December 3, 2013

Notes from the Paisley Underground: The Salvation Army - Happen Happened (1982/1992)


Michael Quercio was one of the pivotal figures of the paisley underground, not only because he gave the scene its moniker (which most, including himself, eventually came to hate because of its emphasis on image over musical substance), but also as the leader of The Salvation Army, a punky garage-pysch band who would later become the more overtly psychedelic and equally important Three O'Clock. If you're only familiar with the latter, then Happen Happened will come as something of a surprise because The Salvation Army had a much darker, grittier sound than the later, renamed version of the band, and the album itself happens to be one of the most vivid documents of the early days of the paisley scene in L.A., and some, including Rain Parade guitarist Matt Piucci, consider it the finest slice of neo-psych to emanate from the paisley underground. The origin of The Salvation Army begins with Quercio, then using the pseudonym Ricky Start, sending some home demos of his fledgling band in to Rodney Bingenheimer, the legendary Los Angeles-area disc jockey and unofficial curator of the growing alternative music scene that was soon to explode in the U.S. Inspired by Bingenheimer's enthusiasm for the band's sound, Quercio and band-mates Troy Howell and Johnny Blazing recorded a few professional-quality demos at a local studio, which ended up netting them their first big break. Quercio: "Our original 45 was released in the fall of 1981. We were all still in high school or just graduated. It was on the Minutemen’s label which was called New Alliance. There was a place where a lot of bands played called Alpine Village in Torrance that’s kind of like a German biergarten. Anyways, D. Boon from the Minutemen saw us there and after our show he came up and asked if we had anything and we had just made this little demo tape that we made with money we saved up from our parents and stuff. He liked two of the songs and said he wanted to put them out and he put them out on his label as a 45."

Michael Quercio
Soon after the release of The Salvation Army's debut single, Blazing was kicked out of the band (for flubbing up the photo session for the picture sleeve of the 45) and was replaced with Gregg Louis Gutierrez, a guitarist whom Quercio knew from his college days. With the new lineup in place, the band recorded a follow-up EP; however, it never saw the light of day because fate came knocking before it could be officially released. Quercio had sent Rodney Bingenheimer an advanced copy of the EP, which the disc jockey began promoting on KROQ. Lisa Fancher had just started her own record label, the seminal L.A. underground mecca Frontier, when she heard one of Salvation Army's songs on Bingenheimer's show Rodney on the Roq. She signed the band immediately and put them in a studio to work on a full album. It was during these sessions that Danny Benair, former drummer for The Quick and Choir Invisible, would join the band, replacing Troy Howell, whose limitations behind the drum kit were becoming more and more apparent. The compilation Befour Three O'Clock collects the first single, unreleased EP, and the result of the sessions for Frontier, Happen Happened, The Salvation Army's final recording before changing their name to The Three O'Clock. It begins with one of Quercio's earliest recording sessions, which yielded the excellent 1981 "Happen Happens / Mind Gardens" single. This early version of "Mind Gardens" is built around a simple Punk-inspired chord progression and Quercio's snarling vocals, and represents quite a contrast to the album version recorded the following year, which loses much of its directness beneath all the reverb and jangle. Despite this, The Salvation Army's sole original album is full of great Nuggets-inspired tracks such as the blues-psych cover of The Great Society's "Going Home," a song featuring a swaggering guitar-based hook and one of Quercio's better early vocal performances. Happen Happened is one of the most essential releases related to the paisley underground, as it both a great album and a rare snapshot of the scene's early roots in the L.A. hardcore/punk movement.


Befour Three O'Clock Compilation (1982/1992)
 1. Happen Happened (1981 New Alliance Single)
 2. For Hours (Unreleased)
 3. Fight Songs (Unreleased)
 4. Mind Gardens (1981 New Alliance Single)
 5. She Turns to Flowers (Alternate Version- Unreleased) 
 6. Grimly Forming (Unreleased) 
 7. The Seventeen Forever (Unreleased)
 8. Going Home 
 9. Cellophane Nirvana (Unreleased) 

 Happen Happened (1982)
10. She Turns to Flowers
11. Upside Down 
12. The Seventeen Forever 
13. Mind Gardens
14. Grimly Forming
15. While We Were in Your Room Talking to Your Wall
16. Minuet 
17. Happen Happened
18. I Am Your Guru 
19. Going Home


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5 comments:

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  2. Loved the three o' clock like crazy! I saw them a handful of times as a teen back in the day as they would roll through my hometown occasionally and then go home and seethe about the whole paisley underground scene I was missing out on! I am recalling the giant collage of 60's junk on my wall and their place in it......I actually worked with Michael Quercio at a club called Jabberjaw years later and probably only let him know 1/10 of how super crazy I was for his band. Just played it cool out of embarrassment maybe? Anyhoo-they made it back onto the itunes and I still luv 'em.

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  3. pancake bear, I'm loving these comments of yours. Keep them coming :) I saw them a few times too way back when. I miss all the kids on scooters

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  4. Great blog you have here! Thank you for this.

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