"But I'll still sing you love songs Written in the letters of your name"

The Annotated "Looks Like Rain"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Research Associate, Music Dept., University of California, Santa Cruz
Copyright notice
"Looks Like Rain"
Words by John Perry Barlow
Barlow has posted his lyrics
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

I woke today...
And felt your side of bed
The covers were still warm where you'd been layin'.
You were gone...
My heart was filled with dread.
You might not be sleepin' here again

It's alright, 'cause I love you.
And that's not gonna change.
Run me round, make me hurt again and again.
But I'll still sing you love songs
Written in the letters of your name.
And brave the storm to come,
For it surely looks like rain.

Did you ever waken to the sound
Of street cats makin' love
And guess from their cries
You were listenin' to a fight?
Well, you know...
Hate's just the last thing they're thinkin' of.
They're only trying to make it through the night.


I only want to hold you.
I don't want to tie you down.
Or fence you in the lines
I might have drawn.
It's just that I've gotten used to
Havin' you around.
My landscape would be empty
If you were gone.

[Rain, rain, go away...]

"Looks Like Rain"

Written in Cora, Wyoming, January, 1972.

Recorded on

First performance: Probably March 21, 1972 at the Academy of Music, in New York City, followin "Mr. Charlie" and preceding "Chinatown Shuffle." It remained in the repertoire from then on.

written in the letters of your name

I used to try to figure out what names might be spelled using only letters corresponding to notes in the musical scale, but I gave up. The available letters are A through G, or through H, if you use the German convention for naming B natural. And the Germans also use the letter "S" for E-flat. Or maybe this isn't what Barlow means at all!

A couple of readers have written in to suggest that LLR may be the letters Barlow meant, as they are the initials of the song itself. Perhaps Mr. Barlow will respond someday, but I'd almost rather not know!

And this note from a reader:

Date: Thu, 07 Dec 1995 11:50:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: David Leach

I really enjoy your annotated lyrics sit on the web. It really is a treat for someone who has followed the Dead since 1974 to hear what other people think about the band and their songs.

I did have a thought regarding Barlow's Looks Like Rain lyrics "written in the letters of your name". Maybe he is referring to simple love songs that take a name and than create a phrase for each letter of the name. For example, the name Trish could be done the following:

"T" is for the tenderness of your soul, "R" is for the reflective way you look at me, "I" is for your insightful thoughts in troubled times;

and so on until the full name is spelled out with a corresponding line.

Thanks, David. It reminds me of the old song, "Mother." I'll have to dig it up and post it here as an example.

And another note from a reader:

Subject: "Looks Like Rain"
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 1996 17:32:56
From: lt101@gnn.com

Dear David:

Regarding "LLR" and the line "Written in the letters of your name."- During the 1980 simulcast of the Halloween show at Radio City, Al Franken and Tom Davis engaged various members in some very funny skits. Garcia, for instance, gave away his "finger, cut off as a small child" to the person who raised the most money for "Jerry's Kids." Phil did a travelouge of NYC and told the world that,while Jerry was known as Captain Trips in the '60s, he (Phil) was known as Col. Cunnilingus (a name he reported that Jackie O gave him)!

Weir was asked about songwriting and he proceeded to demonstrate that he merely took events from his life and set them to music (Franken rolls out a chalk board and gives Weir the chalk). "For instance, the song LLR has a line about 'written in the letters of your name.' That song starts in the key of G, goes to A, then goes to D, then goes to E, and ends on a C-minor. GADEC Minor was the name of this beautiful girl I knew in Prage - the Soviet tanks roled in in '68 and I had to leave town in a hurry." Franken, amazed, says "So the song LLR is actually about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia? Amazing." Of course, Weir delivered this whole spiel with an absolute straight face. I had an audio tape of the video soundtrack but have misplaced it.

Lee Tyson

Thanks, Lee!

Yet another note on this topic:

Subject: Annotated GD Lyrics - Looks like rain
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 17:16:10 +0200
From: "Claude Kuhnen"

David -

you must be getting 800 mails a day, so I don't want to tell the zillion of reasons why I visit your website on a - at least - weekly basis and how much I appreciate as a resource in everyday deadhed life.

Anyway, I recently discovered the true greatness of Looks Like Rain and while singing along to the "letters of your name" part while driving through the Black Forest I remembered two poems by Edgar Allan Poe, the first one called "An Enigma":

An Enigma
"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet--
Trash of all trash?--how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff--
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper while you con it."
And, veritable, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles--ephemeral and so transparent--
But this is, now,--you may depend on it--
Stable, opaque, immortal--all by dint
Of the dear names that lie concealed within't.

Take the first letter of the first line (S), the 2nd of the 2nd (a) and so on and you get the name Sarah Anna Lewis, a writer Poe was in contact with (He send her the poem asking her to solve the riddle). The second poem is much more famous. It's called "A Valentine":

A Valentine
For her these lines are penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Loeda,
Shall find her own sweet name that, nestling, lies
Upon this page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly this rhyme, which holds a treasure
Divine -- a talisman -- an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure;
The words -- the letters themselves. Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor.
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely understand the plot.
Enwritten upon this page whereon are peering
Such eager eyes, there lies, I say, perdu,
A well-known name, oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets; as the name is a poet's, too.
Its letters, although naturally lying --
Like the knight Pinto (Mendez Ferdinando) --
Still form a synonym for truth. Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle though you do the best you can do.

Poe used the same method here, the name is "Frances Sargent Osgood", I don't know who she was, but obviously she was his valentine in 1843. (I have german translations of both poems where the translators somehow managed to keep that effect)

Assuming that John Perry Barlow did the same, I get the name of (this is exciting, I'm finding out as I type this, who was JP Barlows valentine in 72?) INE WAGISN LHS... Well, forget about this but I find the Poe connection really interesting.

gotta go, there's streetcats making love,


Wonderful, Claude!

Rain, rain go away

While not included in Barlow's version of the lyrics, Weir always sang these lines as a rave-up at the tail end of the song. They're a good example of the use of nursery rhymes in Grateful Dead lyrics. The "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day" rhyme was first recorded by John Aubrey in 1687.
First posted: September 8, 1995
Last revised: September 15, 2001