Roger Klug waxes on some of the individual
tracks from Where
Has The Music Gone?: The Lost Recordings of Clem Comstock,
Well, "Baby Teeth" certainly garnered its fair share of public success, but I can tell you its influence on other musicians and producers of the day was even greater. A whole slew of singles started emanating out of West Coast studios six months to a year after this was released, and you can't tell me that's just a coincidence, that it's synchronicity. The people who knew what was happening had an ear cocked toward Cincinnati and its best kept secret, Clem Comstock.
The "Baby Teeth" session had a mammoth line-up which included 12 violins, 4 trumpets, a glockenspiel, and additional session vocalists backing up the inimitable Billy Action. Younger even than Britney Spears was on her debut, Billy did a fine job and the magic was captured very early on Take 7.
Sport Utility Vehicle
A swift, expedient recording. The Coney Islanders (augmented by Cal Davis on piano) lay down an acceptable rhythm track in eleven takes, then overdub two tracks of vocals; Clem flies in some sound effects from his LP collection, and voila, another surf/car tragedy/teen anthem is born.
Never Gonna Get Married
Clem's most gorgeous score to date, "Never Gonna Get Married" had a plethora of musicians on it: drums, bass, two pianos, four guitars, three mandolins, timpani, tambourine, bells, pipe organ, people stomping and banging things, people dropping and throwing things, anything to make a big sound. The Civil War cannon rented for the session was not used as it was deemed a fire hazard. Also, Clem's most expensive score to date: the session lasted thirteen hours and all the musicians had to be paid accordingly (the people who banged and stomped had to be paid double scale). This didn't even include the following session where Clem locked the Schulte girls in a room and made them sing "Never gonna get married/Never gonna get married, married" three hundred and eighty-four times.
Clem's Baroque Period, as in B-A-R-O-Q-U-E, not B-R-O-K-E. One of the more un-Clem-like tunes to my mind, especially the lyrics. I suspect he was going for a more British sound (if you listen, the vocalist, on Clem's suggestion, adopts sort of a half-baked accent) but the result still sounds American (probably because said vocalist hailed from Oakley, a suburb of Cincinnati). The bassoon and English horn players were whisked to the studio in great secrecy and played with garbage bags over their heads to protect their identity; mixed sessions with classical and pop musicians were strictly taboo in those Dark Ages.
The Other Guy
Yet another German kid from Porkopolis re-christened with an sexy Italian surname, Jerry Cacciatore crooned this one, Clem's first full-tilt orchestral session. In fact, fitting them all in the studio at the same time proved to be a calculus problem. Jerry sounds a little distraught in spots: either he was too emotionally into his character's plight, or possibly violin bows were poking him in the ribs while he sang.
One can be forgiven for exclaiming upon hearing this track something to the effect of "My, how derivative for its time period" or "Bands back then did this all day long." I can only confine my opinion to "This is quite catchy" or "Not bad at all" or "A fine example of early '60s beat music from the Clem Comstock Songbook." Little O'Ryan and the Big Dippers were quite a regionally popular band in their day; their professionalism ruled the day as this little ditty was one of four recorded in a three-hour session.
Come And Get It While You Can
Gary Cilantro was Clem's Number One Crooner, just as Bridgette Schulte was his Number One Diva, but tensions sometimes ran hot between the two of them. Gary had never quite forgiven Clem for not giving him a shot at recording "The Other Guy," and Clem once froze his...wait a minute, I said I wasn't going to get into this. "Come And Get It" was an blatant attempt to capitalize on the obviously rampant sex appeal of Gary Cilantro; the hypnotic drum beat, the lugubrious bass guitar, the cheesy organ, all supporting an erotically-charged lyric, albeit a PG-rated one, combined to create a deliberate controversy that ultimately hurt Gary Cilantro's career, rather than boost it. In fact, at the session, Gary argued that he should sing...wait a minute, I said I wasn't going to get into this.
I Want To Hold You
Okay, I said this in the liner notes, but my theory is that "Harold Arnold," unless I'm grossly mistaken, is really Clem. I think it's telling that this was one of the last things he recorded, as if he said "I'm going to sing this last one by myself, for me" and then chickened out at the last minute and put some cockamamie name like Harold Arnold on the sleeve. Who knows, maybe there really was a Harold Arnold. All I can say is there's just one take of this thing, no false starts, no studio chit-chat, just throw up the three faders and there's your mix. And a chilling one at that.
Stay tuned for an in-depth interview with Russell Simons, Clem's assistant from 1964-1965, brought to you by the Clem Comstock Appreciation Society.
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