Tag Archives: Paisley Underground

The Rain Parade: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip

Red-and-yellow vinyl reissue of Paisley Underground classic

1982 and 1983 were incredibly fruitful years for the Paisley Underground, seeing the release of the Three O’Clock’s Baroque Hoedown and Sixteen Tambourines, the Dream Syndicate’s EP and Days of Wine and Roses, the Bangles self-titled EP, and Green on Red’s EP and Gravity Talks. Standing tall among these neo-psych icons was the Rain Parade’s first full length, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. The group’s dreamy, somnambulistic psychedelia was foreshadowed by their 1982 single “What She’s Done to Your Mind,” but its impact at album length was something entirely greater, as the group really hit the nerve at the root of the Paisley Underground. The scene rapidly outgrew its foundations as the bands explored individual directions; The Dream Syndicate signed with A&M and recorded a muscular sophomore album that bore little resemblance to their debut, the Bangles signed with Columbia and began the makeover that sanded off the folk roots of their rock, the Three O’Clock signed with IRS and recorded an album in Berlin that was less flower powered, and Green on Red transitioned into Americana. Only the Rain Parade, sans co-founder David Roback, continued to till soil similar to their debut, releasing the EP Explosions in the Glass Palace in 1984. Real Gone’s reissue returns the album to its original vinyl format for the first time in more than thirty years, reproducing the original cover art and U.S. track lineup (omitting the non-U.S. bonus track “Look Both Ways”), and enticing collectors with red-and-yellow starburst vinyl. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses

DreamSyndicate_TheDaysOfWineAndRoses2015 reissue adds previously unreleased vault discoveries

The Dream Syndicate’s full-length debut represents a spectacularly quick climb to prominence. The band’s first EP (on Wynn’s own Down There label) certainly hinted at what was to come (not least of which for its inclusion of early versions of “That’s What You Always Say” and “When You Smile”), but the album, recorded only seven months after the band’s first public show, was something else again. In retrospect, the EP was the warmup, and the album was the full-on performance. When released in the Fall of 1982, the album was part of a banner year for L.A. bands, including discs from the Salvation Army, Three O’Clock, Bangles and Rain Parade. Though lumped together under the Paisley Underground banner, each band drew from overlapping but ultimately unique sets of influences.

Dream Syndicate’s roots in Dylan, the Velvet Underground, Crazy Horse and Television provided the obvious surface, but the band aimed for influence and homage, rather than slavish stylistic nostalgia, and grounded their sound in the new decade. The feedback laden guitar solos of this debut, particularly on the extended length title track, had the confrontational theatricality of punk rock, but the record’s expansiveness didn’t adhere to the two-minute ethos. Comparing the album to the contemporaneous live set The Day Before Wine and Roses, it’s clear that the group’s chemistry was that of a band that played together and fed off one another. Dennis Duck and Kendra Smith locked together as a rhythm section, providing a hypnotic backing for the penetrating, strangulated tone of Karl Precoda’s guitar.

Standing in front, pushed by the rhythm section and speared by the guitar, vocalist Steve Wynn sounded desperately engaged. His monotone was seasoned by the spittle of punk rock, and supplemented by slight, but highly effective melodic diversions that occupy their own seat in the house of Lou Reed. Early ‘80s college radio listeners are apt to remember “Tell Me When It’s Over,” “When You Smile” and “The Days of Wine and Roses,” but the rest of the album connects the dots with music that’s filled with dark, savage energy. “Definitely Clean” and “Then She Remembers” charge from the gate and never relent on their driving tempos, and the title track’s extended instrumental middle adds a harrowing new entry to the pantheon of guitar duets.

Omnivore’s reissue reconfigures Rhino’s 2001 reissue, dropping the pre-LP EP, early rehearsal tracks and a pre-Dream Syndicate single by 10 Seconds, in lieu of newly discovered vault entries. Heard here for the first time are the lengthy instrumental “Outside the Dream Syndicate” and forgotten title “Like Mary” from early 1982, the short jam “Is it Rolling, Bob?” and the complete song “A Reason,” from December 1982, and early rehearsals of Medicine Show’s “Still Holding On to You” and “Armed With an Empty Gun,” with Kendra Smith on bass. The latter two, recorded only a few months after the album, suggest what Medicine Show might have sounded like had the band not spent months recording in San Francisco for a major label with producer Sandy Pearlman.

The newly excavated tracks provide bookends to the album, showing off both the band’s primordial roots and a glimpse at an alternate future they might have lived out. Fans who have collected all of the official releases and reissues will appreciate this newly discovered ground, particularly the Medicine Show titles. As rehearsals, the production quality doesn’t match that of the album, but the unguarded nature of these performances provides a fascinating glimpse into the band’s development. Those new to the Dream Syndicate will also want to also track down a copy of Rhino’s earlier release for the EP and pre-Dream Syndicate tracks. Omnivore’s 80-minute CD is accompanied by a 12-page booklet that includes testimonials from Bucketfull of Brains’ Nigel Cross, the Rain Parade’s Matt Piucci, the Long Ryders’ Tom Stevens, Green on Red’s Dan Stuart, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Rhino Records’ Gary Stewart and several friends of the band. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

The Dream Syndicate: The Day Before Wine and Roses

DreamSyndicate_TheDayBeforeWineAndRosesThe Dream Syndicate live in their early prime

Performed a week before laying down The Days of Wine and Roses, this September 1982 live set provides a career bookend to the Dream Syndicate’s 1989 set Live at Raji’s (and later expanded as The Complete Live at Raji’s). Recorded at Los Angeles radio station KPFK’s Studio Zzzz, the 2am start gave the paisley underground’s leading lights (including Green on Red, the Rain Parade and Bangles) an opportunity to attend, and all were treated to a band whose nine-month public career had quickly brought them to both artistic and critical prominence. The set list included all four titles from their debut EP, the title song of The Days of Wine and Roses, an early sketch of 1984’s “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” (under the title “Open Hour”), and covers of Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan and Donovan.

The band eases into the set with a sedate version of “Some Kinda Itch,” transforming the original’s frenetic energy into a relaxed Doors/Velvets-styled late-night jam. The set adds low-stringed weight with the band’s take on “Mr. Soul,” and really starts to gain momentum with “Sure Thing.” What listeners will quickly realize – and what the in-studio audience must have felt – is that this isn’t a simple recitation of the band’s catalog, but a carefully crafted live set. The playlist builds tension by allowing the tempo, volume and instrumental ferocity to surge and ebb, skillfully winding its way to the climactic debut of “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Throughout the evening (well, morning) Steve Wynn charms the audience with humor and an easy manner that belies his relatively few years in front of audiences.

The band gets stronger as the set progresses, and they rip into Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home-era “Outlaw Blues” with Karl Precoda stressing his guitar in ways the folks at Newport could scarcely have imagined. That turns out to be only a warm-up, as “Open Hour” (in one of its first run-throughs) is stretched into an instrumental jam that showcases Precoda’s feedback-laced guitar work. “When You Smile” turns its melody into an atmospheric howl that underlines the song’s quiet introduction and portends the aural storm on the horizon. The set wraps with a primal eight-minute cover of “Season of the Witch,” and closes at 3am with Precoda’s guitar in full pyrotechnic glory for “The Days of Wine and Roses.”

More than thirty years later, the performances retain their power, and with added distance, the band sounds more apiece with their influences than derivative of them. Three of these tracks (“Some Kinda Itch,” “Sure Thing” and “Mr. Soul”) were previously released in 1983 as the B-side of a Rough Trade 12″, and the full show in 1995. But with both discs out of print, Omnivore’s reissue will be welcomed by long-time fans (including, it turns out, Steven Wynn himself), and a revelation to the uninitiated. Pat Thomas’ liners from the 1995 release are augmented by Steve Wynn’s memories of the songs, performances and people, fleshing out the story of how the Dream Syndicate’s passion was showcased live. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Dream Syndicate’s Home Page

The Three O’Clock: The Hidden World Revealed

ThreeOClock_TheHiddenWorldRevealedRare and previously unissued tracks from the Paisley Underground

The Three O’Clock was a pillar of a rich mid-80s scene (“The Paisley Underground”) that included the Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, Bangs, Green on Red, Long Ryders and others. Having started out as the Salvation Army, the renamed and expanded lineup of the Three O’Clock lowered their punk-rock buzz and heightened their flower-power pop chime for an EP (Baroque Hoedown) and LP (Sixteen Tambourines) produced by Earle Mankey for the Frontier label. Their first LP for I.R.S., Arrive Without Travelling edged away from the more overt psychedlia, and garnered MTV spins with the up-tempo “Her Head’s Revolving.” A second album (Ever After) and one for Prince’s Paisley Park (Vermillion) continued to polish the group’s sound, and, ironically, sound more dated than these more retro early works.

In celebration of the band’s recent reunion (which included shows at Coachella, an appearance on Conan and a short tour), the group’s drummer, Danny Benair, has put together this collection of odds and sods. The track list spans the band’s early years, from their inception as The Salvation Army, through their two albums on Frontier and their first release  for I.R.S. Although there are a few original EP and album sides, the track list focuses mostly on alternate versions, demos, lost session tracks, fan club singles and compilation appearances. Even if you’ve collected the previously released material (including the Radio Tokyo appearance of “All in Good Time,” the fan club original “In Love in Too,” covers of “Lucifer Sam” and “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” and a beautiful Michael Quercio arrangement of the Latin hymn “Regina Cæli”), the alternates give insight as to how material developed into its final form, and the demos and session tracks broaden the picture of the band’s progress.

A prime example of how tracks grew in the studio is an early mix of “When Lightening Starts” that’s still in need of the final version’s horns and higher-energy organ riffs. Similarly, the alternate take of “A Day in Erotica” has a harsher feel, with a harder guitar and without the vocal overlay that softens the song’s mood. In contrast, the raw version of “In My Own Time” sounds tougher without the brass added to the final mix, and stands interestingly on its own. Other changes show the band fixing problems and stretching their imaginations. The original version of “On My Own” features strings that were deemed off-pitch and replaced by keyboards, and a finished alternate take of “I Go Wild” reels in the signature bass line and uses guitar solos in place of keyboards.

Less familiar will be the early “Why Cream Curdles in Orange Tea,” recorded with Ethan James at Radio Tokyo in between the debut EP and subsequent LP. This is an early version of “In Love in Too,” with different lyrics and a Michael Quercio vocal that isn’t yet entirely confident with the melody. Throughout the collection, the choices made for the finished versions feel right, though it’s hard to understand how the superb Sixteen Tambourines-era “Around the World” could have been left in the vault. Perhaps it was just a surplus of riches. The rarities in this set are an unexpected gift to Three O’Clock fans (as is Burger Record’s recently released 1983 live set), and a superb supplement to the standard reissues. Novices should start with Baroque Hoedown and Sixteen Tambourines, and explore backward and forward from there. [©2013 Hyperbolium]