See The Sky About To Rain

Album: On The Beach (1974)
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  • "See The Sky About To Rain" is the second track on On the Beach and the only one not written specifically for the album. It had been written years earlier and was already familiar with audiences as a live play in 1971.

    It's not clear why this is the one song transplanted from the past. Easiest answer is simply that Young needed to fill space, but that's not generally been his approach to albums, especially in the earlier days of his career. Placed as the second track in an era when artists like Young intended their albums to be listened to as one cohesive work, it also seems to hold an important marker. Writing in Uncut in September 1998, Ian MacDonald may have come up with the best answer when he wrote, "It sets a 'mood,' okay?"

    "See the Sky About to Rain" certainly does set a mood. The lyrics are about the inevitability of fate and rain, which in terms of the song are synonymous concepts. "Some are bound for happiness," Young sings, "Some are bound to glory, some are bound to live with less, who can tell your story?"

    This fatalistic outlook on how human lives go is consistent with the mood of On The Beach, possibly the most melancholy album by a musician who made a whole career out of creating melancholy art.
  • As MacDonald also observes, "See the Sky About to Rain" also hits upon the theme of the overbearing, malicious "man" - a theme which runs throughout the album. In the final verse, which is about Young's disillusionment with the music industry, he sings:

    I was down in Dixieland
    Played a silver fiddle
    Played it loud and then the man
    Broke it down the middle
    See the sky about to rain

    "This bitterness about 'the man' (and you can take it straight as Big Business or bend it towards the drug connection) is reiterated constantly through the record," MacDonald wrote in Uncut, "from his showbiz/high society aspect in 'For The Turnstiles' ('Singing songs for pimps with tailors/Who charge 10 dollars at the door') to industrial magnates in 'Revolution Blues' and oil millionaires in 'Vampire Blues.'"
  • The lyric, "Some are bound to glory" may reference Woody Guthrie's autobiography Bound For Glory. Guthrie is most commonly known for his influence on Bob Dylan, but he was something of a legend for much of the '60s music scene, of which Young was a part.
  • The theme of ever-present rain is revisited in "Ambulance Blues," the final song on On The Beach.


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