Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Rain,” the B-side to “Paperback Writer,” showcases all four Beatles at the peak of their creative powers; it promised that the album soon to follow in its wake would be a quantum leap from what was being done in rock ‘n’ roll, a promise kept with the release of Revolver. To this day Beatle fans consider it one of their great accomplishments. The frustrating thing is that, being a B-side only collected on hodgepodges like Hey Jude and Past Masters V.2, its place in the rock ‘n’ roll universe will never be as prominent as it is in the Beatles’ universe. On the other hand, that means that, nearly half a century after its recording, young music fans are still discovering it on a daily basis.
Here are five artists who, when they discovered “Rain,” didn’t run and hide their heads, but took it and created their own weather patterns.
Tomorrow’s Children – Rain (Rock Steady) (The Beatles cover)
A year after “Rain” was released, it was covered by Tomorrow’s Children in the rocksteady way, as a B-side to “Bang Bang,” the Cher smash. Both songs take to the Jamaican sound like a duck to bongwater (more on them later).
Bim Skala Bim – Rain (The Beatles cover)
Boston’s Bim Skala Bim do a Jamaican-flavored “Rain” cover of their own, but they speed it up from rocksteady to gentle ska. It’s from their own collection of B-sides and outtakes, The One That Got Away. Glad we got to see it.
Bongwater – Rain (The Beatles cover)
Bongwater’s “Rain” isn’t so much a cover as it is a walk through a “Rain”forest, with some of the “Rain” clinging to the artist’s clothes. A lot more is going on in this nearly-six-minute song than the song itself can contain, leaving horn riffs and sped-up giggles dribbling down its sides.
Polyrock – Rain (The Beatles cover)
Polyrock was a new-wave band from the late ’70s that released two albums, both of which were produced by Philip Glass and both of which bore his minimalist ethos. Their second album closed with a cover of “Rain” that was cool in both senses of the adjective. Fans of Talking Heads, if you haven’t heard Polyrock, here’s your first step down a path well worth exploring.
Rockfour – Rain (The Beatles cover)
In an earlier Cover Me piece, I named Humble Pie’s cover my favorite cover version of “Rain.” How appropriate that I now eat humble pie and give the crown to Rockfour, an Israeli psych-rock band that more than doubles the original’s length, giving it a sound that’s just as huge, adding quotes from “It’s All Too Much” and “Norwegian Wood,” and doing it all before a live audience. This is truly something special.
Musicologist Alan W. Pollack wrote the definitive analyses of Beatles music; here’s his take on “Rain.”