Thursday, April 7, 2011

Like the Weather

Like the Weather (from the 10,000 Maniacs album In My Tribe)

The color of the sky as far as I can see is coal gray
lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
a quiver in my lips as if I might cry

Well by the force of will my lungs are filled and so I breathe
lately it seems this big bed is where I never leave
shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
quiver in my voice as I cry

What a cold and rainy day
where on earth is the sun hid away?

I hear the sound of a noon bell chime, I'm far behind
you've put in 'bout half a day while here I lie
with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
a quiver in my lip as if I might cry

What a cold and rainy day
where on earth is the sun hid away?

Do I need someone
here to scold me or do I need someone
who'll grab and pull me
out of this four poster dull torpor
pulling downward

It is such a long time since my better days
I say my prayers nightly this will pass away

The color of the sky is gray as I can see through the blinds
lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
a quiver in my voice as I cry

What a cold and rainy day
where on earth is the sun hid away?
I shiver, quiver, and try to wake

Well, it's happened again. April is here. The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Dogs are being walked, children are playing in their yards, and average people are starting to quote poetry. In other words, Spring has sprung.

I'm so depressed.

For as long as I can remember, I've looked forward to only one season every year - one solitary three-month block of time in which I would feel the most invigorated, the most inspired, the most...myself. I like to call that season winter. Because...that's what it's called.

I'm well-aware that my love of perhaps the most universally despised season puts me at odds with virtually every "normal" human being. When I openly express my adoration for the joys of wintertime, I am met with looks of pity, disbelief and, occasionally, rage. While everyone else is in the doldrums, it is the one time of year that I can truly be called cheerful.

My love of winter expresses itself in certain rituals. For instance, the first real rainy day of winter requires me to play my rainy day music. There are several songs in the rotation, but the first one I play is always the same - Isn't It a Lovely Day by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. For me, it is the perfect start to wintertime.

I've tried to argue my case and win people over to my side of the winter vs. every other season debate, but I rarely come off the victor. (And by rarely, I mean never.) I once tried to explain to a friend that my love of winter had to do with the fact that I find it to be the most introspective of all the seasons. Not missing a beat, she said, "As if you need an excuse to be more introspective." Well...she got me there. But I stand by my point. The dark, gray skies, the rain and the fog, all of these things give us permission to withdraw into our homes a bit more and thus, naturally, into ourselves a bit more. In short, winter is introvert heaven!

So before I launch into my thoughts on this week's song, I just want to apologize to you lovers of spring. I know you were expecting These Are Days or something more appropriate to this most "glorious" time of year, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I need to revel in wintertime just a little while longer.

Now before the irony is too much for you to bear, I would like to acknowledge right off the bat that Like the Weather is in no way a celebration of winter. It's quite the opposite. Like the Weather speaks of the misery that many people feel during the cold and rainy days of winter. It's become an anthem for seasonal depression. I get it. But I like the song anyways. I like it a lot.

One of the joys of music, of just about any art form, is that you can take what you want from it. What one person finds uplifting, another person finds sobering. What one person finds ghastly, another person finds beautiful. Like the Weather is on my wintertime music playlist. It's on there because when I listen to it, I hear exactly what I want to hear. Shivering bones and quivering lips don't even come up on my radar. Instead, I revel in the coal-gray sky and the hiding sun. The upbeat style of the music makes it easy for me to lie to myself about the song's meaning.

"There's always been a balance in our work, between something very joyous, which is the sound of the music, and the lyrics, which can have a real sense of foreboding, even melancholy."*

This quote from Natalie well describes the 10,000 Maniacs musical trademark. Like the Weather is perhaps the quintessential example of their style - jaunty music matched with disquieting words. It's one of the most upbeat Maniacs songs ever recorded and I find the tune quite irresistible.

I've read old reviews of In My Tribe where reviewers tried to paint Like the Weather as a song about depression the same way What's the Matter Here is about child abuse and Cherry Tree is about illiteracy. Understandably, some people who have suffered from serious depression have connected with the words of this song on a deep level, but in general I don't think Like the Weather is meant to be a song about the misery of deep, chronic depression. I think it's more about being bummed out (or at least that's how I excuse my extreme joy when I listen to it.) Here's another quote from Natalie about the song, several years after it was written:

"Like the Weather is a silly song about - I remember I wrote that on a Farfisa organ so it had sort of a silly origin. It's just about not wanting to get up out of bed because it's raining."**

Notice the use of the word "silly" here? While I've never heard her say outright that she dislikes the song, every time I've heard or read Natalie talk about Like the Weather she refers to it as being "silly" and generally seems to be unimpressed with it. This is just plain stick-in-the-mud-ery and I won't stand for it! Alright, technically, I have no choice but to stand for it and given that she wrote the song, I suppose she has the right to pooh-pooh it. I also suppose that compared to her many songs of a more serious nature, Like the Weather is a bit silly. But I like silly. I find it refreshing. And fun! And to date, I have never heard another pop song (or any song for that matter) that uses the word "torpor." Pop music that prompts you to open your dictionary? Loving it.

So in closing I will wish all of you conventional, spring-loving readers a delightful season. I hope it warms your heart, delights your soul and brings you closer to nature. You know...if you're into that kind of thing. And to my lovely Winter - I bid you a fond adieu. Rest assured, I will be counting the days until we are reunited.

That's all for this week. If any fellow winter-lovers would like to post or e-mail messages of solidarity, I will receive them gladly. For winter haters, I promise a change of season for next week's post.

Click here to watch 10,000 Maniacs perform Like the Weather live

Download the Unplugged version of Like the Weather on Itunes - Like the Weather (Live) - MTV Unplugged: 10,000 Maniacs

*Record Collector - October 1992
**The Performing Songwriter - May/June 1996


  1. [Let me first apologize for the length of this comment. It is so long they wouldn't let me put it in one comment box. I had to put it in two. The topic is so important however, I felt I had to let you know my thoughts completely.]

    Wow Annie, I can't believe you don't like spring either! I'm not sure I like winter as much as you, but I hate Spring too! The season I like the most is Fall. I live on Long Island and we have beautiful beaches and lots of things to do here in the summer. Summer is probably my SECOND favorite season.

    I LOVE the fall. I like it when the days get shorter and you feel that first nip in the air. People stop wearing flip flops and tank tops and start wearing long pants and button down shirts - hopefully tucked in. Life just seems a little more civilized. The angle of the sun changes and the leaves turn golden. As Fall progresses the blue fish and then striped bass start their migration run. We have some of the best fishing in the world. By September the Monarch butterflies have already passed us on their way to Mexico. The swallows no longer circle the yard catching bugs but instead fly high in the air on their straight path south. Then the starlings congregate and swarm like giant schools of fish. Zigging then zagging in the evening sky. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

    I'm the only person I know who likes it when it gets dark early. My job requires a lot of reading and writing. In the summer I can never get any writing done. Then in the Fall when it gets dark early, I feel energized and I can concentrate. I quickly bang out pages and pages of work. My secretary thinks its funny that there's no work on her desk when she leaves but when she comes in the morning there's piles of it. She jokes that I must have elves helping me. I'm even more productive when it rains and the whole day is dark! When they moved day light savings back two weeks in the Fall a few years ago, everybody was saying what a good idea it was. Like you, I tried to argue my case and quickly found out I was a minority of one - Oh, the tyranny of the majority!

    My absolute favourite day is December 21, the Winter Solstice. The two weeks before and after the Solstice are pretty good too. I feel like Superman. By the second week of January however, I can feel the days getting longer and longer. It gets harder to concentrate. Each day is a greater struggle. The rest of January, February, and March is just cold and gray with temperatures around freezing. I don't hate it but the longer days are draining. If we're lucky it snows and that's nice. The worst day of Spring, next to tax day, is the day they turn the clocks forward. We suddenly get an additional hour of light. It's a slap in the face.

  2. [Continuation of comment one]

    I was just wondering, do you like the winter including late January, February and March; or do you like it when the days get noticeably shorter? Because I like winter, but only the first half. The half when it's still getting darker. I'm not a late winter fan.

    I absolutely hate spring. I have no energy. By now I'm looking forward to Summer and the beach ... It is unfair that you have to get through Spring to get to Summer. I'm Good with summer, especially after June, but I hate Spring. I call Spring the season of lies because by this time the angle of the sun has changed so it starts to look like summer. You look out on a sunny day and think it's warm. You leave your coat inside but when you walk out it's 40 degrees and windy. The cold hits you in the face and goes right to the bone. I get fooled every time.

    I start feeling better after the Summer Solstice in late June. Just as you play "Isn't it a Lovely Day" to welcome Winter, I play "The Longest Day" by Laura Gibson on the Summer Solstice to welcome the shorter days. You can see/hear it here . This song has an interesting connection to your blog this week. Just as you described "Like the Weather" as a 10,000 Maniacs trademark - jaunty music matched with disquieting words, an incongruous juxtaposition, the "Longest Day" is a quiet introspective song to what most people would consider the beginning of the euphoric season.

    One more observation about why Fall/Winter is better than Spring and longer days. I especially do not like going to bars in the summer. When I go to a bar in the winter and look out the window, it's dark and cold outside. Inside it's nice and warmly lit, the glasses and bottles twinkle in the light and I feel warm and fuzzy drinking with my friends. In the winter, everybody is drinking, eating, laughing and having a good time at a bar. In the Summer however, the bar always looks and feels dark. The patrons yell at you if you keep the door open too long and let sunlight in. They're like vampires. In the Summer when I'm in a bar and I look out the window and it's sunny, I feel like I'm wasting my life away. Very depressing. It's totally different from winter drinking. This however, is easily remedied by taking my drink outside. Hey does Natalie have any good drinking songs?

    Thanks for writing about winter. Great blog. Sorry this is such a long comment. I never get to tell my side of the story. Never imagined I would do it here. Whenever I try to tell people how great the Fall is with its cold, short days, they always look at me like I'm a trouble maker or something.

  3. Bernie -

    I love your comment/mini blog post! Thanks for the support. First of all, when I've read your comments in the past, for some reason I always assumed you were a Brit. But alas, you are a NY guy. Born and raised? I am desperate to relocate to the East.

    So in regard to your thoughts about the seasons - It's not really that I hate spring so much as I am never ready to say goodbye to winter. Additionally, where I live in California spring lasts all of about 4 weeks before it is basically summer. By the end of this month, I can almost guarantee you the temperature will be in the 90s. Spring represents the beginning of summer and summer where I live is just bloody awful. Ridiculous, oppressive, inescapable heat every single day.

    Just like you, though, I love the fall. I live in the oldest neighborhood in my city and the trees are massive and plentiful and breathtakingly beautiful when the leaves turn colors. Once again, though, I must say, fall is short-lived here. It's mostly summer and winter here and I greatly prefer winter.

    I agree with you about changing the clocks earlier now. Hate it!

    I haven't listened to the song you supplied the link to yet, but I definitely will. Thanks!

    I totally get what you are saying about feeling happy being indoors when it's cold and wet outside but feeling like a loser when you are sitting inside a building on a beautiful day (like I am currently doing.)

    Now in answer to the questions you asked me: 1) I love all of winter, but I do prefer when it gets dark earlier. Accordingly, I like when the sun is rising when I wake up. I hate getting up in the dark. I am fundamentally opposed to this practice. 2) Does Natalie have any drinking songs? There's a question I never saw coming. I'm a bit of a teetotaler myself, so I am not entirely sure what constitutes a drinking song. However, on the 10,000 Maniacs Time Capsule album, you will find a version of the song "I Hope That You Don't Fall In Love With Me" which takes place in a bar. I really love the song and highly recommend it.

    Thanks again for your comment. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I'm glad you got to tell your side of the story here. Long live winter!