Mazzy Star Play “Fade Into You”

Listen to this track by languid Santa Monica lo-fi outfit Mazzy Star. It’s “Fade Into You”, their hit single that features on their 1994 breakthrough album So Tonight That I Might See . This song  remains to be their signature tune, noted for the sleepy, soporific vocal performance by singer Hope Sandoval.

After a decade in the eighties of big glossy production-driven records, a song like this that seems to evoke the spirit of desolate early seventies folk-rock seems like an unlikely formula for success. This approach fit pretty well to the new decade, with a lot of bands then freed up to reference older musical streams after the eighties’ emphasis on hyper-newness and burying the past was over. Even if that’s true, Mazzy Star came by those influences pretty honestly before it was fashionable anyway.

Joining Sandoval in the band was guitarist David Roback, late of Paisley Underground band The Rain Parade and follow-up band Opal, the latter of which Sandoval was also a part. That scene largely ignored (and was ignored by) the mainstream in the eighties, with references to the warm tones of sixties and early seventies psych and folk arenas more so than to the jittery new wave, sparkly dance pop, or bombastic arena rock of the time. So what helped to make this song a sleeper (and sleepy!) hit by the following decade? Just this, I think; everyone loves a mystery.
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The Beta Band Perform ‘Dry the Rain’ from The Three E.P’s

Here’s a clip of Anglo-Scots lo-fi heroes the Beta Band with their mighty track “Dry The Rain”, initially released on an EP, later to be compiled on The Three E.P.’s .  This compilation, and this song too, eventually made their reputation as a band to watch in the late 90s. And quoting the Beta Band as an influence in order to ride their coolness coattails was a popular move around this time for flagging rock stars being interviewed by the rock press.

Three EPs The Beta BandTo be brutally honest, when I first heard the Beta Band in 1999, they drove me up the wall.  I could tell there was massive talent there.  They had a handle on getting into a groove, and with a proficiency for throwing together genres into a homemade stew, not unlike what Beck was doing on his Odelay album.  But, I found them to be unfocused, that there was a great single in there somewhere, if they would only slow down with the sonic experimentation and deliver it already.

Then, I heard ‘Dry the Rain’.

There is of course that now famous scene in High Fidelity, where record shop owner whispers to a friend: “Watch me sell five copies of the Three E.P’s by the Beta Band.”.  He puts on the record just as the band go into the extended groove part of the song (“There’s something inside that you wanna say…”), and the heads of all in the shop begin to bob.

That’s exactly what happened to me when my friends played the song for me.  And it remains to be one of my top 100 juke box favourites, and certainly one of the best things about music in the 90s overall.

The Beta Band never hooked into the mainstream, possibly because they had such high expectations. They proclaimed their official self-titled first album to be ‘shit’.  The second album, the excellent Hot Shots II focused on their talents for texture , atmosphere, and groove.  But, they still couldn’t find worldwide commercial traction.

By the tellingly titled Heroes to Zeros, the band had run its course, at least according to the band members themselves, some of whom went on to form the Aliens, who are currently impressing British audiences as one of the best live bands active today.

For more information, check out the Beta Band on MySpace.

And for touring information and release dates, investigate the official Aliens website too.