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The Rain Parade

+ {Viva Saturn}

Purveyors of the burgeoning “Paisley Underground” scene that blossomed in L.A. from the early 80s onwards; and one that heralded The DREAM SYNDICATE, GREEN ON RED, The LONG RYDERS et al, The RAIN PARADE were a throwback to the psychedelic 60s sounds of PINK FLOYD, KALEIDOSCOPE, and “Eight Miles High”-era BYRDS. A pity then that, as one of the genre’s leading lights, the RP was first to bite the dust, having only dispatched a couple of converse sets.
The RAIN PARADE were formed (out of the Sidewalks) in Los Angeles, California, in 1981, by Carleton College, Minnesota roommates Matt Piucci (vocals/guitar/sitar) and David Roback (guitar/vocals). They soon roped in the latter’s brother Steven Roback (bass/vocals), who’d also been responsible for The Unconscious, a makeshift combo that featured future BANGLES luminary SUSANNA HOFFS. When Will Glenn (keyboards/tambourine) and Michael Murphy (drums) hopped on board, the quintet debuted in 1982 with the rather BYRDS-like 7-inch, `What She’s Done To Your Mind’ (b/w `Kaleidoscope’). In no time at all, Murphy had been pushed aside for the more permanent Eddie Kalwa, whilst David moonlighted with other projects.
As their other Paisley-patterned peers had emerged with their own brand of psych or country, The RAIN PARADE was slow out of the traps in releasing a debut set. Dispatched by the visionary Enigma Records at the tail-end of 1983, jangle-pop giant EMERGENCY THIRD RAIL POWER TRIP {*9} earned some glowing home-soil reviews as it began to garner a foothold in the semi-lucrative UK market, when finally unfettered the following August by Demon Records off-shoot, Zippo. The album was a fantasy-league coalition of the aforesaid PINK FLOYD and The BYRDS, and there was no better example than opening salvos `Talking In My Sleep’, `This Can’t Be Today’ (featuring The DREAM SYNDICATE’s Kendra Smith), `I Look Around’ and `I Hour ½ Ago’. Indeed if SYD BARRETT had pinched The BYRDS as he flocked off to his world of “Madcap Laughs”, then this would be its hypothesis. Clocking in at over 6 minutes, their languid `Look At Merri’ was the polar opposite to the Merseybeat-en invasion of `Look Both Ways’.
The times were certainly a-changin’ in these carefree days of the mini-album/EP. All who’d walked the walk and talked the talk under banner of the pivotal Paisley Underground scene had surfaced with a set of this ilk, so RAIN PARADE were no different a la EXPLOSIONS IN THE GLASS PALACE (1984) {*6}. However, this delightful document had been cut without David, who was hoping to cash-in on the movement with his RAINY DAY moonlight ensemble, by also jumping ship to board OPAL, an outfit – featuring Kendra Smith – that sprang from the ashes of the short-lived Clay Allison, and that later grew into MAZZY STAR. Mind-blowing tracks such as the 7-minute, `No Easy Way Down’ and belated single, `You Are My Friend’, tried their damndest in their way to elope from their ‘Floyd-ian slips, but `Prisoners’ had more or less taken them into an “Umma Gumma” stage.
Further sweeping personnel changes came as John Thoman (guitar/vocals) was added, and Kalwa’s berth was filled by Mark Marcum. Restless Records (Island Records in the UK) gave the group their biggest break so far; though what surely damaged the quintet’s glowing reputation was a rush-released in-concert set, BEYOND THE SUNSET (1985) {*6}, that drew from recordings made in Japan on December 16, 1984. Still, it did receive a placing of No.78 in the British charts, and feature covers of TELEVISION’s `Ain’t That Nothin’’ and GREEN ON RED’s `Cheap Wine’.
If ever there was an album title suitably apt for a band in troubled waters, then CRASHING DREAM (1986) {*5} was RAIN PARADE’s eulogy as they ditched their core elements whilst being ditched by Island. Waves of synth tints and a palette of pop/rock were the order of the day here; `Depending On You’ and `Fertile Crescent’ probably saving the set from further backlash from unforgiving musos.
On the back of a two-year sabbatical that saw the promise of a mooted double album flounder, RAIN PARADE imploded. In the aftermath, Matt formed GONE FISHIN; he later joined CRAZY HORSE, whilst main composer Steven, plus John and Will formed VIVA SATURN. Relocating to San Francisco for an eponymous debut EP in 1989, the trio of Steven, John and Matt duly turned quintet (with bassist Ross Inden and equally brief drummer Carlo Nuccio) to deliver a few worthy neo-psych sets; namely 1992’s SOUNDMIND {*6} and 1995’s first and last for Restless Records, BRIGHTSIDE {*7}. The latter set received rave reviews from fans and journos alike. And this time around BIG STAR, The JESUS & MARY CHAIN and LOU REED became their guiding lights; `Send A Message’, `Here Comes April’ and `Abandoned Car’ were all highlights running up to a sloth-like rendition of a Frank Sinatra cue, `One For My Baby’.
After the “Ships Of Heaven” set didn’t get out of the starting stalls, Steven Roback turned his hand to a solo career; Nuccio teamed up with Continental Drifter.
Inevitably, as sure as eggs is eggs, RAIN PARADE reunited; initially only to tour toward the end of 2012. Steven Roback, Matt Piucci and John Thoman were now joined by Mark Hanley (guitar/keyboards), Alec Palao (bass/keyboards) and Gil Ray (drums), whilst a concert at Club DuNord had a best-of feel for the independently-delivered CD-r, SAN FRANCISCO 2012 {*6}. In November 2018: the sum of their labour, “3×4” – recorded at a benefit gig back in December 2013 with drummer Derek See – transpired as a belatedly-issued set, that saw cuts of `You Are My Friend’, `Talking In My Sleep’ and `What She’s Done To Your Mind’ share billing with The BANGLES, The THREE O’CLOCK and The DREAM SYNDICATE. Sadly, their former GAME THEORY sticksman Gil Ray died in 2017, having been replaced in 2014 when he took ill.
© MC Strong/MCS 1994-2003/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2019

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