Emerging from the early-80s US paisley underground with their meticulously wrought concoction of The Velvet Underground and Television, The Dream Syndicate were The Strokes ten years before The Strokes.
Taking their name from La Monte Young’s early 60s drone project, The Dream Syndicate’s first show was at Hollywood’s Club Lingerie in January 1982. Eight days later they recorded a debut EP in singer Steve Wynn’s basement, releasing it on his own Down There label.
Live gigs were freewheeling adventures in sound, with the band distorting Wynn’s songs into new shapes, and the Syndicate soon became major players in the local psychedelically inclined scene which included Rain Parade, The Three O’clock and The Bangs (later The Bangles).
The group signed to Slash Records, LA’s leading indie imprint at the time, for whom they recorded their exhilarating debut LP in September 1982.
The Dream Syndicate were an immediate critical success and the album was picked up in the UK by Rough Trade, who issued it in 1983, and the band soon found themselves opening shows for REM and U2 in the States.
But after a punishing coast-to-coast tour – and with the major labels circling – Kendra Smith quit the band to form first Rainy Day, then Opal, with the Rain Parade‘s David Roback.
Dave Provost came onboard for Medicine show (1984), recorded for A&M and overseen by Blue Öyster Cult/Clash producer Sandy Pearlman. It was a more psychotic album than the debut, drawing inspiration from Big Star‘s Third/Sister Lovers and Neil Young‘s Tonight’s The Night.
Tension between Wynn and Karl Precoda resulted in Precoda quitting the band by the end of 1984. He became a screenwriter and later formed his own band, Last Days of May.
When Medicine Show flopped, A&M politely asked The Dream Syndicate to leave.
It wasn’t quite the end, though. Wynn and Duck took the severance cash and regrouped with Mark Walton and Paul Cutler for Out Of The Grey (1986) and Ghost Stories (1988), recorded by Neil Young producer Elliot Mazer.
Wynn has since enjoyed a solo career fronting The Miracle 3, as well as collaborations with REM‘s Pete Buck as The Baseball Project.
Steve ‘Dusty’ Wynn