Diving For Pearls: the band who should have been kings of melodic rock

Diving For Pearls album cover details
(Image credit: Rock Candy)

Serving beers, buffalo wings and burgers at the Hard Rock Café on West 57th Street in Manhattan would, when you first look at it, appear to be an inauspicious and clumsy choice of employment for a struggling musician. But for vocalist Danny Malone and keyboard player Jack Moran it was an astute, if temporary, career move that enabled them to develop an invaluable network of industry contacts, as well as being the place where they stumbled across fellow rock aspirants guitarist Yul Vasquez and bassist David Weeks. 

Within weeks the newly conceived Diving For Pearls were gigging, and with their tight AOR songwriting and impassioned live delivery they rapidly made an impact with A&R men and the media at such crucial New York venues of the time as The China Club. And it was their inspired, catchy rock – along with a textbook late-80s image of hirsute male-model looks, excessive spandex and an appalling taste in cowboy boots – that so engrossed producer David Prater and encouraged him to add his flair to the project.

Taking their name from a lyric in the Elvis Costello song Shipbuilding, Diving For Pearls soon signed a development deal with Epic (a cynical arrangement that effectively meant sell records or you’re back working in a restaurant for minimum wage) and checked into a Nashville studio. Significantly, the producer’s brief apparently extended far beyond that of twiddling knobs, with recurring rumours circulating that Prater co-wrote and shaped numerous tracks. 

More damningly, allegations also surfaced that most of Clemente’s work was replaced by a drum machine. While there has never been any criticism levelled at the band’s musical aptitude, it’s probably fair to say that without Prater’s extreme attention to detail Diving For Pearls could have been a meek and blunted album.

Packed with excellent melodies and compelling choruses, the record exuded finesse. The lead-off single Gimme Your Good Lovin’ (which had been written only a week before the band went into the studio) made it onto the playlists of the more selective rock radio stations across the United States. But, critically, Gimme Your Good Lovin’ failed to attract any attention on the US east coast or internationally, and its huge success in LA ultimately proved insignificant. 

And when their follow-up singles – the wonderful, kitsch-free balladry of New Moon and the inspired excess of Have You Forgotten – failed to make any impact on the charts, Epic’s interest in the band stalled and, following a shake-up at the label, clauses were invoked and Diving For Pearls were dumped. After which the group disbanded. 

After the split, Malone formed the short-lived Band Of Angels with former Cars guitarist Elliot Easton and recorded an album which, despite the best efforts of legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker, was reportedly so lacklustre that it didn’t even manage to make it to the pressing plant. Vasquez shaved his head, became an actor and now has a lengthening list of credits that includes Seinfeld, Sex And The City and the movie Traffic. Weeks is now a prominent LA entertainment lawyer, Moran ran the Paris Hard Rock Café, and Clemente made a fortune as an internet pioneer before becoming Vice President of Creative Affairs at Sony. 

Later there was talk about the release of a live album, recorded in 1989, which included blazing cover versions of The BeatlesDear Prudence and The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, but it never materialised. However, the Diving For Pearls story did have an epilogue: after an approach from the MTM label, Malone and Prater teamed up again to record a new album without the other band members. Texas – recorded at a studio in Waco, Texas – was released in 2005.