One Album Wonders: Opal’s Happy Nightmare Baby

OPAL – HAPPY NIGHTMARE BABY (1987)

Opal - Happy Nightmare Baby

Opal was an American band associated with the Paisley Underground and whose guiding force was David Roback, a guitarist and songwriter from Pacific Palisades. Roback graduated from high school in 1975 and in 1981 formed The Sidewalks who, renamed Rain Parade, were seminal within the Paisley Underground scene.

Opal band photo
Roback quit Rain Parade in 1983 after the release of their debut and formed Clay Allison with Kendra Smith from The Dream Syndicate on bass and Keith Mitchell (drums). As Clay Allison the band released “Fell from the Sun” b/w “All Souls.” After they changed their name to Opal, they released two EPs, Fell from the Sun (1984) and Northern Line (1985), which were later combined and released as Early Recordings. Opal’s sole full-length, the mostly T.Rex-indebted (albeit almost narcoleptically laid back) Happy Nightmare Baby, followed in 1987.

Whilst performing in Hammersmith, Smith abruptly quit the band mid-performance. She was replaced by Hope Sandoval, whose duo Going Home had recorded a still unreleased album produced by Roback the previous year. With Sandoval on lead vocals, Opal began work on a planned follow-up to be titled Ghost Highway but by 1989, the new line-up was reborn as Mazzy Star — which also included Opal performers Suki Ewers and William Cooper.
Opal with Hope Sandoval

Smith formed a new band, The Guild of Temporal Adventurers, with Jonah Corey and A. Philip Uberman, who released an eponymous mini-LP in 1992. In 1995 she released a solo album, Five Ways of Disappearing, on 4AD. In the years since Opal’s dissolution, Roback has mostly worked (albeit with long hiatuses) with Mazzy Star although he wrote and produced songs for Maggie Cheung in the 2004 Olivier Assayas film, Clean.

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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