Dave and Gary in their "Deer Hunter" russian roulette outfitsThe next year and a half was intense for the band. They always had a place to show new material, Hilly would book them whenever they had a new song to record or try out on an audience. And, with a market for their material, they began to produce. In a manner of months they had grown from the beatlelish pop of "you ain't seen nothin' Like me", "I'm not a kid no more", and "something happened late last night", to the darkness of "like rain", "I am a young American(cambodians)", and an early masterwork "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams."
One sad side effect of so many songs is that except for two early pop songs "Don't get so upset" and " something happened late last night" none of their other early work was still in their repertoire when they signed with CBS the following year. Their first album was essentially what they were working on at that time, not the very best stuff they had done in the previous two years. In some ways the point is moot. They did seem to be getting better every week, both as songwriters and as performers.
here is a brief list of some notable songs recorded on demo before the Handshake album. I hope to make at least some of these available on the website as we progress.
"I can't help you" "I'm not a kid no more" "sorry for us" "working class love story" "Denise" "Something I Gotta do" "no no it's not you" " the Hard Heart of the summer" " the closer you get to my heart" "baby come home" "ain't seen nothin' like me" "prodigal son" "tonight it's allright" "I don't wanna be alone with you"
as performers, the clams really didn't take the affectations of the punk scene seriously. In the city they tended to bully all the little new-wavers with their red-neck South Jersey sensibilities. But, their insane drunken (not all of it put on) nihlism, combined with Gelb's distinctive voice and the obvious musicianship of the other three, gradually created a live band that was both wild and funny. Dave would dress as a paratrooper, Gary took to wearing red pinstrip pants, a purple madras jacket two sizes too small, and a little scottish golfing cap. Al would often perform in his bathrobe and underwear. Dave quickly became the king of the scene's guitarists, the Clams were amazed that nobody in all of New York seemed to be able to play worth a damn.
This is about where the band was when they got the "English" deal.
Hilly kept the deal pretty close to the vest, but it was very important to the band. They were now known as "the big fat pet clams from outer fuckin' space". A copyright search had discovered another band named "the Pets" so they needed a new name. Gary suggested "Clams from Space". Richie thought that they should keep "pets" in the name... and as the night got longer and they got drunker,...well, they became the band with the very strange name.
The late seventies were horrible for American rock music. All the major recording companies claimed to be losing money. None of them were spending on artist development or even signing many new bands. Radio was filled with artists from the sixties and English bands. English companies were still signing and supporting new artists and sending them here to make money. So it was that Dick and Paul came from London, saw the Clams and said "Let's Make a Deal".
As I've covered on the "updates!" page; I believe this was Dick Leahy and GTO records
During Christmas of 1979 the band was going to go to England and make an album. Barely together a year, having written and recorded maybe fifty demos, and they had a deal. Hilly guided them as they got their passports and figured out how to put things on hold for this adventure. And then Christmas came and they didn't go. The deal was still on but had been delayed. Then Easter came and the boys were less and less the pop band that Dick and Paul had seen in August. But the deal was still on, then Memorial Day...Then one day Handshake records came to see them.