Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another Perfect Pop Song

Third in a Very Occasional Series

The second summer of my working life, it rained every weekend. Rain on Saturday. Rain on Sunday.

Then, during the work week it was mostly clear and sunny.

This was a source of ironic amusement for most of June and July.

But by the time August came around, people were pissed. And you haven't experienced pissed until you've spent a hot, humid August surrounded by pissed-off New Englanders.

People who could do so took vacations (and got out of town if they had the means). Others called in sick so they could enjoy one or two days enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. But most of us gritted it out, refusing to believe God could be so cruel as to ruin every single summer weekend.

But He did.

And so, on the Monday of the week before Labor Day, with bright sunshine warming the wet grass, I went down into the subway, waited for the train, then squeezed into a crowded car.

Someone in the corner had one of those absurdly large boomboxes (which ate D batteries like kids eat Halloween candy). After the doors shut, he pushed play on the cassette deck and played this song:

After the song was done, he pushed Stop, stood up, and said loudly "Fourteen. Fourteen fucking weekends in a row." At exactly that moment, we got to the next station, the doors opened, and he exited the train, leading a mass exodus out from underground and up into the sunlight.

As I recall, it rained all three days of Labor Day weekend that year, too.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I forget about this song for long periods of time, but everytime I hear it (like the other day in a supermarket), I stop to listen. Really, really listen.

And I'm amazed that it's not just a likable and forgettable piece of pop. So each time I hear it, I try to dissect all the wonderfully different things that make "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling" (by the Fortunes) a Perfect Pop Song.

Here are a few:
  • The melody will be stuck in your head for days.
  • The singer's voice is specific enough to stick in your brain but general enough to blend in (combining dozens of British Invasion singers with shadings of Franki Valli).
  • Strings that propel the song forward without drowning it in cheese. (Arguably, the strings bring you right to the cheese border.)
  • The goofy, percussive tinkling.
  • The "bop bop" backing vocals mixed way down but still enough of a presence to lodge themselves in your brain.
  • The surprising sophistication of the guitar and bass parts.
  • Those great piano chords in the last third that signify importance and hope.
  • The way the song fades out just before it gets to the happy ending. The song brings possibilities but it's always up to you to choose what you do with them.
  • The way I always remember a horn section in this song even though you can't hear any horns.


Mister Pleasant said...

Thanks for the memory flashback. I was entering my junior year in high school when it came out. Until today it had sadly been relegated to a long lost memory. It really is a perfect little pop song, and the xylophone puts it over the top for me.

Holly A Hughes said...

I hadn't thought about this song in years, either. I had forgotten the delectable cheesiness of the arrangement -- but I love it!