim that she was “Walking on Sunshine”. Still, it seemed to make her feel good.

    Bob Dylan, as one of the greatest performers and songwriters ever, should have the last word. We must wonder, however, whether he really needed to give the game away in “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. There won’t be many hard-working meteorologists who will appreciate the news that “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

    By: Stephen Davenport