Highway Hi-Fi Podcast

The Paisley Underground might be the first mix-tape scene. Not really a genre at all, but a collective of people who had similar interests and influences who all happened to be in bands. The music was defined more by what it wasn’t...not punk, not singer-songwriter, not hard rock, not New Romantic. It was entirely synthesized by openly combining parts of beloved sounds of the past into a fresh and forward-thinking way. The bands were composed of musicians who wore their hearts on their technicolor dreamcoat sleeves with regards to their love and devotion of 60s music. However, the sounds of the individual bands varied greatly, so it makes little sense to call it a true genre. More a scene that captured shared ideals and fashion sense. As Dream Syndicate main man Steve Wynn aptly put it: “We had enough in common with each other and almost nothing in common with anybody else.”

It involved a wave of kids who became tired of the punk scene which had become what it initially railed against: stagnant music that was too concerned with maintaining status quo uniformity as the kids were getting too violent. Scores of kids who had initially fallen in love with the thrill and DIY mindset of punk, who'd grown bored and felt disenfranchised and left behind. Many of the Paisley Undergroundlings described themselves as bad punks, making music just for the sake of belonging rather than for the sake of the songs. It was the spirit of punk but with a more expansive sound. They started looking inward and backward to the more gentle and pretty sounds of the 1960s. But this wasn’t a neo-hippy movement with romanticized political ideals and stereotypical retro wear. In fact, all the bands gleaned what they liked most about the 60s without any concern for being true to their heroes or dedicated to the sound and fashion. 

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