Rain

Past Masters album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 14, 16 April 1966
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 10 June 1966 (UK), 30 May 1966 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass
George Harrison: backing vocals, guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Past Masters

Released on the Paperback Writer single, Rain is considered by many Beatles fans to be their finest b-side.

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Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines
It's just a state of mind?
Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

Much like Revolver's I'm Only Sleeping, Rain found The Beatles exploring LSD-influenced feelings of detachment from the real world, and the belief that heightened consciousness can be found within the self.

The song is generally credited to John Lennon, although Paul McCartney claimed it was co-written.

I don't think he brought the original idea, just when we sat down to write, he kicked it off. Songs have traditionally treated rain as a bad thing and what we got on to was that it's no bad thing. There's no greater feeling than the rain dripping down your back. The most interesting thing about it wasn't the writing, which was tilted 70-30 to John, but the recording of it.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The Beatles had discovered during the Tomorrow Never Knows sessions that slowing down the speed of their recordings revealed hidden depths. They recorded the rhythm track of Rain at a fast tempo, then slowed the tape down so the song was a tone lower.

The Beatles played the rhythm track really fast so that when the tape was played back at normal speed everything would be so much slower, changing the texture. If we'd recorded it at normal speed and then had to slow the tape down whenever we wanted to hear a playback it would have been much more work.
Geoff Emerick
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Ringo Starr's drums, locked in to McCartney's high bass notes, were a key feature of the song.

The drums became a giant drum kit... We got a big, ponderous, thunderous backing and then we worked on top of that as normal, so that it didn't sound like a slowed-down thing, it just had a big ominous noise to it. It was nice, I really enjoyed that one.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Ringo Starr later said Rain was among his favourite performances on a Beatles recording. "I feel as though that was someone else playing - I was possessed!"

I think I just played amazing. I was into the snare and the hi-hat. I think it was the first time I used this trick of starting a break by hitting the hi-hat first instead of going directly to a drum off the hi-hat.
Ringo Starr
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The other key feature of Rain was John Lennon's backwards vocals, heard during the coda at the song's end. Lennon claimed that the discovery was the result of a stoned accident, when he threaded his rough mix tape of the song into his reel-to-reel player the wrong way round.

I got home from the studio and I was stoned out of my mind on marijuana and, as I usually do, I listened to what I'd recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on, with a big hash joint. I ran in the next day and said, 'I know what to do with it, I know... Listen to this!' So I made them all play it backwards. The fade is me actually singing backwards with the gutars going backwards. [Singing backwards] Sharethsmnowthsmeaness... [Laughter] That one was the gift of God, of Ja, actually, the god of marijuana, right? So Ja gave me that one.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon's version of events was backed up by George Harrison and Geoff Emerick. George Martin, meanwhile, recalled the discovery as being his.

I was always playing around with tapes and I thought it might be fun to do something extra with John's voice. So I lifted a bit of his main vocal off the four-track, put it onto another spool, turned it around and then slid it back and forth until it fitted. John was out at the time but when he came back he was amazed. Again, it was backwards forever after that.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Listen to the released song's coda reversed, to hear the backwards vocals in their correct form:

In the studio

The Beatles recorded Rain over two sessions. On 14 April 1966, the same day Paul McCartney taped his bass part for Paperback Writer, the group taped five takes of Rain's rhythm track, performed quickly and later slowed down.

They finished the song on 16 April, adding overdubs including tambourine, bass and extra vocals. It is likely that the backwards vocals were added on this day, when they also carried out the mono mixes that appeared on the Paperback Writer single.

52 responses on “Rain

  1. dylan

    i just listened to rain for the first time in a while. i’ve been on a beatles kick lately. i was hanging out with some friends talking about the beatles, and i remembered that Ringo said it was his favorite drum track. i came home and listened to it with that in mind. it is mindblowingly good and it doesn’t hurt that Paul’s bass part is particularly amazing as well.

  2. Charlie

    Paul’s bass is amazingly good, as usual … Rain and Paperback Writer are two examples of the Beatles using the bass guitar as THE lead instrument of a song, opening up the possibilities to the rest of the eagerly-listening Rock bands. Paul’s innovations mapped the avenue for all Bass players of the era and all those that followed.

    1. Day Tripper

      Cant agree with you. Pauls base line is phantastic, but in my ears, its the heavy guitar sound, which make this one so special. They have slowed the guitars down and so it sounds so cool, so raised, like a post card from a drug-trip.

  3. J. Garcia

    Note how at the end of the 1st verse the band falls behind almost a half a bar——–before reaching the RAIN refrain. IMHO, a great moment in the song. This great fla is likely exaggerated because the song was slowed down.

    Without Paul’s bass playing the song is nothing special.

    1. Zig

      I saw that too – taken in context, I assumed he meant “great flaw” as in a mistake that comes up smelling like a rose.

      Either way, this song is definitely in my top 5.

  4. Von Bontee

    I continue to marvel at the idea of a “Revolver” that included this song and “Paperback Writer” – making the best LP in the world even better! (Not to mention one of the alltime great GUITAR albums.) As a North American, the British custom of keeping singles and LPs separate never made a lot of sense to me.

    1. joekidd

      it is unbelievable that these tracks were never released on a ‘real’ beatle album … when we were kids we made beatle tapes that included these songs along with other favorites from revolver & rubber soul … a stellar period for them …

    2. Austin

      I couldn’t agree more. All these “singles” were the result of money hungry execs at capitol. Everyone wanted a piece of the cash cow aka the Beatles. Both Rain & Writer SHOULD’VE been on Revolver.

      1. brian

        No, album collections like “Beatles VI” and “Yesterday And Today” were the result of Capitol records insatiable appetite for Beatles product. Roughly three to four singles per year was a template in place before Capitol execs even caught on to the lads. However, if I were to create my own unique “Revolver” sixteen track mix cd, I’d probably place “Rain” right after “Good Day Sunshine”.

  5. Robert

    I don’t know how old some of you guys are, but I’m 52 with an older sister who loved and saw the Beatles live – so my house was a mini fan club.

    I mention to say that when Rain came out in early 66 the whole neighborhood exploded. Even though Paperback Writer was the A side – all we could talk about was Rain.

    Take a look at the Billboard 100 for 1966 and you’ll realize how out of the box this song was.

    Groundbreaking

    1. Frank

      I’m 7 years younger than you are, and didn’t have an older sibling :), so I actually discovered The Beatles in the mid Seventies. And even in 1978, discovering “Rain” was like stepping into a time warp. It was so ahead of its time, it blew the Top 100 out of the water 12 years after it was recorded.

  6. G. McGregor

    Underrated song. Ok, Ringo’s best drumming, an amazing bass by Paul – but that quasi-raga playing and the sound of the guitars is just amazing to me. That guitar sound is something else. Put all that together, mix it up…what have you got?

  7. scurfie

    Paul, at the time, wanted a bigger rhythm sound on record. A sound like what was coming from Motown. If you listen carefully one of the changes Paul made was switching to a Fender Precision Bass.

  8. carlos

    John was busy taking LSD by the time, and didn’t care his selfish (Rain, shine, I don’t mind), so Paul took advantage and started to play BOSSY, that’s the only reason I can find to understand why this GIANT song is a b-side, I’m clear that it’s very very very superior to Paul’s Paperback Writer.

    1. Bongo

      Superior in some ways for sure, but not the hit maker George Martin & McCartney decided when they made it the B-side much to Lennon’s dismay. Obviously hits are the reasons for singles. But I totally agree, it is a great song!

  9. Cameron McIntosh

    Well, I have to agree with my friend here Rain is the superior song. This is my second favorite song. Being a bass player, that bass line is one of the best bass lines in a song ever. I use pieces of it today…. in Gospel too! The song is underrated and should have been side A.

  10. Barnabas

    Rain(because it’s fantastic song) is suppose to be in Revolver,but unfortunately it doesn’t suit to Revolver’s songs.It’s quite obvious that Rain is better than any Lennon’s songs in Revolver.Every instrument they are using in the song are phenomenal.It’s Top 5 The Beatles song.Remarkable

    1. Nick M

      I think rain(as great as it is) sounds a bit to similar to she said she said in terms of sonic production, they probably left it off the album to break up any uniformity.

  11. Tweeze

    One possible subtle flaw: The comment reads, ‘Ringo Starr’s drums, locked in to McCartney’s high bass notes..’ gives me the impression that Ringo purposely played into Paul’s bass rather than Paul playing into Ringo’s drumming. It’s a fantastic bit of work on both parts nevertheless.

  12. paulsbass

    Everyone’s rightfully raving about Paul’s bass and Ringo’s drums – but what about the vocal-arrangement?!
    The way the backing vocals dissonate with the guitar is just amazing.

    I still think it was rightfully the b-side.
    It’s definitely not as “well” produced as Paperback writer, it sounds more “underground” than anything they ever did.
    They always made the right choices for the singles, at least commercially.

  13. Cameron McIntosh

    I have learned from the days of the Beatles that “A” side vs “B” side makes no difference. A song that is on what’s called the “A” side does not mean the song is better or worst. It is all subjective. I understand it means something to the general buying public. but to us Beatles Fans, we know a “B” side can be great!

  14. jamy_jim

    paulsbass, right on. The thing that grabbed me when I first heard this track was, in fact, the vocals: Lennon’s beautiful, dreamy voice and Paul and George with the sweet backing (and Paul’s perfect high harmony). Of course the instrumentation is so very cool… and let’s not forget George’s simple yet tasty and effective guitar!

  15. robert

    In terms of A side B side – in 1966 Paperback Writer was the much more commercial song and the A side signified the side DJs were supposed to play first.

    Remember The Beatles liked selling records, they made no bones about wanting commercial success and for that reason Paperback Writer was the logical A side.

  16. Edwin Turner

    This cut, as much as any, demonstrates the vast difference betwixt a solo vocalist and a band, blended instrumental skill versus singular vocal presentation, Led Zeppelin as compared to Barry Manilow.

    Often lost to the purchasing pressure exerted by twelve year old girls with bumps on their chests and their distracted fathers, rock and roll depends on skill much more than show.

  17. Beatlesglassonion

    The song “Rain” is actually a philosophic discussion about the idea that “every coin has two sides”. John Lennon explained that “Rain” was “about people moaning about the weather all the time” and thats how the song starts. later in the song, Lennon trys to explain that the weather=the coin, the two sides are rain and sunshine. then he sings “I can show you”=i? can prove it to you. the reverse singing is the proof: the song=the coin, the two sides=straight and reverse singing…

  18. Beatle_Ed

    For me this song hits a nerve and I could just play it over and over. Its a very underrated song as it didn’t get the live performances that the earlier work got. The tones however are just sublime and never being one to condone drugs you can certainly hear that influence kicking here. Its a song that takes what they have done before and really notches it up a couple of gears. Its as if the music itself is maturing like themselves and becoming slower, more serious and wiser.

  19. Rockpile

    Is that John double-tracked singing the high part in the second “Ra-a-ain I don’t mind…”?

    Also love the falling bass notes there, like falling raindrops.

  20. jackgeiffin1

    I’ve never understood the open tuning in this song. Any guitar players out there? Assuming the song is slowed down to the key of G, what would the tuning be?

  21. Dr_Anthrax

    Always sounded to me like the guitars were tuned to a drone tuning: eg E-B-E-E-B-E; there’s no third. Same principle if the tonic is A or G or whatever. Harrison would have been well familiar with drone tunings from his sitar studies.

  22. Glenn

    Islander’s right about the tuning G D G G B D, but that’s actually Paul’s part, not John’s. John maintains a tuning in fourths but drops by a tone (whole step, for the benefit of Americans here), so he’s tuned to D,G,C,F,A,D. He plays the rhythm part using E, A and B chord shapes, but because the guitar’s downtuned, he’s actually producing G, C and D chords. Play both detuned guitar parts together with a bit a overdrive and it’s just fantastic. Brilliant, dense psychedelia, and without a doubt the richest guitar texture in the Beatles’ canon – and they had a lot of those!

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