The Infinite Jukebox: Carole King’s ‘It Might As Well Rain until September’


What should I write?
What can I say?
How can I tell you how much I miss you?
The perennial subject of song, of at least 90% of all the songs ever written since words were invented, is love. Love in all its ways, shapes, forms and delusions. It is almost impossible to imagine an angle on love that has not been explored, in whatever degree of eloquence the lyricist can muster.
In 1962, Carole King wrote a song that was simplicity itself. She wrote the melody, her then-husband and song-writing partner Gerry Goffin wrote the words, and she took their latest creation into a recording studio to record a demo version, just Carole, her voice, her piano, bass and drums, pretty basic. It had been written for Bobby Vee, to be a single, but his management ruled against that, and his version was nothing more than an album track.
So the studio cleaned up the tape, added some backing vocals and strings, released Carole’s version as a single, and it was a massive smash.
I’ve never heard any other version of the song, especially not Bobby Vee’s, but I can’t imagine this from a male perspective. Whatever the origin of the song, to me it has always felt like a woman’s song, a girl’s song, rather. Her boyfriend’s away on that American ritual of summer camp, he won’t be back until school is in again, she can’t see him, and as the song quickly makes it plain, it’s a glorious summer where she is but so what? It’s wasted on her. It’s meaningless. The time until he’s back is lost time, worthless without the one she loves, and so for her it might as well rain every single day from now until that magical, far-distant day he returns.
It’s a simple idea, but Goffin and King, or whichever of then wrote the lyrics, had a moment of genius when the idea came to them. Love’s like that, especially for the young, when it’s completely immersive. Separation, especially for a whole summer, is a wasteland: what good is any of it? In time, you learn to process absence, to develop a way of keeping your life vital and valid when they’re not there, even for extended periods. Older lovers are more distant by nature, especially in an age that emphasises independence, and not the traditional merging of people into one another.
You’ll have to forgive me my age as well in describing this as a woman’s song, for ‘It might as well rain until September’ is one of my genuine musical memories of the Sixties. My mother would have the Light Programme on, pretty much all day, whilst she did her housework and I would play, and some pop songs would creep in among the housewife’s choices, and Carole King and this song are indelibly linked to those days of traditional households that, as a kid, I took for granted. He went away, she stayed at home: there’s still a tiny part of me that thinks of that as natural.
And the sound of the record, the lack of sophistication it displays, the passive nature of the motions within it, and King’s upfront, strong and determined voice all tie it into that time when it would have been a natural assumption, and the reverse an oddity. Maybe that’s why Bobby Vee’s management didn’t want it for a single, eh?
But paradoxically King’s voice, and the sheer strength of it, the energy of the recording that comes from it being a demo, the attack and the rawness all combine to give the record a steel that redeems it from being purely the little woman sitting at home, waiting for her man to come back and make her life worth living again. King turns the negative space of the scenario into something that brims over with the force of her love: it’s as if she is physically imposing her feelings upon the spaces she inhabits, and the pizzicato strings that echo the patter of raindrops reinforces the sense of an elemental change. It might as well rain until September, it will rain until September.
And that’s what love is, in it’s youthfulness and vitality. It makes the world go around and it brings it to a halt, and that’s the same for man, woman, girl and boy. Carole King’s longing for the boy who holds her heart isn’t just a song, or a fancy symbol for how much she misses him, it is a force of nature, and the song captures that in its bold, brash sound as well as those ingeniously simple lyrics.
What should I write?
What can I say?
How can I tell you how much I miss you?…

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