It starts with a slinky, bass-licked groove before the vocals come in: “Whispering our goodbyes, waiting for a train / I was dancing with my baby in the summer rain.”
That may not be the most distinctive opening, but Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain makes the most of such universal scene-setting, unlocking its full power-ballad potential with a sultry slow build, funky string accents and one hell of a heart-on-sleeve chorus.
Maybe that’s why Australians still can’t shake it after three decades. While the song peaked at only No 30 in its native US, the third single from the Go-Go’s singer’s third solo album became a top 10 hit down under. That surprise success helped its parent LP, 1989’s Runaway Horses, become one of that year’s bestselling albums in Australia, eventually going double platinum.
At the tail end of this southern summer – naturally – Carlisle will return to Australian shores to celebrate the album’s 30th anniversary. Runaway Horses may not have matched the sales of Carlisle’s 1987 smash Heaven on Earth, but the album enjoyed a local boost from Summer Rain’s anthemic melodrama.
Penned by Robbie Seidman with Maria Vidal, whose backing vocals with Donna De Lory enshrine the chorus as a nagging singalong, the song is actually a young widow’s elegy for her soldier husband. Yet it resonates much more broadly as a testament to the ripeness of looking back (“I remember laughing till we almost cried”) and the recharging power of tapping into some inner sanctuary.
Observe how its mantra-like chorus openly worships nostalgia: “Doesn’t matter what I do now / Doesn’t matter what I say / Somewhere in my heart I’m always / Dancing with you in the summer rain.” Now that 80s and 90s nostalgia have aged inevitably into their own comfort-food industries, this decade-straddling song has only acquired new layers of tantalising longing.