Only Happy When It Rains

Only Happy When It Rains
"Only Happy When It Rains"
Single by Garbage
from the album Garbage
B-side "Girl Don't Come"
Released September 18, 1995
(See release history)
Format 7", CD maxi, cassette single
Recorded 1994 - 1995
Smart Studios,
Madison, Wisconsin
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:56
Label Mushroom Records UK
Almo Sounds (North America)
Writer(s) Garbage
Producer Garbage
Garbage singles chronology
"Only Happy When It Rains"
Alternative cover
North American cover-art
Music sample
"Only Happy When it Rains"

"Only Happy When It Rains" was a single written, recorded and produced by alternative rock group Garbage at their own recording studio in Madison, Wisconsin. The song was released as the third single from the campaign for the band's debut studio album Garbage in both the United Kingdom and North America, where it became their breakthrough single.

In the United States, "Only Happy When it Rains" was the first song by the group to chart strongly on the Hot 100, and crossover to pop radio formats, propelling their debut album into the Top 100 of the Billboard 200 for the first time. Since its 1996 release, "Only Happy When it Rains" has gone onto to be an enduring work for the group, and was performed by Garbage over multiple tours.

"Only Happy When It Rains" was remastered in 2007 for Garbage's greatest hits album Absolute Garbage.[1] Because the analog masters for the debut album had been lost, the song had to be reverse engineered from a damaged backup DAT, resulting in some discernible differences in the remaster.[2]


Song profile

"Only Happy When It Rains" was written and recorded between March 1994 and May 1995 during sessions between band members Duke Erikson, Shirley Manson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig in either Marker's basement recording studio or at their own Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin.[3] Bass on "Only Happy When It Rains" was played by Mike Kashou, and additional percussion by Pauli Ryan.[4] In the latter stages of the album recording, Garbage mixed "Only Happy When It Rains" twice before it was sent for mastering. Vig recalled it at last minute to mix the guitar tracks louder (Vig claimed years later that the song still didn't sound the way it had in his head).[5]

Manson explained: "[The song] is a dig at ourselves because we like records that don't make us feel very happy, and at this so-called 'alternative' scene of 'we're so weird and more wonderful than everybody else'."[6] Garbage admitted to referencing both the title of the The Jesus and Mary Chain song "Happy When It Rains" and Manson's own Scottish psyche.[7] Lyrically, Manson described "Only Happy When It Rains" as "about wanting love but knowing life will always get in the way.... yet not being obliterated by that. It's a song for people that know what it is like to live on the dark side of life. It's about devotion but a different kind. A devotion to the truth and to freedom... and to hell with the consequences."[8]

Single release

Initially, Mushroom Records had scheduled "Queer" to be the lead single for the UK release of the debut album Garbage, matching the single release strategy internationally. At last minute, it was decided to release "Only Happy When It Rains" upfront of the album, with "Queer" rescheduled to later in 1995.[6] "Only Happy When It Rains" was quickly picked up by radio, and was C-listed by Radio One,[9] and reached #47 on the airplay chart.[10] Mushroom issued the single on a limited edition 7" vinyl, CD and cassette on September 18, 1995. All formats were backed with two new tracks specifically recorded for the single; "Girl Don't Come" and "Sleep".[11] After its first week on-sale, "Only Happy When it Rains" debuted on the UK Singles Chart at #29.[12] At the end of the month, Garbage made their debut live appearance to perform the single on Top of The Pops, providing momentum for the album Garbage to debut on the album chart at #12.[12]

In United States, as Garbage were preparing to start a headline tour of the East Coast,[13] Almo Sounds sent "Only Happy When It Rains" to alternative radio at the start of January 1996. The song debuted on the Modern Rock Tracks chart at #34.[14] Two weeks later, "Only Happy When it Rains" rose to #23 with an "Airpower" status (marking it's first increase of over 900 detections on alternative rock radio stations)[15] and debuted on the Hot 100 Airplay chart at #74.[16] On February 20, Almo released "Only Happy When it Rains" domestically on CD maxi and cassette single,[17] both featuring "Girl Don't Come" and "Sleep" as b-sides.[18] At the start of March, the song broke into the Modern Rock top twenty, and made its debut appearance on the Hot 100 at #74.[19] The band's debut album saw its sales increase, peaking at #2 on the Heatseeker chart after six months on sale,[20] having sold 238,000 units at this point.[21] The following week the album broke into the top half of Billboard 200 for the first time,[22] and on the Modern Rock chart, "Only Happy When it Rains" peaked at #16 on its tenth week on the chart.[23]

Still ascending on the Hot 100 and airplay charts, Almo sent a single remix of "Only Happy When it Rains" to Top 40 radio on March 26, although a few stations such as New York's Z100 were already playing it.[21] At the start of April, the song hit its peak at #54 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart.[24] A week later, the song made its debut ranking on Hot 100 Single Sales chart at #68.[25] Garbage returned from European tour dates at the end of the month, and on April 27 made their network television debut performing "Only Happy When it Rains" on Saturday Night Special.[26] The resulting exposure from the appearance led to the song peaking at the start of May at #55 on the Hot 100[27] and #61 on the singles sales chart.[28] At the same time, Garbage was certified Gold by the RIAA for shipping half a million units.[29] After nineteen weeks, "Only Happy When it Rains" left the Modern Rock chart at the end of May;[30] and eventually clocked up a total of twenty weeks on the Hot 100, registering for a final time at #92 in mid-July 1996.[31] By this time, Garbage had performed the song at the MTV Movie Awards,[32] joined an arena tour supporting the Smashing Pumpkins,[33] Garbage had risen to #27 on the album chart[34] and follow-up single "Stupid Girl" was gaining massive airplay on alternative radio.[35]

In Australia and New Zealand, Garbage's Australasian record label, White, released "Only Happy When it Rains" as the follow-up to "Stupid Girl" on May 28, 1996. The single was issued on CD single and cassette, backed with "Driving Lesson" and a house remix of album track "Dog New Tricks",[36] both of which had been recorded by the band earlier in the year.[21] Both songs had also featured on the earlier release of "Stupid Girl" in the United Kingdom.[37] The following week, "Only Happy When it Rains" debuted on the ARIA singles chart and spent nine weeks on the chart, peaking at #80.[38] A month later, the song debuted at #42 on the New Zealand singles chart, peaking the following week at #38.[39]

Across Europe, Mushroom Records international distributor BMG released "Only Happy When It Rains" (also following up "Stupid Girl"), as the band returned to tour the continent with the Fun Lovin Criminals and perform at rock festivals.[13] Depending on the territory, the single was issued as a two-track card sleeve CD single[40] or a four-track maxi single.[41] Both formats featured the band's remix of "Dog New Tricks"; the maxi format also included a remix of "Stupid Girl" by Red Snapper and a remix of "Queer" by Danny Saber.[41] Following the band's performance at the Lowlands Festival, the single was a success in the Netherlands where it spent the month of September 1996 on the charts, peaking at #36 on the Single Top 100.[42]


  • UK 7" single Mushroom SX1199
  1. "Only Happy When it Rains" - 3:58
  2. "Girl Don't Come" - 2:03
  3. "Sleep" - 1:41
  • UK CD/cassette single Mushroom D1199/C1199
  1. "Only Happy When it Rains" - 3:58
  2. "Girl Don't Come" - 2:33
  3. "Sleep" - 2:11
  • US CD/cassette Almo Sounds AMSDS/AMSCS-89002
  1. "Only Happy When it Rains" - 3:58
  2. "Girl Don't Come" - 2:33
  3. "Sleep" - 2:11
  • Australian CD/cassette single White D1199/C1199
  1. "Only Happy When it Rains" - 3:58
  2. "Driving Lesson" - 3:47
  3. "Dog New Tricks" (The Pal Mix) - 4:05
  • European CD maxi BMG 74321 38349 2
  1. "Only Happy When It Rains" - 3:58
  2. "Dog New Tricks" (The Pal mix) - 4:03
  3. "Stupid Girl" (Red Snapper mix) - 7:37
  4. "Queer" (Danny Saber mix) - 5:40
  • European CD single BMG 74321 40355 2
  1. "Only Happy When It Rains" - 3:58
  2. "Dog New Tricks" (The Pal mix) - 4:03

Collectable format

Continuing their theme of collectible 7" vinyl releases, which had seen "Vow" packaged in an aluminium sleeve and "Subhuman" in black rubber, Mushroom packaged the 7" format for "Only Happy When It Rains" in a "Prismaboard" (rain-effect) die-cut card sleeve, with a hologram logo sticker on the inner jacket. The b-side of the vinyl was pressed with a double-groove, so that either "Girl Don't Come" or "Sleep" played depending on where the stylus landed; the songs were shorter on the vinyl than they were on the CD or cassette formats to accommodate both on one side of the disc. This pressing was limited to 5,000 copies.[6] The original design for the vinyl was for the sleeve to made from wood, or corrugated cardboard, with wing-nuts in each corner like a flower-press. The nuts would have to have been unscrewed to find the vinyl disc inside - between ten layers of different types of cardboard.[6]

Music video

Steve Marker, Shirley Manson, Duke Erikson and Butch Vig, in the "Only Happy When It Rains" video.

The promotional video for "Only Happy When It Rains" was filmed in mid-January 1996 in Los Angeles by director Samuel Bayer.[43] The music video for single "Stupid Girl" was shot at the same time.[43] The video for "Only Happy When It Rains" was given a higher budget than the video for "Stupid Girl", because Almo Sounds believed that the former would be a bigger hit than the latter.[44] The video debuted in the United States on February 12, 1996.[45] A day later, the video was certified a "Buzz clip" by MTV, which would guarantee heavy rotation on their network.[46]

The video begins a short prologue sequence with several children dressed in animal costumes playing in an overcast field, before cutting to Garbage upon the commencement of the song. Garbage are located in a litter-strewn warehouse, where the male members of the band destroy vinyl records, videotape and musical instruments as Manson performs to the camera. Some sequences feature Manson performing the song while on her own in dilapidated toilet stalls. The video ends with inter-cut footage of Manson joining the children on the field.

The "Only Happy When It Rains" video was first commercially released (along with out-take footage shot while filming) on VHS and Video-CD on 1996's Garbage Video.[47] A remastered version of the video was later included on Garbage's 2007 greatest hits DVD Absolute Garbage[1] and made available as a digital download via online music services the same year.[48]

Critical reception

Upon both the release of Garbage, and of "Only Happy When It Rains" as a single, the song received a positive reception from music journalists. In reviews for the single release Patrick Brennan of Hot Press declared "Only Happy When It Rains" his Single of the Fortnight, writing "it's hugely refreshing to come across a song which celebrates all those sad moments of lonliness that can be so life affirming",[49] while A reviewer for Kerrang! wrote, "A truly inspired single... Garbage combine a slightly sinister acidic approach with an infectious melodic atmosphere and an alternative punch. The result is awesome,"[50] and a reviewer for Music Week wrote, "Shirley Manson's vocals veer between fuzzy darkness, grinding catchy and crystal brilliance."[51] Alastair Mabbot, writing for The List, described the song as "Spitting Image's notion of alternative rock",[52] In reviews for the debut album, Robert Yates of Q wrote that there was "a nice self-deflating Morrissey touch to [the song]",[53] while Jackie Hinden of Hot Press felt that "Only Happy When It Rains" was "like a Pretenders for the nineties".[54] Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian described the song as "perversely pretty",[55] while Leo Finlay of Music Week compared the song to Mazzy Star, and that it "employs the current hip staus of country music to devastating effect".[56] At the end of 1995, Melody Maker rated "Only Happy When It Rains" the #49 Song of the Year, writing up: "In a year of sunny Britpop, reservoir supplies of ironic bubblegum pop-noir were dangerously low. This burst of mocking miserablism helped".[57]

Appearances in other media

In 2009, "Only Happy When it Rains" was featured as a playable song in the videogame Guitar Hero 5. By playing the song in "Career Mode", a virtual avatar of Shirley Manson could be unlocked for use elsewhere within the game.[58]

Cover versions

As one of Garbage's signature songs, "Only Happy When it Rains" has been covered by a number of artists over the years. In 2000, comedic musician Richard Cheese performed a lounge arrangement of the song on his album Lounge Against the Machine. Actress Katerina Graham recorded a pop rock cover for use in The Vampire Diaries' second season episode "The Sacrifice". In 2007, Metallica covered the song during an acoustic performance at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit show.

Release history

Release Date Territory Record Label Format(s)
Sept 18, 1995 United Kingdom Mushroom Records UK 7" single, CD single, cassette single
Jan 20, 1996 United States Almo Sounds Airplay: Modern Rock
Feb 20, 1996 CD single, cassette single
Mar 26, 1996 Airplay: CHR/Top 40
May 28, 1996 Australia White Records CD single, cassette single
Europe BMG CD maxi, CD single

Comprehensive charts

Chart (1995) Peak
UK Singles (CIN)[12] 29
Chart (1996) Peak
Australia Singles (ARIA)[38] 80
Canada Top 100 Singles (RPM)[59] 79
Canada Alternative 30 (RPM)[59] 11
Netherlands Single Top 100 (GfK)[42] 36
New Zealand Singles (RIANZ)[39] 41
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[27] 55
U.S. Hot Modern Rock Tracks (Billboard)[23] 16

Credits and Personnel


Additional musicians



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  25. ^ Hot 100 Singles Sales. Billboard. 1996-04-13. pp. 98. 
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  28. ^ Hot 100 Singles Sales. Billboard. 1996-05-04. pp. 91. 
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  39. ^ a b "Garbage - Only Happy When It rains". Charts.Org.Nz. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
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  44. ^ Behind The Music (in English). MTV Networks. VH1. 1996.
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  58. ^ "Guitar Hero 5 Xbox 360 Behind the Scenes – Shirley Manson". IGN. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  59. ^ a b "RPM 100 Hit Tracks". RPM 63 (12). 6 May 1996. Retrieved 5 July 2008. 

External links

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