The Los Angeles music scene in the early 1980's was a place of diametric opposites in the early 1980's; the punk scene had become a form of conformity with cartoonish thugs churning out loud for the sake of being loud and held tightly to fashion while the last gasp of the bloated, cocaine driven superstar acts were still massive commercially but beginning to suffer a massive comedown culminating in a crash 'n' burn thanks to the visual media of MTV.
The Rain Parade were formed in 1981 by a pair of roomates- one California native (Steven Roback) and a transplant from Minneapolis (Matt Piucci). The pair were devouring music of the '60's, and found their creative calling within the sound of their The Byrds, The Doors and Love; bands that are the spiritual and geographical older brothers of The Rain Parade. The band drew inspiration from those groups and added the lilting drone of The Velvet Underground to the mix and created something that was entirely out of step with the rest of the L.A scene. The band was rounded out by Steven's brother David, Will Glenn, and
Michael Murphy and within their first year together self released the
incredible single you're about to enjoy. In a recent interview with The Austin Chronicle, Matt Piucci said of the times "When we started playing in Los Angeles, if you weren’t sweating like a
pig in a ripped T-shirt and screaming at the top of your lungs, then you
weren’t cool. It wasn’t valid. And we thought that was bullshit. We
thought it was very punk of us to play waltz tempos slowly with acoustic
guitars at punk clubs. We thought that was punk because nobody else was
I had the pleasure of asking Matt the other day if he had any special memories of the record, and he says
"It sure was a trip seeing that thing
spin around for the first time. Recorded 8 track at Radio Tokyo n Venice
with the late Ethan James. It was a tiny house that had been converted. I remember going in thinking I am putting a sitar in this no matter
Weird coincidence, I later learned that right before Ethan got it (the house that the studio was built in), my wife (who I was yet to meet) had lived there. Good karma"
Much has been made of the so-called 'Paisley Underground", and while the other bands associated with that scene drew on some obvious '60's influences, none matched the sheer blissed-out visionary droning brilliance of The Rain Parade. At this time, the only other band that was even performing were the still developing Bangles, who were known earlier as The Colors, then The Bangs, then by their more famous name. Bangles leader Susannah Hoffs was a neighbor of the Robacks and they all attended Pacific Palisades high school.
Matt's sitar is heard in all its glory on the b-side, the lysergic sugar cube bomb that is "Kaleidoscope".
The Rain Parade went on to release a 5 star LP in 1983 (Emergency Third Rail Power Trip), and a 5 star EP in '84 (Explosions In The Glass Palace), as well as a live album and another studio effort. David Roback left the band after Emergency and formed (the also brilliant) groups Clay Allison (which became Opal), and eventually Opal morphed into Mazzy Star. Steven Roback formed Viva Saturn, and Matt Piucci Gone Fishin' and also played in the (Neil Young less) Crazy Horse.
One of the thrills of my life as a musician was sharing the stage (my band played on the same bill) with the recently reformed Rain Parade, last December at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. I stood in awe listening to these magical sounds which I never thought I'd be able to hear live. Several times I had to politely ask people "please talk to me later, as this is a big deal for me to LISTEN to this set!!!" I watched in awe as Matt laid out the same whammy bar moves on the same Gretsch Tennessean as on the videos I've seen of the group back in the early '80's. Check out these two performances of "No Easy Way Down"; the first from 1983, the other 2012. -Derek See
"Here's MC5 filmed live on the campus of Wayne State University in Michigan and aired on hometown TV show "Detroit Tubeworks" in 1970 doing their biggest hit "Kick Out The Jams." We found the master tapes of over 11 hours from this legendary show which had been stored in a basement in Michigan. Other great guests we found on this underground show from 1968-1973 include MC5, Ted Nugent, Phil Ochs, Commander Cody, Captain Beefheart, Earth, Wind & Fire, Humble Pie, Fleetwood Mac featuring Peter Green and Joe Cocker. Also part of this archive is a 45-minute unseen concert of the Rolling Stones filmed at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on their 1969 tour."
Welcome back cats and kitties; this week's post is the first in yet another series- namely, some lesser known garage-y tracks from my 45 stash.
First up we have Jim Valley, known forever as Harpo, as he was named during his tenure as on of Paul Revere's Raiders (thanks to a striking resemblence to Harpo Marx). In late '65, original Raider lead guitarist Drake Levin decided to join the National Guard, as he was up to be drafted into the army. In early '66, The Raiders snatched up Jim Valley from the Portland-based Don & The Goodtimes to fill the vacant slot. Harpo became very popular with the fans, although he left the group in the spring of '67; harpo was expecting some of his own songs to be recorded in the group, and these promises were never fulfilled. This 45 was his first outside of the group, and is a strong guitar driven beat number, co-written by Don Galluci (the Don of Don & The Goodtimes, a former Kingsman, and future producer of The Stooges FUN HOUSE LP). Jim has released several solo records, but has concentrated on the heroic mission of teaching music to children since the early 1980's.
The Fountain of Youth are quite mysterious; apparently from Texas, they ended up on Colgems Records (a division of RCA that was set up specifically for The Monkees). Perhaps there's a connection with Michael Nesmith? I don't know for sure... "Livin' Too Fast" is a great beat number that is too sophisticated to be called 'garage' as it features strings, but its heart definitely has an oil-soaked floor (to my ears)
I'm pretty sure that these December's Children are the same group that released the freakbeat classic 'Backwards And Forwards", but very little is known about THAT group, either. Pretty slick production overall, but that fuzz guitar and non-PC lyrics about a 16 year old girl prove, once again, has its heart right smack in the area where the lawn mower is stored.
The Myddle Class are perhaps best known as being the band that The Velvet Underground opened for at Summit High School in December 1965, causing a real furor for kids and teachers when they launched into "Heroin". The group were from the Passaic Valley of suburban New Jersey and, through the power of their live shows and how they affected his babysitter, caught the ear of influential writer Al Aronowitz. "Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long" was lifted from a traditional spiritual called "Wake Me, Shake Me", and in fact the Myddle Class lifted it from (NYC band) The Blues Project, put THEIR names as the writers, and released it BEFORE The Blues Project. The copy seen here is a reissue that came out a few years later, and credits The Blues project for the arrangement. Ouch! The song was a hit in Albany, NY and San Bernardino, CA in 1966 but failed to break nationally (probably due to the fact that its over 3 minutes long).
The Five Emprees hailed from the southern tip of Michigan, and had a HUGE hit in the Chicago area with "Little Miss Sad", a cover from a VERY obscure single by The Addrisi Brothers (acrobats turned musicians who scored a huge hit when The Association covered their "Never My Love" in 1967). Released in 1965, this record straddles the line between the softer sounds of bands that were swept away by the initial boom of British Beat, and the harder sounds that were just around the corner, thanks to the mass adoption of the fuzz pedal post-"Satisfaction". Even though the harmonies are slick and the song is gentle, the propulsive percussion pushes this record a step ahead of the lighter weight stuff.