Welcome to Two for Tuesday, an ongoing weekly series where Consequence of Sound’s Henry Hauser will take two “unlikely pairs” in music and compare, contrast, juxtapose, and evaluate the commonalities between both parties. Today, he’s kicking off the series by discussing how The Hollies and Johnny Rivers both found love in the rain.
Guy remembers to carry umbrella, shares it with girl at the bus stop, true love ensues. No, that’s not the plot of a new Zac Efron rom-com; it’s The Hollies’ effervescent ‘66 single, “Bus Stop”. Produced by prolific soundman Ron Richard (The Beatles’ “Love Me Do”) and recorded in less than two hours at Abbey Road Studios, “Bus Stop” was The Hollies’ first American hit, peaking at #5 on Billboard.
Leading with Tony Hicks’ jangly Vox Phantom 12-string and three crisp snare drum smacks, lead singer Allan Clarke needs only two lines to set the scene, “Bus stop, wet day, she’s there, I say/ Please share my umbrellllahh.” Wedged snugly between the harmonizing vocals of Hicks (low) and Graham Nash (high), Clarke sings of googly-eyed love and plans for the future (“All the people stared as if we were both quite insane/ Someday my name and hers are going to be the same”). Full of hope and optimism, the British Invaders joyously declare that the seeds of lifelong happiness can be sowed spontaneously and in the most random of circumstances.
“Summer Rain” has Johnny Rivers singing from a much different perspective. Rather than looking forward to church bells and wedding rings, Rivers’ track is all about fulfillment and nostalgia. Beginning with the somber sounds of pattering rain, the song builds gradually atop a gentle guitar and some twinkling piano. The singer fondly looks back to the first time he kissed his sweetheart (“Warm lips, soft as her soul”), oceanic slow dances, and spinning Sgt. Pepper ad infinitum. With his girl by his side, nothing can go wrong. He’s superbly happy living in the present, so long his true love is close at hand. Soft and sweet, Rivers croons: “And she’s here by me-eee, yeah, she’s here with me-eee-eee/ Let tomorrow be-hee-eee!”
Both of these amorous ditties feature a protagonist experiencing love amidst rain, but as the giddy Hollies look optimistically to the future, Rivers savors the cozy comforts of mature love. I simply can’t listen to “Summer Rain” without craving “Bus Stop”, and vice versa. Maybe one day I’ll meet someone that feels the same way –I’ll keep my umbrella handy just in case.