I've been looking forward to this one, which features our first three singles from 1981 and '82, plus the B side of a single that never came out from '93; plus a bunch of songs that have till now only been released as bonus tracks on Japanese re-issues, and another big bundle only available on various compilations; plus three more that have never been released anywhere in any form. So, 23 tracks, all studio recordings (except one), all either hard or impossible to find until now, covering just about our entire history. Also featured is Terry Anderson's classic "College Girls", originally released as a bonus single with "It Is Balloon."
The Incredible Casuals actually started around 1979 as a trio, with myself, Steve Shook, and Rikki Bates, originally called the Travis Shook Band, before Johnny Spampinato joined up around 1982 to make us a quartet, and our first first few singles, as well as our first full album, "That's That" (not to mention the "Let's Go Summer Fun Maxi-EP"), featured Steve's writing and playing extensively. The singles have been unavailable for almost 40 years, and there's also six "That's That" outtakes here, unheard in the U.S. until now.
Steve left around 1983, and we spent a year or two as a trio until Aaron Spade came along and stayed for the duration, helping to transform the band into quite a different entity, a change that's entirely noticeable on these tracks- against all odds, we actually evolved! (Well, a little.) Still, one thing remained consistent: this band always rocked, and I think this collection makes it clear how many different ways we found to do that, and how much fun we had in the process.
"Bottomless Pit – Casuals singles, Rarities, & Sundries" - track by track::
PICNIC APE- love “Picnic Ape”, always fun to play, absolutely no substance or pretensions whatsoever, and ideally a different bridge every time we play it.
This is from 1979 or '80, as Steve Shook and I spent our first year with the drummer we'd searched for for about a decade, Rikki Bates. It was a recording year, a TEAC 3340 4-track year, a lovely honeymoon at at Mt. Cod in Orleans, MA,; very indulgent; a great time punctuated frequently by weekends Steve and I would go off to open for our great friend and patron, George Carlin. This was one of the first tunes we fooled around with, and is really just myself and Rikki, mucking about with a riff I'd been kicking around for a while previous. The fab drum sound is largely a result of using a Dolby DBX noise reduction box improperly (purposely not decoding- that was our favorite part!) It came out on the Eat label (run by our friend Don Rose, who later went on to found Rykodisc.)
2 MEANWHILE- That same early trio, another track from the 90 minutes or so of recordings that we issued in June of 1980 under the name “Let's Go” which also included “Picnic Ape”, “Saw It Comin' All Along” and “Darlin' Darlin',” (This early, home tape “Let's Go” is not to be confused with the later “Let's Go Summer Fun Maxi EP that came out in .”) This was a perfect Steve Shook song- they just don't write 'em like that anymore! Never did, come to think of it. Limited ambitions lyrically, perhaps, but it sure sounds profound after “Picnic Ape”! This was the B side of our first single in 1981 (backing “Money Won't Buy You Happiness”, on Don Badgeley (and NRBQ's) Red Rooster label.
3 SAW IT COMIN' ALL ALONG- Another Red Rooster B side from our second single (backed with “That's Why.”) I think in a lo-fi way, this was our attempt to emulate a Spector-ian Wall of Sound- it at least has a bit of that sort of rilling feel I associate with some of his best stuff. Twenty years later the Philharmonic recorded a more up-tempo Cajun shuffle version of it on a couple of RadioBalls (#2 and #9); apparently also on a CD called “A Cape Cod Sampler.”
4 THAT'S WHY- The A side; hadn't heard this in years, and loved it. Steve and I were both rightly worried that this recording had been at too fast a tempo, and it is, but there's something great about it anyway, another cool Shook song with lots of typically toast-y twists and turns, again us filtering all the great old ska stuff we were loving at the time. Particularly love the bridge and the segaway back to verse, great fun to play!
5 DARLIN' DARLIN'- Another one from the first “Let's Go” year, but this one somehow got forgotten about completely until now (unlike a lot of the other songs, which eventually found their way on to the Casuals' “Inedible Casserole” cassette series (now all available digitally on the merch page at my site, shop.chandlertravis.com/.)
I think I probably had Elvis Costello in my mind some (we were big fans early on, and opened his second U.S. show at the Paradise, probably in 1980 or so. You'll notice right away that, as bad as some of my other lyrics were at the time, this is even worse; still, there's definitely rock n' roll involved...
6 MONEY WON'T BUY YOU HAPPINESS (Ivy Lane version)- The A side of the first Casuals single on Red Rooster, and our first trip to the studio, in this case Ivy Lane in Hopkinton, MA., where we later recorded most of the “Let's Go Summer Fun Maxi EP.” We were apparently quite bedazzled by all of the swell effects they had available! We put out the original Mt. Cod / “Let's Go” version of this years ago on Inedible Casserole #1. which I always preferred, but this version has its appeal as well (or at least it might.)
7 SAME THING- We recorded this Johnny Spampinato song a few times over the years; this version is the earliest, probably just prior to doing “That's That”, and if memory serves I think we recorded this, “Wouldn't You Like To Know”, and “Some Things” all at a session we did to get a track to submit for an album having to do with the WBRU Rock Hunt, a battle of the bands we did in Providence, RI. In 1983, probably between the “Let's Go” EP and our first album, “That's That”, which didn't come out until 1987, but which we started recording sometime around 1984. And that these were the first few songs we did on our brand new TASCAM 8 track! So '83 and '84 was another sort of honeymoon period, as we were wicked psyched to welcome both Johnny and the TASCAM aboard!
8 WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO KNOW- More honeymooning, from the same period with both Johnny and Steve, and another fine Shook song, one we played as long as the band existed, well after Steve left. There's also a nice live version on Casserole #1, though I don't think we ever felt we achieved the optimum version of this one- another's of life's little disappointments, I suppose
9 SOME THINGS- The third song of our first TASCAM session. An earlier, calmer version of this ended up on the aforementioned “WBRU Rock Hunt” album; this one has all of us except Rikki taking turns trashing it up on lead guitars, searching for that Gang of Four thing, and was one of a few songs we did over the years that was clearly too high for me to sing, but for some reason that didn't stop me.
10 SYNTH TRASH- This “That's That” outtake was a good, raucous (albeit somewhat tedious) live song, though it probably should've been shorter, and I'm not sure we ever truly found the monolithic guitar sound we were after. It's one of a few “That's That” songs that Aaron contributed to (another was “Please Don't”, where he did some background vocals), even though he wasn't a full member yet (in this case, he added some typically noisy guitar work years later, if I remember correctly.)
11 HEADPHONES- The first of our contributions to our friend David Greenberger's “Lyrics by Ernest Noyes Brookings” series of compilation CDs, released on Shimmy Disc in 1989. For some reason, whenever either Aaron or I wrote music for Ernie's lyrics, we turned into a low rent version of the Who; hey, lots worse things a band could (and did) turn into!.
12 DOIN' TIME- Steve Shook in trouble with his girlfriend again, aided and abetted years after the fact by Malcolm Granger on keys, added for the Japanese re-issue of “That's That” on Target Earth / Carawy (thanks Yutaka! Thanks, Naotaka!) in 2005; at least he got a good song out of the deal!
13 I GOT TO MOVE (DUB VERSION)- I've always loved this dub version, also from “That's That”, mostly cooked up by Rikki; can't believe it has taken us this long (35 years!) to get it out, sounds fabulous!
14 TOAST- Recorded by Rikki, mostly (with me meddling relentlessly as always), in my tiny office/guest room at Kelp Manor, and previously released in 1991 only on the “Place of General Happiness (Lyrics by Ernest Noyes Brookings Volume 2)” CD on East Side Digital (ESD.) This might be the first recording of the band with young Aaron Spade as a fulltime member, though it actually wasn't released until Aaron's first full album with the band, “Your Sounds”.
15 BAND FIGHT- An outtake from “Your Sounds” (restored years later on its Japanese release), and one of my many collaborations with David Greenberger, and one of my favorite of his lyrics (no one can really know the pain of the band meeting until one has been to a Casuals band meeting! I think that's eventually what did us in, and that we eventually wisely opted to break up rather than chance ever having another band meeting.)
The band track for this was recorded with our longtime pal Bill Scheniman at the Warehouse in Philadelphia (thanks, Lance!), along with much of the “Your Sounds” versions of “I Wanna Play Loud” and “Records Go Round”, as well as the still unfinished “Winter's Over.” Like a lot of my songs, you have to wait to get to the good part, which for me is car crash / instrumental break, which I still think sounds amazing.
This was also may have been the location of Aaron throwing his guitar across the room for the final last crash of “I Wanna Play Loud” (though it could also have been Bay Farm or even Mission Control, I suppose); but it was definitely the location of the first siting of the Space Cow, which people are still trying hard to get over.
16 COLLEGE GIRLS- We also have Bill Scheniman (aka Bear) to thank for getting us into Long View Farm in North Brookfield, possibly the cushiest, most delightful recording studio I've ever experienced (they had lodging and pool tables and horses and home cooked peas with mint in them; we also got to record some of my album “Ivan in Paris” there.) We just did the one track, but it's a doozy, a fabulous Terry Anderson (of the Woods; also wrote “Battleship Chains” for the Georgia Satellites and more great stuff for Dan Baird and more) song; and this is also one of the rare recordings of us with David Birmingham on drums, who help that position for five years or so in the nineties and lived to tell the tale!
“College Girls” was originally released as a bonus DC single (a Cdingle! Omigod!) with the Casuals' third full-length effort, “It Is Balloon”, along with a live recording of “Go Bruins”, but it's such a good song, and those stupid Cdingles get lost so easy, that we thought we'd include it here (“Go Bruins”, on the other hand, probably doesn't have that whole good song thing going for it, so you'll have to dig that up on your own for now.)
17 DUMB ENOUGH- Going through the Casuals archives, I was continually surprised at how many cool unreleased Aaron songs I came across; I've always been a fan, anyway, but was amazed to see how many we never followed through on fully. I don't think this was strictly because of his role as the new guy; I think it also had to do with him being prolific enough that he ended up leaping from song to song pretty quickly, and I think in some cases he pulled the plug himself on recorded versions of things that had a lot of potential. Whatever the explanation, we've ended up with a lot of live versions of cool unreleased Aaron songs (which we hope to dive into on future live releases), like this one here, which is also one of just two entries here that feature F. Clarke Martty on drums, who also held down that spot capably in the early nineties -thanks, Clahkie!
18 FLUFFY- Here's an odd one, an instant song from a live Casuals gig that later (after much tinkering) became a staple for my band the Philharmonic. The Casuals never played it much at all, but we did record it in 1993 to release as the B side of a single a friend of ours had planned (the A side being “Burn Me Up”), but then abandoned. Too bad- we even quoted the organ part from “Rock Lobster”! Plus, it's the only Travis-Martty composition, Clarkie having contributed the title, if I recall correctly.
19 BARELY NOTHING WRONG- Sometimes David cheated on me by going back to his old songwriting partner in Men & Volts, Phil Kaplan, and writing fabulous lyrics for him (they were also the authors of another Casuals favorite, “Records Go 'Round”); I'm still bitter about it, but this one was a delight to play (even though at Beachcomber shows, which were about the only shows we were playing in the U.S. After 2000 or so, this one was pretty and slow enough to be branded as a bathroom song, which is what we sometimes called anything that remotely resembled a ballad. It's an outtake from “Nature Calls” that eventually appeared as a bonus cut on the 2006 Target Earth / Caraway re-release.
20 ONLY EVERYTHING- I always thought this one was called “Runaway”, always used to enter it on the set lists that way, but nope, turns out it's called “Only Everything”. Will my tutelage never end? Anyhow, another fine Aaron song, and a studio recording at that from the Trout Towers Casino, under the aegis of the White Prince himself, Chris Blood. Had no idea this recording existed until last week, vaguely remembered starting a recording, but don't think I ever heard the finished version. Makes me hopeful for similar discoveries in the future!
21 APE- The last of the Ernest Noyes Brookings bunch, from the last of his compilations so far, "Ernie: Songs of Ernest Noyes Brookings", released on Gadfly in 2001; this one had already been released on a split 45 single with our friends, the Figgs, on Howard Glassman's Kranepool Record label in 1997. The one Brookings collaboration that doesn't appear here is Aaron's fabulous “Spiders”, already released on the Casuals “The Future Will Be Better Tomorrow” CD.
22 LET'S GET BETTER- originally released on "Mash It Up '93", a Boston ska compilation produced by Dan Vitale of Bim Skala Bim, who did a few of them around then, and featuring the dulcet tones of Johnny Spampinato on trombone. We loved ska, and recorded a good bundle of it over the years, both originals ("Step It Up", "Love Gets Breakfast", "Don't Lose It", "Beautiful Girl") and covers ("96 Tears", "Soon You'll Be Gone", etc.)
23. I STILL BELIEVE IN SUMMER- From the “Hit the Hay Vol. 3” compilation CD on Sound Asleep Records, thanks to our Swedish friend, Jerker Emanuelson, who released a few Casuals songs in this series. (I hope it won't be considered immodest of me to add that he also included a solo effort of mine on this one called “When She Smiles At Me”.)
24 PICNIC APE (Duplex version)- And of course it all comes back to “Picnic Ape”, this time the B side of the original Eat single, credited to the Duplex Players, and featuring some of David's Duplex Planet guys reciting the lyrics over a dub version of the original, with a few other twists and turns.
And there you have it! It's been a pleasure guiding you through this particular morass -hopefully many more to come!