The Dream Syndicate Jam With Members of Led Zep & R.E.M., Remember ‘The Day Before’
During the last weekend in January, Dream Syndicate singer/guitarist Steve Wynn was thrilled to learn that Led Zeppelin bassist/keyboardist John Paul Johns was in the audience to witness the band's set one night at the Todos Santos Music Festival, the annual gathering in the Mexican coastal town, hosted by former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.
"That was enough of a thrill," Wynn says. "John Paul Jones watched me play. I thought, 'I'm done for the weekend.'" But then the following night that thrill turned to elation as Jones — and Buck — joined the Dream Syndicate on their signature jam-tune "John Coltrane Stereo Blues," a song that was first officially issued on the band's 1984 album The Medicine Show.
Jones has a history with Buck, having arranged the strings on R.E.M.'s classic 1992 album Automatic for the People. "Peter mentioned that he [Jones] was hoping to play with someone that night, which was the final night of the festival," Wynn says. "I said, 'That would be us. That would be great!'"
Later Wynn met with Jones and told him about the band's epic jam tune and he was agreeable to join in. Strangely, after Jones's mid-song solo (starting about the seven-minute mark in the video below), the band broke into not a Zeppelin classic, but the Doors' "Break on Through."
The Dream Syndicate's earliest version of "John Coltrane Stereo Blues," then titled "Open Hour," is one of nine tracks on the just-released The Day Before Wine and Roses, a 1982 live radio performance by the band captured just days before they went into the studio to cut their debut album, The Days of Wine and Roses. The Day Before... captures the band's twin-guitar attack, use of feedback, and Wynn's tales of tortured souls that made it the hardest rocking attraction in Los Angeles club's scene's early '80s Paisley Underground movement and earned it critical accolades and comparisons to the Velvet Underground and Television.
That night at the KPFK studios in Studio City, Calif., Buck was the audience to witness the performance, fueled by Mickey's Big Mouth, that began at 2 a.m. It may or may not have been the first time the two met. "He claims we spoke that night," Wynn says. "He has a good memory, so I'll take his word for it, but I didn't know him at that point, but we might have met that night. We have a lot of different stories about how we first met. There's about four different versions." The two later toured together when the Dream Syndicate opened for R.E.M. and are now bandmates in the Baseball Project.