Before they turned MTV darlings within the mid-’80s, The Bangles performed Beatlesque power-pop with sufficient punky vitality to land them on payments with Black Flag and Circle Jerks. As if that wasn’t cool sufficient, they initially known as themselves The Bangs and wore go-go boots and miniskirts straight out of 1966.
They weren’t the one L.A. rockers kicking it ‘60s fashion circa 1982. Together with The Dream Syndicate, The Rain Parade, and the Salvation Army (later often called The Three O’Clock), The Bangles fashioned The Paisley Underground, a hip native scene with a cool retro aesthetic.
For a few years, earlier than everybody signed report offers and achieved various levels of success, the Paisley gang was fairly tight. They gigged, frolicked, and in some instances lived collectively. There was even an in a single day group boat journey to Catalina Island that concerned plans to sleep on a golf course.
More than 30 years later, the Paisley Underground nonetheless lives and provides. On Record Store Day (Nov. 23), Yep Roc will launch three x four, a terrific new double LP/CD album whereby all 4 bands honor the scene by masking one another’s songs. (A world launch, together with digital, is slated for Jan. 11.) The report has been within the works since a pair of 2013 reunion exhibits introduced the 4 teams and many of the unique musicians collectively on the identical stage for the primary time since 1982.
“It was a lot enjoyable and so fulfilling,” says Bangles guitarist and singer Vicki Peterson. “There was one thing about it that made us really feel like we didn’t need it to fairly be over but.”
There was initially discuss of getting everybody remake ‘60s classics and even collaborate on new materials. Then somebody got here up with the good thought of getting every band decide one music by every of the opposite three and report new variations wherever and nonetheless they wished. Hence the title, three x four.
“There are loads of tribute information,” says Three O’Clock drummer Danny Benair, who bought the thought to Yep Roc and helped pull the entire thing collectively. “But I believed this was a somewhat distinctive strategy. I believe it additionally makes clear to everybody that Paisley Underground just isn’t a sound. It was a scene.”
Benair’s level ought to be apparent to anybody who is aware of this music. The harmony-rich “Taxman”-style rave-ups of the pre-fame Bangles sound nothing like The Dream Syndicate’s scratchy Velvet Underground-inspired noise-pop jams. The Rain Parade, in the meantime, got here with a melancholic Byrds-y chiming that enveloped you want a fog. (Rain Parade co-founder Dave Roback later fashioned Mazzy Star, a band with related hypnotic qualities.)
And then there was The Three O’Clock, psychedelic bubblegum maestros chargeable for the motion’s most vibrant and hooky songs. Frontman and bassist Michael Quercio—the person who coined the time period “Paisley Underground” in an L.A. Weekly interview—sang tunes like “Jet Fighter” and “With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend” with a pleasant fake British accent.
What united the Paisley Underground bands was a shared affection for ‘60s music and tradition that was fully at odds with the remainder of the L.A. rock institution. This was a time when punk was turning into hardcore and mainstream pop was awash with synthesizers. Picking up a jangly outdated Rickenbacker was hardly the apparent transfer.
“Guitars had change into sort of unhip, like folks declare they’re now,” says Steve Wynn, lead singer and guitarist of The Dream Syndicate. “The sorts of music all of us beloved—’60s-influenced psychedelia or garage-rock or no matter you need to name it—was exterior the mainstream and out of doors the underground as effectively. The scene started primarily as a result of all of us someway discovered one another.”
As Peterson places it, the Paisley teams have been “all dancing across the identical maypole.” “The good band can be a band that feels like all 4 of us,” she says. “Because there are such a lot of magical issues that occur in every separate group.”
The everyone-covers-everyone format of three x four showcases each the similarities and variations. Take as an illustration The Three O’Clock’s model of “Tell Me When It’s Over,” off The Dream Syndicate’s vaulted 1982 debut Days of Wine and Roses. The Three O’Clock provides some far-out Middle Eastern percussion that transforms Wynn’s hard-edged college-rock staple into one thing swirly, trippy and completely of their wheelhouse.
“That music was the furthest from who we’re in numerous methods,” says Benair. “It was the one we put probably the most time into. We have bells and peculiar percussion gong on. And Michael out of nowhere was like, ‘I’m going to tip my cap to Steve Wynn by doing the verse vocals low like Steve.’ We didn’t see that coming in any respect. That was actually cool.”
Another spotlight is The Dream Syndicate’s model of The Bangles’ “Hero Takes a Fall,” a breezy kiss-off to an egotistical dude about to get his comeuppance. It was The Bangles’ major-label debut single in 1984, which technically means it got here after the Paisley heyday, however that is the one Wynn needed to decide. After all, The Bangles wrote it about him.
Wynn remembers having “about 5 reactions on the identical time” when he realized about “Hero Takes a Fall” whereas The Dream Syndicate have been touring with R.E.M. in 1984. “I used to be harm, in fact, as a result of they have been my pals,” says Wynn. “The music just isn’t the nicest factor on the earth. The second response was, ‘They bought some extent.’ I used to be slightly bit cocky. Like anyone at that age who will get a lot of success, I had slightly little bit of an perspective.”
“Once I bought previous the slight harm, the slight shock, the slight flattery—’They bothered to jot down a music about me’—I used to be like, ‘Well, it’s a rattling good music,’” Wynn provides.
Peterson, who as soon as lived with Wynn and a bunch of different folks in a “rock ‘n’ roll flophouse” dubbed “the Spock Hotel,” nonetheless remembers writing “Hero Takes a Fall.” She and Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs have been fascinated with “traditional dramatic buildings”—i.e. stuff you’d discover in Shakespeare performs.
“In tragedy, the hero has a flaw and infrequently might be taken down by it,” Peterson says. “A character flaw, a bodily flaw, an Achilles' heel. We have been taking part in round with the thought and got here up with a composite character of some folks we knew. And then the rumors began going that it was about Steve Wynn. Which I by no means actively denied. And I’m nonetheless providing you with a non-denial denial [laughs].”
Whatever beef existed is historic historical past. Wynn and Peterson stay shut pals, and apart from, “Hero Takes a Fall” turned out good for everybody in Paisley Land. The Bangles made a cheekily feminist video for the music that caught the eyes and ears of Prince, who quickly started turning up at their gigs. He subsequently gave them a music known as “Manic Monday,” which turned their first hit on the Streets Talkin Hot 100, reaching No. 2. Prince later signed The Three O’Clock to his label, not coincidentally named Paisley Park.
On three x four, The Bangles present their edgier facet with a killer cowl of The Dream Syndicate’s snarling “That’s What You Always Say.” Peterson, who sings lead on the monitor, was initially fearful about capturing the uncooked energy of Wynn’s unique. “I like that report a lot,” she says. “It was actually enjoyable to only bash via these chords and attempt to discover the spirit of it and determine how one can do it.” Peterson primarily based the “doll from a horror film” la-la-la background vocals on some harmonies she’d heard in a super-rare 15-minute model of the music Wynn recorded previous to forming The Dream Syndicate.
Wynn was impressed with—however not stunned by—the outcomes. “I at all times inform individuals who weren’t round again then that The Bangles have been in all probability probably the most rocking and most assured of all of the bands,” Wynn says. “They had it down.”
Fans who have been round to see The Bangles and remainder of the Paisley crew of their early days included punks, goths, rockabillies, and members of varied different L.A. subcultures. Peterson remembers trying into the group and seeing a lot of ladies rocking ‘60s gear similar to The Bangles. Benair remembers taking part in Orange County golf equipment the place a whole bunch of mod children would pull up on Vespa scooters.
“The fringes and the extra open-minded a part of each motion noticed a part of what we have been doing that made sense to them,” says Wynn. “It was the identical as with bands just like the Velvets or The Modern Lovers or The Stooges or Big Star. Lots of people mentioned, ‘I’ve been ready for this type of music. I simply didn’t know the place to search out it.’ All of our bands appealed to that.”
Peterson admits that nostalgia performed a task—at the least so far as her personal ‘60s infatuation was involved. She’s a agency believer within the “20-year cycle”—a rule that explains why at present’s bands dig ’90s grunge and Bangles followers are at all times telling her how a lot they love the ‘80s.
“You’re 10 years outdated, and also you fall in love together with your first band,” says Peterson. “That is sort of a past love. It’s so highly effective. It adjustments your world. It colours your world. All of a sudden you’re 30, and the music sounds actually totally different, and also you’re nostalgic for that 10-year-old love and the way you felt when that band performed.”
It helped that Peterson’s early favorites—The Beatles, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and so forth.—got here at a pivotal time in standard tradition. “There was a spirit of change and youth and vitality and energy,” says Peterson of the ‘60s. “Almost like if you happen to simply wished laborious sufficient, you would make it occur. I believe I carried that into my younger maturity. It’s in all probability a part of the explanation I had a band. Because it’s probably the most unlikely factor ever to attempt to do. And then to make a hit of it’s fully loopy.”
That vibe Peterson describes would possibly clarify why ‘60s music has defied the 20-year cycle. From the shoegaze of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s to The Flaming Lips to trendy storage revivalists like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall, loads of artists have stored the psychedelic torch burning over the past three a long time. It’s no marvel Paisley Underground albums like The Rain Parade’s Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, The Three O’Clock’s Sixteen Tambourines, and The Dream Syndicate’s Days of Wine and Roses sound much less dated than numerous music made within the early ‘80s.
Benair, Wynn, and Peterson all hope to convey three x four to the stage in 2019. It takes numerous finagling to coordinate the schedules of 20 middle-age musicians with households and different obligations, so it’s unclear how and when this may occur. But no one is able to let the scene die.
“Lots of people say to me, ‘I’m certain you’re uninterested in listening to in regards to the Paisley Underground,’” says Wynn, who’s gone on to have success as a solo artist and with quite a few facet initiatives, together with The Baseball Project with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. “I’m proud to be a part of one thing that was this cool and lasted this lengthy in folks’s consciousness. We have been all lucky we had one another. It gave context to what we have been doing.
“I don’t doubt any of us would have achieved wonderful on our personal,” he says. “But one thing about being collectively made extra folks listen.”