I'm going to try to add the kind of information here at the site that used to be on album jackets when they were larger. Cds and downloads don't have room for the kind of minute facts that used to be commonplace.
This record should be mandatory for any surfers of this website, it's silly to talk about music without listening to it. Since the band is now restricting more and more what music I can post; it gets harder to understand the story we are trying to tell.
This is from Richard's solo project, before the Pets were an actual band. It was recorded at Blue Rock Studios off Canal Street in N.Y.C. It was produced by the woman who later gained some notice as Madonna's first manager/producer. It is a Gelbstein composition' music and lyric. These sessions took place in the summer 1978.
All For You
This was from the "Why Did You Leave Me?" sessions that Jack Cortes set up in Ct. in the early fall of '78. It's one of the first three or four songs written by Gelbstein/Applegate as a team. There are some great stories about that session. I'll tell you one. The band had never been "touring" they were a Jersey Shore band. So when Jack set this gig up, it was a new thing for them, travelling to play music I mean. Now Jack, Dave, Al, and Gary had been desperate hitch-hikers, with tens of thousands of miles on their boots. They were used to sleeping in the bushes on the side of the road. So Jack getting a motel to stay at was like paradise. Gelb came from a more civilized background and he was a little put off by the quality of his quarters. When he visited Gary in his room and realized that there was no shower-head; that the water was coming out of a broken pipe inside a hole in the wall, he split for the local Holiday Inn. But Gary thought it was cool, like some kind of fountain.
The first Applegate/Anderson song recorded by the Pets, (at the same session). Dave used his monstrous Ibanez doubleneck 12 on this one. It has a very good bridge, one that can almost stand alone as it's own song. Dave had turned Gary on to the British (sex pistols) Punk Revolution the previous spring. But while this song has a "Punk" chord structure; he chose to use the softer 12 as his instrument. Compare it to his arrangement of "Cambodians" in '79. That's one of Dave's strengths as a musician; just when you think you can guess what he's going to do, he reaches for a different guitar.
Shortly after the Ct. sessions, Jack had the band audition at CBGB. When they'd finished their set, Hilly asked if they wanted to be on a record. He quickly took over the manager/producer role from the Blue Rock team (with a little negotiation, they kept a piece of the songs Richie had recorded with them.) The record Hilly was talking about was "Live at CBGB Vol.II". He wanted a live version of "Why Did You Leave Me?" and this song for the project. When the album was delayed; he eventually released this through Handshake as a Long-playing single and also as the flip side of "Don't Get So Upset." An interesting side-bar... this song always started with an introduction by Richie on the piano. He would talk/sing "I was riding in my car... and everything was alright." Hilly cut that intro from the record. It later became "Riding In My Car." This was recorded probably early 1979, although there were several live versions of the song. Notice the mention of Stiv Bator's "Dead Boys", Hilly had been their manager until right around when this was recorded.
Things Keep On Changing
This is from the October 1980 sessions for the Handshake album done at Kingdom Sound. That record should be available any day, but this is the original version, The band re-did the song for the new record. Since that recording is coming out Gary chose to only put two songs from it on this compilation. But there are some great stories from that project as well. Richie Blackmore's Rainbow was recording at Kingdom at the same time; and the two bands were often hanging out as the sessions changed. Gary noticed that all the "Rainbows" were driving Porches. Now, he knew they weren't selling any great number of records or headlining anything heavy. How come he was driving a beat up Toyota pick-up? This later turned into "Waiting For Nothing" on the "10 Song Tape" when he asks an imagined Ron Alexenberg "If you can't make a living in the pop music business; then how come all those junkies drive German cars?" Gary found a legal pad from the Rainbow session with some hand-written lyrics that were just awful; all moon and june, and love and above, and even like glory and story. He corrected the syntax and added a few clever phrases and left it where they could find it with some of his comments. I don't believe they ever acknowledged his hard work.
Something Happened Late Last Night
This one was written by all three Clam songwriters working together in the same place at the same time. Very few Clam songs are written this way
We Were Wrong
Between October 1980 and March 1981 when "The Pet Clams" was released, the band wrote another albums' worth of music and showed no signs of slowing down. They had been rehearsing at a little four track studio at Monmouth Airport, and one night they just turned on the tape and layed down the new songs live. This one has one of Gary's best lyrics and a searing guitar from Dave. This would be the last session that Dave played on for almost a decade. Gelb is on organ and vocal. This is what they sounded like live at their very best in the first incarnation of the Clams. You can hear Al drop his drum sticks at the end of the song. After the session, in the middle of the night and quite drunk; Al went running over the hangar roof. Well there was an office of the Asbury Park Press in the building for some reason, and these old grizzled reporters came running out yelling "WHAT'S GOING ON!" Without any hesitation Al said "I thought I saw a cat running up here, I thought he might get stuck." Strangely that made sense to the reporters (if not to his bandmates) and they went back inside saying something like "Well... be careful".
Looking For A Look
John Fernandes had replaced Dave by this session (summer of 81?); and Jimmy Beringer had been brought in to play keyboard. This left Gelb in the role of vocalist only. The band was playing (more gigs and more money). They had songs on the radio, but they were in a kind of limbo. Handshake was running cold on them, and Gelb had been discouraged by Dave's departure (as had Al and Gary, but to a lesser extent). With Hilly's encouragement, they began recording demos for the follow-up record, but at a state of the art 16 track studio; with the goal of producing product good enough to release. Sort of handing Handshake a finished record and saying "It's already done, do you want it?" If they didn't, somebody certainly should. This song features Don Vandenburg on Sax. Don was the Horn player for the Allright Brothers. A few days after he joined that band; Eddie Manion showed up back in town looking for a gig. Dave told him that they'd just hired Don but that Southside Johnny was looking for players. Eddie went and checked it out and became the Kingfish.This leads into an interesting story I've heard... which may be urban myth, but I've heard it from both Jack Cortes and Billy McCarthy who both claim to have been there. They say that Dave knew about Johnny Lyon's auditions because Bruce Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt had cornered him one night at the Stone Pony and had pressured him to replace Steve in the Jukes (Van Zandt was joining the E Street Band.) Dave had refused because he didn't want to play with Johnny Lyons. Again this may be just an Asbury legend.
When Hilly brought this song to Handshake, Ron supposedly said "it's a good song, but it's not a hit single." Really? Really Ron, what tipped you off? The five minute length? The lack of drums? The political subject matter? How about if you released it in the U.K. in 1981? Think maybe it would have gotten some airplay?
You Oughta Be In Pictures
Some of John Fernandes' best guitar work. One of Applegates' better sarcastic lyrics. When Handshake folded this was one of the songs that almost made the A&M deal happen.
The Easy Part
Recorded in the same little 4 track studio that "The Ten Song Tape" had been done in; this was John's last session with the band, he sensed his time with the Clams was ending, and left on good terms, This was also Al's last session as a Clam (until recently). He decided to have it out with Hilly and Richie over money and the bands' direction (two seperate fights). He'd had always been an amazing drummer when it counted; (listen to the forth-coming "The Pet Clams" to see what I mean), but he was falling into a creative depression, which made it difficult to work with him. Gary tells a story about sitting in Hernando Cortwright's office at A&M, and listening to "Pictures" through the A&R boy wonder's stereo (which cut out all the frequencies but the bass drum and vocal; i.e. what he wanted to hear). Als bass drum was all over the place, no repeating patterns. To this day he believes that that more than anything else; ruined the deal. And the funny thing was Al had already been replaced. So in Gary's mind at least, Al had gotten even.
Student Of Love
A new band; Gary on guitar, Mike Graf on bass, Jimmy still on keys, and Phil Attardo on drums. Phil had been Ken Widis' drummer on some tracks that Gary had produced for Ken. It wasn't long before Kenny was in the band on second guitar and vocals, (really primarily as a back-up vocalist as far as recording went.) This song was the one that caught Bob Ezrin's ear, and started the A&M deal in motion. Ezrin thought this song should have been a hit single, maybe the one Ron Alexenberg was searching for. This is probably spring of '82?
Buddy Holly's Revenge
A near masterwork whose flaws are in conception and not in execution. Widis and Gelbstein in the bridges singing together is a revelation. Applegate has always said that the basic idea of the song wasn't as good as it seemed to be; but it was always so much fun to play.
Time of Troubles
Larry Mandel replaced Jimmy on keys. Jimmy had done a couple of years and had actually lived through the freefall that the Clams professional career had absorbed. He'd joined the band when it was on the radio and making some money and by the time he left they were playing auditions again. Larry was a High School friend of Gary's and he is showcased on this track. Because this was recorded at Tower (the little 4-track) Mike plays the harmony guitar with Gary on the solo (to save tracks). The sax was played by an unknown session man the studio owner found. His name has not been remembered. One of Gary's favorite lines... "We make systems to make systems; and in those systems we hide."
On Their Own
Kenny had left to do his own thing. Eddie Manion re-appeared to produce. Gary had a new Rickenbacker 12-string. This is always on the list of Richie and Gary's favorite songs.Solid synth work from Larry. Rich gives a strange vocal performance that becomes oddly compelling (in a detached sort of way). Great Gelbstein bridge too.
How It Will Be
The bands' take on "Not Fade Away". From the same session as "On Their Own", probably 1984?.
At the end of the decade that had begun with with them as "Major Label" recording artists; the Clams found themselves again in the studio. This would be 1989 probably. For four years Richie and Gary had done little, writing a few songs, Richie had played some gigs solo. Then they decided to go into a local 16-track studio and record again. The owner of the studio, Damien Cordisco, became their de-facto drummer,and the three of them began work on "The Story Of My Life" This track showcases one approach they used. Gary and Damien lay down a basic track and then every rock and roll kid in town comes to sing and add something. Actually, the second vocal is Yorke Calabro, and there is a high school coronet player, but almost everything else is Gary. There are a lot of kid vocals on the fade out. I've heard Damien say that there are something like 64 tracks bounced down to the 16 on this cut. That's what they were up to here.
The World Goes Spinning Wildly (into nothingness)
Same sessions... Rich on piano and vocal, Damien on drums, Gary on everything else... except that High School coronet shows up again briefly.
Here's a review of "Wasted" by Chris Stigliano. He has some interesting ideas about the Clams. Chris writes on blog to comm and he has quite a bit to say about this art form.
The Big Fat Pet Clams From Outer Space-A WASTED LIFE PART ONE (1978-1989) CD (available through CD Baby)
I guess that when all is said and done someone's really gonna hafta do the ultimate in-depth history of underground punk concerns in the late-twentieth century, and when they do they're probably gonna denote the end of the seventies p-rock era to (more/less) be not January first of 1980, but perhaps a few more years down the line. I'd ponder that the seventies punk era was truly dead right around the time Max's closed up or when all of those seventies punk groups began breaking up and/or getting boring, and although it wasn't like there was some great defining moment that cut off punk era #4 from #5 or so you could say that the creeping encroachment of not only the hardcore punk movement but the transformation of new wave into gnu wave as Bill Shute put it. Of course we better not forget that the garage band/psychedelic English fop revival also more/less helped kill off the same movement that all three of these genres sprang from. But for a guy like me who in 1982 could easily enough remember 1979 I sure could see the change happening in front of my ears, and although I knew that things hadda change and we are supposed to evolve and move on I sure wish that the seventies sound and style had stuck around a little longer...without pussying out like it did that is!
In many ways the Big Fat Pet Clams From Outer Space seem to typify the kind of groups that were still running off seventies underground gas fumes who were proliferating the underground clubs of the early/mid-eighties. Y'know, those bands that were still around playing in a seventies mindset in an eighties world and getting wooshed over by the press and fans for their troubles. There were a number of bands like them around most not making any relative sort of splash, though thanks to the kindness of CBGB owner Hilly Kristal the Clams were getting a load of gigs at his dive and he even went as far as to produce some tracks of theirs that appear on this retro collection of long-forgotten Big Fat Clams material! It's a platter that's not only for the merely curious but even the downright rabid aficionados would probably want to give at least a cursory listen to it because A WASTED LIFE's sure better than the bar band rep this group had tagged on 'em by some downright "effete" rockcrits and what do they know about rock as a low-fidelity dunce thud form of expression anyway?
Yeah, I remember a few people out there putting the Clams down in print and when I tuned in to see 'em perform during the closing festivities at CBGB they didn't exactly light my buttocks, but rock crit Rick Johnson of CREEM fame (OK, not exactly my favorite of the batch probably made worse by the way that mag tried to make him their replacement Lester Bangs) actually had a nice thing to say about 'em, I believe in the course of a Flesheaters review so perhaps there was some redeeming value to whatever brand of rock & roll they were slapping up! And although these guys will never win over the serious upper-crustier-than-thou crowd I like 'em the same way I like the groups on those various CBGB live compilations that seemed like instant douse to all the crits but kinda down-home and basic enough for me and my naturally simpler tastes!
Hailing from Asbury Park NJ, I guess that you could draw comparisons between the Pet Clams and both Springsteen and Southside Johnny, but only if those two acts were as true to their supposed sixties roots as they would want you to believe and didn't use 'em as a springboard for their various blue collar tough guy poses. Def. smart refs. re. "Harlem Nocturne" and the Young Rascals/Long Island sound with a few 1980 underground hard-pop moves not uncommon to the terrain tossed in, and its all sung by a vocalist who might have the working class tough guy feeling a la Springsteen down but does it in a way that you know he's gotta get up five tomorrow morning to go to work! No cocaine and champagne for these New Joisey toughs nohow!
OK, so it might be nothing special to you but I find that these Clams from Outer Space sure belie their gimmicky name and drummed up some sounds that, while not part of any early-eighties vanguard in rock & roll, are way more interesting, more engaged than what that same vanguard eventually devolved into. The Clams far surpass whatever reputation that's preceded them, and they might just be good enough a reason for me to give their other wares (also available via CD Baby) a try, though for some reason I doubt I'll be able to...there's a recession going on y'know!***