Over the past 30 years, the combination of CD reissue campaigns and streaming services has meant that virtually any album or song that anyone could want to hear is just a couple of mouse clicks away.
Yet one rare exception has been the two albums by the influential 1980s psychedelic band Opal, which was formed by Rain Parade cofounder David Roback — who passed away yesterday at the age of 61 — and former Dream Syndicate bassist/vocalist Kendra Smith (both pictured above). The albums have been out of print since the early 1990s — and never available on streaming services — but according to Smith’s manager Pat Thomas, they will be available “imminently.”
At the time of his passing, Roback was working with Smith on finalizing the re-release of the albums, which will be available digitally and physically via Ingrooves Music Group, Thomas tells Variety. The group’s 1987 opus, “Happy Nightmare Baby,” will not include any bonus tracks, but a 1989 compilation of earlier material called, naturally enough, “Early Recordings,” will include five extra songs: “Hear the Wind Blow,” “I Called Erin,” “Don’t Stop the Train,” “Sailing Boats” and an alternate version of “Empty Bottles.” (Some of these songs appeared on a bootleg compilation called “Early Recordings Volume 2.”) Thomas did not give a more specific release date than “imminent.”
Opal was together for just three years, releasing a pair of psych-folk-leaning EPs (later collected on “Early Recordings”) and the full-on psych-rock “Happy Nightmare Baby” before Smith left and was replaced by singer Hope Sandoval. After one tour as Opal, the new lineup was renamed Mazzy Star.
Yet both albums fell out of print within a couple of years of their release and have been largely unavailable on CD and completely unavailable on streaming services. “Happy Nightmare Baby” originally was released on SST, the legendary Los Angeles label founded by the members of Black Flag, which fell into a legal morass toward the end of the ‘80s from which many of its artists still have not dug out; “Early Recordings” was released on the U.S. incarnation of Britain’s Rough Trade label, which went under in 1990.
The albums’ scarcity, combined with Roback and Smith’s relatively reclusive natures, has meant that Opal’s music has been far under the radar for many years. But the unexpected emergence last year of wobbly video footage from a 1987 concert met with a surprisingly fevered reaction, and in the hours and days after Roback’s death, an impressive number of fans have asked why the group’s albums have been unavailable for so long. More than 30 years later, Opal will finally get its day in the sun.