(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)
On one or some enchanted day(s) or evening(s) in 1984, a ragtag group of Paisley Underground pals came together at the Radio Tokyo recording studio in Venice, Ca., for an endeavor said to have been dreamt up by David Roback, co-founder of Rain Parade. The idea: pay homage to those artists and songs that had inspired him and his compatriots.
I should mention that “pals” and “compatriots,” in this context, translates into members of Rain Parade, the Bangles, Three O’Clock and Dream Syndicate.
The Magnet article “One Nation Underground: The Story of the Paisley Underground” delves into the weeds of the scene, Rainy Day and Danny & Dusty’s equally cool and essential Lost Weekend (which, unlike Rainy Day, is available on Apple Music and Spotify). Two quotes stand out. The first is from the Three O’Clock’s Michael Quercio, who explains himself and his friends: “We were all record collectors who played music. The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was certainly a big deal to us.”
The second quote is from one of those friends, the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn: “We were all big music fans and pretty diligent about the things we thought were cool or weren’t cool. We felt more like messengers for music that matters than rock stars.”
That’s evident on the Roback-produced Rainy Day collection, which was stamped onto vinyl in 1984. It curates classic – but, “Sloop John B” aside, not necessarily well-known – tracks from the Beach Boys, Big Star, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan (by way of Nico or Fairport Convention, most likely), Jimi Hendrix, Velvet Underground and the Who.
Here’s Susanna Hoffs fronting “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” for example.
In today’s world, one can learn about most songs in seconds. For instance, the Wikipedia entry explains that Bob Dylan wrote “I’ll Keep It With Mine” in 1964, and never released it until decades later; Judy Collins issued it as a single in ’65; and Nico covered it on her 1967 album Chelsea Girl, followed a few years later by Fairport Convention, who recorded it for their What We Did on Our Holidays LP and also released it as a single.
In the ‘80s? It could take weeks, months and even years to figure out a song’s recorded history, let alone track down and hear the different versions. Nico’s Chelsea Girl was long out of print by then, after all; to acquire a copy meant one had to hope an area used-record store had it in stock.
Back on point: Just like Chelsea Girl, few folks actually bought Rainy Day. It was released by Llama Records in the U.S. and licensed by Rough Trade for the U.K., and though some of us recognized – or would soon recognize – the names of the players, most folks had no clue as to who they or their bands were.
Make no mistake, however: It’s a sheer delight.
Another highlight: Buffalo Springfield’s “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong,” one of two Neil Young-written songs on the collection:
That’s Kendra Smith on lead vocals. At the time, she was in Dream Syndicate with Steve Wynn; she’d soon leave that band and join David Roback in Opal. Speaking of Roback, his rendition of “On the Way Home” (the second Neil-penned tune) is also a marvel:
Another highlight: the cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” the second track with Susanna Hoffs singing lead:
By 1989, when the collection was issued on CD, Susanna Hoffs was likely the best-known entity thanks to the success of the Bangles. But she’s far from the only reason to search for this gem; each of the nine tracks adds something unique to the original.
Here’s the track list:
I’m sure it won’t stick around YouTube forever, as it was uploaded by a user and not the label, but here’s the album in full…enjoy it while you can.