When was it recorded? Apr. 14 & 16, 1966
When was it first released, and on which album? May 30, 1966 as the B-side to “Paperback Writer”
Who wrote it? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
From one B-side to another…
According to Wikipedia, John was inspired to write “Rain” after arriving with the Beatles in Melbourne, Australia, for their tour. “I’ve never seen rain as hard as that, except in Tahiti,” John said.
Richie Unterberger interpreted the message differently. In his song review, he noted, “On the surface, it was a very English observational song, to the point of banality in some respects, about being in the rain and people sipping their lemonade. On a deeper level, it could be heard as an embrace of the drug experience, or of any experience in general that wallowed in sensation and reverie.”
The Beatles started recording “Rain” on Apr. 14, 1966, the same session they began “Paperback Writer,” which eventually served as the A-side to “Rain.” The Fab Four recorded five takes of the rhythm track.
Quoth Geoff Emerick, ““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.” In contrast, as Alan Pollack wrote, “John sang for the recording in a slower tempo and lower key, so that on faster playback his ‘Mickey Mouse’ vocal not only presents him uncharacteristically beyond his normal upper range, but also with an eerily hyperactive vibrato in his throat.”
In addition to all that weirdness, “Rain” also features backwards vocals near the end.
“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 guitars going backwards. [Singing backwards] Sharethsmnowthsmeaness… [Laughter]” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
The Beatles Bible has a good audio clip of the coda un-reversed. It’s hilarious.
The Beatles finished “Rain” two days later, adding more instrumental overdubs and the backwards vocals.
Yesterday I was lamenting Ringo’s role as lowly maraca boy on “P.S. I Love You.” On “Rain,” however, he got to shine.
“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 (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
As a B-side, “Rain” reached #23 on the US music charts. Across the pond, the song reached #1. Since its release, a number of critics have praised the song for its innovations – Rolling Stone ranked “Rain” #463 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Rain” also helped popularize my favorite of all marketing innovations, the music video. Michael Lindsay-Hogg filmed three promotional videos of the song. One was filmed at the same time as the “Paperback Writer” video at Chiswick House on May 20, 1966.
Quoth Wikipedia, “The other two feature the band performing on a soundstage.” These were filmed the day before; one in black-and-white aired in the UK and one in color aired on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
Alas, I couldn’t find the colorized one. That’s OK; these two are plenty groovy.