I hadn’t listened to this in a year or two, but it really hit the spot the other night, so I think it’s time to write about an old favorite.The Dream Syndicate The Day Before Wine and Roses: Live at KPFK, September 5, 1982
I’ve never been to L.A., I have never seen a Dream Syndicate show, and actually my first experience with the band was buying their Ghost Stories
album on a whim. I know, I know, you probably think that their debut The Days of Wine and Roses
is their best album, and you have a point, since it captures the band at their most distinct, before they started down the road of bar-band booze rock (which they were actually pretty good at, just check out the fairly recently expanded Live at Raji’s
, or their Weathered and Torn
DVD for some persuasion). Rhino
finally reissued an expanded version of The Days of Wine and Roses
back in 2000, and I finally got to hear what all of the fuss was about, but to be honest, I think that the band’s power has dulled a bit over the years, because when I was expecting Velvets
, I just heard slow and dated chocka-chocka College guitar rock. I was kind of pissed. But of course, the more that I read about the band, and the more I listened to it, the more life seemed to go back into the album. It wasn’t until I heard The Day Before Wine and Roses
that I really got a feel for The Dream Syndicate.
Recorded during a late-night radio broadcast about a week before the group went into the studio to start recording their debut, it captures a station packed with the rowdy scene that brought us the crash and burn greatness of early 1980’s So.Cal-punk. The Dream Syndicate’s own Lou Reed
, Steve Wynn
, dishes back at the audience’s agitated state, with wit and sarcasm in between their especially punishing set. I can’t imagine how great this must’ve sounded on-air, but you can’t help but to think hat when Wynn says that they have yet to find a label to put out their soon-to-be-recorded debut, the lines were ringing off the hook. There’s a lot of speak about the lead guitarist, Karl Precoda
, who reportedly was such a monster at the guitar that he left a pile of busted hollow-body thrift-store Kay
’s in the dust, but on The Days of Wine and Roses
he seemed a little tamer than the legend. Here, you can actually hear and feel the legend at his peak, especially on the fucking insane version of Bob Dylan
’s “Outlaw Blues,” and on “Sure Thing,” which was from their excellent self-titled EP (included on Rhino’s The Days of Wine and Roses
reissue), which had just been released. Although there is a definite fire in the air, there’s also a late-night drinking blues vibe going on as well, which seems fitting considering that it was recorded at 2:00 am. This contrast between a rowdy and excited crowd and a trio of long drawn out, but tight as tight jams, creates an array of unpredictable and powerful moments escaping from a band that is just playing with their audience of friends and drunkard, with a restrained and cocky composure. It’s no wonder that the legend about them that just grew (somewhat) out of control.
You might say that this isn’t their definitive document, but I beg to differ, this is The Dream Syndicate before people put ideas into their heads, and producers tried to turn the scene’s most accessible-sounding punk band into something that more closely sounded like their heroes and influences. Just try to give the horrible Out of the Gray
a listen and I think that you’ll get my point. The Day Before Wine and Roses
is heavy on The Velvet Underground of course (they can’t hide that one much), but you do finally get a sense of all of those obscure forces at work, that pushed the record obsessive Wynn out of the crowd and onto the stage in the first place.