Tonight at the Fillmore, four bands representing a corner of early 1980s California power-pop known as the Paisley Underground will ply their wares for a willing audience. Among them are the Bangles, the Paisley Underground's most famous alumni, who allegedly made such an impression on Prince that he allegedly named Paisley Park Studios (after the song "Paisley Park) for their sonic clique, and wrote "Manic Monday" for the band. In addition to the Bangles, tonight's Fillmore billing includes fellow friends the Three O'Clock, the Dream Syndicate, and the Rain Parade. Though the Paisley Underground had outposts in Sacramento and Davis, these bands all came out of 1980s L.A., from what might be one of the first periods of musical nostalgia for the '60s: Their sound is bright and jangly, but with undertones of punk, treading a similar line between folk and pop-rock as the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and a great deal of West Coast rock from the decade.
Here's a quick primer on the Paisley Underground, chosen mostly from bands who are playing the Fillmore tonight -- what we'll right now call the five best Paisley Underground songs, though you should feel free to argue with us in the comments.
5. The Rain Parade -- "What's She Done to Your Mind"
There are two recorded versions of this song, but we like this one -- the slower, more Byrdsy, original version from the band's very first single -- much better. It just lingers on those Rickenbacker guitars forever. And the slower pace makes the vocal harmonies on the pre-chorus sound like raindrops gliding down a window.
4. The Dream Syndicate -- "Then She Remembers"
Quick: what '60s New York band does this remind you of? The Velvet Underground influence may be obvious, but this is still a wonderfully hyperactive rock tune and a gritty tale of urban life. Lots of the Paisley Underground favored slower tempos and gorgeous harmonies (see above and below), but it wasn't all about being pretty.
3. The Three O'Clock -- "Fall to the Ground"
A minor-key piano melody with sensitive boy-whining and a general sense of paralyzing melancholy? Play this three times and you'll love it forever. Guaranteed.
2. Danny & Dusty -- "Baby, We All Gotta Go Down"
We just came across this song researching this piece, but damn, is it good. Danny and Dusty was a Paisley Underground supergroup of sorts, with members of Green on Red and the Dream Syndicate. This song is all rootsy barroom singalong. Hoist your beer, shout it out, and hope the bands play this one tonight -- maybe for an encore?
Bangles -- "The Real World"
The first song on the Bangles' very first EP, "The Real World" has a propulsion and edge that the band's later songs didn't. The gloriously unproduced sound even gives more than a whiff of punk. Pretty far from where the Bangles ended up, sonically, but that's not a bad thing.
Thanks to ASD writer Cody Nabours (@longtimejerk) for helping with research on this post.