Song of the day: The Coney Islanders – "Sport Utility Vehicle"

Now, this is a gargantuan heap of fun.

American power popper Roger Klug released an album in 1999 purporting to be a collection of long-lost recordings from the ’60s. The songs were all by different artists, and were all supposedly “written, arranged, and directed” by a shadowy individual named “Clem Comstock”.

The album is called Where Has The Music Gone?: The Lost Recordings Of Clem Comstock, and I think it’s so enjoyable that if you can find it, my advice is to buy it. Immediately.

The album features a plethora of ’60s artists in their appropriate styles for the era, but it’s all Roger.

To give you an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for, here are some of the liner notes:

Local musician Roger Klug picks up the story: “It was the craziest thing. I had just bought an old 3-track tape machine from the early ’60s because, like everyone else, I was looking for that Big Fat Thick Analog Sound and I was convinced I could only get it from vintage equipment. Anyway, part of the deal was it came with ten or twelve crates of tape reels, the guy selling it was adamant about that. I guess he wanted to clear the place out. I wasn’t arguing because I figured if they were in decent shape, I could use them to record on. Well, when I put the first reel on to check it, I wasn’t prepared for the shock I received. Needless to say, I didn’t record over what I heard.” What Roger heard was an entirely documented 6-hour recording session culminating in a final master-take performance of “Never Gonna Get Married,” a regional hit in 1964 by the Schulte Sisters (featuring Bridgette Schulte). “I knew the song ‘cos Mom used to play it around the house quite often, but I didn’t know anything about the group or who wrote it, zilch.” Intrigued, he tracked down the 45 RPM single and just below the record label’s logo were the cryptically enlightening words, “Written, Arranged & Directed by Clem Comstock.” More auditioning of the tapes revealed take after take, song after song, session after session, of performances by little-known-outside-of-Hamilton-County artists and groups, many of whom had scored local and regional hits, all “written, arranged and directed” by Clem Comstock. “It became apparent,” Roger says, quite dramatically, “that I was now in possession of Clem Comstock’s master tapes.”

The 12-page booklet has wonderfully detailed information on all of Roger’s fabulously fictitious artists.

One of my favourite songs on the album is a splendid Beach Boys rip-off entitled “Sport Utility Vehicle”. Here’s the track and the liner notes for it:

The Coney Islanders – “Sport Utility Vehicle” (1963)

Link

The incredibly clairvoyant Sport Utility Vehicle stems primarily from Clem’s desire to jump on the sirf music bandwagon, whose wave rushed across the U.S. of A. throughout 1963, dousing even the beachless Midwest in its wake. Clem lured local surf combo the Coney Islanders into the studio and foisted this toe-tapping ditty upon them. “S.U.V.” actually began zooming up the national Billboard charts but ultimately stalled when countless radio disc jockeys mistakenly interpreted a lyric in the first verse as “my seed is cranking” and banned the song, citing “explicit sexual innuendo.” Close listening today reveals the offending words are actually “my CDs cranking;” compact discs would not be commercially available for at least another twenty or so years.

And here’s another one of my favourite tracks:

The Schulte Sisters (featuring Bridgette Schulte) – “Never Gonna Get Married” (1964)

Link

The aforementioned Never Gonna Get Married needs no introduction. Clem’s biggest production and most lucrative copyright, he ceremoniously bestowed the song upon his No. 1 diva act, the Schulte Sisters (featuring Bridgette Schulte), one night in the studio. Released in June 1964 amid a sea of British Invasion infatuation, even the stolid and the indifferent could not deny the song’s seductiveness and universal appeal. Russell Simons: “He worked like a pig on it, he ran them through something like 114 takes of the song! Tweaking, pruning, cutting, cementing, he just wasn’t sure…at one point, it was a polka number.” Clem wisely avoided crossing over into that market, for the success of “Never Gonna Get Married” ushered in an optimistic and creative time for Clem, not to mention some much-needed cash to keep the Wolves of the Outside World (i.e., landlords, finance companies) at bay.

It took me ages to find this album on CD. I have no idea if it’s currently available anywhere. There’s a page of links for it, but they don’t all work. (Hey, Roger – do you have any spare copies of the CD for sale?)

As stated earlier, if you can find this CD, whip out your wallet as quickly as humanly possible. You won’t regret it.

Forehead-slapping Update: I just discovered that you can buy the album on the Mental Giant website (for $10). Mental Giant is the album’s record label. Can I borrow your hand as well to slap my forehead?

Roger Klug on MySpace
Roger Klug on Facebook
The Home Page of The Clem Comstock Appreciation Society

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