The Rain Song

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The Rain Song
Appears on Houses of the Holy
Published by Superhype Music
Registration ASCAP 480099810
Release date 18 March 1973
Recorded May 1972 at
Stargroves with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.
Mixed at Olympic Studios, London.
Genre Hard rock, rock
Language English
Length 7 minutes 32 seconds
Composer Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Label Atlantic Records
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer Eddie Kramer

'The Rain Song' is a song from English rock band Led Zeppelin's fifth album Houses of the Holy, released in 1973.

Recording

'The Rain Song' is a love ballad of over seven minutes in length. Guitarist Jimmy Page originally constructed the melody of this song at his home in Plumpton, England, where he had recently installed a studio console. A new Vista model, it was partly made up from the Pye Mobile Studio which had been used to record the group's 1970 Royal Albert Hall performance.[1] Page played a Danelectro guitar.[2]

Page was able to bring in a completed arrangement of the melody, for which singer Robert Plant composed some lyrics. These lyrics are considered by Plant himself to be his best overall vocal performance. The song also features a string arrangement via a Mellotron Mk.II. played by John Paul Jones to add to the orchestral effect, and an EMS VCS3 was also used for special overdubs. The straight piano performance was recorded using a Steinway grand piano.

The Mellotron violins are strangely haunting, and have limited fidelity. They are also difficult to play smoothly, as the sounds begin and end instantly. To overcome this, Jones used a volume pedal to swell the entrances and exits of the string lines to make them more realistic. In an interview for Keyboard magazine, he describes his process for recording a simulated orchestra with a keyboard:

The secret of successful keyboard string parts is to play only the parts that a real string section would play. That is, one line for the First Violins, one line for Second Violins, one for Violas, one for Cellos, one for Basses. Some divided parts [two or more notes to a line] are allowed, but keep them to a minimum. Think melodically.

The working title for this track was 'Slush,' a reference to its easy listening mock orchestral arrangement.[3]

Live history

During Led Zeppelin concerts from late 1972 until 1975, the band played this song immediately following 'The Song Remains the Same', presenting the songs in the same order as they appeared on the album. They organized their set list in this manner because Page used a Gibson EDS-1275 double-necked guitar for both songs: the top, twelve-string portion for 'The Song Remains the Same' and then switching to the bottom, six-string portion for 'The Rain Song'. The song was dropped from the 1977 U.S. tour, but returned for Led Zeppelin's 1979 concerts in Copenhagen, Denmark and at the Knebworth Music Festival, as well as their European tour in 1980.[4] 'The Rain Song' was the only song from Houses of the Holy performed on the 1980 European tour. In this incarnation, Page again utilized the double-neck, the only known time he used that guitar solely for the six-string portion without using the 12-string portion on a preceding song. For all live versions of the song, the orchestral string sounds (violins and cellos) were played by Jones on either the Mellotron M400 (1972-1975) or a Yamaha GX1 synthesizer (1979-1980), as the band never utilised a string section on-stage.

When played live, Page used the six-string neck of the EDS-1275 for 'The Rain Song' in order to have two different tunings on the same guitar. The twelve-string was tuned to Standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E) for his use on 'The Song Remains the Same'. The alternate tuning used for 'The Rain Song' on the six-string next was Asus4 (E-A-D-A-D-E) - a step higher than the album cut, which is D-G-C-G-C-D. This is quite an uncommon modal tuning and makes for a very rich sounding accompaniment, led by John Paul Jones. The likely reason the alternate tuning was used in live performances is that while it required Plant to sing in a higher key, it necessitated a tuning change of only two strings (the B and G) on the EDS-1275, whereas the song's original key would have required the tuning of five of the six strings to be changed. As this same guitar would later be used in the show for 'Stairway to Heaven', the six-string neck would then need to be returned to standard tuning, the alternate 'Rain Song' tuning allowed this to be achieved with relative ease.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant recorded a version of the song in 1994 but it was not originally released on their album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded. It was, however, released on the special tenth anniversary reissue of that album in 2004.

References in other media

'The Rain Song' has appeared in two films: Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe (who, as a teen reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, covered Led Zeppelin), and Led Zeppelin's own 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same (and accompanying soundtrack), as part of lead singer Robert Plant's fantasy sequence.

Credits

Personnel
  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Robert Plant – vocals
    • John Paul Jones – Mellotron Mk.II, EMS VCS3, Steinway grand piano, bass guitar
    • John Bonham - drums, percussion
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Eddie Kramer – engineer
    • Keith Harwood - mixing
    • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)

References

  1. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 61. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  2. Welch, Chris (2009). Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song, Revised. London: Carlton Books, 89. ISBN 978-1-84732-286-9. OCLC 317254118. 
  3. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 61. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  4. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 62. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1.