Happy Monday, internet. We’re back once again with another group of songs to help get you through the week.
As is our routine, our songs this week will all share a common theme. In the past we’ve grouped songs by genre, mostly. But this week we’ll be taking a different route. Since the season of spring is nearly over, and summer looming ahead, this week might be our last chance to bring together a collection of songs centered around the season of love and rebirth.
This week, every song we look at will incorporate spring as a theme, whether it’s used as a metaphor or in a more literal sense.
We’ve got the perfect song to start with, too. “The Rain Song” comes from the classic rock band Led Zeppelin. But before we dive in, let’s first take a look at the history of how it was made.
The Rain Song
“The Rain Song” is the second track from Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album, “Houses of the Holy”, which released in 1973. The song is a ballad, and one of Zeppelin’s longer songs, coming in at over seven minutes in length.
The choice to make “The Rain Song” a ballad came from a conversation reportedly shared between George Harrison and Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham. During it, while Harrison expressed a liking for the band, he also brought forth a concern. “The problem with your band is you don’t do any ballads.”
Led Zeppelin took that piece of advice to heart, and the band set out to prove Harrison wrong. In the opening chords to “The Rain Song”, you can hear Jimmy Page’s tribute to Harrison’s “Something”. A musical quote, or allusion as thanks for the advice. Or perhaps it was a thinly-veiled jab, as if to say, “Look, I can do it too”.
Now that we’ve got a bit of backstory, we can dive right in to the song itself, and see what exactly makes it a spring song. The most obvious connection is right there in the title, “The Rain Song”. Spring is, of course, the season most recognized for its frequent showers. So there we go. Case closed. We’re done now, right? Wrong.
In “The Rain Song”, Robert Plant’s lyrics use spring as a metaphor for a period of time in a relationship, as well as the emotions that come with. So let’s take a look at a few lines from the first verse, and see how this metaphor kicks off.
“It is the springtime of my loving
The second season I am to know
You are the sunlight in my growing
So little warmth I’ve felt before”
These first lines seem to speak to the optimism and sometimes overwhelming nature of new and budding relationships. Some call it the honeymoon phase. But here, for Robert Plant’s purposes, the springtime fills the same role.
Unlike many Led Zeppelin songs, “The Rain Song” starts off as a soft and sweet ballad. Jimmy Page’s guitar work here is second to none. He crafts a beautiful progression that fits Robert Plant’s earnest vocal delivery perfectly.
While Jimmy Page crafted the melody, and Robert Plant brought the lyrics, bassist John Paul Johns provides a mellotron as accompaniment. The use of mellotron in “The Rain Song” adds to the song’s orchestral effect.
In between the verses, we get a nice, flowing instrumental section that feels like it’s drifting back and forth and up and down, like a breezy spring day. The energy then picks up through the second verse as the song builds. After that, we get some vocals from Robert Plant that are more familiar in their delivery. His high, full-throated belting provides some nice contrast to the overall easy listening.
Although I’ve listened to “Houses of the Holy” more than a few times, I think I always managed to overlook “The Rain Song”. More often than not, when I’m in the mood for Led Zeppelin, I want to hear the driving, energetic rock songs bursting with distorted guitar and a wailing Plant. But upon giving it a second and third listen in isolation, I think I’ve previously undervalued “The Rain Song” for an introduction I once considered slow and unexciting.
So even if you’ve already heard it, or think you know what to expect, I recommend giving “The Rain Song” another listen. It truly is one of the more unique Led Zeppelin songs, and stands out as an example that they were a far more versatile band than many give them credit for.
That about wraps up our discussion for today. Tomorrow we’ll continue with another song that evokes the feelings and memories of spring.