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Paisley Underground

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Title: Paisley Underground  
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Subject: Alternative rock, Neo-psychedelia, Psychedelic music, Rain Parade, The Bangles
Collection: Alternative Rock Genres
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Paisley Underground

Paisley Underground is an early genre of alternative rock, based primarily in Los Angeles, California, which was at its most popular in the mid-1980s. Paisley Underground bands incorporated psychedelia, rich vocal harmonies and guitar interplay in a folk rock style that owed a particular debt to The Byrds, but more generally referenced the whole range of 1960s West Coast pop and garage rock.


  • History 1
    • Origin of the name 1.1
    • Southern California/L.A. scene 1.2
    • Sacramento/Davis scene 1.3
    • Influence 1.4
    • Revival and band reunions (2013–) 1.5
  • Notable bands 2
  • Southern California venues 3
  • Followers 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Origin of the name

The term "Paisley Underground" originated in late 1982, with a comment made by Michael Quercio of the band The Three O'Clock, during an interview with the LA Weekly alternative newspaper.[1] As the event was later reported:

Quercio was close friends with Lina Sedillo who was the bass player with local punk band Peer Group, who had played on the same bill as The Salvation Army on occasion. One evening Sedillo taped Peer Group rehearsing and one of the numbers contained an improvised spoken middle section. Sedillo was wearing a red paisley dress she had bought from a thrift store and his eyes fell on the bass player and out came the line "Words from the paisley underground." Sedillo noticed the phrase while playing the tape back the next day and immediately phoned up Quercio and repeated it to him. They ran a casual 60’s music listening group together and thought it a cool name for them to use. When Quercio a few weeks later spontaneously dropped the phrase into an interview when asked to describe The Bangles, Rain Parade and The Three O'Clock sharing the same bill, the interviewer highlighted it in the article as a handy label for this group of bands. And so Quercio had unwittingly came up with the name of this new movement, the Paisley Underground.[2]

Southern California/L.A. scene

Paisley Underground bands incorporated psychedelia, rich vocal harmonies and guitar interplay in a folk rock style that owed a particular debt to The Byrds, but more generally referenced the whole range of 1960s West Coast pop and garage rock, from The Seeds to The Beach Boys.

The Dream Syndicate channeled Crazy Horse and Creedence Clearwater Revival via The Velvet Underground while The Bangles recalled The Mamas & the Papas, Green on Red came on as a cousin to The Doors, The Long Ryders honored Gram Parsons and Buffalo Springfield, The Three O'Clock owed debt to the Bee Gees and The Monkees, and so on. The 1970s Memphis cult band Big Star, whose "September Gurls" was covered by The Bangles, was also influential, as were Britain's Soft Boys. Although there were accomplished musicians among them, it was also rooted—as was the punk rock that preceded it—in an inspired amateurism.

Paisley Underground bands frequently shared bills, socialized and collaborated. Members of Rain Parade, The Bangles, The Dream Syndicate and The Three O'Clock joined together to form Rainy Day, releasing an eponymous album of cover versions of songs by The Velvet Underground, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Big Star, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. As "Danny and Dusty," Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate and Dan Stuart of Green on Red made the album The Lost Weekend (A&M, 1985) backed by members of each band along with most of The Long Ryders. Clay Allison was an offshoot band composed of David Roback and Will Glenn (Rain Parade), Kendra Smith (The Dream Syndicate), Sylvia Juncosa (Leaving Trains) and Keith Mitchell (Monitor).

By far the most popular band to emerge from the movement was The Bangles, who have had massive mainstream success, although many of the groups released at least one album on a major label. Mazzy Star, another successful band with ties to the genre, evolved from Opal, which in turn evolved from Clay Allison. The Paisley Underground sound had an influence on Prince. Not only did his 1985 album "Around the World in a Day" have a more psychedelic sound than any of his previous or future work, but he also named his record label (Paisley Park Records) after the movement, wrote "Manic Monday" for the Bangles, and signed the Three O'Clock to his label.

Sacramento/Davis scene

In addition to Los Angeles, the Sacramento/Davis area is cited as an early locus of Paisley Underground bands, many of which later moved to Los Angeles.[3][4]

The Suspects were a Davis band circa 1979–81 that was led by two KDVS DJs (guitarist Steve Wynn and bassist Kendra Smith), with Russ Tolman on 2nd guitar and Gavin Blair on drums. Steve and Kendra split for LA and formed Dream Syndicate, a fantastic band that combined the Velvet Underground, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the energy of punk and influenced a bunch of musicians that wanted to move on from pro forma p‑rock but keep the intensity. The other two guys, Gavin and Russ, stayed in town and started up True West.[3]

Davis-based bands Thin White Rope and Game Theory also "fit in well with the other Paisley Underground bands that started up around the same time."[3] For example, The Three O'Clock's Quercio produced Game Theory's 1984 Distortion EP, also contributing backup vocals. Quercio and Game Theory frontman Scott Miller co-wrote Girl With The Guitar, a Paisley song described as timeless and poignant,[5][6] versions of which appeared on The Three O'Clock's Arrive Without Travelling and The Hidden World Revealed, and on Game Theory's 1993 CD reissue of The Big Shot Chronicles.


By the end of the 1980s, the Paisley Underground movement seemed to have largely passed from public consciousness. However, later acts such as the Allah-Las,[1] Mercury Rev, and Grandaddy are acknowledged as influenced by the Paisley Underground. The wider movement of which it is a part is named jangle pop after the ringing, light guitar sounds it often features. It was paralleled in other parts of the world by genres such as New Zealand's Dunedin Sound, whose chief exponents (such as The Chills and Sneaky Feelings) were often cited as directly comparable to Paisley Underground bands.

Revival and band reunions (2013–)

2013 saw a series of reunions among the original Paisley Underground bands. After 25 years of turning down reunion offers, The Three O'Clock reformed after being presented with a chance to play at the 2013 Coachella Festival. Michael Quercio (vocals/bass), Louis Gutierrez (guitars), and Danny Benair (drums) were joined by new recruit Adam Merrin (keyboards). The group played both weekends of Coachella, appeared on the late-night talk show Conan, embarked on a brief concert tour, and released several archival recordings.

In December 2013, four reunited Paisley Underground bands — The Bangles, The Three O'Clock, Dream Syndicate, and Rain Parade — played a concert together at The Fillmore in San Francisco, followed by a benefit concert at The Fonda Theatre the next evening in Los Angeles.[7]

According to Steve Wynn in an April 2014 interview, all four reunited bands remain active, and continue to tour separately.[8]

Notable bands

Southern California venues

  • Anti-Club - East Hollywood
  • Cathay de Grande in Hollywood
  • Radio City in Anaheim
  • Safari Sam's (the original) in Huntington Beach
  • Circle City at the Orange Traffic Circle
  • The Palace in Hollywood
  • The Cuckoo's Nest - Costa Mesa
  • The Lhasa Club - Hollywood /Studio City
  • Madame Wong's West/Chinatown - L.A.
  • Club Lingerie - Hollywood
  • Music Machine - West L.A.
  • Al's Bar - Downtown L.A.
  • The Palomino - North Hollywood
  • The O.N. Klub - Silver Lake
  • The Cavern Club - Hollywood
  • FM Station - North Hollywood
  • Raji's - Hollywood
  • Bebop Records & Fine Art - Reseda



  1. ^ a b Hann, Michael (16 May 2013). "The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles's 1980s psychedelic explosion". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ Strange, Jay. "The Story of The Three O'Clock". Art Into Dust. Retrieved 31 Jan 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Judt, Dennis (Oct 2, 2011). "Sacramento Underground Music From A-Z". Midtown Monthly: Sacramento & Beyond. 
  4. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (1996). Kaleidoscope eyes: psychedelic rock from the '60s to the '90s. Citadel Underground Series. Carol Pub. Group. p. 173.  
  5. ^ Marchese, Joe (June 26, 2013). "The Hidden World Revealed"Review: The Three O’Clock, . The Second Disc. 
  6. ^ Brennan, Cait (July 2, 2013). "The Hidden World Revealed"Music Review: The Three O’Clock, . Popshifter. 
  7. ^ Mills, Fred (October 16, 2013). "Reunion Concerts: A Million Paisley Underground Fans Can’t Be Wrong!". Blurt. 
  8. ^ Toland, Michael (April 1, 2014). "Little Victories Along the Way: A Conversation With Steve Wynn". The Big Takeover. Archived from the original on 2014-05-13. 

External links

  • Allmusic entry for Paisley Underground
  • Tell Me When It's Over: The Paisley Underground Reconsidered, by John L. Micek
  • Davis, California early 80s music scene
  • Alan McGee on the Paisley Underground
  • Paisley Underground Primer, by Jim DeRogatis at Sound Opinions
  • The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles's 1980s psychedelic explosion, by Michael Hann in the Guardian.
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