In honor of The Rain Parade appearing in Los Angeles last week, here’s where it all began; 33 years ago at 45 RPM.
In the early 1980’s the Los Angeles music scene was a place of diametric opposites. The punk scene had become its own form of conformity, while the last gasp of the bloated, cocaine-driven superstars (which were still massive commercially) began to suffer a comedown culminating in a crash ‘n’ burn thanks in part to the visual media of MTV.
The Rain Parade were formed in 1981 by a pair of roommates — one California native (Steven Roback) and a transplant from Minneapolis (Matt Piucci). The pair were devouring music of the ’60s, and found their creative calling within the sound of The Byrds, The Doors and Love; bands that are the spiritual and geographical older brothers of The Rain Parade. Drawing inspiration from the aforementioned, adding the lilting drone of The Velvet Underground, the Rain Parade 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, below.
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 doing it.”
I recently asked Matt if he had any special memories of the record: “It was a trip seeing that thing spin around for the first time. Recorded on 8 track at Radio Tokyo in 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 what! 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.”
Matt’s sitar is heard in all its glory on the b-side — the lysergic sugar cube bomb that is “Kaleidoscope”.
The band 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, eventually morphing into Mazzy Star). Steven Roback formed Viva Saturn, and Matt Piucci formed Gone Fishin’, Boatclub and also played in the (Neil Young-less) Crazy Horse.
Much has been made of the Paisley Underground, and while other artists associated with the scene drew on some obvious ’60s influences, none matched the sheer blissed-out visionary droning brilliance of The Rain Parade.
Previously: Wax Wonders – The Archives
(Derek See is a Bay area based musician who plays guitar with The Bang Girl Group Revue, Joel Gion & Primary Colours, and occasionally makes records on his own with The Gentle Cycle.)