November 26, 2013

Unreflected - A Genealogy of Mazzy Star in Five Chapters: Chapter I- Rain Parade

"We thought it was way more punk to play slow, spooky, sometimes gentle, sometimes hard, but always melodic music, because punk was about doing your own thing and fuck everybody else." - Rain Parade guitarist Matt Piucci

The story of Rain Parade, and in many ways, the paisley underground scene itself, begins in a Pacific Palisades neighborhood in West L.A. during the mid-1970s, where a pair of brothers, David and Steven Roback lived on the same block as a friend and schoolmate named John Hoffs, who happened to have a younger sister named Susanna. What would eventually bring David and Susanna Hoffs together was a mutual love of sixties-era music and Roback's alienated intellectual tendencies. David Roback: "I was fairly different from the other kids, I didn't get on with them [....] We didn't have many common interests. My hobbies were psychiatry and history. I'd psychoanalyze my friends." Eventually, David formed a band with Susanna and John Hoffs called The Unconscious, though the it was destined to be short-lived. David Roback: "There's an old film of us playing in that band, it's pretty interesting but we moved on because we were holding each other back. We didn't want to sing together, we didn't like the sound of male and female voice together." Susanna Hoffs has a different recollection: "What happened was my brother was sort of irritated with David and I for becoming a couple. I was his kid sister, and suddenly I’m stealing his best friend away. So then it was just David and I, and we never did get a bass player or a drummer. We never did a show, and all we did was make some living–room tapes.” By the time the summer of 1977 had rolled around, David had already gone off to college in Minnesota where he, quite by chance, met a guitar player named Matt Piucci, whom he eventually shared a dorm room with and formed a short-lived punk band called The Beatnicks. As if beckoned by fate, Piucci would end up following David back to L.A. several years later. Meanwhile, Steven had immersed himself in the burgeoning L.A. punk scene and was listening to New York art-punks like the Talking Heads and Television. However, it was an L.A. band called The Last, whose sound was defined just as much by melodic power-pop as it was punk aggression, that had a lasting influence on him. After David had returned from college, they formed The Sidewalks and began playing obscure L.A. clubs as an electric folk band; however, it would not be until the arrival of David's college buddy Matt Piucci at the dawn of a new decade, the 1980s, that a new direction for their music would come into focus. Matt Piucci: "I finally moved to LA in 1981 and we formed a band. By then the LA punk scene, which was never any good besides X and the Circle Jerks, had become this fascist thing, much like hip hop today where it was the only allowed style of music considered to be cool. Most of these bands could not play worth shit and had no melodies or songs either. We got REALLY into Television and Love, as well as, of course the Byrds and Beach Boys, pretty much anything that began with B."

Along with keyboardist Will Glenn and drummer Eddie Kalwa, the Roback brothers and Piucci formed Rain Parade in 1981. Piucci: "It did seem like we were completely on our own. I moved out in April of 1981 and we didn't play live until May of 1982, by then we had recorded out first single. Meeting Green on Red and the Dream Syndicate was nice in that they appreciated what we were trying to do, although they didn't sound much like us. We already knew the Bangles." The band recorded their first single in early 1982 at Ethan James' Radio Tokyo studio in Venice, and it didn't take long for it to garner immediate attention from indie communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Nigel Cross of the UK indie mag Bucketfull of Brains: "That first 45 on the Llama label 'What's She Done to Your Mind' b/w 'Kaleidoscope' was one of life's epiphanies- not only one of the great 7"-ers of all time but one of the first signs that psychedelic music was about to have its second flowering. Hearing those two songs filled me with a missionary zeal [....] I wanted to tell the stupid world that there was was this absolutely beautiful, mind-altering music being made again on the West Coast- as good as anything that LA had offered up in the mid-60s. The chiming electric 12-string guitars, the delicate acoustic guitar strummings, wispy organ sounds that could carry your heart, mind and body away from a grim Cold War world."  After recording some demos at Lyceum Sound (a makeshift studio created out of a two-car garage and run by The Last), which ultimately came to light on the compilation Warfrat Tales, Rain Parade found themselves at the center of a quickly growing and unusually coherent music scene, which Michael Quercio of The Three O'Clock would soon dub "the paisley underground" in a magazine interview. Guitarist of The Long Ryders Sid Griffin: "For what its worth, the original Paisley Underground was the Dream Syndicate, Three O'Clock, the Rain Parade and Bangs [....] All these bands drank beer together and lent each other amps. If one of my strings popped during a gig, I'd just hand the guitar to Karl Precoda of the Syndicate and he'd fix it. Nobody had roadies, and nobody was trying to do each other down. The whole thrust of the thing was more social than musical. Okay, so all the groups were vaguely sixties-influenced guitar-pop bands who'd moved on from punk, but the main thing about the scene was that everybody hung out. I mean, face it- the Bangs were pretty terrible when they started out."

In March of 1983, the band entered Contour studios in Los Angeles to record their first LP, the esoteric title of which was dreamed up by David Roback: "I was going through a subway in San Francisco and I noticed it was written on a sign. I thought I've got to write this down because I'm so high, I'll forget it. It reads so well, I wrote it down on a matchbox and suggested it to the band and they liked it it a lot." What they ended up recording was one of the few definitive albums of the paisley underground scene. Emergency Third Rail Power Trip is an enduring and unassuming gem of post-sixties (neo) psychedelia. While certainly taking inspiration from purveyors of 1960s jangle-pop such as The Byrds and Love, as well as the darker, more claustrophobic psychedelic textures of bands such as The Doors and early Pink Floyd, Rain Parade's debut LP is much more than simply an homage to their psych-rock forefathers; rather, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip bristles with the desire for re-invention. Led by the fuzz-guitar interplay of David Roback and Matt Piucci and Steven Roback's shamanic basslines, Rain Parade successfully integrate the blissed-out jangle of songs such as their first single, "What's She Done to Your Mind," with the dark, thick haze of songs like "Look at Merri," which sounds like a blueprint for Jason Pierce's neo-psych excursions a decade later as Spacemen 3 and later Spiritualized. Matt Piucci recalling the recording sessions: "We really did our homework. Every sound on there is well thought out and we were pretty rigorous about it. By the time we recorded, most, but not all of the parts had been decided upon." Steven Roback: "The lyrical themes and song content have a sort of punk ethos to them [....] The state of mind we were all in was pretty dark, and it was like personal therapy for everybody in the band. We were all feeling kind of hopeless and helpless about things, and the band was this sort of idealistic attempt to create some space where we could all feel really great."

To whatever extent the band was able attain a sense of "feel[ing] really great" from the recording and release of their first album, it was destined to be all-too-brief, as David Roback would exit the band in early 1984 after touring in support of the album. There are many fragmentary accounts of what actually precipitated his departure from the band he had helped found with his brother and Piucci, but most of the stories suggest he was pushed out. David, never very loquacious even in the best of circumstances, simply called it "a business decision." Steven offers a little more detail: “There were just too many cooks, basically [....] You had three really strong songwriters, and at some point there was just not enough room.” Piucci, who apparently played a major role in David leaving the band, is more candid: "Part of David's whole trip is that he's very calculating and seems to have an inability to be honest about anything [....] He's not the guy I used to know." Despite David's well-documented "control-freak, mad genius" tendencies, there had been a growing musical rift in the band, with Steven and Matt wanting to explore a softer, more minimal though still psych-influenced sound, while David was pushing for the band to go in a more dark, gritty electric direction, a sound he would eventually explore to great effect in Opal. With David out of the picture, Rain Parade regrouped and recorded an EP, Explosions in the Glass Palace, which features a cleaner, more minimal approach, and even verges into power-pop territory on occasion, such as on "Blue," where the ghost of Chris Bell is seemingly conjured for the lead guitar part. Nevertheless, the new line-up manages to come up with one of the band's finest recorded extended psych-jams, "Prisoners," which is a great mash-up of both early and late Pink Floyd. Unfortunately, after being signed by a major (Island) in early 1985, and suffering endless interference and pressure from their label while recording what would become their swan-song, the appropriately-titled Crashing Dream, Rain Parade decided to call it quits. Matt Piucci: "I think that we were a bunch of people who were influenced by the same style that came before, but none of those bands sound anything like Rain Parade, except maybe the Three O'Clock (their first album that was released as the Salvation Army is still my favorite record of that period), and possibly Plasticland, who are from Milwaukee. Brian Eno once said that although the first Velvet Underground album sold only 30,000 copies, everyone who bought one started a band. Certainly Rain Parade is not on any kind of scale like that, but I do take satisfaction in the pleasure this music has brought to other people and that to them, it is like Television is to me."

 Emergency Third Rail Power Trip / Explosions in the Glass Palace (1983-84/1992)
 1. Talking in My Sleep 
 2. This Can't Be Today
 4. 1 HR ½ Ago 
 5. Carolyn's Song
Part of David’s whole trip is that he’s very calculating and seems to have an inability to be honest about anything,” says Piucci. “He’s not the guy I used to know.” - See more at:
Part of David’s whole trip is that he’s very calculating and seems to have an inability to be honest about anything,” says Piucci. “He’s not the guy I used to know.” - See more at:
 8. Saturday's Asylum 
 9. Kaleidoscope 

Explosions in the Glass Palace EP
10. Look Both Ways
11. You Are My Friend 
13. Blue
14. Broken Horse

Links in Comments 

Perfume River: Live, November 14, 1984 (2002)
 1. Kaleidoscope 
 2. This Can't Be Today
 3. Prisoners 
 4. Crashing Dream 
 5. Blue
 6. You Are My Friend
 7. Sad Eyes Kill
 8. No Easy Way Down
 9. Broken Horse
10. Ain't That Nothin' 
11. What's She Done to Your Mind 
12. Saturday's Asylum
13. Like a Hurricane 
14. What Goes On 

Links in Comments


  1. Emergency Third Rail Power Trip





  2. Perfume River





  3. thank you sister, I felt inspired

  4. Great! Thanks! I love RP music and sonorities... Greetings from Italy!