Rainy days and Mondays don’t always get me down. People not caring for one another. Rudeness. Bullying. Those get me down, but the weather and the day of the week seldom do.
And let’s not forget that for some of us, Monday is the best day of the week. If the sum total of your weekend interactions with other human beings has been asking the checkout person at the supermarket “how much is that?”, followed by a “thank you” when they hand your change over…well, Monday’s can be quite the highlight of the week.
“Rainy Days And Mondays” was The Carpenters’ second hit record. It was written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, who between them would go on to write songs for Three Dog Night, Paul Anka and Art Garfunkel, as well as “Evergreen” for Barbra Streisand, “Rainbow Connection” for The Muppets and the TV theme for Hart to Hart. By any standard an eclectic mix…
Karen Carpenter had one of the all-time great singing voices. I could listen to her all day. But she was also a great drummer and if you read down to the video below, you’ll see her drumming away. She always seemed so happy sat behind a drum kit. Whenever she left the front of the stage for a spell on the drums, she always seemed to rediscover what made her happy about life.
Karen Carpenter didn’t do the drumming on the original record, though. That was Hal Blaine who, along with some of his other long-serving pals in the Wrecking Crew…a loose grouping of LA studio musicians who between them played on many of the biggest hits of the 60s and 70s…provided the accompaniment for Karen Carpenter’s delightful vocals.
Between them, they made a great job of “Rainy Days And Mondays”.
It was a bit of an odd lyric to give to a woman only just into her 20s when she sung these lines, though…
Talkin’ to myself and feeling old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothin’ ever seems to fit
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down
As I get older, I get days like that quite often, but back in my early 20s I was full of hope for the future, convinced a glittering career and the love of a good woman was just around the corner. I’ll get back to you on how that all worked out some other time…
My favourite line in “Rainy Days And Mondays” is the first line of the second verse. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what it was about that line that made it so special, but it’s a line where you know you’ve only got a tiny amount of a much bigger story and you have to fill in the details from your own imagination. I adore lyrics like that.
It’s an absolutely brilliant line, and there’s something in the way Karen Carpenters puts it across that somehow hints at the mysterious bigger picture. Here is is…
What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong
Feelin’ like I don’t belong
Like some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down
It’s not just me that thinks the first line of that verse is brilliant. Paul Williams, who wrote the line, tells the story of bumping into Johnny Mercer, one of the 20th century’s finest lyricists, at the Carpenters’ record company.
Johnny Mercer asked if he was the same Paul Williams who wrote the “What I’ve got they used to call the blues” line. If arguably the greatest lyricist of the 20th century knows your name and can identify a great line from one of your songs, I think that’s all the proof we need of how good a lyric it is.
What’s so sad about all of this, of course, is that Karen Carpenter really did carry round “what they used to call the blues” for most of her life. She never felt confident in herself, never felt good enough or pretty enough or wanted enough.
In the end, those demons took hold and squeezed the life out of her, taking away one of the finest singing voices of the 20th century at only 33 years of age.
You see, sometimes when we’re sad, feel we don’t belong, feel we don’t fit in a world that treats everyone else just fine, but takes us down at every opportunity, all we want is one other human being to love us. Then we can start to believe everything will turn out fine.
When there’s no-one…then there really is nothing left to live for.
Ironically, when Karen Carpenter’s end came, all she was looking for was precisely what she’d sung about 11 or 12 years earlier…
Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me
I’d venture to suggest when there’s someone you can run to even when you’re feeling down, there’s love in your life. Not romantic love perhaps, but love nonetheless.
Where there’s love, there’s hope. Where there’s hope, there’s a future. When you’ve got a future to think about, the problems of today quickly fade away.
That’s why love is so important.
Sadly, Karen Carpenter never found someone to be that person for her. The same is true for many of us. Feeling like “some kind of lonely clown” isn’t just a clever lyric in a beautiful song, it’s how many people feel every day of their life.
And if that person is you, you’ll know that reaching out is hard. You’ll know what it’s like to be desperate just to talk with someone for a few minutes, or enjoy a coffee with another human being or get a hug from someone so you can feel alive again for a moment or two.
So we keep our feelings to ourselves. We smile as best we can and carry on.
Until we can’t carry on any more.
Until the void we’ve carried around inside most of our lives swallows us up completely.
But if you’re not that person, take the time to check those around you. A two-minute chat, a quick cup of coffee or an occasional hug to let someone know they do have someone who cares about them after all, makes all the difference.
Two minutes of your time really can save a life. Why not make today the day you reach out to someone? I guarantee there’s someone you know who needs to feel that someone in the world cares about them.
Here, with Roger Nichols and Paul Williams’ composition, are The Carpenters with “Rainy Days And Mondays”…watch out — goosebumps on the way, courtesy of Karen Carpenter’s beautiful voice and this haunting song…
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published. And why not check out my book “No Words, No Song”, where I write about more great songs like this one, available in the Kindle Bookstore (here).