Thursday, December 12, 2013

June Through December Music Picks

Things have been a little crazy 'round the Mod Male headquarters. I've been wanting to put up a Music picks post for months now, but well... it's been a tad difficult.

But, I gotta get something up before year's end, so here are just some tracks I've been digging heavily since almost 6 months ago!

1. Rupert's People - 'Reflections of Charlie Brown' - Many people on Twitter and Facebook have been posting some great '60s freakbeat clips and have reminded me of many songs I used to LOVE years back but have kind of forgotten about over time. It's natural... you discover new music and you sometimes put away old faves. This Rupert's People track was brought back to my attention and got me back into wanting to pursue more of these late '60s British sounds.

2. Van Morrison - 'Warm Love' - My old pal Juan posted this one up on the ol' FB and, let me tell you, I played it over and over again for about 3 days straight. So much better than the actual recorded version, I think. It's that funkier beat that gets me.

3. The Impressions - 'Love's Happening' - We have been on a BIG Curtis Mayfield kick over these last few months (okay, always on a Mayfield kick). But the other day, I pulled out This Is My Country, and was just floored all over again by how great this whole album is. Was hard to pick just one track, but this one is a pretty good indication of what you get.

4. Beachwood Sparks - 'Forget The Song' - One of my favorite things is coming home to a new CD my wife has picked up on a surprise whim. A few months back, it was the 'new' Beachwood Sparks CD (okay, a couple of years old, by now), Tarnished Gold. Friends, if you're a fan of that psychedelic country sound, hook up with this! It's been an almost daily play since she picked it up.

5. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys - 'Three Years Blind' - My wife scored twice in the last few months, the second time with the new Big Sandy release! Basically, a collection of re-worked songs from their catalog. And it's great! I was working one night and completely stumped by what she was playing. It took a while for me to realize it was, in fact, Big Sandy. The song that stumped me was 'Baby Baby Me'. No confusing his voice on this track, though!

6. Parliament - 'Silent Boatman' - Here's another track I rediscovered after trying to re-organize LPs after our move. Again, that whole album, Osmium, needs to be in your collection with some really great tracks ('Automobile' and 'Little Ole Country Boy,' two of my other faves). But this haunting track gets me every time. (Yeah, it's the bagpipe.)

7. Simon & Garfunkle - 'Homeward Bound' - Another song that helped welcome us to our new place. Really, when it comes to S&G, I don't need to say anything you haven't already heard.

8. Patti Smith - 'Gloria' - It was weird. After Lou Reed's death, I wasn't really in the mood for the Velvet Underground or his solo work. Instead, I found myself wanting to hear other New York sounds like Television and Patti Smith. I used to really like this stuff back in high school, but haven't heard it in years. In fact, I don't even own any Patti Smith records which is something I really need to correct soon. This particular cover is the one that hits me hardest. Just powerful.

9. Kaleidoscope - 'Sky Children' - When our baby was born, this was one of many songs that hit my head. (This and 'Balloon' but couldn't find it on YouTube.) I just thought about playing this for her as she got older to really start sowing those 'good music' seeds. Sure, she'll go through her teeny-bop phase. Yes, we'll have to endure whatever New Direction band is around when she's an adolescent. And I'm okay with that. Because one day, after she's through that phase, she'll come to us and say, "Hey pops... hey mama... still have those old Kaleidoscope records?" And then, she'll (re-)discover White-Faced Lady and her little college mind will be blown. (Trust me... my dad knows it happened with me and Bob Dylan.)

10. Derek See - 'She Came This Way' - Alright, gotta give a shout-out to local boy Derek See with his recent 45 release. I got this in the mail right when we were moving and didn't come across it again until opening a box of books. This is a nice piece of heavy, moody vinyl for you. If I didn't know any better, I'd peg it at 1968, but nope... this is 2013!

Man, looking back on this list, you all probably think I'm some mopey dude at home. Hey, what can I say? I like the slow jams when I'm home mellowing out.

Alright, I'm out! Probably my last post of the year. Oh yeah, and if you want Mod gift ideas, oh I don't know... I hear there's Mod wine out there now. Go figure.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

It Always Goes Back To the Mods! Book

This isn't actually the post I intended to write today. I was working on a completely different subject, but found myself leafing through the ol' primer... y'know, the Mods! book, and it hit me. This is the book I keep coming back to, and for good reason. It still remains THE book.

In recent times, I've found myself getting down on the Mods! book, but I've come to realize there are really only two reasons why I don't like this book:
  1. Some people rely too heavily on it as the end-all and be-all of Mod thinking and,
  2. According to what you hear from original Mods who were around during the time-frame of the book, their were other local scenes left out of the history. We only received info on a portion of the 1960s Mod scene.
But you know what? Everything else about this book really is amazing! Sure, many stories of other Mod scenes of the time were left out, but soon, hopefully, we'll get to read those stories. (Many gaps within the Mods! book have already been filled in over on the Original Modernists FB group.) But the info that we do get from the Mods! book is immense.

Think about it... Richard Barnes, helped by Johnny Moke & Jan McVeigh (or the other way around, I'm not sure), pack an enormous amount of detailed information into only 18 pages of text. Eighteen! And these few pages have inspired so many people over the years... they've helped keep alive a vibrant subculture more than any other book since. And sure, many great books have come along, but none have had the impact Mods! has had.

And talk about 'attention to detail,' man... Mods! has it in droves! It's this attention to detail that many of us have eaten up, absorbed, and reflected in our own personal styles. And this detailed text is probably why some treat it as a Bible that must not be disobeyed.

Yes, some people practically keep this book in their back pocket, ready to pull it out at a moment's notice to call out Mod fashion offenses. (Guilty!) And this does become a complete drag when people use it to limit their outlook on the culture.

In reaction, many out there now call out that 'there are no rules' when it comes to the Mod thing. I can see their point... to a point. But, lately, thinking about this more, something troubles me about this. After discussing with a friend, a good point was brought up. Claiming there are no rules sort of makes it easy to get away with abandoning what makes the Mod thing so special: those perceived 'rules'.

You can ignore the types of details brought up in the Mods! book and just walk around in a nice, well-tailored suit, calling yourself a Mod simply because you're wearing a nice suit. But, at least for me, that's not what necessarily makes a 'Mod' look. If that were the case, these guys could start calling themselves Mods and, who are we to argue, if there are no rules:
Bryan Ferry
Nick Cave
For me, what made the Mod look so interesting was the framework laid out in the Mods! book. It described, in minute detail, a particular look that was adhered to, even though the look was constantly changing. Trouser bottoms that varied between 14" and 17"; two, three, or four-button jackets; mohair suits and linen jackets; and winklepicker, almond-toed, or 'mock croc' shoes. It was all of this, and the attitude behind this aesthetic, that set the look apart from any old fashionable look found in GQ's flavor of the month. There were rules! And we loved those rules! It helped us learn about a culture we were missed out on the first time around. A culture we were still heavily inspired by.

We even had our own rules we developed when we were younger. I remember we had our rules geared toward belts and belt loops: loops had to be around 2 inches wide and the belt had to have a center buckle (Thanks, Paola, for reminding me about this!). We had attitudes toward how shirt collars were worn. Had to be held down, either by buttons, collar pins, or tabs (the last two needed a tie, of course). If you weren't wearing a tie, you didn't button the top button of the shirt... why look uptight? I remember altering some shirts to add in fake buttons just so it'd look like I was wearing a button-down collar. I still have one of those shirts!

Although I wasn't around, I do remember hearing about rules the San Francisco Mods had toward their dress. I remember hearing about the rules Berkeley Mods had toward their dress. Heck, maybe you and your friends developed your own rules too, adopted from what you learned from Mods!.

Okay, look... it's like photography, music, or art. (Yes, I'm going there.) In photography, there are rules of composition. In music theory, there are rules involved with chord progressions. And in painting/drawing, there are rules involved with color theory, composition, and harmony. Most of the world's greatest masters knew these rules in their particular fields. But knowing these rules meant they also knew how to break them. And that's the key. By breaking the rules, they were able to push those fields forward. Like many have said before, remember, Picasso did know how to draw.

Yeah, that's what the Mod thing is like for me. There are rules. You learn these rules, maybe become obsessed with them. And, from there, you learn how to work around them if needed. I see some Mod fellows (and ladies) online who look incredibly 'Mod' while breaking traditional rules we've learned from the Mods! book. It's almost as if there's a conscious move to ignore a particular 'rule' (button count, tie width, jacket vent. Ahem... like this guy.)

And yeah, many of these 'rules' are what were described in that Mods! book. I'm looking through it now and finding myself filled with the same excitement I had when I first started learning about Mod stuff. Even when I get down on this book, I can never ignore the impact it's had on me and many others. This is the book that taught me what 'attention to detail' really meant. It taught me the detailed basics of a Mod jacket. It taught me what backcombing was. It taught me what chisel-toed shoes were. And it taught me that, yes, there is a framework to the Mod look that we can use today and, if we understand the 'rules,' we can know how to break them.

And remember, there's so much more to a Mod look that just being stylish. Pick up the Mods! book and see for yourself.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Out of the Underground

Okay, y'all have to bear with me a little. I'm a tad rusty with this blogging business, it's been so long. Gotta brush up on these keyboard skills.

Anyways, a lot's happened since last time I posted: Woody Allen released a new film that's supposed to be fantastic... and not just because it's based in San Francisco; Breaking Bad, one of the best shows ever, ended its run; Phyllis Diller died... again; Mod became so mainstream in the UK that insurance agencies are using it to sell insurance; and, oh yeah, this happened:

But never fear.   I don't plan on using this blog to talk about the trials of being a new parent while trying to maintain a certain Mod-centric aesthetic. Okay, some of that may bleed into these posts... it's only natural.

Just know that having a child hasn't changed my perspective on the Mod thing. Pleated khakis, 'comfortable' flip-flops, and Barney DVDs still don't appeal to me.

However, I understand that pursuing this aesthetic may become a bit more difficult to achieve. Hey, that's life. But I do promise you this: You will never hear or read me say, "It's still in my heart" as I don the clothing of Joe Normal. (Gag.)

That's not what I want to talk about today, though. Let's get back to that mainstream thing. In case you haven't seen it, here's the commercial Modculture posted about recently:

Oh... well, looks like it's been taken down. Let me give you a quick synopsis:
Young '80s mod couple frolicking along the shore of Brighton Beach. They're in love. They laugh together, shop for records together, scooter-ride together. (Now, if you saw the commercial, let's be honest... this couple was a tad too slick to be an early '80s Mod couple, am I right?) Anyways, you know they're '80s Mods because of the punk rockers record-shopping next to them. Well, this couple is so in love and so mod that they buy MATCHING TARGET RINGS. Yes, you read that right. Matching target rings.
Fast-forward 30 years and this couple is still together and still way mod. (Again, let's be honest... you can probably count on your fingers the '80s Mod couples who stayed together for 20 years still looking slick today.) They come home to find they've been burglarized and (gasp!) their target rings stolen. So, they call up the insurance company and by the end of the commercial, they're back to moddin' up the road on a scooter with the rings back on their fingers.

Look, it's a sweet commercial. Couple in love after all these years have their special mementos stolen and then returned to them thanks to the heroic insurance company. And yes, for the first time in who-knows-when, Mods are presented without going overboard on cliches... except for those target rings. (But seriously, these are supposed to be early '80s Mods... I didn't see any Cavern-quality clothing on them!)

Now here's the big question: Should Mod types be happy that Mods are featured in (I assume) a nation-wide commercial for a practical product? Isn't insurance the most mundane, responsible, adult item one can purchase? And an insurance company is using Mods to sell itself?

Once you get past the novelty of "Yay! Mods on TV!" you're stuck with the fact that the idea of Mods really has become mainstream and (gasp, again!) part of the fiber of 'the establishment.' I hear the term 'iconic' used often in discussions of Mods these days. I'm under the impression that many British Mods are pleased that their subculture is a part of the iconography of their mainstream culture nowadays. (Thanks, Olympics!) Mods are so accepted these days that the imagery is used to sell everything from insurance to soft drinks to smart phones.

And maybe that's cool, I don't know. But it does remind me of what I've read often on social media sites from original 1960s Mods. While many of us eat up the imagary of Carnaby Street, Rave magazine, and The Small Faces as 'mods,' many originals might disagree with that viewpoint having experienced that era first-hand. What I've read shows that many disliked the commercial side of the culture and dislike how it's interpreted these days. And Mod did get pretty commercial:
Taken from the Advertising Is Good For You blog.
Me, I didn't grow up in the 1960s so I have a lack of contemporary context and the benefit of accumulated history upon which to draw. And, probably to the chagrin of some 1960s originals, I'd kill for an actual pair of Lord John hipsters!

But let's get back to happenings today. Mod isn't being used to sell records, acne cream, or cheese. It's being used to sell insurance. That says something about their demographic. In the U.S., 'hipster' imagery is what ad men use to sell things like insurance and soap. That says something about the demographic out here. What it says is that these images are so well-known and mainstream that they'll be acceptable to a mass audience that still thinks it's unique and special.

Now, okay, big deal, right? Get over it... in 5 years, people will forget about the Mod thing and things will go back to 'normal'. Well, maybe. But here's why I've spent so much time writing about this. See, Mods are a funny folk. They will shout out, until they're blue in the face, their most treasured Quadrophenia quote:
Look, I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see?
(Man, if I had a nickel for every time someone posted that in a Facebook comment...) But, as much as they don't want to be the same as everybody else, they love seeing Mod in the media, creating a potential for a world-wide Mod revival. They want to be surrounded by hundreds of other people not being the same as everybody else in the same way that they're not being the same as everybody else. Heck, they want to be part of a MOD ARMY. An army... y'know, a group of organized soldiers whose main purpose is to conform to the will of their superior officers. Conform... conformity... the thing I, personally, was trying to get away from when I first discovered Mods.

And now, it seems like that's what Mods today are into. They want to be mainstream. They want the whole world to go Mod(!).

Oh wait... I get it now. I understand the appeal for the mainstreaming of Mod. Pretty clever.

You all are waiting for the day when Walmart goes Mod(!) so that you can walk in and sing at the top of your lungs:

I hear you loud and clear.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mod Gone Wrong: The Mod Onesie!

Finally... something to really write about!

I love this. Maybe I've been reading too much John Waters, but I really am finding beauty in the perverse and let me tell you, this is beautiful:

You guys... a Mod pajama for grown-ups! Someone took the idea of Mods sleeping in abandoned Brighton bomb shelters in their parkas (probably from Quadrophenia) and took it to the next logical step: a parka onesie!

I think one of the best things about this image is the shocked look on the model's face. Even HE can't believe someone is selling this and making him wear it for the photo shoot. But I'd rather believe that this guy just woke up in his parka pajama and was a victim of an early morning candid photo flash.

Now, maybe it's because I'm seeing more and more onesies in my life thanks to this little baby, but the thought has hit my mind, "What about us grown-ups?" I'm no ageist! Why can't we be waking up in comfortable onesies (preferably with feet) without being looked down upon in shame?

Well, folks, now you can wear one at night with no shame at all, and you can do it advertising your favorite band to all your family and friends last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Heck, this takes all the hassle out of getting ready for bedtime after a good club night.

Any single guys out there reading this? Imagine talking up that pretty girl at a club and winning her over after showing off your spiffy moves on the dance floor. Then, just as you're about to hop on your scooter with her on the back, you bust out with the onesie. All those bunk tickets in their actual badge-festooned parkas are gonna look at you with jealousy. See, in one swift move, you've gone from club wear to sleep wear without missing a beat in your Mod rhythm in front of your date. Recognize!
(And nice to know that even the makers of this pajama commercial have a sense of humor. Won't get fooled again, ey? We'll see about that as the money from sales comes rolling in.)

Christmas is coming up and you're probably thinking I'm putting this at the top of my Xmas list. But, this year, in the spirit of the holiday, I'm going to pass on the opportunity in order to give everyone else a chance to get it as a gift. After all, I'm sure this will be a season sell-out. It would hurt my feelings if someone gave this to me as a gift while other, more deserving Mod types, missed out on it. So friends, a box of See's Candy in place of this great item will be perfectly acceptable this year.

Now, if Christmas passes and by some slim chance these are still available, I just might have to purchase one to keep handy just in case someone ever puts on a Mod White Elephant sale. And if that happens and you're involved... keep your fingers crossed. You just might be going home with the most fashionable piece of Mod sleepwear since, well, this:
Image taken from one of my faves, the Anorak Thing blog.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mod Gone Wrong: The Union Jack Parka

That's it. I'm done. I'm turning in my card.

Seems we've reached the end of the comedy road: the Union Jack parka.
Image from We Are the Mods. Original source here.
Taking people further down the dismal Mod rabbit hole. Image source.
Because really, when you want to pander to a Mod crowd, what do you do? Put a Union Jack on it!

After all, we've had Union Jack scooters.
You can buy this here.
We've had Union Jack suits.
Paul Weller keeping his bottom button buttoned. Sigh...
We've had Union Jack desert boots.
Quadrophenia Jimmy wishes these were around back in the day, I'm sure.
We've had Union Jack shirts.

Fred Perry Union Jack, of course.
We've had Union Jack ties.
In case you're thinking of buying this, even the company refers to is as a 'novelty' tie.

I guess this was the natural conclusion.
I mean, what's left? A Union Jack Harrington?

And there is an audience for it. That's been proven time after time. For every guy out there searching out a well-tailored button-down, french-cuff shirt with the perfect collar and detailed buttoning, there are ten guys happy with anything that has a Union Jack on it.

Hey, I'm not perfect. I used to wear a parka with a Union Jack Jam patch on the back... when I was A TEENAGER. But you get to a point where you realize you don't need to walk around looking like a mascot for Anglophilia in order to convince everyone you're 'MOD!'

Hopefully, though, this Union Jack parka is the final straw on the back of the Comedy Mod camel. And hopefully, some of these new Mod labels will start to get more creative with their offerings. Think about all the different types of styles and detailings that were coming out of London at breakneck speed back in the 1960s. Sure, not all of it worked, but you still had some great pieces that stood out. These days, many new 'mod' clothing companies seem to go down the same weathered path laid down by original, iconic labels.

If you're thinking about starting your own 'Mod' clothing company, keep the following in mind:
Fred Perry has perfected the polo.
Ben Sherman has perfected the short-sleeved button-down.
Clark's has perfected the desert boot.
And the 1950s U.S. Army has perfected the parka.

You know what that leaves you with? A wide spectrum of new material and influences to draw from!

Or... I guess just put a Union Jack on something.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Sharp Stylings #67: DJ Soft Touch

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.
In what seems like 6 years since the last post, I'm (almost) finally out of a paternity daze. So, what better way to get back to posting than with a Sharp Stylings post... on a Monday!

And what better way to start this off with than with a clean shot of one of the most stylish Angelinos around, Clifton Weaver aka DJ Soft Touch!
Photo by Jesse Chairez.
Here he is just owning a solid block of attitude. And deservedly so... he's got a look that gets everything right without a hint of cliche:
  • A windowpane suit with lapels slightly larger than you'd expect but that work well with the higher button stance. 
  • Trousers that look to narrow in around the knee before slightly flaring out at the bottom... no ankle-hugging here!
  • A light-blue gingham-checked shirt, with French cuffs and a collar with a wider spread and no button-down or tabbed action.
  • A wider-than-average purple tie that plays well against the color of the shirt and the tone of the suit.
  • A blue and purple paisley pocket square that just puffs out of the breast pocket without any fancy points.
  • And finally, the jewelry details: large, sparkling cufflinks, wide wristwatch, ID bracelet on the other wrist, tie bar positioned so it just shows above the top suit button, and a tie tack holding the pocket square in place.
  • What's missing from the photo are the purple socks (my favorite sock color) and brown suede wingtips
This dude knows what he's doing... playing with the Mod look without depending upon typical Mod detailing (i.e., collar spread, tie width, lapel width, lack of ticket pocket). Yet, he still tosses in a couple of details some Mods are hip to (tie tack for pocket square, French cuffs, flared trousers).

This look, to me, screams 'Mod' without actually screaming 'Mod'. No lapel pins. No parka with badges. And only a tiny bit of typical Mod detailing. He could walk into a mod/soul club and stand out from the crowd while still fitting in. But he could walk into any other type of club and all people are gonna see is one crazy sharp fellow.

I mentioned earlier the attitude he's throwing out in this photo. He deserves it. Not only is he one of the sharpest dudes strutting around in L.A., but he's also one of the funkiest DJs around!

Ironically, the truth is that despite this, the guy doesn't carry a drop of attitude. Seriously, one of the nicest guys you'll meet.

Don't you just hate him?


Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's In A Name? (10 Reasons Why I'm NOT a Mod)

Y'know, judging by the amount of times I use the term "mod" in this blog, you would think I walk around all day constantly calling myself a 'mod' in real life. You'd think I'm one of those people who uses the term 'mod' every chance I get:

"Hey guys, I'll catch you later... I'm about to mod up." "Y'know, as a mod, I don't really like those skeletoe shoes of yours." "Ohhh, the life of a mod is so Mod-darn hard, I just want to mod mod mod off into the sunset."

GAH! You say a word enough times and it just starts to lose meaning to you.

You're not going to believe this but I don't really refer to myself as a 'mod' in real-world away-from-the-computer conversations. Oh, I know what I'm into and all, and I identify with it, but I don't go around being all explicit about it.

Yeah, I know... based on the fact that the 'M,' 'O,' and 'D' buttons on my keyboard are worn away to nubs, you'd think otherwise. Look at the title of this blog, for heaven's sake! Heck, I use the word 'mod' so often on this blog, Paolo Hewitt's probably getting ready to cash in on the royalties he thinks I owe.

But, in real life, people know what I'm into, I know what I'm into, and that's pretty much all that's needed. I don't need to emphasize any label with people. In fact, in general, when people have asked me what I'm about or what I am, I don't think I've ever really answered, "I'm a mod." At most, I'd tell them, "Oh, you know, I'm into moddish stuff." Or, "Y'know, the sixties." Because, really, who wants to get stuck in that conversation?

Others are different. They love the label and want others to recognize that they fit within that label. Some people go so far as to use other labels/names like 'tickets,' 'faces,' 'ace-faces,' 'modettes,' 'numbers,' blah blah blah. Man... what's the point?

Although I love the culture and what the term itself stands for, I don't peg my existence on it. My decisions aren't based on 'What would mods do?" In fact, there are probably a ton of you who think I'm NOT a mod at all, for various reasons.

And who am I to argue? Heck, I'll even go ahead and give you the Top 10 Reasons Why I'm NOT A mod:
  1. I don't wear a Target, Union Jack, or Mod lapel pin. Sorry. I don't really care if strangers know what I'm about or not. What ever happened to subtlety? These days, many mod types feel they need that final lapel pin to confirm that, yes, they're mods. Heck, if I go that route, maybe I should add lapel pins that say, "Mexican," "Short Guy," or "Batman Fan." Or, maybe I should just drop the essence of the look and walk out in flip-flops and a roundel tank top with a mod pin to confirm that, yes, 'Mod!' despite what you see.
  2. I don't ride a scooter. I admit it. For years, I've been the running joke amongst my friends because of this. I bought my first Vespa when I was about 18 years old. It was basically a scooter frame with a burnt-out engine and my friend convinced me to buy it because, y'know, mod. Unfortunately, I bought it at a time when all of my spare change money was going toward school. I could barely afford a meal, so how was I going to be able to afford a new scooter engine? Over time, I sold that scooter to a friend who, within hours it seemed, made it look like a piece of art... that also ran.

    Well, since I was living in the Bay Area, I was able to walk anywhere I pretty much wanted. My life wasn't dependent upon a set of wheels, although I still did want them. I bought my next scooter, a Vespa Rally, completely functional with a nice paint job. I even learned how to ride it... briefly. Of course, I learned how to ride it at a time in my life when I was much more aware of my own mortality. I knew friends who had gotten into accidents and that pretty much bummed out my own confidence in scooter-riding. These days, my scooter is in the garage and whenever we need to get anywhere, my wife's Mini is always there. So, yeah, I don't ride a scooter. Someday, though, I'll build up my confidence and get that thing running again! Until then... I guess that's another mod demerit for me.
  3. I like rock'n'roll music. Uh-huh, you bet! I don't collect 1950s rock'n'roll, but man I do dig me some Elvis (especially his 'Comeback'-era output), Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and Chuck Berry. I even like some Rockabilly music. Heck, I like some straight-up rock! Bands like MC5, Free, and Blue Cheer will always be welcome on my turntable. It may sound cliche, but, well, some of my best friends are rockers. So, yeah, I love me some good rock'n'roll. But that's okay... YOU probably like Oasis. Pssh! (Oh, and here's a secret for you: when 'Freebird' comes up on the radio... I keep it on!)*
  4. I'm old. Listen, there's nothing wrong with being old. I admit that I am. And I like it. For me, being old means that I've made it this far. It means that, hopefully, I've gained some wisdom, learned some lessons, and have matured, even if just a tiny bit, by this point in my life. I like being old. However, many people feel that the mod subculture is a 'youth' subculture. I would agree with that. I think that this is something you get into when you're young, looking for an identity, and trying to figure out what you're about. By the time you're my age, you should already know who you are, for the most part. You've already been shaped by life's experiences and should have, hopefully, overcome that desire to 'fit in' with a particular group. Some people see the mod thing as a phase which some young people go through. They think that this is something you 'grow out of' as you age. Maybe they're right, too, but why grow out of something that looks so damn good?
  5. I'm not British. Yup, some people believe that you have to be British in order to be a mod. I don't know, maybe it's something in the water out there. The funny thing about this is that so many British mods are into American culture. Many British kids have formed bands playing music that stemmed from an American experience (i.e., blues, soul, jazz). Some of the mod 'look' is highly influenced by American styles (i.e., Ivy league, Levi's jeans). But, let's accept it... if you're not British, you can't be a mod. And that's okay. My nationality is American and my ethnicity is Mexican. I'm so far away from being British, that I can't even fake a British accent. (The closest I can do is imitating the father who asks, "What's for tea, daughter?" in The Who's 'Heinz Baked Beans'.) My only consolation for not being British is that I can find great Mexican food out where I live. And I don't need to tan.
  6. I wasn't 'born Mod.' You ever hear this one? "I was born mod and I'm gonna die a mod." NEWSFLASH: I wasn't born a mod. Nope, I actually had a childhood that didn't involve pocket squares, cufflinks, or trouser hem widths. In fact, my interest in clothes took a backseat to my interest in Star Wars figures and Transformers toys. Before the sta-prest, chisel-toe shoes, and tailored suits, I was walking around in Toughskins, velcro sneakers, and an Admiral Ackbar t-shirt. Heck, I even wore shorts! And you think I was always into soul 45s? Well, you would have been surprised to find the 'Theme to Rocky' 7-inch, an 'Amazing Spider-Man and Friends' LP, and various Peter Pan 45s in my collection back then. However, although I didn't come out of the womb crying for my first tab-collar shirt, I did have strong opinions on personal style, even as a kid. I hated tank top shirts, muscle shirts, baggy trousers, or hi-top sneakers. Maybe this is why the mod look was so attractive to me early on. But no, I wasn't born mod. And chances are, neither were you
  7. I don't live in the 1960s. Some people probably think that the whole mod thing really only exists as a snapshot of a long-gone era in British culture. And really, who am I to disagree? I didn't live back then. I didn't go through those experiences that led to the formation of that culture. Some 1960s originals probably think that their youth was co-opted by later generations, and they might be right. Maybe Ian Page was on to something by trying to create a whole new label for post-1960s mods.

    Original mods grew up in a post-war economic boom. I grew up in a post-1970s economic fizzle. My experience was totally different than those originals. Heck, my experience was differant than the '79 revival guys, too. But when I discovered this thing, it had nothing to do with a time-frame, a protest against punk, or being a fan of The Who or The Jam. It had to do with the attitudes toward style. If you want to say that mod only existed from this year to that, fine. But, somehow, reading about it and learning about it had enough of an effect on my life and the lives of others that we've incorporated elements of that culture into our own aesthetic today. And, for the sake of convenience, maybe that term 'mod' just makes it easy to describe. 
  8. I don't listen to trip-hop or rave music. One of those guys from Menswear once said, "The true mods are the ravers, the people who are into jungle and music that sounds futuristic." He's not the only one who believes this. Over the years, I've heard how the 'new mods' are into rave or house music or trip-hop or whatever else just happens to exist at the moment. After all, 'mod' is short for 'modern,' right? Isn't that what people like to say? How can you be a mod and not be into contemporary music (or styles)? Hey, if you are into contemporary music, ain't nothin' wrong with that (see #10 below), but no need to use it to justify your 'modness.'

    Style-wise, I'm a bit more 'old-fashioned.' I know the 'mod' look when I see it and there's a lot of new fashion out there that I just don't see as 'mod.' But maybe that's just me. After all, some people think the 'new mods' are guys walking around in Oasis-looking baggy trousers and tennis shoes (trainers). Heck, maybe the 'new mods' are those fellas struttin' down the street in skinny jeans, mod tattoos, and listening to Daft Punk? Why not? They're 'modern,' after all. Well, if that is the case, then... any rockers out there have room for another?
  9. My circumstances aren't as 'difficult' as they used to be. These days, life ain't so bad. I have a job I'm happy with, steady income, a wife who indulges (and shares) my obsession with mod-oriented culture, and the free time to spend on updating this blog. Things weren't always this way... I've lived through my share of poverty.

    There were days when I had a choice between spending money on a solid meal or spending money on a way home from school. But even during those days, I made sure I was decked out in my vintage Towncraft shirts, 3-button jackets, tapered sta-prest, and Chelsea boots (with the heel worn down from all the walking I had to do). But thanks to those hard times, I have a larger appreciation for the good things in life today. Sorry to disappoint you, Pete Meaden, but life doesn't have to be difficult to enjoy this stuff.
  10. I like some mainstream pop music. Listen, I don't live my life judging music by what position it holds in the Billboard Top 40. If a song's good, it's good. For instance, I quite like songs like 'Beautiful', 'Dog Days Are Over''Hey Ya!', and 'Rolling in the Deep'. They're just well-crafted pop songs.

    I know, I know, according to all the history books, original mods disdained the pop charts. If a song was popular, they dropped it for something more obscure. YAWN... Hey, I used to be like that when I was younger. I know how it goes. If I saw any of the 'underground' music I loved getting popular with the 'mainstream,' I'd lose interest.

    Silly now that I look back on that way of thinking because the music itself didn't change. It didn't get any less good because more people liked it. Besides, these days, could you imagine judging music based on how popular it is? I might as well dump all my mod/soul records, considering how (deservedly) popular they've become! And let's be honest with ourselves. The 'underground' hasn't been underground for quite some time now.
So there you have it... the many reasons why I might fall out of the mod definition. I just don't live my life through a 'mod' prism. My decisions or interests aren't based on what is or isn't 'mod.'

See, I don't like soul music, 3-button jackets, chisel-toe shoes, and vintage scooters because I'm a mod, but rather, maybe, just maybe, I'm a mod because I like all those things. I don't know and it really doesn't matter. You can call me a 'mod,' you can call me a retro guy, or you can call me a doofus for all I care. Whatever you call me, whatever I call myself, none of it changes or affects my aesthetic or list of interests.

And that's why being called a mod isn't as important to me. I still dig it and will continue to exploit use the term on this blog, for the ease of discussion. Heck, I'll even be protective of it when I see some bunk stuff out there using the term. I love what the term represents, but I don't limit myself with it. Hey, like the proverb says, 'Know thyself.' Me, I know who I am regardless of the label.

Whew... now that I got that outta my system, I feel so much more liberated. Now I think I'll go put on a Howard Tate LP, iron up my tab-collar shirt, and go downstairs to pay my old scooter a visit. And after that, who knows? Maybe I'll go hang out with some rockers.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

May Music Picks

Wow! May was a big month for us. After 18 years in the same building and 13 years in the same apartment (7 for my wife), we finally moved. (See post here.) 

All this moving business got me really nostalgic, so that colored my music mood and got me into some sweet, mellow tunes I've enjoyed over the years living here. So, here friends, is my May playlist:

1. Ella Fitzgerald - It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing - The very first item I moved into my own apartment 13 years ago was a tape player. And the very first piece of music I played on it was off of an Ella Fitzgerald cassette tape. I moved down from an upstairs apartment, went straight to my new empty bedroom and plugged in my tape player with an Ella tape. I sat there listening to this, excited about my first, solo apartment.

2. Colin Blunstone - Caroline Goodbye - Okay, this one's old hat amongst the veterans out there, but if you're a newbie Mod kid getting burnt out on the "Mod! Mod! Mod! Rah! Rah! Rah!" music, then invest in Colin Blunstone. Former (or current, I guess) lead singer of the Zombies, Blunstone put out some absolutely beautiful solo music. And hey, if you're at a point in your life where you're looking to impress the chicas, play some of his music for them. They'll either soften up and see you as a sensitive, deeper-than-a-Mod-kid-should-be fellow or just not get the beauty of Blunstone. And if the latter, they ain't worth your time! I found this CD again when I started packing up our collection and just had to hear it.

3. Twin Engine - Give My Love A Chance - Another CD I found in the archives. Old pal, Pat Johnson turned me on these guys years ago when I was trying to explore more Byrdsy-country sounds. Listening to this again after so many years made moving a lot more easy. I don't know a whole lot about Twin Engine, but seems their back-up included guys like Clarence White, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Sold! (Unfortunately, I couldn't embed a YouTube clip, so you'll have to check the link yourself.)

4. Nick Drake - Northern Sky - Of course, moving always brings up some good nostalgia and although Nick Drake, for me and many others, is timeless, hearing this CD always brings me back to a period when I started to get real adventurous with music. My buddy Aaron used to always turn me on to great stuff that took me out of my Mod/soul comfort zone, including country, late '60s hard rock, and '60s/'70s folk, like this one. But as hard as he tried, I still had my limits (sorry Grateful Dead). But Bryter Layter and any Nick Drake is always welcome on my player!

5. Rodriguez - I'll Slip Away - Yes, we're still on a Rodriguez high and his music has been playing non-stop on our system while we packed up. Kind of makes it hard, though, when you're trying to hurry up and box up some books, but need to stop and take in a moment for a song like this. Many times, I had to tell my wife, "Hold on... let me just dig my jam for a bit and I'll get to the next box..."

6. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys - Love That Man - Many times, my wife was in control of our CD player (can you tell by now that our turntable was one of the first things to get packed?) and that's always a good thing since she puts stuff on that I forget about sometimes. We're huge Big Sandy fans and need to make more attempts to see him and his band live when they come through. A fantastic backing band, great voice, and beautiful music in a more '50s vein. I don't know about you, but 'rockabilly' music is A-OK with me!

7. The Jam - In The Crowd - I can't tell you how many times we drove back and forth between our old and new place dropping things off. And one of the CDs my wife kept playing was a Jam CD. I never find myself putting The Jam on, not because I'm tired of them (I still love them!) but because there's so much other great music I like listening to. But it usually takes my wife to remind me of good music like this. Everytime I jumped out of the car to drop boxes off, this was the song that remained playing in my head.

8. Johnny and June Cash - If I Were A Carpenter - This was off a different CD my wife had playing in the car. Off of a compilation of country music that we got while part of a CD club with friends, this number was the one I kept waiting for whenever it was on. The CD itself was filled with great stuff, but hearing this cover, which was a new one to me, is what kept me relaxed during the drives back and forth.

9. Nick Lowe -  Long-Limbed Girl (This video features Chris Barber)! - On our last night, all I had left music-wise was my iPhone. This was one of the last songs I remember listening to, late at night, while packing up shoes. Man... Nick Lowe is one of the few who has aged so gracefully and gotten better with his music. Don't believe me? Then play the video.

10. Jefferson Airplane - Embryonic Journey - Yeah, I know I put this in the last post, but I'm including it here anyway. Whereas Ella Fitzgerald was the first thing I played when I moved into my own place 13 years ago, this song was the last thing I played as we left. I was fooling around, really, as my wife walked out filming the empty apartment. I put the song on my iPhone as she was shutting the door as a joke, but when I saw the look on her face and the tears welling up, even I got super sad! Didn't help when one of the newer neighbors walked by looking at us like we were crazy.

Well, that's it for this month. In case you're wondering, our music system still isn't plugged in. (But our TV system is, so Arrested Development, here we come!) And our records and CDs are piled everywhere. I think this'll be the weekend to finally get some good music playing at the new place.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Casual Friday #14: Hank Ballard

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

I saw this photo of Hank Ballard posted on the Style and Classics Vintage Menswear Emporium Facebook page and had to include it here today.

Also on the Les Enfants de Jean Brun Tumblr page worth following for great images.
Okay, first off, let's get over the loose fit of the jacket. I know you Mod types like your jackets nice and tight, but lay off of Ballard, who's just keepin' it loose'n'cool.

Besides, it's the color and individual ensemble pieces that make this such a great, casual style. This look actually reminds me of what some of the Berkeley Mods were dressing like when I first moved to the Bay Area: vintage slim trousers with a higher rise, 3-button pop-over shirts (which you could still find at thrift shops at the time), and late '50s/early '60s pointed shoes.

In fact, if I could take a closer look at Ballards shoes, I could almost swear they're exactly like the type I still wear these days for work (and play)! You can keep your desert boots... I'd rather stick with slick, leather dress shoes.

The slim fit of the trousers work well with the overall look as well. I don't really do high-rises on my trousers these days, but if I could find a pair that looked this great, I'd do it.

Now take a look at that shirt... man! Nice, Autumn-flavored bold stripes with that 3-button front and button-down collar. You just don't see shirts like this that often anymore and it's really too bad because they're perfect casual shirts that beat any ol' tennis polo shirt any day of the week.

Bam! This all gets topped off with a rust-colored coat that matches his shirt perfectly. His ascot is just icing on the whole cake.

Hank Ballard... casual by day, slicked-up by night, all in one outfit. All right, Hank, now show us how the funk is done:


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mod Life: Overrated

You probably thought I gave this blog up, but the reality is that I've been way too busy with a miserable, overbearing task: moving.

Seriously. My wife and I just finished moving and the largest lesson I've learned from this whole thing is that this Mod thing sucks. I'm done with it.

I understand now why many 1960s Mods splintered off into more spartan, hippie lifestyles. I'm trading in my suits for target t-shirts and jeans, trading in all my shoes for a single pair of Adidas trainers, trading in all my vinyl for a single iPod, and trading in the books for a library card.

Of course, 18 years of accumulation is a hard thing to just pack up and move. We're dealing with boxes & boxes of shoes and bags & bags of clothing... and let's not get into my wife's collection of shoes and clothes! We couldn't have done it without the help of a moving company and our friends Jon Burchard, Karen Finlay, Syd Wayman, and Mari Corella. (Thanks guys!)

A few things I came across during our packing included an old pair of original 1960s Denson 'Chisel Poynters' I wore once long ago, before the tongue fell out. At the time that I got these, I didn't appreciate the fact that they were original Densons!

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I also found my old pair of Jam stage shoes.

A few other clothing pieces I came across included a beat-up pair of Cuban-heeled pointed boots...

some madras jackets...

my old houndstooth suit jacket...

and my paisley 2-button jacket (thanks Sean C.!).

Also came across some old paperbacks with great covers:

Oh yeah, and I found my old scooter!

Now, I  lived in that last place for almost 18 years, believe it or not. I moved in, as a couch-surfing student, with my friends Susan and Mike Therieau. At the time, The Beatles were celebrating their Anthology and local brit-pop club, Popscene, had just debuted at the Cat Club.

A month later, I had my own apartment in that same building with my roommate DJ Sean Cavanaugh. 4 years or so after that, while riding high on the dot-com craze, I had enough money to rent my very own apartment with no roommate in the very same building. Unfortunately, a month later, the dot-com craze died, but I survived and held on to that apartment! About 6 years later, my future wife moved in with me and now, 7 years later, we're off to a bigger place. Sigh... sad leaving that place behind.

Many Mod friends passed through as residents of that building over the years including Mike Therieau, Sean Cavanaugh, Dennis (Denny) Winston, Jason Ringgold (New Untouchables), Jon Burchard (ex-The Idea), and more. Many good times of BBQs, parties, and late-night hangouts.

And now, it's over. Time to move on.

As we cleaned out the last bit and prepared to close the door for one last time, my wife wanted me to take photos of the old place. 
And as we shut the door, I just had to play this last song (as I reminded myself to stop watching so many sitcoms):

Now it's time to give the spartan life a chance... a-a-a-and that's over. I feel like book-shopping.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Music Picks (A Day Late)

Alright, alright, only my second monthly playlist and already I'm late. Hey, what can I say? Life.

Anyways, this is what I've been diggin' on this month. That Acid Jazz box set really got me on a hip-hop kick (*gasp*), but that's not all I've been listening to. Check it!

1. Ry Cooder & The Chicken Skin Band - Dark End of The Street - This version just floored me. A beautiful mix of tender, soft soulful vocals, slide guitar, and Tex-Mex accordian. I had this on repeat for almost an entire work day. For no reason whatsoever, I've never picked up any Ry Cooder albums, but have wanted to explore his records for a while. This song just might be the kick in the pants to get on that!

2. Three O'Clock - In My Own Time - This month was a big concert month in the Bay Area. The Specials (or did they play in March?), Peter Daltrey (see below), and The Three O'Clock. Gotta say, the Three O'Clock were pretty great! When I was younger, 'Canteloupe Girlfriend' was my jam. These days, it's this track.

3.  Kaleidoscope - Standing/Diary Song: The Indian Head - Peter Daltrey made a return visit to San Francisco this month, so I spent time catching up on all my favorite Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour recordings (i.e., all of them). I was super excited to catch him again, as he was so good last time he played. But what happened? I got sick and couldn't make the show! Although I missed him, I still have fantastic songs like this, probably my favorite off of the White Faced Lady album.

4. Ricky Fante - Let You Go - Man, talk about getting lost in the shuffle. There are all these great new soul acts playing today, but Ricky Fante was one of the first back in the mid-2000s. I don't know why he wasn't picked up on more or why he didn't continue on the path of this sound. (Maybe it was the out-of-place dancers all around him?) But listen to this and tell me this ain't some great 'new' soul!

5. Dave Pike - Big Schlepp - I'm always in the mood for some good, funky Dave Pike jams. This is perfect music for just hangin' at home and kickin' it easy. Thanks to YouTube, you can find some good live footage of him. But the song that was ticklin' me this month was 'Big Schlepp!'

6. The Pharcyde - Oh Sh**! - As mentioned above, I've been on a hip-hop kick thanks to the Acid Jazz 25th Anniversary box set. I was never much of a hip-hop guy when I was younger. I think the only tracks I liked back in high school were 'Express Yourself' (NWA), 'Fight The Power' (Public Enemy), and 'Me, Myself, and I' (De La Soul). These days, though, I have a much larger appreciation and have been diggin' on songs I missed out the first time around, like this.

7. The Velvet Underground - Oh! Sweet Nuthin' - Ah, you all know this one! I was at the gym the other day, and this came on my iPod. It had been a while, but a very welcome listen. Unfortunately, it made me want to get off the treadmill and just want to mellow down easy.

8. Guru - Le Bien, Le Mal - Here's an old hip-hop tune I was into back in the day. In fact, while Guru's Jazzmatazz was probably hipping hip-hop kids to jazz, it was actually hipping me to hip-hop. Plus, you just can't beat the sound of French rapping.

9. Caetano Veloso - Lost In Paradise - This album is always lying by the side of our turntable because we are often in a Veloso mood. This particular track kept floating around in my mind this month.
10. Hidden Jazz Quartet - High Heels (Lack of Afro remix) - It's been a while since I've bought new 45s, but I just recently picked this one up. I actually learned about it from the Sussed Facebook page (thanks guys!) A nice slice of new soul that totally makes me want to DJ again!

Alright, that's it for me this month. Hope you dig!