[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. ☺

The Ad Game: Tonight We Tanqueray

The music is cool, and not a single unnecessary shot.

Granted, this isn’t the first ad for alcohol I’ve found with a distinct Mod appeal, but this is the most recent and the one that reminded me I wanted to do this feature.

Only Pop Music can save us now!

I don’t apologise about my fondness for pop music in the Mod idiom. Pop Music seems to get a bit of a bad rep in the Mod scene, my guess because it’s a bigger hit with the girls and queerboys, creating an inherently feminine association, and while that’s perfectly acceptable for the ladies, Mod gents are expected to be… not all “macho”, but still less feminine than the womenfolk or apparently effeminate queer men. Unfortunately, plenty of the overculture’s prejudices gravitate into the subcultures, and only those conscious of this (who are usually those most directly affected by it) have the nerve to put those prejudices within the subculture under a microscope. But enough about that for a mo’.

So without further ado, my top picks for Mod-oriented and / or Mod-friendly Pop Music:

Dexys Midnight Runners
While their first singles, the albums Searching For the Young Soul Rebels and Don’t Stand Me Down, and the early compilation Geno, are indisputably soul or one form or another as is the reformed-as-simply-Dexys record, One Day I’m Going to Soar, the middle DMR LP, Too-Rye-Aye is incredibly pop-oriented, and one of the most sold pop records ever crafted. I’ve also credited DMR with very literally saving my life at one point, so even the more pop-oriented tunes from their first full-length record are very dear to me.

Pete Townshend’s solo work
The Empty Glass album was loved by critics for it’s strong and subversive pop-rock writing and performances, but hated just as much because of presumptions that Pete kept the best songs for himself, letting The Who’s record from the same year, Face Dances, suffer from weaker tunes, which Roger once claimed to have felt betrayed by. Pete said he did it that way for reasons (one important one being that he was afraid that Roger wouldn’t want to sing the homoerotic “Rogh Boys” as it was written, and Townshend wanted to protect the integrity of the lyrics). In 1983, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes was more artistically-focused, when compared to Empty Glass, and this seemed further reflected in the companion film videotape release. In 1985, Townshend released the concept record and companion direct-to-video film White City: A Novel, that he’s described as essentially stand-alone, but as something that could, should the viewer want it to, function as a sequel to Quadrophenia, taking place about twenty years later from Quadrophenia, and featuring a lead male named “Jim”, who attends night school and lives in a council flat. He’s released amazing pop and rock under his own name, and anybody who considers themself a fan of The Who needs to check it out.

Blue Ox Babes
Due to lots of reasons — from poor timing to mental illness — The Blues Ox Babes didn’t ever got the break they deserved in the early 1980s. Even Kevin Rowland has since admitted that he didn’t have the idea for the “Celtic Soul” thing until listening to some home demos from Kevin “Al” Archer’s post-DMR project, and Too-Rye-Aye quickly overshadowed The BOBs first couple singles, getting their record, Apples and Oranges, shelved for over two decades. Their entire body of work (later compiled and issued as Apples & Oranges by Cherry Red records in 2007) is really strong and entertains every feature, at various times, that makes for excellent Mod-friendly pop music.

The Style Council
As The Mod Male says, there are many things that The Style Council did so very right, even if Weller took their sound in a direction that didn’t go over very well with The Jam’s most loyal fans and eventually matured The Style Council in ways that turned off that band’s own fans. I got into The Jam first, but since I discovered the music of The Style Council, I’ve preferred their music tenfold, since —I know that’s practically blasphemy, to some, but that’s just how it is. I’m a fem, what can I say? Speaking of, maybe I’m just that way, but TSC made some of the most homoerotic music videos, ever. I’m bloody pissed that YouTube seems to have pulled the uncut vid for “Long Hot Summer”, which is certainly their most blatantly homoerotic clip —of course, even what remains is still pretty high on that scale.

The Compact Organisation
I’ve talked about this label before, and how Tot Taylor and Company had created some of the most perfect retro-1960s Mod-friendly pop music, ever. It’s hard for me to pick out one or two artists who’ve been associated with the label because in my opinion, every single one has been a winner, regardless of their relative success. Visually? From Mari Wilson’s signature beehive and Virna Lindt’s perfect blonde bob, to Cynthia Scott’s cat eve glasses and the clear homage to Georgie Fame that composes the cover of Tot Taylor’ Playtime LP, you can’t deny that the most memorable names on the label had the aesthetic down, and the music tended to confirm an understanding of the scene, more often than not, as well. Looking around at old photos from Revivalists in the early 1980s, also suggests that there was some relative popularity of the label amongst the Revivalist generation.

The Monochrome Set
Featuring ex-members of Adam and the Ants, Andy Warren and Lester Square, this idiosyncratic post-punk group defied genre pigenholing, while incorporating a lot of 1960s-influenced quirks, and cross-genre pop elements. Their sound evolved over time and reunions, but everything was consistently good and it was always a clear growth and maturation that went well with the band’s previous offerings, rather than detoured off into a sort of “combo mid-life crisis”. (I’ve selected three songs for The Monochrome Set to illustrate this maturation.)

Madness & Suggs
Their earliest records are more ska than pop, but they always dabbled in pop music. Always. Don’t deny it; every ska purist admits it (and well, almost anyone who realises that No Doubt stopped being even ska-punk after Gwen Stefani took over for her brother), and even they often admit to liking Madness. And they clearly got poppier as they went on. When Suggs attempted a solo career, he clearly went in a synth-pop direction that embraced a Mod-friendly aural aesthetic with notes of ska, reggae, and even clear influence in the then-vibrant acid jazz scene throughout.

As a complete aside, I don’t know why, but I always got the impression that these men listen to a LOT of DEVO. I don’t know why I get that impression, but I’m saying so now, cos I can’t think of a more appropriate way to bring it up.

The B-52s
Probably the kitschiest of all 1980s retropop groups, they also have a lot of the most solid pop songs. All of their singles are pretty cracking, and every song is made for dancing. Every. Single. Song. Not just the singles. but every song. And Kate Pierson can pony like no-one’s business. They’ve always had a strong understanding of the 1960s sounds, and a genuine, unironic love of kitsch culture, mix that with an inherently queerpunk sensibility and post-punk musical relevance that manages to remain ineffably fresh-sounding, in spite of the fact that their first two records are now about thirty-five years old. While some who were part of the Mod Revival maintain that the Sixties retro scene was different and barely had any overlap, that doesn’t really hold anymore, and regardless, not everyone “who was there” agrees. Seriously, kids, ask five people “who were there”, you’ll get ten different answers.

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood
Contrary to common assumption amongst a lot of kids on the Internet or self-professed “originals” who didn’t get into Modernism until after they caught their first episodes of Ready Steady Go!, not everything out of the 1960s is related to the Mod subculture. In fact, I’d wager that even most of the instances from the Sixties wherein something is referred to as “mod” is just using an advertising buzzword of the day, much like how from 1979 and 1983, just about any band with a synthesiser or just a pop-punk sound was called “New Wave”, when the New Wave scene (or positive punk, or other regional terms) maintained itself as something distinct that, at most, was barely related to maybe 80% (or more) of that which got referred to as “new wave” amongst the music press (hell, at one point, Television was “new wave”, Elvis Costello was “new wave”, Roxy Music was “new wave”, and in the States The Jam was, I shit you not, referred to as “new wave”). So needless to say, Nancy and Lee were not Mods. On the back of Nancy’s Sugar record, Lee Hazlewood affectionately describes her saying “She’s so square she can get high on a glass of water.” They had nothing to do with Mod. Lee Halewood wrote a lot of songs, mostly influenced by country music or Leonard Cohen’s school of neo-folk and most of it retroactively genred as English Baroque, because a lot of it shared clear similarities. Aside from her much-covered single, “These Boots (Are Made For Walking)” (which has retroactively become sort of a Mod girl anthem), the pair produced a tonne of singles that have since gained cred, in spite of being painfully square at the time. A lot of their best work is also pretty downtempo, so you’ll probably only ever hear a few things in rotation at clubs, but it’s very lounge oriented.

The Go-Go’s
Possibly the seminal Los Angeles 1980s girl group, and sort of indirectly born of seminal LA hardcore punk group The Germs (Belinda Carslile was drummer for the latter for maybe a weekend, and after used to introduce them onstage at their earliest concerts). Their name certainly harkened to the 1960s cage dancers at some of the edgier nightclubs, and musically, they sounded like the artistic heiresses of The Breakaways. A few staples from the 1960s were a regular part of their sets, and they certainly knew how to work Sixties retro-kitsch with a modern flair, even if only on the album covers. Sure, they looked very painfully 1980s, from the spiky hair that now brings to mind a feminine take on Max Headroom, to the slash rouge that never flattered anyone’s features, to the baggy jumpers with hip-belts, but close your eyes — go ahead, do it. Now tell me they’re not the musical heiresses to those cute all-girl combos from the mid-1960s.

Tracey Ullman
Best known as a comedienne and actress, she had a short-lived stint as a pop singer, specialising in cute, quirky, Sixties-styled retropop. Her gender-swapped version of Madness’ “My Girl” is in line with the tradition of turning “The Girl from Ipenema” into “The Boy from Ipenema” when performed by a woman (a tradition later flipped off by Amy Winehouse). “They Don’t Know” and “Breakaway” were also really underrated singles that demonstrate a clear love for pop music of the early 1960s, especially the girl group sound. The video for “They Don’t Know” ends on a sad note, but overall a lovely video, and she looks just adorable.

The Fun Boy Three
After Terry Hall, Neville Staple, and Lynval Golding split from The Specials (but before Hall formed The Colourfield with Shale and Lyons from The Swinging Cats), The Fun Boy Three released two moody synthpop-based albums that stretched the limits of both synthpop and downtempo reggae, and made it really work. Occasionally cross-genre elements from the shoegaze and proto-gothic schools of post-punk were employed, and they still made it work. I’m convinced that there was nothing that The Fun Boy Three couldn’t make work, musically, if they attempted it, and I have their two very strong records to support this notion. Sure, they’re kind of responsible for putting Bananarama onto the world, but you know, I still think that Bananarama’s first two records, and most of the third, were pretty strong dance-oriented pop that does seem to maintain the spirit of the old girl groups, even if the musical aesthetic is vastly different from that normally accepted of girl groups at a Mod night.

The Police and Sting
You know how Madness’ sound, at least on record, got more pop-oriented as they band marched on? The Police turned that concept up to eleven going from a pop group obviously steeped in a strong reggae influence, to… I’m not sure what I’d call it, exactly, but it was pretty damned bland and their previous reggae-heavy sound was practically boiled out, with the odd remaining lipids of that sound occasionally surfacing. A lot of their later stuff, even I won’t listen to, but I really do appreciate the fact that Sting’s solo sound got more jazzy and soul-inspired for a period, and I generally like his post-Police work, even if there’s a lot I would leave at home on a DJ night.

General Public
I don’t know why, but I envision that, if this blog were more popular amongst Mods and Trad Skins, I’d catch a lot of hell for standing up for General Public, and I’ve slipped King’s “Love & Pride” into setlists at nights when I thought I could get away with it. General Public was practically a supergroup from the Mod Revival and 2Tone scenes, composed of Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger (both formerly of The Beat), Mickey Billingham (DMR), Andy “Stoker” Growcott (DMR/The Bureau), Horace Panter (The Specials) and Mick Jones (The Clash —who were technically a punk band but with loads of affection amongst the Mod Revival and Ska scenes).

    The reasons I think I’d catch hell for this:

  • while their influences tend to remain fairly obvious, General Public made Tracie Young (who seems to get some undeserved flack) seem inspired. Hell, it kind of makes Matt Bianco’s later records seem inspired, and I don’t even try to make excuses for Matt Bianco’s records after their Indigo LP (though there are reasons I’m not including Matt Bianco on this particular list).
  • The video for “Tenderness” needs to die in a fire.
  • I don’t understand Roger’s racing stripes, either, and I keep the hair on the left side of my head violet for personal reasons.
  • Their music doesn’t work the same way that FB3’s music works, and that’s kind of disappointing. Still, their music works in a quirky sort of way.
  • Their cover of “I’ll Take You There”, originally performed by Mavis Staples / The Staples Singers for Stax, isn’t great, and I’m being polite, cos I actually really liked it when it first came out, but I was in junior high at the time, and I still liked the Buckingham-Nicks years of Fleetwood Mac at that age, without guilt. While I appreciate covers that put a unique spin on the song to make it distinct from the original recording, a well-loved staple of soul nights, like “I’ll Take You There”, really should get a cover that can hold its own. Listening as an adult, with matured tastes, there’s something about their cover that seems obvious that the last two members of General Public who had any interest in still being General Public were offered a spot on the Threesome soundtrack over a weekend, cos why? For most of the early 1990s, reggae had become trendy, and by ’94, that trend was kind of waning, so why not send it out with something from a well-loved band of the UK’s reggapop scene of the previous decade? Or something like that. But yeah, I’ll bet you ten dollars that this was recorded by Roger and Wakeling over a weekend, over-produced in the studio for the next week and a half, and in spite of the film flopping, the single nearly became of Top 20 hit in the States, which should speak to te general unimpressiveness of this version all on its own.

That said, while I have mixed feelings on 1995’s General Public record, Rub It Better (the group’s third and final), it’s certainly better than… That single… from the previous year. The video for “Rainy Days” is adorable, even if the song sounds overproduced. General Public is certainly more toward the “guilty pleasure” side of my favourite “Mod-friendly pop music”, but I don’t put them in that category simply because I do think a lot of their work is pretty solid, even if there are clear weaknesses —and like I said, that… single… was almost a gateway to ska for me —if I hadn’t had a brother-in-law who introduced me to Siouxsie Sioux and Rozz Williams that summer, between that and my lifelong love of The Who and art deco, I probably would’ve dove head first into Mod far earlier.

The Mod Guide to Crime Drama: Mr Lucky

mr_luckyOh, Blake Edwards, CBS just didn’t give you a break with this one, did they?

Before Mr Lucky, the character was Will Dante –a recurring role for Dick Powell on the anthology series Four Star Playhouse– but unable to currently check out the original version of the character, I can’t cite the differences. What I can cite, thought, is on Mr Lucky (with titular character portrayed by John Vivyan), there was supporting character Andamo, who himself was spun off from Peter Gunn –which ran on competing network NBC. tvsinopse12010 In addition to the same creator and a spin-off supporting character, and a distinct air of noir, Mr Lucky also shared a theme tune composer in common with Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini, who released two successful records featuring the theme tune. Indeed, this one should’ve been as big as Peter Gunn, but it was probably lucky to last the single series (“season”, in the US) run that it did, which seems unintentionally ironic for a show of this name.

Me gusta.

Me gusta.

Now, Mr Lucky was a success in the ratings and with critics because while it did share some characteristics with Peter Gunn, it was also considerably different. Lucky, suggested to be a pseudonym reflecting the character’s good fortune, is a career gambler operating a floating casino on his yacht Fortuna (technically “Fortuna II”; named for the Roman goddess of fortune, Her Greek equivalent is Thykhe) that boards rich patrons from (presumably, as the city is never named) the Los Angeles area and operates outside state jurisdiction, anchored three miles off shore. He also considers himself a highly ethical businessman, stressing in episode #15, “The Sour Milk Fund”, that if he is aware that a potential casino patron cannot afford to lose money, his conscious won’t allow them to board. tvsinopse12001 In episode #8, “Little Miss Wow”, he prevents a bored corporate heiress from an apparent suicide (she insists that wasn’t the case, and dialogue seemed to suggest she might’ve been high –it was 1959, of course it stayed vague) and then rescued her from kidnappers. It’s clear that though Lucky preferred to operate outside the law, he took care not to explicitly break the law, if he could help it.

Obviously, his business made money, and naturally he frequently found himself at odds with the Los Angeles area’s organised criminals, and operating just outside the reach of the law made him no friend to the police, either –both situations creating a lot of the conflict for the show, and it worked. It worked splendidly, and the critics knew this, and the home audience knew this, too. Mr.Lucky For all possible definitions, the show was a hit –it was a ratings leader for CBS by the end of the 1959/60 season (second on overall network ratings only to the children-and-family friendly Dennis the Menace). So what happened?

Well, have you ever seen that film Quiz Show? If you haven’t, or if you have but think it’s complete fiction, let me tell you: It wasn’t fiction. 080728_r17576_p465 This was based on a scandal that occurred when Herb Stempel, a former contestant on the popular game show, Twenty-One, announced that the game was fixed, apparently to both create tension for the audience, to watch an “everyman” win for several weeks, or months, only to suddenly lose it all –which is often speculated to be a secondary motivation to the fixing, to prevent a large payout by offering a much smaller payout in ‘hush money” to maintain the ruse. At first, Stempel was dismissed as a sore loser and a kook, until further investigations continued in 1958 (almost two years after Stempel’s revelation), and Supreme Court hearings over the investigation findings began in October 1959; Patty Duke even came forth as being coached for her answers in The $64,000 Question.

"All right, that's it.  Spankings all around."

“All right, that’s it. Spankings all around.”

So what does this have to do with Mr. Lucky? Well, Mr Lucky‘s sponsor, Lever Brothers, didn’t like the association of gambling to “fixed games” and thus started voicing concerns over the titular Mr Lucky’s profession; this is probably one of the earliest examples of network meddling on a popular, quality television original fiction series.

That’s not what killed Mr Lucky. See, the writing team for Mr Lucky knew better than to just change the setting without a word. Between episodes Fifteen and Sixteen (“The Brain Picker”), Mr Lucky transitioned his casino yacht to a floating supper club –a jazz club / restaurant hybrid popular in the 1920s and that enjoyed a revival with the popularity of Big Band Swing in the 1940s, and maintained a lower level of popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s before completely disappearing by the end of the 1970s, when the discotheque format nightclub proved more popular.

This is why we can't have nice things.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Critics bemoaned the format change, Dwight Whitney from TV Guide even fearing that this had taken the “bite” out of the character and feared it was headed to a flop, but the character himself hadn’t changed, and the conflict didn’t really change, either. The audience still seemed receptive to the character of the jazz-loving gambler-turned-restaurateur who stuck in the teeth of local crime lords and cops who couldn’t do a damned thing about him. But Lever ultimately withdrew their sponsorship, anyway, and possibly due to the legacy of gambling on the show’s plot, and the lingering notes of game-rigging scandal in the 1960 telly series air, CBS failed to secure a new sponsor for Mr Lucky and after a series of thirty-four episodes and a summer of reruns, Mr Lucky was cancelled unceremoniously.

Blake Edwards still clearly believed in this show and its stories, and attempted to revive it several times. All that really came of the efforts were a movie-of-the-week, Casino, in 1980, and later in the Eighties, he worked with New World Pictures to develop a television series revival alongside the revival of Peter Gunn, but this proved unsuccessful. Sometimes invoking Thykhe’s name will bring one a great boon of blessings, but sometimes, the goddess of fortune just can’t go against what has already been decreed by the Fates. A great show, full of potential, but was just never meant to be.

Ah well, at least we can bask in the theme tune.

[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. :-)

Did you know it’s International Jazz Day?

In 1924, a caricature of the "short" mid-calve hemline, but it gave birth to the miniskirt.

In 1924, a caricature of the “short” mid-calve hemline, but it gave birth to the miniskirt.

I did. My search engine told me so. :-)

On a more serious note: The Mod scene and its history must include clear props to Jazz in all its forms. Don’t think so? Let me explain.

First off, cos this is the Internet, this blog cross-posts to Tumblr, and this is the Internet, where just the fact that I’m writing and publishing this here means some day, eventually, someone will find this, read it, and think of any reason possible to get offended cos they disagree with what I’ve said or, more often the case, with what they think I’ve said, let me get the easy part out of the way:

  • I am not saying that you have to be a jazz fan to be a Mod. The Mod scene incorporates a wide variety of music genres, and you don’t have to like all of them to be a Mod.
  • Considering that, you may not have to like every genre generally accepted in the Mod scene, but a basic respect for the genres that helped lay the foundation for the scene (Jazz, Soul, British Rhythm and Blues), especially their place in the scene, is something I feel should be expected of anybody in the Mod scene who wants their opinion taken seriously.
  • That said, let’s be realistic: You may not have to like any one or two or ten specific genres of Mod music, but if you don’t like any of them, yet still fancy yourself to be a “Mod”, don’t be surprised when people in the scene don’t take you seriously at all.

While I still figure, some day, someone will eventually find reason to quarrel with me on the above, I’ve at least made a good faith effort to explain my position in a manner that certain people on a certain forum like to argue with me over because they like to assume I’m saying things that I never did.

Dancer Martha Grahm, photographed 1928 --but I'm sure some-one will insist this is a Carnaby Street regular photographed in 1965 and photoshopped in 2010.

Dancer Martha Grahm, photographed 1928 –but I’m sure some-one will insist this is a Carnaby Street regular photographed in 1965 and photoshopped in 2010.

But Jazz, yes….

As I’ve said before, “the Mod generation”, contrary to popular belief, was not born in even 1958, but in the 1920s after a steady gestation from about 1917 or so. Now, Mod certainly came of age, fully sure of itself by 1958, completely misunderstood by 1963, and in a perpetual cycle of reinvention and rediscovery of itself by 1967 and 1975, respectively, but it was born in the 1920s, and I will maintain this. I don’t care who disagrees with me, and there are dozens of reasons that I do so —from the Art Deco aesthetic, to flapper fashions (complete with bobbed hair), to androgyny and subtle effeminacy, to jazz.

Now, Dixieland and Ragtime styles were popular in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and Dixieland directly bore Chicagoland jazz, which begat Swing by the early 1930s. Dixieland and Ragtime are generally considered “trad (or traditional) jazz”, and sometimes Chicago is, too, to distinguish the them from later forms, especially swing and more “rigid” forms of jazz that lack the distinct “freedom” and knack for improv that made jazz so interesting, but didn’t take those elements, especially improvisation, to the extent that cool jazz, bebop, free, and avant garde styles that defined the early Modernist scene of the late 1950s (or their spiritual heir, the No Wave jazz-punk scene of New York in the early 1980s —but that’s another story for another time).

Cab Calloway, I'm guessing mid-1920s.  Don't tell me he's not stylish enough for your club night.

Cab Calloway, I’m guessing mid-1920s. Don’t tell me he’s not stylish enough for your club night.

The reason that it’s really hard to discredit the Jazz of the Twenties from having anything to do with Mod is really obvious to me, but I’m going to try and articulate it:

First off, scatt singing is often associated with bebop, a popular category of Modern Jazz, especially amongst prototypical Modernists of the immediate post-WWII years, and early Mods in the late 1950s. On the other hand, scatt wasn’t born in the bebop idiom, but approximately thirty years earlier, and to dedicated jazz fans, was either invented or incredibly popularised by Louis Armstrong in the latter half of the Twenties. Armstrong taught this idiosyncratic style of improvisational singing to Cab Calloway, who sky-rocketed to fame around 1930 with his Baltimore-bred parental subgenre of swing due to immense support from Al Jolson (it’s also arguable that, prior pairings with Jolson in early talkies, which predate his famous “Minnie the Moocher” Betty Boop short by Fleischer studios, his sister, Blanche Calloway, one of few true female bandleaders [rather than a singer led by a conductor], much less African-American female bandleaders with any amount of notoriety, was actually more famous than Cab, but that too is another story for another time). Hell, Armstrong and Calloway, while clearly keeping true to their roots in many aspects, observing archive footage and their own words on the subject, when asked, the two clearly had respect for the “cool jazz” generation of the late Fifties and early Sixties.

Furthermore, Mod’s relationship with jazz never ended with bebop, nosir. From cool jazz instrumentals in many 1960s Mod-approved films from Bond yarns to Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn, to bossanova interludes popular in the mid to late 1960s and proving highly influential on Japanese Shibuya Kei band Pizzicato 5, the jazz-funk and “rare groove” scenes in the late 1970s that gave birth to acid jazz in the 1980s, which would prove the biggest influence on Paul Weller in the formation of Style Council, to “nu jazz” artists like Lizzy Parks from the UK and Jojo Effect out of Germany, who frequently are met with approval by even those in the scene who would otherwise be staunch Soul fans. Hell, even one of the biggest scene labels calls itself Acid Jazz.

Needless to say, it will always perplex me when I see self-identified Mods who ignorantly dismiss the whole genre, or ask questions like “what does jazz have to do with Mod?” while buying The Strypes latest disc, which is on the Acid Jazz label. The subculture was not only born of jazz, the name, Mod, is short for “Modern jazz enthusiast”, and you barely have to look to see the continued respect for jazz that remains in the scene. Even the “mod jazz versus trad jazz revival” schisms of the late 1950s, very briefly mentioned in the novella and entertained a bit further in the film version of Absolute Beginners, while historical enough to get a nod, seems a mite silly considering the common origin — but then again, one could easily draw a parallel between that and the continuing rift between staunch “purists” of soul and British R&B, and fans of power pop and Britpop, the former group arguing an appeal to tradition, and the latter arguing an appeal to novelty, both equally fallacious positions when neither has a bit of evidence as to why their preferred genre has a greater claim to the Mod subculture.

As the late Louis Armstrong once quipped about the 1920s “hot jazz” and the 1950s’ “cool jazz”, “Hot can be cool, and cool can be hot, and each can be both. But hot or cool, man, jazz is jazz.” If any genre truly defines the Mod scene in essence, it’d be jazz.

Old School

Key and Peele – Old School from George Smith on Vimeo.

[Modcast for 2010-07-12] I’m back!

Basically, I’ve had to start using another program for the Modcast, in addition to a dozen other hectic things that have been preventing me from uploading regularly.

Since the last time I’ve uploaded, I went to the Mod MayDay special event of Direct Hits at Goodnight Gracie in Ann Arbor, and the annual Mod Chicago Our Way of Thinking weekender. Met some awesome people I hadn’t met on previous years, and I might be visiting Baltimore later this year.

I’ve also implemented a new system that will hopefully help me remember to update this thing better every week.

Here’s this week’s playlist:

Qypthone – Modernica In the Office (audio play)
Nomoto Karia – “M.O.D.E.L. Agent”
Pizzicato 5 – Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs James Bond
The Smiths – This Charming Man
Sandie Shaw – Hand In Glove
Jasmine Minks – Think
Float Up C.P. – He Loves Me (No, No, No)
Tenpole Tudor – Fashion
Mick Karn & Midge Ure – After A Fashion (extended version)
Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed
The Coventry Automatics – Concrete Jungle
The New Hearts – City Life
Secret Affair – Somewhere In the City
The Fall – Victoria
Squeeze – Hesitation (Rool Britannia)
The Kinks – Mr Churchill Says
The Evolution Control Committee – Rebel Without A Pause (Whipped Cream Mix)

[2009-12-14] No, really! I’m not backdating this!

As much as it shames me to admit this, there isn’t really any excuse for this to be as late as it is, but it is. There are a few reasons I could use, but honestly, it just feels like a cop-out, as perfectly valid as those reasons appear on paper, were they to come from another.

I decided to do something different withthis one, and so it’s all instrumentals and minimal-voice pieces.

Also, I have no excuse for uploading 30 November’s cast again last week. I just fixed that.

download link

Pizzicato 5 – Trailer Music
Japan – Voices Raised In Welcome, Hands Held In Prayer
Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets
The Tape-beatles – Grave Implications
The Evolution Control Committee – Hurdy Gurdy Men
The Monochrome Set – The Etcetera Stroll
Style Council – Our Favourite Shop
Jean-Jacques Perrey – Soul City
Pierre Henry – Teen Tonic
Booker T & the MG’s – Mo’ Onions
Giddle & Boyd – Going Steady With Peggy Moffit
Les Cappiccino – Move Move Move
QYPTHONE – Tension Attention, Please / Modernica In the House
Pizzicato 5 – Readymade FM



To both listeners, if you’re hoping for Christmas music, I’m going to put that off until December 21 — in theory, I could do a new cast of Christmas music every week, and have it all different, but I want to save stuff for next year.

As for this week’s set, I know I don’t like to do any one band two weeks in a row, and i think I did that last week, too, but sometimes a set works best with a specific song or two, and it cannot be helped.

Cat Stevens – Baby Get Your Head Screwed On
The Koobas – The First Cut Is the Deepest
P.P. Arnold – Angel of the Morning
Dexys Midnight Runners – My Life in England
The Kinks – Victoria
Brian Auger – Ellis Island
The Fall – Prole Art Threat
Nino Ferrer – les Blues Anti-Bourgeois
Blue Ox Babes – Yes Let’s
Manual Scan – Nothing Can Be Everything
The High Number – I’m the Face
The Jam – Down In the Tube Station At Midnight
The Inmates – Dirty Water
The Chords – The British Way of Life
Secret Affair – Streetlife Parade