Sunshine or Rain
Press play on t... the video below!
If the sight of this page should make you wince and fear a sudden defect of your hardware you can continue breathing again: Don´t worry, the content of this page looks horrible on absolutely every device! There is no doubt, the graphics of the early home computers appear amazingly awful from our present point of view. In order to appreciate it at least with a sympathetic smile you must have taken part - back in those days when many of the things emerged that appear so natural to younger generations.
Those, however, who were at the right age back then might have experienced both of it: a first half of the childhood that featured lots of exciting experiences in the open air. And then suddenly the beginning of a new era when it always seemed much more reasonable to spend a few more hours with the brand-new home computer instead. No matter if the sun was shining or if it was raining - SUNSHINE OR RAIN.
The song is meant as a journey to a long gone time when it was common to mistake a collage of tiny colourful boxes (like the one on the left) for a full-value photograph.
I chose the topic of the song for several reasons: Of course it is meant as an honest tribute to the era of the first home computers. But another reason was that this
1st verse / introduction
Probably only very few people have touched or seen a physical Commodore 64 within the past 25 years. I am not one of them. So my memory of this era has suffered massive losses until today there is nothing left but a framework of some anecdotal events. When I started to write the lyrics I didn´t want to rely only on some sketchy and distorted memories. So I had to do some time travel first: Many Youtube channels feature the video games of the eighties - completely authentical and unabridged from the PRESS PLAY ON TAPE message to the final highscore.
Watching those games today doesn´t only feel strange because of the doubtful graphics: We live in a time when even a short wait at the bus stop appears too long to be spent without the help of a smartphone. From today´s point of view it is astounding that I don´t recall a single experience when the endless loading times were a mentionable issue. It seems there was enough time back then.
Apart from those who actively experienced that time there is a majority of people who will never understand what could have been so fascinating about chirping music and computer images made of toy blocks. The chorus points out the unique frontier spirit of that time which in the eyes of many could never be surpassed in future years - regardless of all the amazing and impressive technical features that were to follow within the next decades. Depending on your personal background, you might see this as a nostalgic look back for like-minded people. Or as an attempted excusing explanation (surely futile of course) to all others.
Verses 2 and 3
The verses contain a series of allusions to games that have shaped my personal memory of the Commodore 64 era. Probably the decryption of the lines is quite unchallenging to contemporary witnesses whereas outsiders are confronted with a completely pointless compilation of disjointed words. To provide a little assistance I could upload a future version of the song including a video that shows clips of the respective games.
Please feel free, of course, to solve the "puzzles" or to criticize the one or another omission in my subjective selection. In order to keep the lyrics short enough I had to make a few painful decisions and even had to leave out a few of my personal favourites. Finally, I further increased the pressure to drop important games when I took the bars that were meant to be another verse for the SID solo. I came to the conclusion that a song that praises the characteristic sound of a certain time needs to showcase those instruments and moods not only as a background track.
"AMIGA or Atari ST" - decades ago this was the prequel to several contemporary low points of human communication. Infamous modern examples that are comprehensible to younger people are questions like "Mac or Windows?" or - at least as dangerous - "Iphone or Android?". Endless conversations in school buses and schoolyards could never finally resolve if the overall winners were the Atari or the Amiga followers.
Even then I was only amused by such needless and unworthy discussions. Right when the first screenshots of the golden mask were published it was quite obvious that the name of the winner could only be Amiga.
Those who haven´t closed the browser window within the past few seconds will agree: From today´s point of view even the graphics of the AMIGA, once the incarnation of a better future, hardly look any better than that of the C64. If a change is experienced as a revolution seems to be a matter of perspective.
Originally I had a much more conventional instrumentation on my mind so the subject of the song wouldn´t have been very obvious. Then after a series of rather curious than targeted experiments with some SID emulators I changed my point of view and moved the song in a completely different direction. Now it seems that all those sounds from the C64 era are a bit too much for many listeners as I know from a few responses.
A few seem to like the instruments as they are but when I listen to the first sketchy demos I wonder if the originally planned version might have certain benefits. So the final decision if the SID sounds will stay or leave is still open.
A compromise might be to record a second version of the song. A reason to do so could be the fact that I didn´t think of the listening habits of others when I recorded this version: The song contains several elements that point back to the beginning of my interest in music. Especially those individual preferences do not seem to have majority appeal:
I started writing music on the Commodore AMIGA using the earliest versions of the still existing soundtrackers. An example of such an ancient soundtracker tune is the instrumental section of the song "In This Life" that originally started as a MOD file in the early nineties.
An important stylistic element of the AMIGA soundtrackers were the characteristic arpeggio sounds that could play three-part chords with only one voice of the sound chip.
Speak & Spell
The first identifiable melody that I achieved on the keyboard at an early age was a one-fingered version of "Genetic Engineering" by OMD. The song fascinated me especially because of the artificial sound of the Speak & Spell voice - a toy which I had never come across. In the middle section of "Sunshine or Rain" I included a tribute to this sound - which unfortunately turned out middle-rate, to put it friendly.
For test purposes I took the original piano recording that outlined the chord progression in the orginal key (three half tones higher than the above version) and recorded a vocal track. This raw draft only consists of the plainest MIDI sounds and covers only half of the song but it should be enough to get an idea of possible alternatives. Maybe I will upload it later.