"An old drummer of mine said, 'If you think about it too much, it's stupid,' " recalled Dan Stuart.
That, in a nutshell, is the governing principle of Danny and Dusty, the spinoff group led by Stuart and Steve Wynn. Since both are key figures on L.A.'s music scene--Stuart as leader of country-garage rock band Green on Red, Wynn as the force behind the mercurial Dream Syndicate--and because it's hard to get the full Danny and Dusty lineup together, tonight's show at the Music Machine has the makings of a special event.
Stuart (Danny) and Wynn (Dusty) met five years ago when their bands were playing at the Cathay De Grande in Hollywood. After talking about it for a long time, they finally sat down last spring and wrote a batch of songs, then spent two days recording them with musicians from their own groups and some of the Long Ryders.
"The Lost Weekend" (released last May by A&M) turned out to be a sleeper: a collection of engaging character sketches and barroom philosophizing marked by a looseness and spontaneity that are hard to come by on record these days.
"We came up with six or seven songs, had one rehearsal on a Monday, taught (the musicians) all the songs in four hours and said, 'OK, come back Friday and we'll make the record,' " recalled Wynn, joining Stuart for a beer at a corner bar in their down-to-earth neighborhood near Melrose and Western Avenues.
"The musicians come down and they have no time to think about it," Wynn continued. "They have no time to say, 'What is the perfect lick for this song?' They just do the first thing they think of and you say, 'That's it, that's how it goes on tape.' "
"Lost Weekend" wasn't a big seller, but it ended up on a lot of year-end Top 10 lists. Wynn wasn't surprised by the record's acceptance.
"It was pretty much a unique record, and it wasn't commercial and it wasn't like a marketplace type thing for the '80s. It would have been my favorite record of the year if I wasn't on it."
Wynn, pointing to the songs' recurring theme of winners and losers, thinks that the record is "kind of a concept album without wanting to be."
"It was about characters, real people," Stuart elaborated. "Not these people that a lot of these singers who live in Malibu sing about."
"Right now," continued Wynn, "with this whole 'pragmatic '80s,' everyone's either a winner or a loser, and if they're a loser, forget 'em, man, too bad. Basically, the losers on Danny and Dusty, they're not bad people, they have hearts of gold, they're not losers. Most of them are happy and they know where they're at. They chose it."
The collaborators agree that the Danny and Dusty project--which they plan to repeat this summer--helped their work with their permanent bands. For Wynn, in fact, it actually contributed to the return of the Dream Syndicate, which he had disbanded a few months before the "Lost Weekend" session. Danny and Dusty, he said, inspired him to revive the group, whose erratic history had been marked by some musical highs and near-fatal turmoil. The reborn band is finishing a new album, and Wynn is looking for a new record deal.
"In your (regular) band," he explained, "where you've had it together four years and you're trying to do something, you're a lot more serious.
"On this thing ('Lost Weekend'), we had nothing to lose. After we did this I went right back and re-formed the Dream Syndicate. I felt real excited about it. Danny and Dusty got a lot off my back. I just said, 'OK, hold on, this isn't so heavy. We're just playing a bunch of guitars and making a bunch of noise, let's go back and do it again. . . . Just calm down, have some fun, remember why you did it in the first place.' "
LIVE ACTION: Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell--billed as "The Golden Boys of Bandstand"--will be at the Universal Amphitheatre April 3. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Tickets will be available Monday for Leon Redbone's March 8 Beverly Theatre date.