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The Story Behind Why Garbage’s Shirley Manson Is “Only Happy When It Rains”

The iconic frontwoman also discusses "The Men Who Rule the World" off No Gods No Masters

garbage only happy when it rains story behind the song
The Story Behind the Song: Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains,” photo by Maria Jose Govea
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    Garbage are an iconic, eclectic band that is anything but what their name implies. With the music scene awash in a sea of grunge at the time, Garbage went a different way — and to great effect. This all-star band — with world class producer Bruce “Butch” Vig (Nirvana) at the production helm — has released hit after dynamic hit with an infectious pop sound that belied frequently dark lyrics. They’ve scored a number of Top 10 hits and were even chosen to record a James Bond theme.

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    Seven studio albums into their journey (with their latest release being 2021’s No Gods No Masters) and the band continues to produce critically acclaimed, sardonic songs that swell even as they rebel.

    Fronting the outfit is the charismatic and irrepressible Shirley Manson from Edinburgh, Scotland. Manson first met up with her three future bandmates in Wisconsin as a result of one of those strange, classic twists of rock and roll fate involving MTV, a phone call, and a disastrous first audition. In then end, Garbage was formed (even if Manson still isn’t such a fan of the name), and with their self-titled debut came the iconic hit “Only Happy When It Rains,” a record that feels as fresh today as it did nearly 30 years ago.

    In fact, as Manson tells it, the misery of that song pours down even more heavily now on audiences as they celebrate and dance to it on the band’s current North American tour with Alanis Morissette. (Get tickets to see for yourself via Ticketmaster.)

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    In the latest episode of The Story Behind the Song, Garbage’s Manson joins host Peter Csathy to share all about the misery behind “Only Happy When It Rains,” including her initial thoughts upon reading the “nursery rhyme” lyrics. Manson also discusses “The Men Who Rule the World,” the lead song on Garbage’s No Gods No Masters, a track that perfectly encapsulates Manson’s current state of mind and features lyrics that rained down on her in a moment of spontaneous inspiration.

    Listen to the full episode above, or check out the complete video interview below. (Editor’s Note: If you have trouble seeing the player below, you can watch it via YouTube.)

    Make sure you like, review, and subscribe to The Story Behind the Song wherever you get your podcasts to catch each episode of the monthly series. Also keep an eye on the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our series, and follow host Peter Csathy on Twitter @pcsathy and at Creative Media.

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