Twenty years is a long time and then when you consider the Danny and Dusty album, The Lost Weekend, was recorded in one marathon 36 hour stretch a score seems even longer. This one off booze fueled document is arguably better than anything Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn ever did with their own bands of the time. A whole generation has grown up since 1985 so I’ll start with a brief summary of the “Paisley Underground” movement.
It was a loosely knit group of bands centered around Los Angeles in the mid-80’s. A short list would include The Bangles, Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, Rain Parade, Game Theory, The Long Ryders, and The Three O’Clock. There was quite a bit of variety: there was the full blown psychedelia of Rain Parade, the jangle pop of The Bangles, the desert rock of Green On Red, the Velvet’s influenced Dream Syndicate, the Americana roots rock of The Long Ryders, and the child like pop psych of Game Theory and The Three O’Clock. The one common thread was how each group harkened back to the old Sixties rock and roll sound, many of the groups using vintage instruments and dressing in Sixties fashions. It was a self conscious act of rebellion against the overbearing modern production techniques that were gaining ever increasing favor in the rock and roll/pop music universe. The Bangles were the only band to hit the mainstream, but the rest are still cult favorites. If you want more info on the “Paisley Underground” check out this excellent post by uao.
Green On Red was the one I liked best. I liked Dan Stuart’s Neil Young like wail and the music that sounded like the Arizona desert where they were from. Gas Food Lodging was always the record I turned to when I got tired of the punk rock usually on my personal play list. I liked the road weary resignation of the record. It fit with my own delusions of becoming the next Jack Kerouac. The Dream Syndicate didn’t do much for me musically, but I did like Wynn’s vocals. When Stuart and Wynn got together with members of their bands and The Long Ryders a classic was born.
The Lost Weekend is sloppy at times, but it is an inspired sloppiness. Wynn and Stuart sing like they are life long pals and the backing players really cook, especially Chris Cacavas on the piano. The songs are populated with drifters, losers, dreamers, gamblers, and drinkers. It’s all done with an aw, shucks boozy feeling which makes you want to head for the nearest dive bar to get drunk on cheap beer. “Song For The Dreamers” is an exuberant ode to anti-heroes, Al Capone and Fidel Castro both makes an appearance, while “Miracle Mile” conveys the sinister depths of a gambler on a losing streak. “Send Me A Postcard” has a sing along chorus, “we’re two brothers home on the range, long on talk, but short on change” that always gets me smiling. There’s good natured camaraderie reminiscent of Waylon and Willie.
It was very appealing to me in 1985 and the appeal has lasted. I didn’t become the next Kerouac and after reading about his last alcoholic years I’m glad. The “Paisley Underground” artists all made some good albums, and even though they didn’t have a huge impact on the mainstream their legacy is secure. It may not be psychedelic and it may have just been done on a lark, but The Lost Weekend is for me the best album to come out of that scene.