Those of you who have lived in different parts of the world know that rain is different wherever you are. I remember what it was like in the Ohio Valley: when it rained, it really poured. In Finland, you don’t get rain like that, not even close. Over here, it’s mostly drizzle - at least in comparison. However, the thing that doesn’t change, as per your location, is what happens in our minds when we look out the window on a rainy day. I’m not talking about a particular feeling; rather, the fact that rain usually puts us in a state of mind where we start reflecting on life. And this is exactly what Uriah Heep’s "Rain" is all about. It’s a snapshot into the life of its author, Ken Hensley. More precisely, it’s a snapshot into what he was feeling on a rainy day a long, long time ago.
It's raining outside but that's not unusual
But the way that I'm feeling is becoming usual
I guess you could say
The clouds are moving away
Away from your days
And into mine
Now it's raining inside and that's kind of a shame
And it's getting to me, a happy man
And why should you want to
Waste all my time
The world is yours
But I am mine
"Rain" portrays beautifully the feeling that overtakes us once we realize that the relationship we are in isn’t really worth pursuing and that it is time to move on. On the one hand, this moment is very beautiful and serene; on the other, it’s very, very sad indeed. However, it is usually a very decisive moment, a moment of no turning back.
Hensley’s style of songwriting has always been to write the lyrics first, which is why most of his lyrics stand so brilliantly on their own without the music. This is extremely rare for pop songs, mind you. Usually, when you read the words printed on the CD booklet, the feeling you get is one of slight embarrassment rather than one of deep admiration. However, Ken Hensley (along with the likes of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Tony Asher, Van Dyke Parks, Don Henley, Roger Waters, Neil Young, Gene Clark, Paul Simon etc.) delivered, time and again, lyrics that were basically poems in their own right.
However, "Rain" isn’t spectacular only because of its haunting lyric. The music, both songwriting as well as the piano accompaniment, is fantastic. “Rain" and the album it first appeared on, "Magician’s Birthday," show Uriah Heep at their utmost best. The band still had its classic line-up firmly in place and boy, do they shine. Their chemistry on "Magician’s Birthday" is simply put, outstanding. Upon listening to this album, it’s easy to understand why Hensley, Box, Byron, Thain and Kerslake continue to blow people away, generation after generation with their performances of these songs. In all honesty, it’s all pretty amazing stuff: Thain’s bass on "Sunrise," Kerslake and Box’s guitar-drum duel on the title track, Hensley’s slide work on "Spider Woman" as well as his hammond-licks on "Echoes in the Dark" and last but not least, David Byron’s simply bone-chilling vocal performance on "Rain."
By mid-1970s, Byron’s drinking problem had gotten out of hand and sadly, began to have an effect on his singing from the "Wonderworld" album onward. He was still absolutely stellar at times but these moments of brilliance came in fits and starts. For the most part, he really wasn’t the nearly superhuman vocalist you hear on "Rain" anymore on “Return To Fantasy” & “High And Mighty.” As a result, Byron was sacked from Uriah Heep in 1976 due to his erratic behavior and excessive alcohol consumption and ultimately, died of alcohol related complications at the age of 38 on February 28 in 1985.
To end on a more positive note, I once told my oldest son way back when he was three that rain always makes me a bit sad. I don’t remember why I did this. It wasn’t really even raining too hard that day. Anyway, a few days after that, I took him with me to the local carwash. I wanted to share this magical moment that I had enjoyed so much as a small boy with my son. As our car was being pulled through and the water started spraying on our windshield with considerable pressure, I kept looking at my son, expecting to hear exclamations of surprise and excitement. Instead, my son looked at me worried and asked, "Do you get super sad when it rains this hard?" I looked back at him dumbfounded, and the only response I could muster at that moment was, “How did you guess?”
Check out this excellent Uriah Heep documentary called “The Hensley Years, Part 1.” Everything you ever wanted to know about the David Byron years. It’s all here:
You can learn more about Uriah Heep here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.