Thursday, 20 January 2011

Oran Juice Jones - The Rain (1986/ No. 4/ 14 weeks/ Def Jam)

Of the top of my head, for such an inherently romantic and dramatic form of precipitation, songs about rain are a bit thin on the ground; Gene Kelly, poor old Johnny Ray walking in the rain while passers by ask each other "Who can that fool be?", Barry White's Love Unlimited walking in the rain with the one they love, the great grey clouds of rain drizzling spectral unrequited love in 'Well I Wonder' - perhaps The Smiths' greatest moment. There may be others.

'The Rain' is two brilliant songs in one single. For the first three minutes we get the most dynamic and rhythmically subtle song of discovered infidelity;

"I saw you

(and him! and him!)

walking in the raaaaaaaaain"

There's an insistent cowbelly sort of pulse, then there's a recurring chime on top of it, a plangent riff - At one point of horrified revelation most of this drops out, and a synth line creaks uneasily. It feels quiet on the surface, but so much is going on underneath, as would be your state of mind if you saw such a scene.

And then, unexpectedly, the spoken word section jumps in over this, and the listener understands that the restraint of the previous section has been leading up to the confrontation;

Hey hey baby how ya doin'?
Come on in here.
Got some hot chocolate on the stove waiting for you.
Listen first things first let me hang up the coat.
Yeah, how was your day today?
Did you miss me?
You did? Yeah? I missed you too...
I missed you so much I FOLLOWED you today!"

Note the coat and the hot chocolate - such attention to detail! The listener is genuinely uncertain where this is going. We're also already aware that the girlfriend isn't going to be given a chance to respond in this song;

"You know my first impulse was to run up on you
And do a Rambo -
I was about to jam you and flat blast both of you"

I'm relieved that we aren't going to get this response, but even more uneasy as to what this pop Othello is going to do next;

"But I didn't wanna mess up this thirty-seven hundred dollar lynx coat
So instead I chilled -- That's right chilled"

This calmness is yet more menacing than violence;

"I called up the bank and took out every dime.
Than I canceled all your credit cards...
I stuck you up for every piece of jewelery I ever bought you!
Don't go lookin' in that closet 'cause everything you came here with is packed up and waiting for you in the guest room. What were you thinking?"

As with many break-ups, it all comes down to property in the end;

"You don't mess with The Juice!
I gave you silk suits, blue diamonds and Gucci handbags.
I gave you things you couldn't even pronounce!"

The unfaithful woman is then brushed off remarkably quickly;

"You gotta get on outta here with that alley-cat-coat-wearing, punch-bucket-shoe-wearing crumb-cake I saw you with. Cause you dismissed!

That's right, Silly rabbit, tricks are made for kids, don't you know that. You without me is like corn flakes without the milk! This is my world. You're just a squirrel trying to get a nut! Now get on outta here. Scat!"

That's told her. One doesn't care much for The Juice's priorities, but this is undeniably utterly thrilling. And then note the skill in which this dramatist returns the audience's attention to the crucial prop for the curtain line;

"Don't touch that coat..."

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