The key to The Days of Wine and Roses — and why I loved it so much — was scratched right there on the run-out groove of the album: “PRE MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT.”
In other words, The Days of Wine and Roses was basically the album made by the bastard children of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. This, of course, was made explicit by the title track, which lifted heavily from “Tombstone Blues” but used that lifting as a starting point, not an end point.
With Dennis Duck’s two-step and Kendra Smith’s bass setting the pace underneath Steve Wynn’s scraped rhythm guitar while Karl Precoda channeling ancient volcanoes, Wynn begins:
The word from outside is she’s on the ledge again
Drawing a crowd and threatening everything
I’m here wondering just where I fit in
I should point out here that Dennis Duck’s drumroll at the end of each first is short, simple and like an electric shock, jolting us into the chorus:
Everybody says I don’t care, no I don’t care
Everybody says I don’t care, no I don’t care
I’m just trying to remember
The days of wine and roses
After the second and third choruses, Precoda plays the chorus again as an instrumental, just so Wynn can conclude it by joyfully screaming “The days of wine and roses!!”.
This would all be wonderful even if there wasn’t three-and-a-half minute guitar duel between Wynn and Precoda in the middle of the song. While Precoda spends most of it just hurtling waves of Ostrich guitar at Wynn, Wynn counters by turning into Pete Townshend, turning into John Fogerty, turning into Johnny Ramone getting ever more frantic as Precoda gets ever more minimal.
At the end, Precoda is just sustaining a single ringing note — drawing a perfect line through the center of the earth — measure after measure, to the point where you could almost think your record got stuck or you had some kind of feedback problem with your speakers.
But you know that he’s just giving Steve Wynn a Jeff Beck death stare, daring him to start singing again, which eventually he does, sneaking back into the first verse again, almost hoping that the rest of the band doesn’t catch him.
But of course they do, and they all hurtle towards the motorcycle crash of the ending.
“The Days of Wine and Roses” performed line in Spain, 1984
“Tell Me When It’s Over” was the single. “Halloween” was the one that everybody covered. The title track was the one that shamelessly stole from “Tombstone Blues,” but my favorite song from The Days of Wine and Roses is “Then She Remembers”.
Hell, it’s practically my favorite song of the 1980s, if not ever.
Not for the words, which I’ve never actually known outside of the chorus — Steve Wynn screams them in such a way that I had no idea they were about an abuse survivor until I looked the lyrics up on the internet for this post — but for the ungodly exquisite noise The Dream Syndicate makes throughout.
Listen to Steve Wynn’s rhythm guitar. It’s the last thing you notice on this song. You’re listening to Karl Precoda’s endlessly corkscrewing lead, or you’re listening to Dennis Duck’s stop-time on the chorus, or you’re listening to Wynn coming on like the bastard son Uncle Lou had with Sister Ray.
But the key to “Tell Me When It’s Over” — the kick-off track to an album that I love beyond all measure — is one of the great rhythm guitar parts in history. With every scrape of his fingers against the strings, it’s like he’s peeling another layer from his very soul and holding it aloft for the world to see.
Every band dies. Every band is gonna die. For Dramarama, that death a year came after their best album, Hi-Fi Sci-Fi. Of course, life went on: Chris Carter started hosting Breakfast With The Beatles, John Easdale dropped a solo album, and they continued to play together informally.
I didn’t see it, but apparently back in 2003 they were on an episode of VH1’s Bands Reunited reality show, which lead to their resurrection album, 2005’s Everybody Dies.
When I was a kid, my parents got me a book called The Good Drug and The Bad Drug, which, if I remember correctly, described the effects of a whole bunch of drugs, and probably had some kind of lecture as to why I shouldn’t use any of the “bad” drugs.
Instead, I used it as a guide as to which drugs I was interested in trying when I got older (alcohol, marijuana), which ones I’d never try (tobacco, heroin) and which ones seemed scary but kinda cool (cocaine, LSD). Which, I’m guessing, probably wasn’t the point.