Of the bands who emerged from the West Coast Paisley Underground scene of the '80s, the Rain Parade were the group that paid most explicit homage to psychedelic music of the '60s at its most unfashionable; as punk and new wave gave way to what became alternative music, the Rain Parade were the first band to declare, at least musically, that the hippies may have been right about something after all, as their languid tempos, streamlined melodies, modal counterpoints, and impressionistic lyrics evoked a cool, graceful approximation of psychedelia.
The Rain Parade was formed by guitarists David Roback and Matt Piucci, who met when they were roommates at a small college in Minnesota. Both had a keen interest in music, and while their heads had been turned by the explosion of punk rock, both were fascinated by bands like Love and the Byrds, and as Roback told a reporter, "the Rain Parade was very much a recasting of our punk interests in more musical terms, inspired by our fascination with music history." Piucci decided to leave school in April 1981 in order to move to California and make music, and Roback followed suit. They formed a band called the Sidewalks to perform '60s-style garage rock, but soon they started exploring the more refined branches of psychedelic rock, and they evolved into the Rain Parade, with Piucci and Roback joined by David's brother Steven Roback on bass, Will Glenn on keyboards, and Eddie Kalwa on drums. When the Rain Parade began playing out in the spring of 1982, they discovered they weren't the only band in town that had embraced sounds of the '60s, and along with the Dream Syndicate, the Long Ryders, Green on Red, True West, the Three O'Clock, and the Bangles, they became part of a scene that was dubbed "the Paisley Underground," though each band clearly had their own sound and influences. In mid-1982, the Rain Parade recorded and self-released their first single, "Look What She's Done to Your Mind" b/w "Kaleidoscope," and as their local following grew, the following year they struck a deal with ambitious independent label Enigma Records, and released their debut album, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. Zippo Records, distributed by the well-connected indie label Demon Records, issued the album in the U.K., and soon the Rain Parade were becoming a critical favorite with a growing fan following on both sides of the Atlantic. David Roback, however, quit the group before they could begin work on their next recording, and he soon re-emerged with the band Clay Allison, which gave way to Opal, featuring former Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith. As a quartet, the Rain Parade recorded an EP, Explosions in the Glass Palace, that was issued in 1984, and the group became a five-piece again with the addition of guitarist John Thoman, who came aboard in time for a tour of Japan that produced the live album Beyond the Sunset, released in 1985. The Rain Parade signed a major-label deal with Island Records, and the band recorded their second full-length studio effort for the label, 1986's Crashing Dream, which featured new drummer Mark Marcum. However, the album's very '80s production, full of synthesizers and gated drums, put off their core fans without attracting many new ones, and before the year was out, the Rain Parade had called it a day.
Roback would later find mainstream success with the group Mazzy Star, while Steven Roback formed Viva Saturn and Matt Piucci cut a memorable album with Tim Lee of the Windbreakers, Can't Get Lost When You're Goin' Nowhere, under the group name Gone Fishin. Piucci also sat in with Crazy Horse for the sessions that produced the 1989 album Left for Dead. In the fall of 2012, Matt Piucci, Steven Roback, and John Thoman assembled a new edition of the Rain Parade to play a benefit after Windbreakers guitarist Bobby Sutliff was seriously injured in an auto accident. For the benefit, Piucci, Roback, and Thoman were joined by guitarist Mark Hanley, bassist Alec Palao, and drummer Gil Ray. Following the Sutliff benefit, the new edition of the Rain Parade headed out on a brief tour, and in late 2013, they were part of a pair of shows (in Los Angeles and San Francisco) in which they shared the stage with three other iconic Paisley Underground bands, the Bangles, the Three O'Clock, and the Dream Syndicate. ~ Mark Deming