I grew up in rainy Seattle, and despite its reputation, Seattle is not the rainiest of cities. When it did rain back then, the world we all knew changed a little. It took some time to readjust. My dad would comment on how many car accidents there suddenly were and how “people forget how to drive” whenever it rains for the first time in awhile. The memory of this kind of sudden rain is tied to autumn for me, since Seattle had so little (if any) rain in the summer while I was growing up.
Rain signals the beginning of autumn and was a refreshing relief to me as a kid, after feeling pressure to be social all summer, and pressure to swim, which gave me a lot of opportunities to drown in lakes. I wouldn’t have to worry about socializing or drowning in the rain because there wasn’t as much to do in the rain, and it never rained enough to drown. I could read Gary Paulson all day on a Saturday, or maybe watch The Neverending Story for the millionth time.
I have a few radio memories from being a kid, and one has to do with rain. I grew up listening to Seattle-Tacoma station “Oldies 97.3 KBSG” (imagine someone singing K-B-S-Geee). The station was founded in 1948 and has gone through a few iterations over the years. It became the radio station I knew in 1988 when its call letters changed to KBSG-FM and it moved to an oldies format. When I look back, I can see why my dad took some offense to 70s music being called “oldies” less than a decade later in 1988.
We listened to 97.3 all the time in our car. During the first rainy day of autumn, we’d be inching along a bridge in traffic and the DJ would commiserate with us by playing a song about rain. He mostly played “Bus Stop” by the Hollies or “Rhythm of the Rain” by the Cascades, and to this day I get the two songs confused, even though they’re so different. Still, they share the rain.
Bus Stop (1966)
The Hollies’ “Bus Stop” was written by future 10cc member Graham Gouldman while he was (surprise!) riding a bus. The bus is a great place to dream about all kinds of things, and to imagine scenarios with strangers. You can completely drift away into your mind on a bus ride while watching scenery, people, and time pass by.
“Bus Stop” feels like one of these fantasy scenarios where the rain is a fortuitous catalyst bringing two strangers together under an umbrella for a surreal spell of time. In the song, it seems like it’s raining a lot in England that summer. The characters have a daily rendezvous under the umbrella until August when they decide to get engaged. Ha, I get it? Time moves differently in the rain and maybe the rain really is an opportune moment to suddenly change our previous realities and to take a chance on something (or someone) new?
Rhythm of the Rain (1962)
Rain was a pivotal plot point in The Hollies’ “Bus Stop”, but rain is an actual, sentient character tapping out a distress signal to the singer of “Rhythm of the Rain”. The Cascades song begins and ends with the sound of thunder and pouring rain, and we’re asked to listen to its rhythm.
According to the song, if you listen to the rhythm of the falling rain, it’s telling the singer what a fool he was to have not told the only person he loves that he still loves her before she moves away. She still “has his heart” when she moves, but doesn’t know it. He never told her, and now realizes he should have. He asks the rain to leave him alone and stop reminding him of his mistake, but to instead visit the woman he loves three times.
The singer asks that the rain visit his faraway love to reveal he never stopped loving her. He then asks for the rain’s help getting the sun to visit her to “set her heart aglow”. Finally, he asks the rain to enter his secret love’s heart to nurture and grow the love they once knew.
En écoutant la pluie (1963)
The Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” was later adapted into French by Richard Anthony. The French title is translated a little differently and means “Listening to the Rain”. It was recorded by Sylvie Vartan and released in 1963.
Listening to the Rain
What role does rain play in our lives? “Rhythm of the Rain” ends with a reminder to listen to the rhythm of the falling rain and its “pitter patter, pitter patter”. Maybe it has a message for you? Listen, listen.
Written by DJ Katherine from The Silver Gold