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POP BEAT

Psychic Rain Message Gets to a Friend

May 19, 1997|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Recent reports of Psychic Rain's imminent demise were not exaggerated but have been contradicted by subsequent developments.

In March, singer-songwriter Greg Stoddard said that if a last-chance record deal with a start-up label out of Nashville didn't come through, he was going to break up the long-struggling pop-rock band from Orange County and would try a new musical tack. But opportunity knocked unexpectedly, from closer to home.

John Shanahan, the Newport Beach businessman who created the "Hooked on Phonics" learn-to-read system, read that Psychic Rain was on the endangered rockers list and had his interest sparked.

Psychic Rain is about to record an album for Worldstar Records, a new label headed by Shanahan and friend Arnie Wohl, a music promoter based in Studio City. Ron Nevison--who has produced albums for Heart, Bad Company, Starship, Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne, among others--will record the band in June sessions.

Wohl said last week that he and Shanahan had been "joking around" for a long time about starting a record company. They contacted Stoddard after reading about Psychic Rain's plight and asked him to send the band's self-financed tapes and CDs.

The music "got us thinking of doing something seriously," Wohl said. "I've seen so many bands come and go, and very few catch my attention." He said he has played Psychic Rain's songs for "various people in the music business," and they "have really liked this band."

Worldstar, to be headquartered in Orange along with Shanahan's other businesses, will try to forge an alliance with a major label once it has a finished Psychic Rain album to offer as a carrot. Wohl thinks the band's expertly played, highly emotional melodic-rock can reach the same large audience that follows the likes of R.E.M. and the Wallflowers.

Stoddard, meanwhile, says "everything's looking good. I had been really frustrated with everything, and now we have this company that totally believes in us, and they're putting their money where their mouth is. We have an album of new songs, and we're ready to go."

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The next song by Missiles of October will be called "The U-Turn in the U.K." and, to the band's chagrin, it's based on a true story.

The Missiles flew to London a week ago to play a series of shows in Britain and Ireland, booked by an English friend. British immigration authorities had other ideas, and the Missiles never made it past Heathrow Airport.

Singer Poul Finn Pedersen said the four band members arrived without work permits but figured that wouldn't be a problem since their gigs would be strictly promotional and not for pay. Instead, Pedersen said, authorities temporarily confiscated the Missiles' instruments and personal effects, put them through interrogations and shot them back to the U.S. without having played a note.

"We spent 22 hours on a plane, eight to 10 hours being shuffled around an airport, and the rest of the time we were drinking in a hotel room or trying to sleep," Pedersen said of the band's 48-hour international fiasco.

Back in the friendly environs of Laguna Beach, he said he feels bad because local Missiles fans anted up $3,400 at a benefit show to help fund the trip, and because the hard-working band has no gigs lined up until June 15--a particularly dismaying situation given that the Missiles are eager to start promoting their just-released debut album, "Tropic of Soulfolk." Pedersen said the Missiles are scrambling to fill their blank schedule; meanwhile, he's working on "The U-Turn in the U.K."

"It's going to have a lot of frustration in it and maybe some humor. [The aborted trip was] quite a nightmare, a mixture of frustration, embarrassment and disappointment. But everybody was able to laugh about it. I think that's a good sign."

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This year's AIDS Walk Orange County fund-raiser, June 1 at UC Irvine, will include a free music festival. Bands will play from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the Mesa soccer field at University and Campus drives, with the Blasters headlining at 2:50. The others in order of appearance: Yayo Jones, Jimmy Camp, Black Moon, Lee Rocker, the Ziggens, Exit and Russell Scott.

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