As David Byrne puts it in his after word to ‘Thirty Years from the Home of Underground Rock, CBGB & OMFUG’: 'if you were to believe the press, the CB's scene was only made up of a handful of bands but that just wasn't true. There were all kinds of musical styles being represented... and one could even claim the SHIRTS were the precursors to the musical RENT.'
The Shirts released two powerful and innovative albums in the late 70s, produced by Mike Thorne when he was breaking musical ground at the group’s other label, EMI London (he was a key operator for the Sex Pistols and Wire just before the Shirts introduction). Shirts music from their first album achieved high placement in several European national charts. But that didn’t register in their home country, thanks to corporate record company politics (read the story through the link). A third album, recorded in Los Angeles, far from their home but convenient for Capitol Records personnel, sounded close to disaster. Disillusioned, they broke up and went their separate ways in the early 80s.
After 25 years, that musical itch connected them again. Never underestimate Brooklyn family and neighborhood sociability. At first, Thursday night rehearsals were just for fun, just for the hell of it. Things grew. They reconnected with Hilly Kristal, the owner of legendary CBGBs and their only-ever New York manager, and producer Mike Thorne. Rough recordings were made live at the club, augmented by more without an audience once the project had lift-off, and then realized fully at the Stereo Society studio with Thorne. A new album evolved from their pure musical enthusiasm, unbeholden to any corporate compromise. Thanks to new technology, it sounds as good as any fancy studio production. But it keeps the alternative edge. 70s Brooklyn persists.
The band members still go their separate ways. One is a high-level massage therapy teacher, one is a major construction contractor who directs a hotel here and a school there, one hammers up sheetrock, one installs security systems, one is a fashion buyer, one sells paintings on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue. You get the picture. That’s by day. By night, they pursue their enthusiasm to the point of exhaustion. Hear the results, produced to the highest quality: here. This is music born out of pure instinct and drive. If they couldn’t do it, they’d go crazy. This is music made because it had to be. There are no corporate marketing biz postures here. These are real people, with seasoned and dramatic talent. Go hear…
The rough/tough side blasts through the title track, inspired by the Tom Wolfe short story (no, the classic guy, not the one in the white suit). In dramatic contrast, their progressive style, hanging with the Bowery rock+roll, has ‘Everything’ as a new example. For tough personal attitude, try ‘Goin’ To the Boat’. Don’t mess with that lady as she kicks him out. For pure, honest, wide-open love-song passion, try ‘Chimes Of Love’. For other attitudes from a wide-ranging crew – try any song. They’re all from the Brooklyn heart.
Ron Ardito: guitars, vocals
John (Zeeek) Criscione: drums, percussion, vocals
Art Lamonica: guitars, vocals
Kathy McCloskey: keyboards, vocals
Caren Messing: vocals
John Piccolo: keyboards, vocals, percussion
Bob Racioppo: bass, vocals
Larry Etkin: trumpet
Arno Hecht: tenor saxophone
Allison Miller: percussion
Produced by Mike Thorne
Running time: 51 minutes.
With 16-page full color booklet
Much more detail at the Stereo Society website (see link at left)