The End of the Road
Well, it's finally finished.
This started out with Gary and Rich and Mario, essentially the guys who did most of the work on "Redemption Song", with new Clams Jan Taler and Joe Schulman just recording whatever came to mind. There were three Dylan covers, four old unreleased Clam songs from the '80s, and a Leonard Cohen cover. Then Richie, having to deal with some health issues, basically retired from recording. Gary continued, but both he and Richie were suffering from a severe case of writer's block. Eventually Gary managed to write three or four lyrics and gave them to Gelbstein. After a couple of years he realized that Rich wasn't going to write any music for them so he set about writing it himself. The result was enough material for one more record.
AT EIGHTEENBack in 2006, before the final CBGB gig, Gary had concieved of a plan to do a song BIG! You know, cartoonish like Meatloaf and Jim Steinman. And he thought he had just the song to do it with, his and Dave's "At Eighteen". They'd written it in 1980, and it was one of their favorite songs, but the band was never big enough to play it live and most of their demos back then were basically live. Around seven years ago, He finally set out to do it. This song set the pattern for the first part of the record. Gary and Jan and Joe would record a basic track, Jan and Gary would do their overdubs, Gary would do the vocals or background vocals, and then bring Mario in for his parts. If Richie was going to sing (he refused to sing on some) he came in last. On this one Gary and Jan are on guitars, Gary is on bass and piano (left hand and the piano part in the bridge). Mario plays the Roy Bittanish piano and the organ. Gary does the harmonies and Rich sings lead.
(a short retort)
Applegate had had Jan Taler come up with some very nice harmonies for Gary's 12 string solo on the previous song. He ended up not using them, at least not very loudly. But played by themselves they sort of sounded like the "Thin Man Theme" so Gary put them on their own as a short reprise to "At Eighteen".
Unwalked RoadAfter Gelb abandoned the project, Applegate was tempted to put it out as it was...with four cover songs. That would be very different from other Clam records. He had one last finished track for Gelb to sing, their old song "Take your Time". If Richie had sung that song, well "Famous Last Words" would've been released maybe three years ago. But instead he avoided doing it. Then about two years ago, Gary broke through his writer's block and wrote six songs. This is one of them. They now followed a different protocol in the studio. Gary would record the basic track and vocals and then have Joe and Jan overdub drums and guitar. This was how they were recording as they finished the project. Gary does the vocals, plays the keyboards and bass, and the acoustic guitar. Jan plays the lead and Joe does the drums.
The Jazz Age (gives way to the thirties)What would a Clam album be without a song from the "Ten Song Tape" demo? This is an Anderson/Applegate song from 1980. Mario on organ, Jan on guitar, Joe on drums, Gary on bass and everything else. (notably the ebow theme that repeats through the track). Gary sings lead, but Richie and Mario sing behind him on the Choruses.
This was the first of writer's block breakthrough songs. Gary basically went into his bag of journeyman songwriting tricks. This was a rewritten version of Dylan's "Gates of Eden" that Gary had been dragging around for twenty years. He set the melody to half-time and forced some imagery. It worked and he began to write some songs. Jan on lead and second guitar, Gary on 12 and bass and maybe an acoustic. Joe on drums. Applegate plays the keys and does the vocals.
I Ain't Done Nothin' Wrong
A slide blues in open "D" that Gary did to amuse himself a few years ago. He experimented with having the guys play some overdubs...but in the end this is just him and a guitar and a harmonica.
Leaving New York
Back in 1982, after the handshake record was out, Richie and Gary were trying to get a follow-up released. For a while it looked good and Gary had the idea of starting the album with a song "Leaving New York", since they were very much a Bowery band at the time. He only had a chorus and a bass line and he and Gelb never wrote the song. As this project began to take shape, Applegate went back to that bassline and wrote the song. This is the same lineup as "Jazz Age". Joe and Jan sing along in the chorus with Mario and Rich.
I Can't Help YouOne of the vey best Gelbstein/Applegate songs. They have done this one several times over the years with different lineups, but aside from a couple of fragments from live concerts and a half finished demo from 1980, they had never recorded it until now. Jan on the electic guitars. Joe on drums. Mario on organ. Gary on bass and piano and the background harmonies. He may play the 12 string too, and probably the acoustic guitar. Gelb does the lead vocal.
Back in New YorkThis one WAS written for the second album, a bookend to "Leaving New York". This is sort of all hands on deck as Gary and Jan play a lot of guitars, and Gary and Mario play a lot of keys. Mario is hot on the hammond here. All five clams sing on this one.
Working Class Love Story
Richie refused to sing this, probably because Dave wrote the music for it back in 1980. They never did much with it because Al Spero had come up with an odd drum pattern that just ruined the song. In those days, they would play a song for each other and it would sound good, but sometimes when they took it to the whole band it would be a hot mess. They would just assume that it wasn't that good and move on. It was almost always the drummer. The guys just weren't sophisticated enough to hear that Al was playing the wrong beat. A few years later they would smack themselves for being so naive. Jan on guitars, Joe on drums, Gary on Bass and vocals, Mario on the keys.
Red-headed SonnyAnother ten song tape song from late 1980, a lullaby about Gary's red cat. Only in the song he carries a piece, and picks up a transvestite hooker. Bad Kitty! Gary on bass and piano and harmonies, Mario on the organ, Jan on guitars, and Joe on drums. Gelb wrote the music and sings lead.
Without YouThe collection ends with three writer's block songs. These and "Unwalked Road" were not forced. The came to Gary freely. They were all recorded with Gary laying down the basic first, and then Jan and Joe overdubbing. On this one Gary plays the Duane Eddy guitar (which Jan doubles) and the acoustic guitar and bass. He also plays the keys and does the vocals.
Waitin' at the End of the Road
Many years ago, Applegate read a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, maybe the one that movie was based on. In one chapter the author wrote about Jerry Lee's first single "At the End of the Road". He called it dark and forboding, an ominous warning of what was waiting. When Gary finally tracked it down, it was nothing like that. It was Lewis banging on the piano. Gary had imagined it a dirge in a minor key. So he wrote it that way. Everything but the guitar solo is Gary. Jan plays that really tasty lick. There is a version on YouTube with drums, but Applegate opted for this one on the cd.
It Was Always YouThe last one written, the last one on the album. Jan and Gary do the guitars. Gary adds an acoustic, Jan the 12. Joe dubbed the drums. Applegate did the vocals and the keys and the bass.