Boomers Heard the Rain

For a good part of the country, it was a wet spring this year. In Mister Boomer’s neighborhood, it rained most days for the past two months, including six out of the last seven days, with most having periods of heavy rain. If your brain works at all like Mister Boomer’s, then your thoughts turned to John Fogerty’s rain-soaked plea from 1970, Who’ll Stop the Rain? Which in turn got Mister B thinking that there were a slew of songs during the boomer years where rain played a key role in the lyrics. The majority of these songs equated rain with sadness, while some used it as a portend of change.

Here are a few of Mister B’s favorite “rain” songs, in chronological order. He mercifully has limited the number of connections to YouTube videos to just two, but there are additional links to follow if you’d like to hear the rest of them:

Come Rain or Come Shine –
Billie Holiday (1955)
Judy Garland (1956)
Connie Francis (1959)
Ella Fitzgerald (1961)
Frank Sinatra (1962)

OK, Mister B has to admit this song wouldn’t make his own Top 10 list ordinarily, but the song has serious legs in that it was and continues to be recorded by so many people. Besides the above list, include Ray Charles and Barbra Streisand, plus recordings before the boomer years and after. This one has crossed into the classic category.

Click to hear Connie Francis’ version, perhaps the least known on the list.

Crying In the Rain – The Everly Brothers (1962)

I’ll never let you see
The way my broken heart is hurting me
I’ve got my pride and I know how to hide
All the sorrow and pain
I’ll do my crying in the rain

Poor man doesn’t want people to let people see him cry his broken heart out, so he’ll restrict his crying to the rain. Unbelievably great tune from true masters of early boomer music. No rain song list is complete without it.

Just Walking in the Rain – Johnny Ray (1956)

Just walking in the rain
So alone and blue
All because my heart
Still remembers you

Don’t you think walking in the rain and whistling go together, even as your whole world is crashing down? Ray’s version was a cover of a 1953 release, and hit NO. 2 on the Billboard charts, stopped from the top by Elvis’ Don’t Be Cruel.

Click to hear Johnny Ray’s version.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – Bob Dylan (1963)

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

The meaning of this song still stirs up some controversy, but Dylan has spoken about it through the years. It’s a protest song to be sure, conjuring images of injustice, pollution and warfare. Dylan himself said, “It’s all one long funeral song.” Originally written in the form of a poem, Dylan once introduced it by saying the hard rain meant something big was about to happen.

Click to hear Mister Dylan sing it himself.

Walking In the Rain – The Ronettes (1964)

I want him, and I need him
And someday, some way, woah, oh, oh, I’ll meet him
He’ll be kind of shy, real good lookin’ too
And I’ll be certain he’s my guy by the things he’ll like to do

Like walking in the rain (like walking in the rain)
And wishing on the stars (and wishing on the stars) up above
And being so in love

How many songs have been written about walking in the rain as a romantic thing? This one is still worth hearing. Mister Boomer has awarded extra points for featuring sound effects of thunder and rain on the recording. Jay and the Americans had a hit with their cover of it in 1969.

Click to hear the Ronettes sing it.

Bus Stop – The Hollies (1966)

Bus stop, wet day
She’s there, I say
Please share my umbrella

All that summer we enjoyed it
Wind and rain and shine
That umbrella we employed it
By August she was mine

This song was written by the same guy who wrote For Your Love for The Yardbirds: Graham Gouldman. It’s just an excellent Hollies tune, and one of Mister B’s favorites, come rain or come shine.

Listen to The Hollies by clicking here.

Rain – The Beatles (1966)

Rain, I don’t mind,
Shine, the weather’s fine.
I can show you that when it starts to rain,
Everything’s the same,
I can show you, I can show you.
Rain, I don’t mind,
Shine, the weather’s fine.
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?

John penned this number, but the band has said it was the production of the song that was more important to them than the lyrics. It was released as the B-side to Paperback Writer, but more importantly, the backwards playback of recorded vocals and guitar work was a harbinger of what the group would do on later albums.

Click and listen to the Fab Four.

Rhapsody In the Rain – Lou Christie (1966)

Baby, the raindrops play for me
A lonely rhapsody ’cause on our first date
We were makin’ out in the rain

And in this car our love went much too far
It was exciting as thunder
Tonight I wonder, where you are?

The song brought a lot of criticism from the older generation, not to mention the Catholic Church, since it was about teens making it in a car in rainstorm. It was banned from many radio stations across the country, which of course, helped propel it to No. 16 on Billboard’s Top 100.

Take a listen to the original lyrics sung by Lou Christie.

Wish It Would Rain – The Temptations (1968)

Sunshine, blue skies, please go away
A girl has found another and gone away
With her went my future, my life is filled with gloom
So day after day I stay locked up in my room
I know to you, it might sound strange
But I wish it would rain, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Another song that equates rain with a broken heart, it was the last of The Temptations records produced by Smokey Robinson. The band experienced turbulent times after David Ruffin wanted to rename the group, giving him top billing the way the Supremes had done by being renamed Diana Ross & the Supremes. Three months later the friction caused the other members to kick out Ruffin and hire Dennis Edwards to replace him.

Click to hear this Ruffin/Temptations triumph of rain songs.

Rainy Night In Georgia – Brook Benton (1970)

Neon signs a-flashin’, taxi cabs and buses passin’ through the night
A distant moanin’ of a train seems to play a sad refrain to the night
A rainy night in Georgia, such a rainy night in Georgia
Lord, I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world
I feel like it’s rainin’ all over the world.

If ever there was song that epitomized the feeling of being sad in the rain, this is it.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head – B.J. Thomas (1970)

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothin’ seems to fit
Those raindrops are falling on my head; they keep fallin’…

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote this one for the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Several people turned down the chance to record it, then B.J. Thomas took it on and had a hit.

Click to hear BJ Thomas.

Who’ll Stop the Rain – Credence Clearwater Revival (1970 )

Long as I remember the rain been comin’ down
Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages tryin’ to find the sun.
And I wonder still I wonder who’ll stop the rain.

The song that inspired this post is another one that has been analyzed and reanalyzed, so Mister B isn’t going to add to the ball of confusion, other than to say that when the rain keeps coming, that can’t be a good sign.

Listen now by clicking here.

Have You Ever Seen the Rain? – Credence Clearwater Revival (1971)

I want to know
have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?

John Fogerty has stated that even though the band became rich and famous, its members were fighting with each other and were extremely unhappy, hence the lyric about rain on what should be a sunny day. The band broke up shortly after.

Click here to listen to CCR.

Riders on the Storm – The Doors (1971)

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm

This was the last song all the original four members of The Doors recorded together, and the single was released the same week that Jim Morrison died. The depth and symbolism laced throughout the song requires books of explanations and connections to poets, philosophers and real-life occurrences, not possible in the short blurb by Mister B. Suffice it to say it was filled with the creativity, angst and trouble that was in Morrison’s mind.

Click to hear Morrison at his best.

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down – The Carpenters (1971)

What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong
Feelin’ like I don’t belong
Walkin’ around
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

We’ll let Karen Carpenter have the last word on rain songs. If you were in a decent mood before, listen to her version. That will fix it.

Karen Carpenter sings here.

Of course, there are many, many more; before, during and after the boomer years. (Purple Rain was from 1984, folks!). Here are some other boomer-era runner ups. Click the title if you want to hear it:

Baby, The Rain Must Fall – Glen Yarborough (1965)

MacArthur Park – Richard Harris (1968)

Fire and Rain – James Taylor (1970)

Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again – The Fortunes (1971)

Laughter In the Rain – Neil Sedaka (1974)

What rain songs do you remember, boomers?

Boomers and Hot Rods and Muscle Cars, Oh My!

Fast cars played an important role in the culture of boomers. However, even the earliest Baby Boomers were too young to be of driving age when hot rods enjoyed their heyday. The term “hot rod” originated in the 1920s as a shortened version of “hot roadster.” Men were customizing cars for racing; most notably, Ford Model As and Model Ts, because the cars were available, inexpensive and easily modified. By the 1940s, the car of choice for customization was the 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe, which went on to become the quintessential hot rod in the minds of early boomers. This is exemplified in the song, Little Deuce Coupe, a hit for The Beach Boys in 1963.

Meanwhile, hot rods and racing continued to thrive up to World War II. After the War, men picked up where they left off, but hot rodding got a boost in three ways. The first was the growing number of people who became involved in the newly formed car clubs across the country. Secondly, innovations in technology developed during the war offered more performance and customization options. Thirdly, military installations that cropped up during the war were now vacated. That left vacant airport runways and space for testing and racing cars.

People were experimenting with all sorts of body shapes beyond the Deuce Coupe, especially using military surplus items that could be bought cheaply, like airplane fuel tanks. Still, hot rods were mainly intended for racing, but they starting finding their way onto city streets as hot rodding encompassed customized stock autos that were used for daily driving.

In 1948, the first Hot Rod Exhibition took place in Los Angeles, which also marked the launch of Hot Rod magazine. In 1951, the National Hot Rod Association was formed. By the beginning of the 1950s, it was a popular weekend activity for car clubs to show off their customized vehicles to devotees and an amazed public. Increasingly, hot rods became stripped of everything non-essential in order to reduce weight and increase aerodynamics, including fenders and windshields. Car frames were chopped to reduce the center of gravity and allow for larger engines and transmissions.

By the 1960s, the era of the hot rod began to fade. At the same time, the major car companies saw the desire for speed and performance. They ramped up their offerings as the number of cars purchased and on the road steadily rose. These high-performance vehicles could be ordered with options direct from car dealers; thus the muscle car was born. The first muscle car is considered to be the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, which was followed by a host of others in the ’50s and ’60s, including the 1955 Chrysler C-300, 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury, 1962 Dodge Dart, 1962 Dodge Polara 500 and 1964 Pontiac GTO. Nonetheless, the heyday for muscle cars was the 1960s and ’70s, perfect timing for attracting boomers hitting their late teens and early twenties.

American muscle cars were called ponys, for the sports car size (usually) and kick in horsepower. Coming out of a tradition of racing, Pontiac introduced the GTO as an option for their 1964 Le Mans model. It was from the GTO that boomers learned words like “tri-power,” indicating the triple carburetor that was covered by an air scoop on the hood. That same year, Ronny & the Daytonas released Little GTO, which went on to sell over a million copies. First introduced in 1964, Ford offered two high-performance Mustangs in 1966 — the GT and Shelby. That same year, Chevrolet introduced the 1967 Chevy Camaro. Dodge had brought out the Charger in 1964, but it wasn’t until the restyling of the 1968 model that the public took notice. Another now-classic of the era, the 1967 Pontiac Firebird, shared many parts with the Chevy Camaro. In 1970, Plymouth came out with the Duster, billed as a high-performance coupe version of the Plymouth Valiant.

 

Here is the classic car chase scene from the movie Bullitt (1968), in which actor Steve McQueen drove a 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback through the streets of San Francisco. Click here to view on You Tube.

Mister Boomer had his indoctrination into the world of muscle cars through his brother and neighborhood kids. Brother Boomer had a 1965 Mustang that he customized (see: Boomers Loved the Ford Mustang). He actually traded the car in for a new jet-black 1970 Plymouth Duster muscle car, a move that deeply disappointed Mister B. One of his brother’s neighborhood friends had a turquoise GTO with a chromed triple carb. Sporting a rolled and tufted white vinyl interior, shiny turquoise paint job and high-performance engine that roared every time it left the neighbor’s garage, the whole street knew it was a force to be reckoned with.

Gas prices rose dramatically in 1973 due to the shortages resulting from the OPEC oil embargo. At the same time, insurance companies began charging more for muscle cars, which coupled with the increased crackdown on street racing in cities across the country to spell the end of the line for most of the American muscle cars. That didn’t stop many boomers from buying them second-hand, though.

Did you love hot rods and muscle cars, boomers? Did you own a muscle car?