This project is now nearing "completion". I place that in quotes because I've found that this website has allowed the band to rewrite history in places and even edit music in some instances. So there may never be a "complete" version of OLPB. I have already heard several versions of many of the songs, some with very different arrangements. With modern technology, it's very easy for each of the clams to make and showcase their own "definitive" OLPB.
More than any petclam project, (with the possible exception of "The Story Of My Life") this music has been driven by one band member. In many ways it has turned into a sort of "basement tape" version of "Story". Like that recording, Gary has been the main force behind the music. And like that project, it has been Gelbstein who has been his primary partner in crime.
It did not start out that way. In fact, the first completed OLPB song is a Dave Anderson composition. While preparing to record "My True Story" in 1994, the band ran into an old problem. They were continuing to write songs, songs that were not on the plan for the project. Some,"way down upon the mekong delta" and "spinning"(see unreleased classics) were finished in time, but did not seem to fit the overall feel of "My True Story". Others, Dave's "the scene of the crime" and "slowly, left to right" were still unfinished. Even in the studio, as the band worked feverishly on MTS, Gary continued to write lyrics. One "Carol Small" was a simple conversational reminiscence of an old Lakewood friend and the Magpie days. Dave put it to music and Gary did a demo, but there was no consensus to add it to MTS, it seemed too personal a memory. MTS was a big project, everybody contributing, lots of overdubs, it was very much Dave's return to the clams and it bears his confident signature. But "Carol Small" had a strange effect on Gary. He heard a lost lyrical voice, one he hadn't used in a long time. He quickly wrote a half dozen or so short pieces using that voice, on various subjects. Often they were just goofy dreams or memories. When he showed them to the band, they were casually dismissed as funny but insignifigant. In the band's defence, they were in the middle of a big project, members were leaving, serious songs were being shaped, and Gary walks in with his little red notebook of goofy poems.
So Gary wrote a couple himself.
Trying to match his demo of "Carol Small", he stumbled through two Ramones' style romps, "Stiv Bators" and "guys from north jersey". When he played them for Richie and Dave, he got basically the same response he had to his little red notebook. The band was focused on another project. And that's where it ended...
I cover the slow enfeebling of the clams on other pages. How they played out less and less, how Richie drifted into broadway based projects and led Dave and Gary to try to re-invent rock-a-billy music. Richie was writing with F.Paul Wilson during this period, Dave had written a few songs with Richie's wife Evelyn, and Gary was playing bass for Dave and not writing much at all. Even when pushed by Dave for the rock-a-billy project, he could only come up with a title or two, never a finished lyric. He kept thinking back to his little red notebook and the unfinished business of what he had began calling "Oldest Living Punk Band" (from a line in "Stiv Bators"). That was about the state of the aging band when I approached them about this website.
The work of collecting and codifing their work and story reenergized the band to some extent, for which I take full credit. But from the beginning, Gary saw in the website a medium for finishing what he viewed as the last project of the big fat pet clams from outer space, OLPB. In the first year or so of the site, he was as involved as Richie and Cindy Anderson in finding songs and artwork for me, but after the basic structure of the site was finished, (particularly after the new version of the supposedly lost " meanwhile back on highway 61" was recorded and posted here) Gary began plotting to do something with OLPB.
After getting verbal commitments from Rich, Dave, Mario, and Brian, Gary emailed out the lyrics from the red notebook to Dave and Richie. Richie responded with three songs, Dave with none. Dave did come over to Gary's studio and add his guitar to "Carol Small", "Stiv Bators", "I used to listen to the radio", and "guys from north jersey". Richie replaced Gary's vocals on those demos and began actually helping Gary plan the project. The improvements in technology in the intervening eight years now allowed Gary to email songs to Mario for addition production. Needing more songs, Richie and Gary reached back to some unrecorded songs from their past works and even to unfinished lyrics Gary had laying around. They needed more material because the six or so original OLPB lyrics averaged about a minute and a half a song.
There are about a dozen songs now in various stages of completion. If Gary remains true to his intentions, there should be at least five more.
"I used to listen to the radio" (Applegate,Gelbstein)
A brief history of the rise and fall of the clams, a red notebook lyric.
"Carol Small" (Applegate,Anderson)
The original OLPB song, the addition of Dave's powerful guitar to the old demo created the signature sound for this project.
"Steven's room" (Applegate,Gelbstein)
Gelb's insisted that Gary do a folkrock arrangement of this song. The result is a powerful, emotional, byrd's like masterpiece. This was a lyric Gary had for over a decade (just a few lines really) that he could not finish until recently when he got jazzed by this project.
"Queen Latifah" (Applegate,Gelbstein)
You have to hear it to understand, a red notebook lyric.
"Stiv Bators" (Applegate)
Stiv was the lead singer for the dead boys and the lords of the new church. He was managed by Hilly in the dead boys. He was killed in Paris. This description is longer than the song. Dave plays the atomspheric whammy lead, the rest is Gary.
"guys from North Jersey" (Applegate)
As close to a real punk song as anything here, a red notebook lyric.
"the kids don't care" (Applegate,Gelbstein)
Originally from the home studio demos for "the story of my life", a strangely modern fifteen year old song. Rerecorded for OLPB.
Gary reaches way back to his folksinging roots to deal with his personal impressions of 9/11. Not an easy song to understand, and very different from the rest of OLPB.
"let's go get some beer" (Applegate,Gelbstein)
This lyric from the red notebook may be the reason the rest of the guys thought this whole idea was stupid. A very dumb song. However, if Budwiser or Coors uses it a commercial and Gelb and Gary finally make some money from their life's work, who'd be stupid then?
"life has no meaning" (Applegate,Gelbstein)
Written last summer, a grimly comic take on the threesome of Anderson, Applegate, and Gelbstein. The lyric even manages to refer to Yeats' epitaph,"cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by".
No it's not about stationary bikes. It's the old castaway from MTS all tripped out in punk clothing.
That's what is finished in various stages so far. I'll begin posting the songs themselves as Gary and Mario put on the finishing touches. Over the next couple of weeks they should start popping up. Dave will be better represented as a songwriter here eventually as both "scene of the crime"(a haunting Anderson melody) and "Slowly, left to right" are scheduled to be added. Several songs are finished except for Dave's guitar and they may be posted here prior to his actually playing on them. There are at least three more songs on Gelbstein's piano, "on my blindness", "the voices in my head", and " family album". That would add up to seventeen songs, the number Gary had in mind when he planned on "a few less than twenty".
But as I said a few paragraphs ago, this project may end up as a sort of Roshamon, different things to different people. That may be what the clams have in mind now that three and sometimes four of them are actually working on OLPB. Gary and Mario have certainly embraced the age of digital recording, and this kind of design your own internet cd might be a fitting epitaph to a band that began in the 1960s, and whose first recordings were four track tape. I, for my part, promise to reshape this page as OLPB takes it's form, (or forms) whatever it (or they) may be.
Oldest living punk band, shortened to O.L.P.B. is in a final mixdown. It does appear it will be finished, and released. All five of the remaining Clams appear in some form; but most of the work is Applegate, Gelbstein, and Cicerello. It should be avaiable in late spring 2008.
If you read the updates, you know there is news on this project. Here are some pictures from the session:
the lengendary Damian Cordisco
the elusive Mr.Anderson
on the bass
at the keys
Here's what I wrote for CDbaby about this piece...
O.L.P.B. is short for “oldest living punk band.” This is a sort of inside joke among some members of the band. It’s from a line in “Stiv Bators.”
This project was begun concurrently with the more polished “My True Story.” It has been stated that it was comprised of outtakes and songs considered not good enough for that piece; but this is not really true. “My True Story” was recorded at an outside studio, in the classic way a recording was done then. None of “O.L.P.B.” was recorded that way. It was almost all done in Gary Applegate’s and Mario Cicerello’s studios. None of the songs were ever considered “MTS” material. They were done alongside the demos for “MTS”, and that may explain some of the confusion about this.
The Clams were still a working, functional band at that time; and it was fairly easy for them to record their parts at leisure. As they gigged less and saw each other less, that became more difficult. The result was that while “MTS” was a finished piece, “O.L.P.B.” was no more than a half dozen very short songs. It sat on the shelf as an unfinished joke for several years until some of the Clams began looking around for something to do.
The Band attempted to finish it as a “real” project; enlisting Damien Cordisco and moving it to his studio. But there was no consensus as to how to actually finish the project, or if it was really necessary to do so, and the Clams drifted apart once again. Eventually Gary and Richard Gelbstein finally added a few new songs and a few older unrecorded songs and called it finished.
There are some very interesting things here and some other things as well. “Steven’s Room”, “On My Blindness”, and “Jericho” are songs that could have been on “MTS”. “The Kids Don’t Care” is a very accessible rocker. Of the original six songs “I Used To Listen To The Radio” was the only one that was ever added to the Clams’ live show. The other five thump away for a minute or so and then end abruptly. They run the gamut from a reminiscence of an old childhood friend, to a tribute to a fallen punk rocker, to a rant about a rap singer turned actress, to a rave-up about tourists at the Jersey Shore.
There are several different versions of many of these songs on the web, as the different band members added and subtracted parts at will until Gary and Richie finalized the collection. Before you decide that this is some kind of disjointed mess, listen to “Let’s Go Get Some Beer.” See if it doesn’t make you laugh. Especially if you’re expecting to hear something along the lines of “My True Story”; this record will surprise you with its schizophrenia. Its lack of direction and coherence is part of its charm. It creates a cartoon world where John Milton and Stiv Bators cross against the traffic lights in Hell to find Elvis dieing at the feet of Cindy Crawford. And most of these little dramas last only a minute or so.