Thursday, May 24, 2012

Weekly Blog Roundup: 5/24/12

A short and early list this week because I'll be out the next few days. Enjoy some good readin' today!
 Seriously... I'm gone groovin' so enjoy the rest of your day...

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    How I Learned To Stop Worshipping The Parka

    I remember those hot, humid, sunny days, walking around my neighborhood in La Puente, CA, sniffing the roses and enjoying the smoggy air... all while wearing a parka! Yes, when I was younger, I wore a parka... rain or shine.

    There was a time when my parka, or anorak, pretty much defined me... mainly, because I usually had 'M-O-D' spelled out somewhere on it, either in badge or patch form. I was proud of that parka. I felt like I was carrying on a tradition started by sixties Mods, popularized by Quadrophenia, and celebrated by bands like the Merton Parkas and The Sussed. But then, gradually, I phased the parka out of my wardrobe completely. Well, here today, I'll explain how I turned away from worshipping wearing a parka.

    I was about 16 years old when I bought my first 'parka,' which was really just a short non-fishtail army jacket with a hood that you could zip up inside the jacket to hide it away. Sadly, I don't remember much about the patches and badges I stuck to this jacket, but I do remember what I did to the back of it. One evening, while watching an episode of Twin Peaks, I took up some fabric paint (red, white, and blue) and MOD-ified my anorak with a famous Mod song title, Mod symbology, and some 'Mod' band logos spanning the '60s-'80s. Since that jacket was lost during one of my family's moves and I have no pictures of it, allow me to re-create it here through the magic of Photoshop:
    Recreation of my first high school parka.
    Yup. I used to walk around my high school campus letting people know my butt was the Face. No joke. And, yeah, those were the bands I flaunted to the world. Uh-huh, The 2nd Generation.

    I only wore this for about a year or so because my father soon handed down his own army parka to me. No, he didn't earn it fighting overseas... he picked it up at a surplus shop. But for me, this was the real deal! Now, I don't really know a whole lot about the different types of army jackets there are, but once, I walked into an army surplus shop while wearing this anorak, and it really impressed the Korean store owner. He told us it was pretty rare and offered to buy it from me. But I kept it. I had to... it was Mod.

    Of course, there was no way I could walk around campus in a plain ol' army parka. No, I had to add the 'Mod' touch to it. So, I took my old Jam t-shirt, cut out the design, and sewed it on to the back. Now, everyone would know who my favorite band was! Then, I added a couple of rally patches, a Who target patch, some Mod badges to the front and voila! I was a walking Mod advertisement! The only thing missing was an "EAT AT MOD JOE'S" sign somewhere on the jacket.
    My parka... today.
    I wore this parka for a few years, from high school and into college. It kept me warm in the winter and smothered me in the summer, but I didn't care. In college, it kept my clothes clean during the Bay Area rains. It kept me warm when I rode on the back of someone's bike, especially across the Bay Bridge. Sometimes, it acted as a warm blanket when I partied too hard and had to spend the night over someone's house. I wore this thing even when it began to fall apart. But eventually, I phased the parka out of my wardrobe.

    The older I got, the more I realized that I didn't want or need a parka to speak for me. I didn't care if the whole world knew I liked whatever Mod bands were on the parka. And as my wardrobe improved over those early years, I didn't want to cover it up with a beaten-up old army anorak. I started to see so much more value in a nice overcoat, something that looked sharp on the outside, while protecting the clothes underneath. I thought Paul Weller was on to something in those early Style Council photo shoots. And I saw other friends who demonstrated just how much more polished a sharp coat looked over the typical parka:
    Photo from around 1994 of old pal, Jarrod L., of the Le Drugstore 1968 blog.
    Really, after seeing a photo of the style gauntlet being thrown down like that, how do you go back to the parka?  I was ready to move in a different, more stylish direction. So, I hung my parka deep in the back of my closet, and replaced it with a variety of overcoats. At age 18, this was my preferred cold weather jacket:
    These days, I prefer this look:
    Fellow dapper-nisto Douglas Dillon, my wife Irene, and I, enjoying an evening out. Photo courtesy of Douglas's more stylin' half, Rosa Dillon.
    Now, the thing to remember is that the parka has one main function: to keep your clothes clean while you ride your scooter from point A to point B. That's really it. But that same function can be accomplished with a nice, slick overcoat.

    Oh sure, I understand how useful parkas can be in certain situations*. They're probably great for riding through a dirt storm on your scooter or protecting your clothes from all those bugs flying in to you. And I understand their use in the foggy weather conditions of London, the harsh winters of the American east coast, or the never-ending rains of the upper west coast. But why on Earth would you wear a parka in the warmer states, warmer countries, or, heck, south of the San Francisco Bay Area?

    Heck, I live in the Bay Area and no matter how cold it gets here, I still don't toss on the ol' anorak! Why would I want to cover up a nice ensemble with an army parka or let the parka display what I'm about? I don't need a parka to announce to the world what I'm into. That's what my actual clothes underneath are for. I'd rather have a nice, sharp suit take precedent over a parka covered in patches and buttons.

    And yes, I know plenty of Mods wore them in the sixties. They were probably affordable, accessible, and really useful in protecting your clothes in harsh weather or while fixing your scooter. But hey, as this photo shows, not all Mods wore parkas! Or at least they didn't wear them all the time.
    Photo of Nottingham Mods, courtesy of the Jack That Cat Was Clean blog.
    Yes, the parka has risen in prominence since then thanks to the 1970s revival.
    During this time, the anorak became a canvas on which to display all of your Mod interests, just in case wearing slick Mod clothing underneath it wasn't enough. As noted previously, even I was guilty of this. Targets, Union Jacks, band logos... heck, I was a walking Modvertisement! These days, however, I follow the Booker T. and the M.G.'s school of thought: less is more. Remember, subtlety goes a really long way. These days, my parka is long retired. I believe this is its last reported public sighting, around 7 years ago:
    Photo of Karen F., of the 97 Things To Do Before I Turn 97 blog, hi-jacking my parka. Photo courtesy of my wife, Irene (who says she never went through a parka phase).
    Some of you out there still think the parka is a Mod gem, I know it. In fact, you're probably humming this in your head right now, while reading this post... in your parka. Well, alright then, let's take a trip in the Wayback Machine to see how the parka would have affected some classic, stylin' looks.

    First up, let's check out Mr. Modfather himself, Paul Weller, back during his early Style Council days when he started wearing a beautiful white mac. This was probably one of my early non-parka influences:
    Well, imagine if he was walking down the road, parka-fied!

    Okay, remember this dapper little kid?
    Now, let's see how he comes off with a parka covering up his threads:
    Okay... the kid's got enough sass to almost pull it off...

    Let's move on then to a sixties Mod icon. What about Steve Marriott? Here he is, sharp as ever.

    Now, imagine if he time-traveled to today, visited Carnaby Street, and found the Pretty Green shop. OH NO!

    Now, if all these arguments fail to convince you that it's time to trade in your parka for an overcoat, well then, think of this: remember Sting's 'Ace Face' character in Quadrophenia? Y'know, the guy with bad hair who Jimmy had a total bro crush on? Yeah, not even that guy wore a parka:
    'Nuff said!
    Obviously, these opinions are all my own and probably in the minority. 
    For further info on parkas as a part of Mod history, please visit the following sites:
    And, I'm happy to see I'm not the only one who thinks the parka has had its day. The ModCulture site was 10 years ahead with this opinion:

    *The parka can also be used creatively as in the band name, The Merton Parkas, and in the name of one of my fave blogs, Parka Avenue.

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Weekly Blog Roundup: 5/19/12

     Good mornin', good mornin'! Hope you're up and about, because I have a new set of blog links you might enjoy this morning:
    That's it for today. Have a great weekend!

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Sharp Stylings #39: The Impressions

    We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

    Okay, I gotta focus on this one... I need to ignore talking about the beautiful soul songs these guys produced. I need to ignore the empowering message they sent out to millions of people. I need to ignore the influence they've had over so many musicians since their time. Why? Because this segment is about style, not the overall awesomeness that is The Impressions. So, dig this detail below from their The Never Ending Impressions LP:

    Fred Cash, Sam Gooden, and, of course, Curtis Mayfield just bustin' out a mellow hang in well-cut suits, thin ties (and an ascot), and those beautiful short-brimmed fedora hats. I've said it before, but what gets me about images like this is not only the style of the clothing, but the confidence with which it's worn. Many times, I see photos of Moddish fellows looking stiff in their suits, like they're too worried about looking 'sharp.'

    Take a note from The Impressions above... sometimes you just gotta ease in to that clothing you're in. The more confident you look while relaxing in those clothes, the more slick you'll come off.

    And let's get into those hats! Short brim with the fronts pulled down... my fave style of head-wear. And Curtis Mayfield really has it goin' on, with that hat slightly tilted to his right. It don't get more jaunty than that!

    Well, I can't talk about The Impressions without leaving you with some of their music. Without a doubt, the below song is still my absolute fave, bringing me back to my early soul discoveries. Also reminds me of the days when I had the power to go out to the In'n'Out soul club in San Francisco on a Tuesday night and dance ALL NIGHT LONG, and still get up for work the next day. This song was always the highlight of the evening:

    Enjoy and have a most stylish weekend!

    Saturday, May 12, 2012

    Weekly Blog Roundup: 5/12/2012

    Having made it out to enjoy your Saturday afternoon yet? Then, stay in a little longer and enjoy these great links found this week!
    Have a great weekend, everyone!

    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Sharp Stylings #39: Vidal Sassoon

    We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

    Anti-fascist warrior, Israelis soldier, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, author, fitness buff... oh yeah, and revolutionary hairdresser! Vidal Sassoon was an amazing man with or without a pair of scissors in his hand. Unfortunately, as I'm sure you all know, he passed away this week at the age of 84. But instead of giving you another obituary today, let's focus on his own personal style.

    Not only did Vidal Sassoon create some of the greatest hairstyles known to women, he also gifted pop culture with one of the greatest tag lines known to consumer products: "If you don't look good, we don't look good." Well... based on how good Sassoon looks in the photos below, there's no doubt his customers were looking good great!

    First up, take a look at this suave image of Sassoon from 1965:
    From the Beauty Blitz blog.
    Serious dapper going on here, with what looks to be a Prince of Wales check suit, black waistcoat and tie, and a black pocket square. If you take a closer look, the vest appears to have slim lapels along with cloth-covered buttons. The contrast between the suit and the waistcoat (with the added tie/pocket square detail) make this whole ensemble clean and sharp without being overly stiff. There's a feeling of relaxed comfort going on here. Or, it could just be Sassoon's confidence shining through.

    But let's move forward in time to this photo from 1968:
    From Mr. Porter.
    Okay, in general, I'm not super huge into 2-button jackets with the shape and size of lapels like these, but in this photo, Vidal Sassoon just kills it with finesse! For those taking notes for their next trip to the tailors, absorb some of the details of this outfit. Look at the narrow spacing between the top and bottom buttons. Study the angle of the slants on the rounded pocket and ticket pocket. And take in the spacing and sizes of the buttons on the jacket cuffs. Personally, I've never seen that cuff detailing before. Now, I don't know if I'm daring enough to go in that direction, but hey... you might be and I'd totally cheer you on!

    Sassoon continued to age gracefully and remain stylish well into his later years. Several months back, my wife and I were watching the documentary, Vidal Sassoon The Movie, and every so often, we'd look at each other and exclaim, "Dang! The guy still looks sharp!" Of course, I felt pretty pathetic when the film showed just how fit and active he still was in his later years. He was in better shape than I am today! But again, just goes to show what an inspiring man he was throughout his career and beyond.

    Let's leave you now with that iconic image of his work that is as startling and beautiful today as it was almost 60 years ago. This is art.


    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    My Teenage Top 10 Mod Revival Records

    I used to be a power-popper. Yes, it's true.

    Once upon a time, I used to quote Quadrophenia lines, wear a parka in the summer, and sing along to The Key's 'Feeling Special.' In high school, after discovering that some record shops actually had "Mod/Ska" sections, I used to hunt down whatever 'Mod' records I could find, and most of those were 1970s/1980s revival records. A lot of those power-pop Mod sounds helped bridge my junior high new wave/punk tastes to my latter-teen R&B/freakbeat obsessions.

    Of course, whenever I went record-shopping, the easiest targets (no pun intended) were those albums that trumpeted "MOD!" anywhere on the cover or within liner notes. In fact, the more blatant the 'Mod' imagery, the more likely I was to grab it... quite the opposite of my record-buying habits these days.

    My record collection started off with a Who LP, a Jam LP, and 2-Tone records, but soon, it was filled with revival records, Unicorn Records offerings, and... more Jam LPs. A lot of that music worked for me at the time, because it captured the frustrations I felt as a teen, the ones I, uh, wore like a suit (**groan**). Y'know, I didn't want to be 'the same as everybody else,' I wanted to be 'away from the numbers,' yadda, yadda, yadda... (Oh, to be young again.)

    But enough of me prattling on. Let's climb into the ol' time machine and go back to that magical age of 17, at the dawn of the 1990s... a time when girls still swooned over their favorite New Kid on the Block, a time of bike shorts and hi-top Reeboks, a time when we tuned in to see whether Dylan would choose Brenda or Kelly... are you scared yet?


    Okay, here I am in my bedroom, feeling angsty. There's some girl I'm thinking about who probably doesn't know I exist, or worse yet, does know I exist and still doesn't like me. Let's see... I'm wearing tapered Dickies pants, a Fred Perry one size too large, and my parka (in my room, mind you). Hmm, let's look in the mirror to see how cool I look. Aw man! I forgot... bad acne at age 17! AWAY FROM THE MIRROR! AWAY FROM THE MIRROR! Okay, let's forget that and let's move on to the records in my collection. And let's get into what were probably my TOP 10 Mod Revival/Power-Pop Records at that time (in no particular order)!

    1. The Risk - Good Times - The Risk were a band I dug on heavily back then. Songs like this, "Carrie Ann," and "Whiskey and Wine" were played often on my cheap little record player. One of the things about The Risk is that they turned me on to the idea that there really were other Mods out in the world, still. Even though these songs were already several years old (the lifetime of many Mod bands), they were still recent enough to make me think that somewhere, outside of La Puente, CA, people were still forming Mod bands and playing to Mod crowds.

    2. The Chords - Maybe Tomorrow - Okay, these guys are one step behind The Jam, in my book. Out of all the revival bands, I can still listen to their songs and enjoy them, not out of nostalgia, but out of an honest liking. They were great! I don't listen to this stuff much these days, but The Chords are always welcome on my turntable. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they weren't whining about wanting to be different. They seemed a bit more thick-skinned than that.

    3. Squire - My Mind Goes 'Round In Circles - For me, Squire were one of the more accessible Mod revival bands, thanks to their happy pop sound. No matter how angst-ridden I got, these guys could always snap me out of it.

    4. Three O'Clock - Sorry - So, I hear these guys were pretty big in the L.A. music scene back in the early '80s. I wouldn't know... I was still too busy playing with my Star Wars action figures back then! But when I finally did catch up to them, I fell full-on into this sound. This song was one that especially grabbed me... little did I know at the time that it was an Easybeats cover.

    5. The Key - Feeling Special - This was one of those albums that had everything I was looking for in a Mod LP cover. A moddish band name, arrows in the logo, and a dude sporting an op-art shirt with a 3-button jacket. The only thing that bothered me was that guy wearing those horrible white Dr. Marten boots up front. Of course, this song was the only song I really liked off the whole album. And no, I didn't know what "straight-edge" meant at first when I used to sing along to it. I did find out later. Now, I look at this album as a bit of preachy silliness. 'Mod/Skin unity?' Again, oh to be young again.

    6. The Moment - And With This Ring - Another one-hit-wonder album for me. In all fairness though, this song is still pretty excellent all these years later. After listening to it recently, I think I like it more today than I did back then. Makes me think I should give the rest of the LP another listen. What I remember most about this album, though, are the pictures of the guy blowing a whistle on stage. I really didn't know what that was all about, but I remember seeing an L.A. band a couple of years later at a New Sounds of the Sixties show, also using a whistle. Someone out in internet land, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that band was Neighborhood Bully.

    7. The Purple Hearts - Millions Like Us - And you wonder how I went from listening to punk music to listening to this stuff? Same sound, different clothes! But, songs like this made that transition into the Mod thing a little more smooth for me.

    8. Nine Below Zero - Homework - This band was a stark contrast to (and welcome relief from) the typical power-pop sounds I was into at this time. The sounds off this album were ones I found myself liking more and more. As much as I liked power-pop and punk as a teen, it was this hard-driving R&B sound that I found much more exciting.

    9. The Prisoners - Hurricane - Okay, maybe I should not have put these guys on this list. I don't really consider them 'revival.' But I'll tell you what I do consider them: the best $2.95 I ever spent on an '80s 'Mod' band! These guys sounded so much tougher than many of the late '70s revival bands, but still had that great '60s edge. They weren't about Mod anthems or teen angst... they were just about powerful music that still sounds great today.

    10. Secret Affair - Time For Action - Yes. That's right. As much as Mod anthems became tired for me, this was one I fully got down with back in high school. If sweet Julia in the song didn't care about people laughing at her because of the way she dressed, I wouldn't care. Because, y'know, we were right... looking good was the answer. Unfortunately, as much as I liked this song, the Secret Affair became symbolic of what would end up turning me off to this era. Whiney vocals, the whole 'Glory Boy/Girl' idea, hating something called 'the punk elite,' and an album pretty much filled with teen anthems. Those themes, for me, would become very dated very soon.

    Well, there you go... some of the songs I would have been rocking modding out to back in high school. There were other songs I would have liked to have included, many of which were just too hard to find on YouTube... songs like "Long Time Ago" by The Mondays, "High Numbers" by The Scene (from NY/NJ), "Point Me In The Right Direction" by Raw Material (off a Unicorn compilation), "Of Heart and Soul" by Manual Scan, "Try" by The Idea, "I Want You To Know" by The Mod Fun, and even "Changing Faces" by The Second Generation.

    See, I was a power-popper.

    It didn't last long, though. Over time, those same records began to grow stale to me. Usually, I'd buy a revival album and end up liking only about one or two songs. I remember buying a Lambrettas LP and really liking "Poison Ivy," thinking they wrote it. They didn't. Along with that album, I purchased The Yardbirds' For Your Love LP and loving just about every song on there. Guess which one was played a couple of times before getting shelved and which one still gets played on the turntable today.

    In fact, by the time I started college, I was already burnt out on most of those '70s/'80s Mod bands. I grew bored with all the Mod 'anthems'; grew bored with the use of words like 'faces,' 'numbers,' and 'crowds'; and grew bored with the power chords. I realized I was buying those records up mainly for the Mod imagery/connection.

    Plus, in my freshman year in college, my pal Sean C. made me two compilation tapes featuring all the output (available at the time) from The Action, The Creation, The Artwoods, and John's Children. Those bands hit my ears in ways The Merton Parkas never could. And by the time I was 19 years old, I was itchin' for stronger, more experimental sounds (along with more soul) and that's where British R&B, freakbeat, and, eventually, psychedelia would come in. After getting into these sounds more heavily, power-pop, for the most part, just became bland to me.

    After all those years, though, I have been giving some of this stuff another chance. Maybe it's nostalgia, I don't know. Some of it sounds good (or better) to my ears and some of it sounds worse than I remember. That's just the way things go, I guess, when you're no longer living in the age of the power-poppers! (Thanks for that, The Idea!)

    So, here are some questions for you: What were/are some of your favorite revival songs? I got burnt out on this era, but did you? If not, what songs still stand out for you?
    Me at around 17/18 years old... my Mod power-pop phase.

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    Weekly Blog Roundup: 5/5/2012

    Enjoy your Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and some good blog reading:

    That's it for today. Have a great weekend!

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    Sharp Stylings #38.1: Adam Yauch

    We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

    The Beastie Boys' Adam "MCA" Yauch showing off a clean, sharp look. (Let's ignore the bottom button for today.)
    Photo from the NME in 2009.

    Sharp Stylings #38: Keith Richards

    We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

    Friends, sorry about lack of posting this week. Hard time recuperating from a weekend in Palm Springs and a weekday DJ gig. (I don't bounce back as easily from fun nights as I used to!)

    But enough of my complaining about my rickity ol' bones. Let's move on to some slick stylin'!

    Found this photo from a recent Mirror article. Now before I move forward, the article pegs this as a photo from 1962, which I would have to dispute. The hair, lapels, and tie width and pattern seem way past 1962! But that's neither here nor there. What's important is that photographer Philip Townsend captured a fantastic shot here. (And please, please, please, visit Townend's site for more amazing 1960s shots and a chance to purchase prints!)

    I know, I know, Richards was a good lookin' guy. Get over it already and let's move on to his hip threads. I'm sure many Mod types veer away from wide, paisley ties, seeing that it's a later 1960s look. But this tie is right up my alley, personally. In fact, I have a few similar styles like this: wide and colorful. Trust me, they look great contrasted up against a dark jacket!

    And speaking of jackets, man, that is some wild detailing going on there! First off, the jacket's button stance is nice and high, the way I like it. Secondly, the lapels are thin with a high notch. Actually, they could be peaked lapels... hard to tell, though, in this photo. And third, that bric-a-brac edging along the lapel! Now where have I seen this look before?  Hmm... oh yeah, that's right:
    Ronnie Lane rockin' the bric-a-brac!
    Sure, this is probably a hard look to pull off these days on a regular daily basis. But, it could work well for evening club attire!

    That's it for today... have a stylish weekend!