Category Archives: Hold Back the Rain

Hold Back the Rain — The Daily Duranie Review

We keep moving on with our reviews of songs off of the Rio album. Today, we take a good, long look at Hold Back the Rain, the 5th song off the album. This song, unlike many on the album, was a basic album track. It wasn’t a single and there was no video to accompany it.  Despite that, many fans sure seem to enjoy this one. Will our review show why? Will we agree with these fans or not?

Rhonda:

Musicality/Instrumentation: I love it when they begin a song with bass. It’s unexpected, and yet its only for literally one beat and then they’re in it. There’s no “one instrument” intro here, it’s all or nothing. I like that for the entire first verse, you’ve got the bass and the guitar almost fighting it out for who is going to take the lead – which is an interesting choice as opposed to it being guitar and synths. Then in the second verse, there is this wonderful synth loop that shares the stage with John, but make no mistake, John owns center stage here. His bass line really gives this tasty groove to the whole song, and without it – I don’t know that the song would hold nearly as much interest. Musically it’s set up very differently from other Duran songs, which kind of fights the idea that the Rio album was ever formulaic in it’s musical approach. I must give kudos to Roger for drums in about the last 1/3 of the song – the driving tom-toms really work to keep the song from lagging at the end. Once again it’s proof that at least during this period, any one instrument can carry this band.  This is not a “guitar” driven band or a “synth” driven band…it’s a band, and everyone seems to get equal time and equal footing.

Vocals: While I don’t think that there is much that is truly formulaic about this band – to say otherwise really cheapens their creativity and would be incredibly unfair – I do think there is something very recognizable about the vocals, and it is those stacked harmonies.  This song has plenty of that, along with very clear lyrics with no strain.  I know we tend to cover that a lot in Duran’s songs, but the fact is – there are a lot of songs where Simon seems to really strain his voice by singing in the upper stratosphere of his range. This is not one of them.  While a good portion of the song is in the middle of his range, this song does show off the breadth of his range, dipping ever so slightly into the lower octave which creates this sultry effect to his voice in just the right parts of the song with almost a teasing, coaxing “come hither”.  It works.  Well.

Lyrics: I have never quite understood this song. Perhaps I just can’t get past the weather aspect. I know all the stories of this being about John and his drug abuse, but I don’t really get it. I don’t know if we were ever really meant to get the true meaning. For me it’s a song about holding back the bad times in order to enjoy the good. Or, it’s begging Mother Nature for a good weather day. I really can’t decide. What I find especially interesting in these lyrics are the references to their life in the band.  Even at this point, they hadn’t yet reached the height of the 80s yet, and already Simon refers to being on the roam again, and you get the idea of how frenzied their life was with constantly moving and traveling – and Simon makes the point that whomever he is referring to in the song is not on their own with this. Interesting.  John talks in his book about how much was really unspoken in the band.  They didn’t talk about his addiction issues, and I think John even makes the point that the English don’t overshare (presumably the way Americans seem to do!).  What I find here is Simon reaching out with concern, even if he might not have been doing it directly. If nothing else, you can certainly see how in just the short period of time they’d been working together at this point as a band – just how much they cared for one another.

Production: This is one song off the album that I think was overproduced. There is an awful lot going on in this song, and while it’s true that you can still hear most instruments and I’m not completely smacked in the face with a wall of sound, I definitely notice just how covered up the guitar really is throughout – it’s pretty deep in the mix as opposed to other songs, almost unheard in sections, and there’s some pretty thick gloss going on here. I don’t know that it really detracts from the song, but I think this is a fair sign of what is to come, and I have to admit I don’t love it. I prefer a little less echo, a little more rawness in the mix. Sometimes those “empty spaces” in the music provide a lot of drama, and I think that tends to get lost when you’ve got so much echo effect going on.

Overall: For me, this has always been a song that I’ve overlooked. I never really think of it when they play it live (which has been fairly rarely, so you would think I’d notice), and I never really notice when it comes on iPod (I shuffle constantly!).  It’s just never been a song that I’ve identified with, or wanting to really listen to loudly.  I’m not sure why that is.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the song, I just don’t feel especially bonded.  I think it’s saving grace for me is John’s outstanding bass line – I wish he’d play like this more often!  I do miss having a true lead guitar on this one, but there are some interesting effects with synthesizer that I like.  The lyrics really don’t hold a lot of meaning for me personally and I have a difficult time relating, so I don’t have this deep emotional connection with the song on that level either. It’s a song that I like from time to time. It’s definitely not a favorite or something I strive to hear live, but I wouldn’t run from the building if it were played. It’s just not a song that creates strong emotion in me the way others might, and that’s OK. This one feels more like a background song for me, not a strong single and not quite a throwaway.

Cocktail Rating:   3 cocktails!



Amanda:

Musicality/Instrumentation: This is one of those songs that starts right away and instantly grabs your attention. The vocals follow super quickly as well. There is no time to adjust as you find yourself surrounded by very clear instrumentation. John Taylor’s bass is definitely present and accounted for. His notes are very pronounced and definitely provides that solid foundation that all great bass playing should do. Of course, he isn’t by himself with Andy’s guitars getting a lot of notice and Roger’s drums filling in. All of this before the chorus even starts! As the chorus looms ahead, Roger’s drums add some tension as the listener is left wondering when the chorus is going to start. When is the song’s tempo going to increase?  The chorus does kick in and the tempo does increase as it should. Then, as with a lot of great Duran, Nick’s keyboards really help to give that special extra sound as the song moves from chorus back to verse. Interestingly enough, Nick is also featured more in the second verse. This I find fascinating. I admit that I love these little details that I’m sure they worked hard on. As usual, these small, subtle elements really work and these keyboard sounds really do provide something more interesting, yet motivates the listener to get into the songs as the rest of the instruments do. Now, like many Duran songs, this one features a bridge, even though it is very short. In this case, it feels like all John and Nick to me–almost like the top and bottom layer of sound until Roger brings it back to another chorus. In fact, from that point on Roger just pushes the song along until the end with Nick still present. One thing I truly do love about the instrumentation on this song is that it feels like John really starts out strong with Andy, Nick picks up more in the middle and Roger at the end. It shows how every instrument is important and how every instrument can really carry the song.

Vocals:  Simon’s vocals during the verses of this song are exactly what we expect of him.  They are solid, clear, and very smooth. I enjoy that, at times, his voice drops lower, which reminds me, no matter how briefly, to some of the deeper, lower vocals of the first album.  Then, we get to the chorus, which is where the vocals really shine. When “Hold back the rain” is sung, the layering of vocals cannot be denied. Then, there is solid layers of vocals with the “ooooo” and the “hold back the rain” in the background while the rest of the chorus is sung.  Also, don’t tell me that “hold back the rain” isn’t sung in a way that just makes you want to join in because I know that it is. “Hold back the rain” is so prominent that it is just sung over and over again to end the song. Nice touch.

Lyrics:  It is hard for me to think objectively about the lyrics to this song as I am well-aware that Simon wrote the song about John and his drug use. (I did a blog post about it here).  Clearly, Simon wasn’t very obvious in this lyrics. There is no mention of “drugs” or “John”.  Heck, there isn’t really even a mention of a guy. This, of course, is when Simon is at his best.  He hides the meaning of the song in something like poetry. I love how he mixes the element of water (rain) with fire. What is the fire then? Obviously, they want the fire to continue to burn. They don’t want the rain. Is fire the good times? Is rain, reality? Then, how does this relate to John’s partying? I don’t have the answer. I love that I still can’t totally figure out the song despite knowing the meaning behind it. On top of that, there are so many lines that remind me of life on the road, of life on tour. For example, “No time for worry cause we’re on the roam again”. Isn’t that what touring is like? I think so. Then, another great line is “People tell me I haven’t changed at all but I don’t feel the same”. Yeah, I can relate. I love that there is solid meaning behind the lyrics and I love that they still make me think. On top of that, I love that I can relate, personally, in a totally different way to the lyrics. They seem simple but they really are pretty complex.

Production:  If there is any element to this song that I could question, it is the production.  Generally, it does what it is supposed to do. It showcases all of the instruments with different times in the spotlight. It allows Simon’s vocals and harmonies to sound as fabulous as they could. Yet, I do wonder if it isn’t just a bit too perfect, too smooth, too polished. It feels just a little too smooth to me and I say this as someone who loves, loves, loves this song.

Overall:  I love this song. I really do. In fact, I might say that this is my second favorite Duran song ever, if I was forced to choose. Why do I love it so? Simple. I love that John is in the spotlight right away. I love that the lyrics are simple, on the surface, but more complex when you think about them even when you know the meaning behind the song. I can’t help but to love the meaning behind the song as well! I love that I can also put my personal spin on it.  It is great Duran in that it makes you want to move and sing but has depth, musically, vocally, and lyrically. If I had any criticism, it would be the feel of being too perfect.

Cocktail Rating:  4.5 cocktails!

Hold Back the Rain

I seem to be thinking a lot about lyrics and meaning behind songs lately.  I’m not sure why that is.  Maybe it is because there is nothing “new” in Duranland, in terms of music, so I’m looking for a song or two to  re-listen to.  It seems like at times like these, when I’m in a mood like I am, I need to discover the genius of a song I knew and never gave much of a chance.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  Well, one song that I rediscovered a number of years ago while in the same mood was Hold Back the Rain.  It was like I had never heard it before or never noticed how wonderful it is.  Now, it is definitely a member of my Top 10 Duran songs.  This week, I started to think about this one again.  Why?  The answer to this is simple.  I have been rereading Chapters 33-40 in John’s autobiography for Monday’s book club.  What era do these chapters cover?  Yep, you guessed it.  1982.  John, in fact, spends some time in one of the chapters discussing a number of the songs on the Rio album as he points out how absolutely brilliant that album was.  Thus, when thinking about both the quality of the songs on that album and John’s life, in particular, during that time, I immediately thought about Hold Back the Rain as this song fits both the music and John’s life.  Then, I wondered if everyone knew the story behind the song, at least lyrically.

Until a few years ago, I had no idea what the song, Hold Back the Rain, was about.  I figured it literally could do with trying to control weather conditions.  I have also used the song to describe life on tour.  In particular, the lines, “No time for worry cause we’re on the roam again (hold back the rain)
The clouds all scatter and we ride the outside lane (hold back the rain),” seemed to fit the touring lifestyle.  It implies that there is no time to deal with anything because you are off to the next location and the next show and that there is nothing but smooth sailing ahead.  Obviously, the reference to the outside lane could be referring to a road trip and lanes on the highway.  Yet, I knew that there were other lines that didn’t seem to fit this idea, including “People tell me I haven’t changed at all but I don’t feel the same.  And I’ve bet you’ve had that feeling too you can’t laugh all the time.”  Wait.  Wouldn’t touring be fun and filled with laughter all the time?  Why would this change you?  Oh, how naive I was.  At this point, I figured that I would never truly understand what the heck Simon was singing this time when I saw a Duran documentary in which this song was discussed.  Here’s the clip that explained it all:

Clearly, according to what Simon said here, the lyrics were about John and how he was “going off the rails a little bit”.  I had no idea.  This clip was a revelation to me when I first saw it.  Anyway, now that I’m rereading John’s book and the part during this era, I started thinking again about this song, about how Simon wrote it about him and how Simon slipped the lyrics under his door.  I wonder if it is still true that John never said anything to Simon about these lyrics.  If so, I wonder why not?  Simon clearly was trying to tell John something and show his concern.

This led me to think about the times that I saw Duran play this song live (and for the record–they need to play it a lot MORE).  How did John react to it?  Did John ever play this song live during his solo days?  I think I remember hearing a bootleg somewhere but I can’t find anything on youtube.  Here’s a clip from 2005.  I notice that John is center stage singing along the lines about being changed and not feeling the same.  Hmm…

After thinking about this song through this lens of John’s life at that time, I know that it made the song seem fresh to me and so much more important than before.  My love for it grew as I appreciate it more.  Of course, now it really makes me want to hear it live again…

-A