Sunday, October 28, 2012


Seems like this New York City hurricane watch is becoming an annual event. But just in case we lose power in the next day or so, let's revisit my favorite hurricane songs. 

"Lost and Found" / The Kinks

Remember Hurricane Gloria? When she rolled into -- or rather, past -- Manhattan on September 27, 1985, Ray Davies was living a mere seven blocks south of me, though I had no idea, having fallen off the Kinks bandwagon, driven away by the arena-rock years. It was years before I discovered the Kinks' 1986 album Think Visual, where Ray Davies sings, in the opening lines of "Lost and Found": "Waiting for the hurricane / To hit New York City. . . . " But the minute I finally heard this song, I remembered Gloria and felt a spooky shiver of recognition.

I often think of "Lost and Found" as the companion song to "Stormy Sky," not just because of the storm but because of its sexy syncopation, the tenderness of Ray's vocals, and the central image of lovers finding shelter in each others' arms. It ain't often you find a Ray Davies song about two people simply happy to be together; grab 'em wherever you can.

Of course the storm is a metaphor -- of course! -- for all the crises life is bound to bring.But Ray works the metaphor beautifully here -- "Somebody said it's hit the bay . . . We're near the eye of the storm . . . They're putting up the barricades . . . " It's the anticipation that gets you, battening the hatches and all that, as he sees from afar "the hurricane crossing the coast line."

t wouldn't be a Ray Davies song if he didn't also throw in some quirky details, like "And all the bag ladies / Better put their acts together" and "the old sea dog says shiver me timbers."  Odd as they are, I love those lines, and the whimsical way Ray sings them -- as if this love makes him so secure, he can even see absurdity in the face of disaster.

My favorite bit is the bridge: "This thing is bigger than the both of us / It's gonna put us in our place." It's a brilliant, dual-edged line, depending on what he means by "thing" --  perhaps it's the storm that's bigger than they are, but maybe it's also their love that is bigger, like the old movie cliche (think Humphrey Bogart -- "This thing is bigger than the two of us, baby.") They're overwhelmed by love, amazed that they can give up being separate and start being a couple.

And as he swings back to the chorus, he revises the lyrics: " We came through the storm / Now it all seems clear / We were lost and found, standing here / Looking at the new frontier." It's not just a clear sky he sees, it's the possibility of where his life could go, now that he's got her.

This isn't the way a teenager sees life; this is how you see it when you're middle-aged and have been through your share of painful affairs. When you've given up hope that it's ever gonna happen for you, that you won't get your Hollywood ending. And then joy surprises you, just like that -- "We were lost and found, just in time / Now we've got no time to waste." He still seems astounded by it happening -- "in the nick of time," he marvels in a husky voice, as if he's just woken up from a long sleep. Good morning, Ray. 
"Feels Like Rain" / John Hiatt

Want a song to win your true love? You can't go wrong with John Hiatt. More specifically, "Feels Like Rain," from his 1986 album Slow Turning. One of the most emotive love songs ever written, it's been covered by loads of other artists, but nobody does it better than John himself.

That leisurely tempo takes its own sweet time to get going, with Sonny Landreth laying down light-fingered electric guitar licks while John tinkers around on the electric piano. The texture of this song feels just like the sort of gentle nighttime rain that sweeps in to wash away all the grit and hurt of the day. Over it all John's vocals work some serious R&B voodoo, crooning and howling and whispering and coaxing, so gruff and yet so tender.

The first verse starts out lazy and carnal: "Down here the river meets the sea / And in the sticky heat I feel you / Open up to me." (I'm fanning myself already, aren't you?) It's all about the mood, and the moment, and that rising barometric pressure; the chords shift upward too, with growing urgency, as John warns: "Love comes out of nowhere, baby / Just like a hurricane." Then, like a dying gust of wind, his voice drops downward, caressing the refrain: "And it feels like rain / And it feels like rain."

And get this line: ""Underneath the stars, lying next to you / Wonderin' who you are, baby / How do you do?" This isn't just a guy banging some chick whose name he can't remember; this is a moment mid-passion when he's suddenly rocked by the deep unknowableness between two human beings. They're so close physically, it's a shock to realize that she's still her own separate person. He may have been married to her for ten years, but at this instant she's a stranger, and he hungers to get close to her all over again.    

This rain that's rolling in? It isn't just rain, of course; it's a metaphor of passion, folks. It's heat-wave-breaking, drought-ending rain, the kind of meteorological event that makes folks change their plans. "We'll never make that bridge tonight / Across Lake Pontchartrain," John decides, without a trace of regret; "Batten down the hatches . . . A little bit of stormy weather / That's no cause for us to leave . . ." No indeed, I'm staying right here, all cozy and relaxed and oh yes.


Uncle E said...

I don't mean to make light here, Holly, but I find it ironic that your last post was on Surfer Girl.

Take care and keep safe!


ACravan said...

Lovely post. We lived in Brooklyn Heights during Gloria and saw the hurricane hit the bay from our apartment window. We feared for our cats' safety and hid them in the bathroom, whose ceiling was actually breached by the heavy rain. (We were on the top floor of our building.) I've always thought that Lost and Found captured the feeling of being in NY during Gloria perfectly -- X-ing the windows with tape, the fear, etc. It's a wonderful song and a great video too. Curtis

Anonymous said...

..."Waiting for the hurricane."

One of your best posts ever, Holly.

Currently listening to, wait for it..."Birdland" and Weather Report from last century's "Heavy Weather."


NickS said...

I'm glad to see you're back online.

I hadn't heard that Kinks song before, and it is lovely. Different then their typical sound, but it has a certain stateliness which works well, and doesn't interfere with the feeling of intimacy.