This was inspired by a recurring dream where Gabriel was swimming in a sea of red water. Gabriel explained to Mojo magazine September 2013: "'Red Rain' was written after a dream I'd had about the sea being parted by two walls. There were these glass-like figures that would screw themselves into each wall, fill up with red blood and then be lowered across the sand, as it were to the next wall, where they'd unload the blood on the other side. I used to have these extremely vivid dreams that scared the hell out of me."
Gabriel: "If feelings of pain do not get brought out, not only do they fester and grow stronger but they manifest themselves in the external world."
Hi-hat cymbals played by Stewart Copeland
were combined with a Linn drum machine programmed by Chris Hughes to form a backing rhythm that simulates rain. Other personnel on the track are:
Daniel Lanois - guitar
David Rhodes - guitar, backing vocals
Tony Levin - bass
Jerry Marotta - drums
Gabriel added piano and two different synthesizers: a Fairlight CMI and Prophet 5.
At one point, Gabriel wanted this song to tell the story of Mozo, a mercurial stranger who would come and go, changing people's lives. Other songs that told the Mozo story are "On The Air," "Down The Dolce Vita," "Exposure", "Here Comes The Flood," and "That Voice Again." Gabriel envisioned a movie or play based on the Mozo character, but it never happened.
This was used in the TV series Miami Vice ("Stone's War" - 1986) and CSI: NY ("Dead Inside" - 2008).
Daniel Lanois also co-produced the album with Gabriel. The pair had worked together on the soundtrack to the 1984 film Birdy, starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine. After So wrapped, Lanois moved on to co-produce U2's hit album The Joshua Tree.