Steve Wynn - vocals, guitar; Kendra Smith - bass; Karl Precoda - guitar; Dennis Duck - drums
By the time they recorded this excellent radio session in 1982, Los Angeles-based "paisley underground" band the Dream Syndicate had released a terrific, four-song self-titled EP, and already had an LP's worth of material ready to record. Led by singer Steve Wynn and named after the legendary La Monte Young avant-garde outfit from the '60s, the band's sound infused the sounds of the Velvet Underground and the Byrds with a punk energy and a finesse for noisily jamming out their songs à la "Sister Ray."
Recorded live at LA station KPFK's Studio Z at 2am in the morning, the set is introduced by DJ and music critic Andrea 'Enthal, and the band (heard here in its original line-up of guitarist/vocalist Wynn, bassist Kendra Smith, guitarist Karl Precoda, and drummer Dennis Duck) tunes up during Wynn's chatty opening remarks, in which he introduces the set as a "fireside chat" for an audience of about 200, making sure to crack that "home taping is ruining the industry."
Their Velvet Underground influence is immediately clear on opener "Some Kinda Itch," with Wynn's affected, Lou Reed-esque warble leading the way through a version of the song considerably looser and slower than its recorded counterpart on their debut EP. For this set, they went on to play all four cuts from this EP, two of which would feature on their eventual LP, "That's What You Always Say" and "When You Smile." They hadn't recorded their full-length album yet, but as Wynn excitedly announces, they already had booked studio time and had chosen a name for the record: The Days of Wine and Roses, which Wynn jokingly claims anyone in the audience can release for the bargain price of five dollars.
Along with a number of their jangly originals, including the hypnotic and fierce "Sure Thing" as well as the freeform rock of "Open Hour" (basically their tune "John Coltrane Stereo Blues" in a much more amorphous, jammed-out form with killer soloing from Precoda), three great covers feature in the set: Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul," a super-maniacal take on Bob Dylan's "Outlaw Blues," and the most freewheeling tune of all in this set, a 10-minute take on Donovan's "Season of the Witch," which, at its crazed peak, gets as fiery as the most intense moments of the Velvets' White Light/White Heat.
They close the set with the title track from the then-forthcoming The Days of Wine and Roses, which, upon release later that year, went on to be very well-received at college radio and among underground rock enthusiasts. The Dream Syndicate's line-up would shift a number of times over the next seven years with Wynn as the only constant member, and the group released a few more studio albums, including 1984's Medicine Show and 1988's Ghost Stories. While none of their later recordings were quite as praised as their debut LP, Wynn and company can be proud to have some truly great songs and recordings, including this terrific radio session, to their name.