[Modcast 2013-10-14] Songs Without Moustaches

 

Lee Hazlewood – “You Look Like a Lady”
Tom Jones – “Stop Breakin’ My Heart”
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – “Gold Rush Part 1 / Dollars In the Night / Gold Rush Part 2″
Thee Mighty Caesars – “69 Seconds”
Television Personalities – “I Was a Mod Before You Was a Mod”
Otis Spann – “I’m Ready”
Liz Brady – “Palladium”
Cal Tjader – “Soul Motion”
The Ups and Downs – “In the Shadows”
The Jetset – “The Man Who Lives Upstairs”
Long Tall Shorty – “Falling For You”
Neils Children – “Get Away From Me, Now”
The Chantalles – “I Want That Boy”
Booker T & the MG’s – “Hang ‘Em High”
Manual Scan – “New Difference”
Makin’ Time = “Honey (Fast version)”
Jacques Dutronc – “les Cactus”
Style Council – “The Whole Point of No Return”
Tom Waits – “More Than Rain”

———–
I know what you’re thinking and nope, sorry, Hazlewood released the album that one is on after demoustaching. I know, I know, it seems wrong to me, too, Lee hazlewood without a mustache, but it happened and we don’t talk about it.

While I have you here, today only, I have a coupon code for my Etsy shop. In theory, it’s a Tumblr exclusive, but this gets cross-posted to there, anyway, so go check it out. ☺

[Modcast 2013-10-07] Music to Protect Your Drag Clothes from Your Cat To

 

John Cooper Clarke – “Midnight Sun”
Makin’ Time – “I’m Not Really a Welder”
The Moodists – “Where the Trees Walk Downhill”
Graduate – “Elvis Should Play Ska”
Department S – “Somewhere Between Heaven and Tesco’s”
The Headcoatees – “True To You”
Franz Ferdinand – “Tell Her Tonight (in German)”
Broder Daniel – “Lovesick”
United Future Organisation – “Fool’s Paradise”
The Prisoners – “Say Your Prayers”
The Real Kids – “She’s Alright”
The Pretty Things – “Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut”
Rousers – “Face Toward the wall”
Powder – “I Try”
Purple Hearts – “Restless Dream Recurring”
Mick Harvey – “The Ticket Puncher”
The Fall – “Jawbone and the Air-Rifle”
The Go-Betweens – “People Say”
Tom Waits – “The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me”

Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra

Let me be clear: By standards of the subculture as it was, Lee & Nancy were not Mod —but because the only way to define “Mod music” is thusly:

Mod Music

  1. Music played by people who self-identify with the Mod subculture
  2. Music widely enjoyed by people who identify with the Mod subculture

…it simply cannot be denied that Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra have gained some cred over the years. Granted, this is not without reason.

It’s argueable that in 1966, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” was kind of an ironic anthem amongst Carnaby Street girls and American youthquakers, outfitting themselves in go-go boots. Hell, one of the earliest covers was by The Artwoods (also released in ’66), and three years later, Symarip released the first altered version on Skinhead Moonstomp. Written and produced in its original version by Lee Hazlewood, and written for Nancy Sinatra, whom he suggested to sing it as if she were “a sixteen-year-old girl who fucks truck drivers” (for the curious, Nancy was twenty-six, at the time it was released), it’s clear the song has a long history not only as a traditional 1960s pop standard, but also as a kitschy favourite amongst Mods and Skinheads. It is thus only logical that, at some point in the 1980s or ’90s revivals, people would get interested in other work written by Lee Hazlewood, especially works performed with Nancy Sinatra.

It’s hard to categorise Lee Hazlewood’s music, as a whole — he wrote and performed but pop and country music, and was probably one of the first musicians to write music that would later be called “alternative country” —which pretty much seems to be a sort of catch-all phrase meaning approximately “quirky rock or pop music with a strong country or folk vibe to it” and has been applied to people and bands as diverse as Cracker, k.d. lang, Wilco, Murder By Death (???), Mumford & Sons, Amy Rigby (I highly recommend Diary of a Mod Housewife), Holly Golightly, and others. I’m pretty sure I once even saw the term applied to Elvis Costello, but I’d rather not think about that. I kind of wince at the notion of people referring to his music as “Cowboy Psychedelia”, because with possible exception of “Some Velvet Morning”, his music doesn’t really fit any kind of “psychedelic” definitions.

Well, maybe “Big Red Balloon” touches on some of those “trippy” elements, too:

While Nancy, with and without Lee, did have a steady stream of hit singles in the 1960s, most of her career was a staple of the “Beautiful Music” format radio —which today would be “Soft Adult Contemporary”, basically a middle-of-the-road, wholly inoffensive format that takes few (if any) risks, musically, and its selections are chosen to appeal to adults over thirty (in the 1960s –the current MOR formats aim to appeal to the 50+ crowd).

Upon examination of Hazlewood’s music compared to other Beautiful Music standards of the 1960s, it’s really hard to imagine how he got relegated to such a format, leaving a fair amount of his music without Nancy fairly obscure (most of his own records never charted, and if he hadn’t already been a successful songwriter, he would easily be described as an unappreciated genius.

Nancy Sinatra herself was also far from a hit factory. While she did maintain a string of char “hits”, most of these settled between numbers twenty and forty-five on any given Billboard chart for that year. The now-iconic “Sand” from the record Nancy & Lee peaked at #107 on the US Billboard, and only broke the Top 20 in Australia. The longevity of her popularity amongst the underground subcultures seems to rest on the fact that she’s one of those singers who was too cool to be square, but too square to be cool. Sure, she had a couple odd television specials, which might lead one to think that she was a major performer of the time, but keep in mind: The 1960s was before rock-n-roll was considered anything more than a gimmick, commercially. Sure, a few gutsy adverts used rhythm & blues-infused rock music in a jingle or two, but these were very few and far-between. Sure, rock music did appallingly well in the charts, when compared to traditional pop musicians, but but the corporate world was still a bunch of old men refusing to budge on anything that might make the company seem less old-fashioned.

If you’ve seen Mad Men, ignore the fact that there are all these spectacular bouffants and bullet bras, and it makes you want to go out and buy a tube of Brylcreem. Think about it and remember all the various scenes where Don Draper is practically running into walls because jackasses older then himself are still treating his successful adverts as a fluke, or how often Peggy or Pete bite their tongues because while their ideas are clearly innovative and eye-catching, some white-haired jackass in a suit doesn’t quite get it and wants them to basically make the same ad the previous agency did, only “new”, somehow. This is why Nancy Sinatra and other people who barely sold records in the 1960s got some television specials: They were young-enough and just quirky enough to appeal to teenagers, uni students, and the general under-thirty crowd; they were also considered widely “safe” and “inoffensive” enough for ma and dad and grandma, and doc boy to be entertained, as well. Her recording of the Lee Hazlewood-penned “Sugar Town” is clearly a revival of 1940s-styled post-swing vocal pop reminiscent of The Andrews Sisters or similar.

…but then, speaking of “Sugar Town”, Hazlewood often mentioned later in life that the song was about LSD —that he went to some club in Los Angeles, and these younger people had lined up some sugarcubes, and applied something to them with an eyedropper. Since he avoided drugs, he wasn’t sure what they were doing, so he asked one of them, and was told “it’s LSD, man, a real sugar town”. He claimed to have intentionally dumbed-down the song with inane lyrics so that the kids would be certain as to what it was about (even though he intentionally avoided divulging its true meaning, at the time), but adults, especially those running the record company, would be none the wiser. Though “Sugar Town” only peaked at #5 on Billboard’s main US and UK charts, it was a #1 on the US Adult Contemporary chart in 1967. A lot of his other songs could also have an intentional double meaning like that, illustrating just how clever he was, especially when compared to other artists derisively lumped into the “MOR [Middle of the Road] pop” category, named such for its apparent simplicity and inoffensiveness. While he certainly entertained the tragically kitschy pop genre of Neil Diamond and others, his aspirations as a lyricist were clearly subversive enough to rival the Factory hangers-on numbly nodding along with The Velvet Underground.

By 1977, Hazlewood retired from music for a time, and Nancy Sinatra semi-retired in the late 1970s, stating she wanted to focus on motherhood for a bit, and released a country record with Mel Tillis in 1981, being pretty much the bulk of her activity until 1995, when she jump-started a new career with a spread in Playboy at the age of 54. Nancy is still with us, but Lee passed off this mortal coil in 2007, after a brief career relaunch and several years battling cancer. Maybe they didn’t get much cred amongst the Mods and Youthquakers in the mid-1960s, but they certainly have earned it since.

Spot On Etsy: Strawberry Wine

So, I had originally planned a treasury that’s been in my drafts for longer, titled “A Very British phenomenon”, but then Middleton had to go and take all my birthday Twitter attention away from me. So then I had half a mind to go into PhotoShop and crudely draw a crown over Kate Beaton’s “Shut Up About Babies” t-shirt, and have that be my “Spot On Etsy” for the day.

…but I’m over my urge to throw a tantrum, now, and I bring you this fine Etsy Treasury I’ve created, “Summer Wine”:


The following badges have also been added to my on shop:

…and badges from my shoppe have gotten nods in the following treasuries:


I also wanted to remind everyone that there are four copies of New Dance back in stock, AND, for the rest of this month, use the coupon code HAPPYBIRTHDAYRUADHAN for 16% off all purchases of $3 or more (before shipping).

I also wanted to acknowledge that yes, i HAVE neglected the newsletter, but I’m transitioning it to monthly rather than fortnightly, and wanted to take some time to reconsider the format. It *should* be ready to start back up in August.

DJ RJ’s Modcast for 15 July 2013

 

Saint Etienne – “Railway Jam”
Department S – “Whatever Happened To the Blues?”
Dexys – “You”
Paul Bevoir – “Changing Places”
Madness – “Believe Me”
Gli Evangelisti – “Un ragazzo di strada”
Tony Clarke – “Landslide”
The Out Cast – “You’ve Gotta Call Me”
The Smiths – “Work Is A Four Letter Word”
Purple Hearts – “Plane Crash”
The Small Faces – “Tin Soldier”
The Meddyevals – “Place called Love”
The Kinks – “Village Green”
The Ordinary Boys – “Over the Counter Culture”
The Monochrome Set – “Two Fists”
Prince – “4 the Tears In Your Eyes”
Skandalous All-Stars – “Cult of Personality”
Alexei Sayle – “The Winebars of Old Hampstead Town”

The Mod Guide to Crime Drama: The Untouchables

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The Untouchables were something of an iconic group of federal prohibition agents that operated between 1928 and 1933, later immortalised in public consciousness by a memoir of two former said agents, Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley. The book sold well enough that a fictionalised television drama based on it was developed and aired on the ABC Network in the US from 1959 to 1963 (the same span of time as Peter Gunn). The writing was consistently pretty good, as was the cast, but for the standard of the time, it was possibly the most graphically violent series on television, some critics even proclaiming it “unfit for television” —now, by modern standards, it’s almost tame, but often enough there are scenes that can shock even myself, and I practically grew up on Law & Order and NYPD Blue.

The writing and direction was strong, it certainly holds up to the former controversy in that sense, but here’s a major flaw to the series that I noticed right away: This show is anachronistic as hell. Remember, this is set in the late 1920s and early ’30s. The hair, especially on the men, is awfully dry during an era when Brylcream ruled men’s hairdressing with an iron fist, and it’s awfully volumunous for a period when a deep side-part and slicked-back was pretty much the only way for a “real man” wear his hair (unless you were Ramon Novarro, but that’s another story for another time), I’ve watched maybe half as many episodes as were ever produced and still have yet to see a woman with fingerwaves, several women sport haircuts and styles that didn’t really happen until 1960 (including one low beehive / bouffant in at least one episode), the clothes are all late 1950s / early ’60s, and the jazz is often more cool than hot. Menus on chalkboards have 1960s pricing. This show has a bizarre penchant for putting the men in zoot suts, which didn’t really exist until later in the 1930s and didn’t have any real popularity until the 1940s. Dresses have 1960s waistlines and skirt hems —which would’ve been scandalous when compared to the standard just-above-midcalve flapper hemlines. The writing certainly tends to carry the story well enough that sometimes I forget about the wall to wall 1960s pretty early on, but other times, I just forget that it’s supposed to be set in the 1920/30s. It’s like watching Dirty Dancing and immediately forgetting that first scene where Jennifer Grey’s voice-over explains that it’s set in 1963, cos dear lord does everything else about that film look and feel 1986.

In fact, the egregious anachronisms give me incredibly mixed feelings about this show. The writing, direction, and acting is all great. Care is certainly made to give most episodes a feel of 1930s gangster films, or at least that this is giving a nod to that genre. As a period piece, though, it’s a complete failure that manages only slightly better to capture the early 1930s than, well, 1986’s Dirty Dancing managed to capture the early 1960s. It’s quite watchable, but more as a quality crime drama that was popular and controversial for its violence in the 1960s, but as a piece about the prohibition era, it ignores the changes made in the thirty years between the era it depicts and the era it was produced in.

In short: I want to like this show more than I do. I love me some quality crime drama television writing, and this has that. As a crime drama alone, it’s fairly good. On the other hand, anachronistic period pieces bother me more than they seem to bug most other people, and when I can list off at least eight things off the top of my head on how this scene alone fails as a period piece1

…then it’s far too distracting for me to enjoy. Your mileage may vary.

1: Elizabeth Montgomery’s hair in the opening credits; Montgomery’s dress in the scene — waistline, hemines (that double-skirt thing is very 1940s), style; Montgomery’s handbag (too big); Montgomery’s hat (WAY too big); Robert Stack’s hat; Robert Stack’s suit

The Monday Modcast: 27 May 2013 – Garage & Swamp

 

The Gun Club – “Sex Beat”
Richard Hell & the Voidoids – “You Gotta Move”
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – “Dead Man In My Bed”
The Dead Boys – “Ain’t Nothing to Do”
The Flaming Stars – “Treptower Park”
The Bluestars – “Social End Product”
Snake-Out – “I Ain’t Ghandi”
The Fall – “Pay Your Rates”
The Inmates – “Mr. Unreliable”
Thee Headcoatees – “Shadow”
Radio Birdman – “New Race (original version)”
The Prisoners – “Deceiving Eye”
The Moodists – “Swingy George”
Crime & the City Solution – “Motherless Child (Dance Mix)”
The Black Belles – “Leave You With a Letter”
The Del-Byzanteens – “Sally Go Round the Roses”
Brian Auger Trinity w/ Julie Driscoll – “This Wheel’s On Fire”
Julie Grant – “Come To Me”

Spot On Etsy — Odd Mod Out “Peacocks” Treasury

So, I decided that I liked the cross-over of Treasuries and blog posts, so I figured I’d make one while I’m still working on other character treasuries. This one is themed around peacock imagery and colours.

These are all pretty self-explanatory, I think, but if I notice a lot of comments from people who have no idea why I’d include these things, I’ll return to my former format of a simple thumbnail and description.

I’ve also updated my own Etsy shoppe with the following badges:

And the following items from my shoppe have been added to the following treasuries:

The “Tyranny & Rubble” Treasury was also apparently part of a non-team challenge, prompted by the blog Treasury Challenge NonTeam. I’m perusing this and think I might take up a future challenge.

[2013-05-13] Modcast: Mostly Instrumental

 

The Creatures – “Standing There”
Lizzy Mercier Descloux – “Mission Impossible 2.0″
Lydia Lunch – “A Cruise to the Moon”
Rip Rig + Panic – “Warm To the If in Life”
Booker T & the MG’s – “Melting Pot”
Flipper’s Guitar – “Big Bad Bingo”
The Kinks – “Animal Farm”
The Easybeats – “All Gone Boy (alternate mix)”
Lorraine Silver – “Happy Faces”
Holly Golightly – “Too Late Now”
Mick Harvey & Anita Lane – “Who’s ‘In’, Who’s ‘Out'”

Yep, it’s longer than what I’ve been shooting for, lately. Consider it an extra treat. :-)

The Twilight Zone

In 1959, Hollywood’s own Angry Young Man, Rod Serling, launched one of the most memorable anthology series of television history, The Twilight Zone. It’s a science fiction series, but it’s never been all spaceships and alien encounters, as most assume of the sci-fi genre these days, but more often dystopia, time travel, extreme natural disasters, and a lot of times plots or even elements that others might consider more fantasy –common themes in stories explore the fine line between insanity and different realities, or science fiction and ghost stories. rodserling An entire episode is even dedicated to the idea of reality as experienced by five dolls in a charity’s donation bin.

Having watched most episodes over the last six months, I feel confident in saying this: Rod Serling was one pessimistic curmudgeon. Among the common themes of most episodes includes “people are horrible to each other” and “humanity will damn itself before anything else could”. He was also a fan of cosmic irony, one of the most famous examples in The Twilight Zone being the episode “Time Enough at Last”, about a man who, at first on the verge of losing his job due to reading, suddenly finds himself the sole survivor of a disaster that otherwise destroyed the city, because he had been locked in the bank vault reading; toward the end of the episode, he realises that, though alone, he now finally has time enough to read everything he wants, without any fear s of having to do anything else that could get in the way of his reading —only to accidentally step on and destroy his glasses, after carefully arranging the first stacks of books he wanted to read. In Serling’s world of dubious reality and aliens planting just the tiniest seeds to let humanity destroy itself, there is clearly some divine force at work to make sure that no-one is ever happy. R-1459371-1221319782

Serling totally earned his nickname of “angry young man of Hollywood”, which was likely drawn from both the similarities between himself and the vague collection of British writers the term had been applied to across the Atlantic (practically none of whom liked the label, and only just barely could tolerate each-other) and the high amount of criticism he had of the industry, especially earlier on in his career, though by the time of The Twilight Zone, he had claimed to have “outgrown” that moniker, and by the age of 34 in 1959, was simply “petulant”[link], and claimed that his waning anger was due in part to his own success affording him freedoms he previously didn’t have. To be frank, I simply cannot envision a Mod scene without an appreciation for not only crime dramas, but also a deep appreciation for Rod Serling.

Though his next major anthology series, The Night Gallery, suffered in quality which he later blamed on himself, it’s still worth seeing, in this humble (p)op-art-culture junkie’s opinion. To address the wane in quality, Serling said he had grown weary of the pressures associated with the kind of creative control he had on The Twilight Zone, so agreed to less control over The Night Gallery (with his only contributions to some episodes being his introduction sequences). While I generally enjoy the themes of classic science fiction and even horror (one of the major differences between The Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone is that the latter was dominated by themes common to science fiction, fantasy, and were often philosophical –The Night Gallery primarily focused on horror, including psychological horror and its overlapping with science fiction, the macabre and “supernatural”, and often aimed for black and dark humour), the quality of The Night Gallery, when compared to The Twilight Zone, is very apparent. While Serling certainly had a handful of other writers and directors contributing to The Twilight Zone, the quality was constant, and one typically needs to check the credits to know whether it’s a Serling-heavy episode, or whether the writing and/or direction was taken on by others. The Night Gallery, in contrast, has the inverse true: If you’re familiar with The Twilight Zone, it’s generally pretty easy to pick out which stories showcased on The Night Gallery were Serling-heavy, while many others very clearly were not. But even on his major contributions to The Night Gallery, he stuck to the reality that he knew best: Humans are horrible to each-other, humans are all doomed at their own hands, and the Fates have a sick sense of humour.