The Shambles – Chelsea Smiles
A study in classic beat pop, "Chelsea Smiles" finds the Shambles ably infusing their patented sixties influenced sound with the seventies AM radio of their youth. With so many source recordings, quality varies and details are many, so Angel Carrasco spoke with Bart and got a little background on the songs that make up the Expanded Edition of Chelsea Smiles. If you'd like to get the feel of the original 10" EP, just program in numbers 1, 6, 2, 9, 17, and 10. The original liner notes by Beverly Paterson follow the song notes.
*denotes bonus track +denotes alternate track
1) Blurs Somewhere (Mendoza/Morris) Recorded at Double Time Studios, with Joel on drums. A nervous rendition of this tune was performed for the bands 30 minute television concert broadcast, on Tele Madrid, in Spain. Why were we nervous? Glad you asked. After the initial show of our 1999 Tour of Spain, Kevin had an emergency back at home and had to return asap. Yep, we panicked- two weeks of dates and half the front line is gone. Poor Kevin had to return home the next day, and without him we were basically sunk. Luckily, all was not lost, as the year before I had done a short round of acoustic shows in Spain with Francisco "Paco" Poza of Los Impossibles, and with a bit of rehearsal, including in the van on the way to gigs, he became the 5th Shamble, filling in for Kevin and giving "Nadie Te Quiere Ya" a particularly authentic flair. By sheer co-incidence Frank Barajas of San Diego (and the group JuJu Eyeball) was in Madrid at the same time, so we added him to the show as an opener and made the whole thing more of a traveling "Revue". A great, great time. Top Spanish band The Happy Losers recorded a terrific cover of this tune for the Shambles covers project Forty One Sixty.
2) A Short Spiral Will Tell+ (Mendoza/Morris) A different mix than the version included on "What Your Missing" (and therefore the EP as well), notably adding harmonies, this was just an attempt to recreate the joyful garage music that exploded just after the Beatles conquered America, co-incidently inspired by a viewing of "That Thing You Do."
3) Happy Together* (Bonner) This Turtles cover became the impetus for starting a side project called Mission: To Mars*, with Mike, Dylan Martinez (Broken Dial Radio, Static Halo, Rookie Card) and Gregory Page. "Happy Together" has always reminded me of my childhood so when Mike Kamoo offered a chance to sing on this track he was working on, I jumped at the chance! That's Dylan Martinez of Broken Dial Radio and Static Halo on backing vocals and Billy "Midnight" Shaddox on bass and guitar, with Mike providing that great solo on 12 string Voxx.
4) Fear* (Hopkins) a rough mix of a track recorded for a UCSD film project during the fall of 2000 and written by indie film maker William Hopkins. Only a skeletal version of the film was ever completed, and this song was the soundtrack to the animated opening. That's Kevin playing the bass, as well as that distinctive solo, with Mike on drums.
5) The Waiting Game* (Mendoza/Morris) One of the rougher demos here, this still has an interesting bounce and dates back to the last days of Manual Scan, Written after a Material Issue show at the Bacchanal if I recall correctly. This includes Victor Penalosa (Melanies) on drums. Covered by the Truckee Brothers for the impending Shambles covers project Forty One Sixty.
6) Reviving Spark (Mendoza/Morris) One of the first songs I ever wrote (though with different lyrics) predating Manual Scan. It became the root for a Shambles song, which of course, rekindled my interest in the original (that’s a hint). This was first attempted by the band during the same sessions at Blitz that produced "Love and Kisses", "Love Is All Around", as well as an outtake called "David May", then re done at Double Time a few years later for this take.
7) Child's Play* (Mendoza) this is take 1 and was originally on the first "Yellow Pills" EP. Take 2 is available on a Yesterday Girl compilation in Sweden. Try Not Lame or Jeremy to find that version. Inspired by Brian Wilson's "Melt Away", and actually an outtake from the "Clouds All Day" sessions.
8) Grace Intervenes* (Mendoza/Drennan/Randall) one of my favorites demos. Literally about a walk home through the rain, in our beloved Hillcrest, from my favorite record store "Off the Record". Lyrics contributed by Tesse Randall over Thai food and finished off with Frank Lee Drennan (ex-Loam current Dead Rock West) over Pepsi. Mostly an exercise in using obscure chords, transformed into a pretty good song by Tesse.
9) You're No Good (Ballard Jr,) Another of the infamous "we've got a few minutes left, let's do something" songs, just re added to the set during the Joel era. Joel was great, and was our late 90's mainstay. Here’s a fun anecdote involving him. We once had to do a live radio broadcast at a station that was a bit off the beaten path and Joel got lost. We had already arrived at the station and set up the gear, so the bemused station staff (Thanks Coe!) let us make announcements for drive time listeners to keep an eye out for him- "look for the little purple car" and hoping he would hear our instructions. Between listeners calling in on their cell phones ("he just turned left at…") and the anticipation of "will he or won't he make the show", the whole thing turned into a pretty cool (if accidental) publicity stunt. Thanks Joel! "You're No Good" had been around in our live show the Tom Ward days of Manual Scan, circa "the Lost Sessions" E.P. And it's the Betty Everett version, by the way J
10) Love Is All Around+ (Curtis) Recorded during down time during the sessions that also produced "Love & Kisses" and others, as he had been called away on business, Kevin did not take part in this recording- so the track isn't quite as polished as it might have been. Fair enough, but the track does exude a certain charm, as well as bringing back a few pre Nick At Nite memories. A perfect length as well. And it was even written by a member of the Crickets, Sonny Curtis. Train spotters should note that this is an alternate version of the original EP track.
The Extra Bonus Cuts
11) She's Electric* (Gallagher) this Oasis song was recorded for a flurry of tribute albums circa 1997. Amongst other tunes considered at the same time for various projects, U2's "Angel Of Harlem", the Beatles "Fixing A Hole", The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love", Graham Gouldman's "Upstairs Downstairs" and a few others. Naturally odds are a few of those will turn up eventually…
12) Daily Nightly* (Nesmith) According to the Monkees website this song was about the November 1966 Sunset Strip Riots, though we recorded for a Mike Nesmith tribute album. This Monkees song was a tough one to put together, but we dug it for it's obscurity and lyrics.. One of two tracks recorded this day, the other being a cover of Connie Francis "Warm This Winter". Brad on drums, Mike percussion.
13) Rhythm Of The Rain* (Gummoe) -demo - A simple acoustic demo of the Cascades classic, recorded quickly to test the microphones at a session in between real takes of something else. Like many other San Diego groups, the Cascades were an influence on the Shambles sound. The band has done so many covers of local bands that it's been joked that the band is from the militant wing of the San Diego Songwriters AssociationJ. All projects which featured just Mike and I were given the "group" name "That Darn Cat" to differentiate them from all the other demo series we had going. And yes, it's from the Disney movie…
14) Hide And Seek* (Allerhand/Brain/Starrs) -demo- Just for fun. This was recorded at sessions for San Diego via England folk singer Andrew Beacock. Andrew's been around the local music scene for quite a while and is a wonderful, wistful performer in the classic folk style- he even opening for Jeff Beck back in England during the late sixties (and has been a huge hit at the annual Gramfest gathering). After much contemplation, and a string of names which seemed to be comprised of 15-20 words each, we decided to do the sessions under the name the Andrew Beacock Congregation. I sang one song at the sessions, this cover of an Interview tune from 1980- all their music is wonderful, with their second disc one of my all time fave albums, and highly recommended but I digress. With Mike Kamoo also on board.
15) Truly* (Mendoza/Lazare) -This purposely ramshackle demo was recorded during spare moments at a Rachael Gordon session, with Mike on percussion and Bart on everything else. Matter of fact, to get the right feel, we did a live take as Mike was hearing the song for the first time, and then re added everything. From a lyric by Erin Lazare that was around forever until one night when I impatiently awaited a friend, and suddenly it all made sense J Another That Darn Cat track
16) Beautiful One* (Svensson/Svenigsson) this Cardigan's tune was recorded, along with that now infamous string of covers, for Detour Records, but never issued as such. It eventually turned up on the original "Chelsea Smiles" EP. There are about six mixes of this around including a bass and drum concoction that will never see the light of day. Joel drumming at Blitz by the way.
17) Sympathy* (Magneta/Triebner) A demo cover recorded for a proposed Los Bravos tribute album, with a tip of the hat to Mark's original band on the outro, and a spirited vocal from Kevin. Victor on drums…
Original Liner Notes
By Beverly Paterson
What does San Diego, California make you think of? Well, if baseball is your bag, then you'll instantly say the Padres. Should surf, sun and sand row your boat, then visions of warm beaches will dance through your head. For those who cherish the wild kingdom, it would be San Diego's internationally famous
Zoo and Sea World. But if you ask pop fans what they associate the city with, more than likely the answer will be the Shambles. For the past decade now, San Diego's favorite sons have been creating incredibly high quality pop music, and it is indeed a big event whenever they release a new record.
That said, this here disc you hold in your hands, Chelsea Smiles, is cause for a celebration. Is it a new record? No, not really, but sort of. Originally released exclusively in frankly pretty cool blue 10" vinyl in 1997, this was a six song EP of demos split into an A side of originals and B side of covers. Genuine Article Records from San Francisco issued the disc and since it's release, it's become a much sought after item from the bands catalog. Noting that six songs are too few for this first time on CD re-issue, the Shambles once more raided the vaults for this and that, emerging with a surprisingly cohesive collection. The Shambles very much still consider "Chelsea Smiles" an EP -it's just that there are eleven bonus cuts.
And once again, the Shambles have delivered a masterful effort. In my opinion, Chelsea Smiles serves as their strongest compilation to date- And that is a major compliment, considering the boys have never issued a bum tune. Whether you've been following the Shambles for years or whether you're just getting introduced to their groovy noise, you're destined to fall deeply in love with Chelsea Smiles, as it captures anything and everything there is to dig about pure pop music, played straight from the heart and the gut.
So where do we begin? For starters, there's the original compositions. Packed to the max with absolutely fetching vocals, clever arrangements and hooks sharper than Liverpool wit, A Short Spiral, Blurs Somewhere, The Waiting Game and Grace Intervenes key right in on the unbeatable magic of the Shambles. The band's talent staunchly centers on writing and performing the kind of songs that used to drive AM Radio. However, the Shambles approach their material with a fresh perspective, which blends nicely with their reverence for fabled acts of yore, particularly the Who, The Zombies, and the Kinks at one end of the spectrum and the likes of the Jam, Emitt Rhodes, 20/20 and Shoes at the other. Top-dollar covers of Oasis' She's Electric and the Monkees "Daily Nightly" also cap the album. But as stated, it's the band's own missives that set the soul on fire.
The sounds of chiming guitars and fluid harmonies remain timeless. That's exactly what the Shambles are about. Each cut on Chelsea Smiles flashes its own distinctive personality, resulting in power pop music they way it was intended to be executed. Fueled by picturesque songs where the characters come alive, the record is a sheer joy to behold and will command multiple spins. You can tell the Shambles are totally stuck on the style of music they specialize in. Sporting an astute awareness for melodies that matter, the
band knows how to communicate with their audience.
Many bands cite the Shambles as a prime influence. And for good reason. Their music is easy to digest and sing along with. Or play air guitar to. I can babble on for eternity how great the Shambles are, but do yourself a favor and feast your ears on their pop godliness yourselves. Chelsea Smiles will not only put a smile on your face, but a spring in your step, to boot. Trust me!