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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 223
Thurs. Aug 23, 2012

“So. Central Rain [I’m Sorry]”
R.E.M.

1984

“♫ Eastern to Mountain,
third party call/ the lines
are down/ the wise man
built his words upon the
rocks/ But I’m not bound
to follow suit
♫”

Reckoning was the first R.E.M. album I ever owned. I used to tell my C&W high school classmates in my San Antonio that R.E.M. was the most country band I listened to. R.E.M. was from Athens. GA. “So. Central Rain” is country song in spirit. I used to spin “Rain” on repeat in my childhood room as a lovesick teen, naïve in believing Michael Stipe wrote the song with my many heartaches in mind. Boy was I wrong. Did you know that “So. Central Rain” was actually inspired by a true event.

R.E.M. played “So. Central Rain,” Aug 6, 1983, on David Letterman’s show before “Rain” had an actually title. Craig Rosen explained the evolution of “So. Central Rain” in his book R.E.M. Inside Out: The Stories Behind Every Song when he wrote: ““So. Central Rain” was written while the band was in sunny Los Angeles on tour in support of Murmur. [Guitarist Peter] Buck was attempting to reach his parents on the telephone when Georgia was in the midst of a massive storm that severely flooded some areas. “The Weather Report was, ‘South Central Rain, all the phone lines were down,’” Buck recalled.”

And the rest was history. Like Murmur’s “Perfect Circle,” Stipe’s finally lyrics caused an emotional reaction from Buck as he explained, “We came up with the music first and I didn’t hear Michael sing it until we were almost on stage with it. The first time I heard the lyrics, it really moved me.”

“So. Central Rain” moves me every time I hear it. I was at the bookstore, specifically in the fiction section, looking for a copy of Atonement for my wife when “So. Central Rain” came on above me. I had to stop. It was really emotional for me. It instantly took me back, you see, “Rain” one of my vivid soundtracks to my weekend nights in solitude. There was one particular night, I remember, right out of high school; I was supposed to go out with this girl I had a serious crush on. Well, unfortunately, just like the other of my failed paramour’s, my date was a no call and no show. After my parents attempted to cheer me up by taking me out for pizza, it was very sweet, but I felt totally rejected that night. Soon after, I locked myself in my room and I listened to nothing but “So. Central Rain” all night long. It was longing for connection that reflected in Stipe’s aching vocal mirrored my own. The pizza and “Rain” got me through many nights, but that night, I recall, was a particularly lonesome one.

Now, Although it reflected my sadness during my younger days, I am amazed on how literally it hits an emotional chords, connecting every time, “So. Central Rain” remains more timeless and then the first time I discovered this tender song. Every time I hear it connects me, not with sadness, but with a sense of gratitude for R.E.M. keeping me hopeful when I had no prospects in front of me. More than a greatest hit, more like a lyrical snapshot. Because of this, I offer no apologies, “So. Central Rain,” remains one of my favorite R.E.M. songs that sends me back to those teenage days and nights when all I had was hope, “So. Central Rain” and nothing more.

Which one of these is your favorite version of “So. Central Rain?”

So many versions of “So. Central Rain” exist. One of the most popular is the original from Reckoning.

There’s also the legendary live performance on Letterman.

And finally, my favorites is a recording from September 14, 1987 live performance from Holland, found on the 12 inch single flip side of Document’s “Finest Worksong. That medley called “Time After Time Etc.” This medley begins with “Time After Time” followed by a snippet of Peter Gabriel’s” Red Rain,” seamlessly seguing into “So. Central Rain.”

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