Welcome back, wimpy friends, to another edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold! Today, I’m asking you to find your tightest chaps and your pinkest cowboy hat, because for one of our songs, Mellow Gold’s goin’ country!
Eddie Rabbitt – I Love A Rainy Night (download)
Firstly, you should know something. I do not, in fact, love a rainy night. I hate a rainy night. I get all wet, my jeans get all soaked, I have to hang them over the door to the shower because I live in the city and I don’t own a dryer, and it just sucks. Rainy nights can bite me.
But…when I hear this song, somehow, my mind starts to change. I find it hard to listen to this song and not love not only the tune, but the thought of a night with rain. We’ll talk about the reasons why, but first, let’s give some Eddie Rabbitt history, shall we?
I made the mistake last week of tagging Rupert Holmes as a one-hit wonder. I wouldn’t dare make the same mistake this week. Eddie Rabbitt was a monstrous success on the Country charts, with sixteen #1 hits between 1976 and 1989. Quite impressive, no? He even had a few Top 10 hits on the Pop charts as well, although none performing as well as this one. “I Love A Rainy Night” went to #1 on Pop, Country, and Adult Contemporary charts. Only one other artist can claim such a feat: the one, the only, Benny Mardones. (I made this up. I just like to pick on Benny.)
Yes, Rabbitt was a country success, which wasn’t bad for a kid born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. (Since then, the closest New Jersey’s come to country is “Blaze of Glory.”) He was 27 before he moved out to Nashville and became a songwriter, scoring the success of writing “Kentucky Rain” for Elvis Presley within 2 years of his move. He also wrote “Pure Love” for Ronnie Milsap. Although his first few hits were country all the way (how could they be anything else, with titles like “Drinkin’ My Baby (Off My Mind)” and “Rocky Mountain Music”), he slowly began to lean in the pop direction…which brings us to “I Love A Rainy Night.” The tune has just enough twang and acoustic guitars to sound country, but it’s the straight-ahead beat and harmonies that give it an unmistakable pop feel.
So what do I love about this song? For starters, that beat, right off the top. I’m not sure if the “click-clack” sound is a result of two different types of finger snaps, or a snap and a clap, or whatever, but all I know is I love it and I can actually chant a quick, whispered, staccato “yee-haw” along with it and it sounds like it actually fits in. True story.
Rabbitt paints a nice picture, too: “Shadows wash all my cares away, I wake up to a sunny day.” When was the last time you heard such an enjoyable song about the rain, since….uh….”Singing In The Rain?”
The man knew he had a good hook; in the second verse, he’s pretty much singing the same damn lyrics as the first verse, but starts off acapella, with his smooth, Mellow Gold harmonies. He slowly brings the instruments back in: the staccato strum of the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar for the solo, some organ flourishes…you know what, the instruments don’t matter. He could have thrown in a keytar and we would’ve gone for it. Why? Because of that hook. Never mind the “oohs,” which sound less like “ooh yeah, I love this rainy night!” and more like “ooh, I think I chipped a nail!” Never mind that he repeats the phrase “I love a rainy night” thirty two times in three minutes, to the point where you could picture him in a strait jacket at a mental institution saying it repeatedly to some poor nurse who has to feed him his applesauce. It’s catchy. Forget what I said before, people: I love a rainy night! Ooh! Ooh!
So yes, this song was quite the success for Rabbitt, who was rewarded with Best Pop Male Vocalist (take that, Nashville!) at the American Music Awards in 1981. In terms of pop and, more specifically, Mellow Gold, Rabbitt never did match the success of this tune. He continued to have country success until the late ’80s, when a combination of new country artists dominating the charts and the death of his young son led him to essentially retire from the business altogether. Rabbitt died of lung cancer in 1998, but he left us something special. Because of his Mellow Gold hit, wimps all across the world continue to dance on their tippy-toes in the streets as the rain comes falling down.
David Gates – Goodbye Girl (download)
At least three of you just got erections. I know it.
It’s been mentioned here a couple of times, and much thanks must go to our prolific commenter Robert, who opened my eyes, for better or for worse, to the eunuch that is David Gates. We all know that Bread were some serious miners of Mellow Gold, and nearly all of their hits should be given their due here. We’ll cover some of them in the future, as well as Bread’s history; for now, though, let’s talk about Gates. After a string of hits for Bread, Gates felt he took the band as far as he could and embarked on a solo career. Gates released a total of five solo albums between 1973 and 1981, as well as eight singles (with five reaching the AC Top 10). However, it always seemed like he was more comfortable on his ranch in Northern California, and eventually Gates retreated from the music business altogether (save for brief returns in ’94 and ’02). But he left behind a legacy, for sure: this one magical, gentle, non-confrontational, wimpy track.
The Goodbye Girl, a Neil Simon screenplay, was slated for the big screen in late 1977. Herb Ross and Ray Stark, the director and producer of the movie, respectively, were fans of Bread’s magical, gentle, non-confrontational, wimpy style. They asked Gates if he’d be willing to write a theme song in said style, and then maybe hold the two of them gently afterwards, perhaps on a bearskin rug.
Gates saw a screening of the film and returned to his ranch. While raking hay and riding his tractor, Gates had blessed, wimpy inspiration, ran inside, and penned “Goodbye Girl.” You’re probably thinking the same thing I’m thinking right now: the guy wrote this while on a tractor? I could imagine him writing it while riding, I don’t know, a cloud, a kitten, another handsome, moustachioed cowboy named Gary…but a tractor?
In truth, it didn’t matter where Gates wrote it, because “Goodbye Girl” became his biggest hit and the perfect complement to a well-loved romantic comedy. I think it’s deserved, too: sure, I’d like to say that it’s such a wuss track that I don’t like it, but there I was, waiting for the bus yesterday morning, singing it out loud and attracting stares. The keyboard; the non-intrusive lead guitar line; the strings that subtly enter the soundscape around verse 2; those fantastic harmonies in the chorus; and finally, the gentle falsetto he saves for the last line of the song. Wussy brilliance!
In fact, there’s only one instrument choice I just don’t understand. Fast forward to 1:24. What the hell is going on? I’m sure the bass is the instrument providing a sound I can only describe as “beeeyoooou,” but it gives the song an odd quality, like perhaps he’s saying goodbye to this girl as she gets on a spaceship.
It’s a great Mellow Gold, song, to be sure, but it’s no “If,” which gives you an idea of the kind of pansy-ass writing for which Gates was known. (I am really running out of Mellow Gold adjectives.) You can bank on Mr. Gates making another appearance here in the future. In the meantime, enjoy a performance of “Goodbye Girl” on American Bandstand.
Thanks for reading this edition of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold – and don’t forget to stick around as Jefito and I celebrate Mellowmas all week long!