|"The Rain Song"|
|Song by Led Zeppelin|
|from the album Houses of the Holy|
|Released||28 March 1973|
|Studio||Stargroves, East Woodhay, England|
"The Rain Song" is a 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 mixing 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 and The Who's Live at Leeds album.
With a working title of "Slush", a reference to its easy listening simulated orchestral arrangement, Page was able to bring in a completed arrangement of the melody, for which singer Robert Plant composed the words. Plant ranks his vocal performance on the track as one of his best. The song also features a Mellotron played by John Paul Jones to add to the orchestral effect, while Page plays a Danelectro guitar.
George Harrison was reportedly the inspiration for "The Rain Song" when he made a comment to Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, about the fact that the group never wrote any ballads. In Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page, biographer Brad Tolinski quotes Page:
George [Harrison] was talking to Bonzo one evening and said, 'The problem with you guys is that you never do ballads.' I said, 'I'll give him a ballad,' and I wrote 'Rain Song,' which appears on House of the Holy. In fact, you'll notice I even quote 'Something' in the song's first two chords.
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, 12-string neck for "The Song Remains the Same" and then switching to the bottom, 6-string neck 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. "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 6-string portion without using the 12-string portion on a preceding song. For all live versions of the song, the orchestral string sounds were played by Jones on either the mellotron (1972-1975) or a Yamaha synthesizer (1979-1980), as Led Zeppelin never utilised a string section on-stage.
In a contemporary review for Houses of the Holy, Gordon Fletcher of Rolling Stone gave "The Rain Song" a negative review, calling the track, along with "No Quarter", as "nothing more than drawn-out vehicles for the further display of Jones' unknowledgeable use of mellotron and synthesizer."
In a retrospective review of Houses of the Holy (Deluxe Edition), Kristofer Lenz of Consequence of Sound gave "The Rain Song" a more positive review, describing the track as "one of the most sentimental tracks in Led Zeppelin's catalog", along with calling it "patient and beautifully arranged". Lenz further wrote that Plant's lyrics and vocals "infuse a sense of humanity, loss, and transcendence - a touch of emotional maturity."
A different version of this song, which is almost exactly like the original but without the piano, is featured on the second disc of the remastered 2CD deluxe edition of Houses of the Holy. Titled "The Rain Song (Mix Minus Piano)", it was recorded on 18 May 1972 at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at Stargroves with engineer Eddie Kramer and mix engineer Keith Harwood. This version runs 7:45, while the original runs 7:39. Page and 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.
Record producer Rick Rubin says, "I don't even know what kind of music this is ["The Rain Song"]. It defies classification. There's such tasteful, beautiful detail in the guitar, and a triumphant feel when the drums come in -- it's sad and moody and strong, all at the same time. I could listen to this song all day. That would be a good day."
"The Rain Song" has appeared in four films: The ending of Cemetery Junction, Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe (who, as a teen reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, covered Led Zeppelin), It Might Get Loud, a documentary by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, 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.