Soft Cell – “What?”

I really love this video, for a lot of (what should be) obvious reasons.

Also watch for Mari Wilson.

The Compact Organisation and its connections to Mod Revival

The Compact Organisation was a record label, beginning in 1980 by songwriter and musician Tot Taylor. According to some articles I’ve found, it looks like some (at least) regarded it as something of a novelty label, but diving into the musicians represented by the label and the music they played, while there’s something of a tongue-in-cheek element, this is not a “novelty label” as many Stateside are used to thinking of as “novelty music” —a term typically relegated to the fare broadcast by Dr. Demento. One blog described The Compact Organisation as “perfect pop music for hip people”.

Musically, the artists represented by the Compact Organisation usually fit something of a retropop sound and aesthetic, and the beloved compilation, A Young Person’s Guide to Compact represents this fairly, and fairly well, to boot. Mari Wilson, Tot Taylor, and The Beautiful Americans all give fine examples of 1980s music with a distinct mid-1960s feel, even if not a perfect re-creation of the sweet and inoffensive pop staples of 1964 —indeed, Wilson’s “Ecstasy”, while played for maximum danceability, lyrically seems to be reflecting the thoughts of a woman who has just taken her own life:

Shake-Shake, playing “funktional music for every function”, was possibly the most electronic group on the Young Person’s… compilation after The Popheads (who came off as something of a stranger take on the prototypical Casiocore sound of Silicon Teens), and according to Discogs, only released a single 7″ disc and, apparently, a few other recordings that never got their own releases but nonetheless appeared on Compact Organisation compilations. Still, despite electronic instrumentation clearly typical of early the 1980s New Wave idiom, there’s something very reminiscent of songs two decades older, at least to a well-trained ear:

And we cannot forget the beautiful and talented Virna Lindt, whose spy movie soundtrack-inspired music seemed tailor-made for the more adventurous Mod Revivalists —but, of course “adventurous Mod Revivalist” seems something of an oxymoron.

…nor to forget Tot Taylor, label founder and writer of many songs released by Wilson and Lindt, who was clearly trying to call to mind the early-to-mid 1960s and apparently Georgie Fame with the cover design and photo arrangement of 1981’s Playtime:


…but we must return to Mari Wilson, for she provides a clear link to the “standard” Mod Revival groups —or, more accurately, her back-up band does. See, she was discovered by Paul Bultitude who, by the time she’d gained an upward staircase to moderate fame on the Compact label, was also the drummer for Secret Affair after Seb Shelton left to join Dexys Midnight Runners —of course, by the time her LP, Showpeople, was released in 1983, Secret Affair had called it quits and in 1982, he founded the label Dance Network with Paul Bevoir of The Jetset —and whose solo album is demanding over $125 on Discogs. Bultitude was also a drummer for The Compact Organisation’s Floyd on the latter’s album, The Little Man from 1985.

So was the label a part of the Mod Revival? Honestly, I can’t find anything hard-and-fast in my limited means of researching this question to give a definitive affirnative —nor a definitive negative. It’s not that hard to find photos on Flickr of young people in 1983’s Mod Revival scene who clearly supported Mari Wilson in their proud displaying of newly-purchased records or at concerts, but considering the smaller spotlight on the rest of the label’s roster of artists, and the fact that only three other artists (Floyd, Virna Lindt, and Tot Taylor) released full-length albums, it’s a tad harder to find proof of support of the label as a whole. That said, most of the music represented on the label follows the “Mod Revival formula” in some way that, even now continues in an enlightened and evolved form. It’s not everybody’s cuppa, but neither is The Who or The Jam —and honestly, considering that the Compact Organisation proved to have far less commercial appeal than even, say, Secret Affair or Dexys Midnight Runners (Mari Wilson proving the label’s biggest seller, with a #8 single, “Just What I’ve Always Wanted”), and everybody knows that the best Mods loathe becoming commodities, one might argue that the reduced marketability of the Compact Organisation did prove its artists to be at least a little more Mod-friendly.

Furthermore, Mod, and by proxy Mod Revival, is not a genre, it’s a subculture and, in regards to music, conveys more of a loosely-defined aesthetic than a concretely-defined genre; power pop is a genre, punk is a genre, electronic ethereal is a genre —but since Mods got their name from the Modern Jazz scene, yet many Mods today simply don’t listen to Jazz in any form (and, in a curious decision, The Mod Generation hosts an article about Mod Jazz by some-one who begins with stating that he’s not a fan of jazz), then it’s hard to say that Mod has any claim to a genre. There is no singular genre of music that is definitively “Mod”, because those styles of music were all started by those outside of the scene. The original late-1950s Jazz set didn’t own their preferred genre, and Soul music was created half a world away from where Mod began, while the British Rhythm & Blues that gained popularity from about 1962 on was certainly at least mostly made by Mods, there was no shortage of bands clearly sharing every distinct marker of the genre but had nothing to do with the Mod scene and Mods wanted no part of their catalogue, either. During the “revival”, even the bands that would be later lumped together as “Mod Revival”, to some extent or another, were pretty varied at first —The Jam clearly followed a logical evolution from British Rhythm & Blues and Amerikan Garage, Secret Affair took their lead from mid-1960s pop and Tamla-Motown, and Dexys Midnight Runners’ fusion of Northern Soul with punk by way of Roxy Music and Celtic folk, all make it clear that Mod was absorbing influences from a broadening musical spectrum. The reality is, there are only two kinds of Mod music, and that’s “music made by Mods” and “music which tends to be most often listened to by Mods” —and while most of that certainly seems to follow a formula (which seems sort of anathema to the ethos of the original face of the subculture, at least before Ready! Steady! Go! came along and made it a commodity), there’s also a pretty clear variety to any-one paying attention.

Even if you refuse to accept the Compact Organisation as part of the Mod Revival, they clearly released some of the most interesting music ever recorded with potential Mod appeal, and a lot of it still manages to sound fresh and inventive against a sea of over-produced instrumentals and vocals auto-tuned beyond recognition. If anything, it definitely still sounds fresh and inventive against the seemingly never-ending re-enactment of 1960s Rhythm & Blues produced by today’s Mod scene.

Spot On Etsy Tuesday

I ♥ Mari Wilson. As best as I can tell, it was Mari Wilson and and Virna Lindt who were the only Contact Organisation acts to release full-length albums, and Mari Wilson was certainly the most memorable to most people, and it wasn’t just the hair, either. Apparently Bryan Ferry became one of her biggest supporters after hearing “Beat the Beat” on the radio and considered it one of the “strangest and most intriguing” songs he’d heard.

So, this midcentury modernist vase is gorgeous, no matter how far out of my price range it is. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on the artist, but I did find Australian architect, Peter Muller, whose work is steeped in the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. Now just watch, after this posts, I’m going to find out that it’s the same guy all along. :-/

These 1950s/early 1960s shot-glasses are adorable! And let’s be frank, the colour-coding might prove helpful. ;-) Which reminds me: You can tell that the UK is superior to the US because our national anthem is easy for drunk people to remember the lyrics! I’ve been to several US events where the people around me were clearly mumbling sounds along to “The Star-Spangled Banner”, but you never see that amongst UK footie fans who can barely stand —they can always manage to remember at least 85% of the words to “God Save the Queen”! ;-)

I really do covet this tie bar and cufflink set here, and being a winter with cool undertones to my skin, I tend to avoid goldtone jewellery. On the other hand, the set is a gorgeous example of 1960s Art Deco revival, especially from Swank. The nacre dots on each piece really are enhanced by the goldtone metal.

And how about a mock-ancient Celtic cloak brooch, illustrating the timelessness of modern aesthetics? It’s really a very sleek, symmetrical, minimalist design. Granted, I can do without the patina, cos it just looks dirty to me, but this can easily be done in a flat colour and no-one would bat an eye if a Modette used it to hold her scarf in place.

I really like this Walter Fusi lithograph. That’s pretty much the only reason I’m including it.

[2001-06-20] More Downtempo & Covers

Well, once again, it’s been several weeks since I’ve uploaded anything to here, and while I feel like offering an explanation, I can’t really think of anything beyond “INTERNET, LET ME TELL YOU — IT IS *HARD* TO THINK OF DIFFERENT MUSIC TO PLAY EVERY WEEK!!” Especially when my audience is apparently a tiny one — some may think that makes it easier, but when I don’t have a regular influx of ideas of new stuff to play, you’re basically going to get a lot of David Bowie, Japan, Secret Affair, The Fall, English Baroque, and Power Pop with a pretty regular rotation of Pizzicato 5. Left to my own devices, I’d probably have a Mod night of just The Berlin Trilogy, and the Glory Boys, I Am Kurius Oranj, and Big Hits & Jet Lag albums — and I am dead serious.

 
2011-06-20
Mari Wilson & the Wilsations – Beat the Beat
The Monochrome Set – Lester Leaps In
Les Cappuccino – Bande a Part
Nouvelle Vague – Too Drunk to Fuck
Television Personalities – Makin’ Time
Biff Bang Pow! – There Must Be a Better Life
Pizzicato 5 – Summertime Summertime
Variety Lab – London In the Rain
Angie Bowie – I Just Wanna Have Something to Do (Mambo Mix)
Sandie Shaw – A Girl Called Johnny
Brian Auger & the Trinity w/ Julie Driscoll – Light My Fire
Flaming Stars – You Don’t Always Want What You Get
Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed
Hollywood Mon Amour (featuring Skye) – A View To a Kill
The Smiths – Oscilate Wildly
Gene – I Say a Little Prayer

[2010-02-22] Because Some Mornings Pizzicato Five is Better Than Coffee

If you missed me this month, I apologise. I seriously contemplated putting together a Valentine’s Day music cast, but most of this month, I’ve been struggling with allergies and other tasty shit, and while I did manage to get myself out of the apartment for Saturday, 13 February for Bloody Valentine’s Day at The Elbow Room, I wound up leaving earlier than my friends because even though it’s my apartment that I’m allergic to (or more accurately, something *in* said — I have tests coming up to determine what, but I’ve still made better cleaning efforts in the meantime), allergies can be exhausting.

This week, I start on a quirky downbeat and then immediately switch tones with some upbeat poppy stuff, because I’ve discovered that while I’m feeling like absolute hell, perky upbeat music actually has a sort of placebo effect on my mood. It doesn’t make everything completely better, but it helps some and I’m able to get things done.

 
download link

2010-02-22
Dusty Springfield – The Windmills of Your Mind
Christian Death – Haloes
QYPTHONE – Monturno No 5
The Revillos – Motorbike Beat
Stereo Total – Comme Un Garcon
Jet – Nothing To Do With Us
The Plastics – Top Secret Man
Mari Wilson – Ecstasy
Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart
Blondie – Dreaming
The Moderns – Got To Have Pop
The Direct Hits – Soul Shoes
The Mo-Dettes – White Mouse Disco
Flamin’ Groovies – Shgake Some Action
Giddle & Boyd – Going Steady with Peggy Moffitt
Pizzicato Five – Goodbye Baby and Amen

[2010-02-22] Because Some Mornings Pizzicato Five is Better Than Coffee

If you missed me this month, I apologise. I seriously contemplated putting together a Valentine’s Day music cast, but most of this month, I’ve been struggling with allergies and other tasty shit, and while I did manage to get myself out of the apartment for Saturday, 13 February for Bloody Valentine’s Day at The Elbow Room, I wound up leaving earlier than my friends because even though it’s my apartment that I’m allergic to (or more accurately, something *in* said — I have tests coming up to determine what, but I’ve still made better cleaning efforts in the meantime), allergies can be exhausting.

This week, I start on a quirky downbeat and then immediately switch tones with some upbeat poppy stuff, because I’ve discovered that while I’m feeling like absolute hell, perky upbeat music actually has a sort of placebo effect on my mood. It doesn’t make everything completely better, but it helps some and I’m able to get things done.

 
download link

2010-02-22
Dusty Springfield – The Windmills of Your Mind
Christian Death – Haloes
QYPTHONE – Monturno No 5
The Revillos – Motorbike Beat
Stereo Total – Comme Un Garcon
Jet – Nothing To Do With Us
The Plastics – Top Secret Man
Mari Wilson – Ecstasy
Style Council – A Solid Bond In Your Heart
Blondie – Dreaming
The Moderns – Got To Have Pop
The Direct Hits – Soul Shoes
The Mo-Dettes – White Mouse Disco
Flamin’ Groovies – Shgake Some Action
Giddle & Boyd – Going Steady with Peggy Moffitt
Pizzicato Five – Goodbye Baby and Amen

2009-11-16: New Dance

So, OK, I know i promised this weeks ago, but things happen when you’re Ruadhan J McElroy.

This week’s Modcast is songs that inspired characters and scenes in my second novel, New Dance, which is available on Amazon.com right now:

Click here to read the back-of-the-book description of New Dance and for valuable purchase links.

…the story is very character-driven and plot is meandering — but then again, so is most of Truman Capote’s work.

 

R. Dean Taylor — “Back Street”
The Monochrome Set — “The Jet Set Junta” (Jacky’s theme)
Dexys Midnight Runners — “There There My Dear” (Gaz’s theme)
David Bowie — “DJ” (Alice’s theme)
Secret Affair — “What Did You Expect” (Jace’s theme)
The Fall — “Just Step S’ways” (Nino’s theme)
Brian Auger & The Trinity — “Back At the Chicken Shack” (Dougan’s theme)
Mari Wilson — “Let Me Dream”
The Specials — “Nite Klub”
Twiggy — “Beautiful Dreams” (Eliza’s theme)
Rip Rig + Panic — “Eros (What Brings Colour Up the Stem)”
Makin’ Time — “Nothing Else”
The Jam — “Absolute Beginners”
The Purple Hearts — “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”
John’s Children — “Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get”
Japan — “I Second That Emotion”

“Back Street” inspired the name of the club the characters regard as their favourite — both as I wrote and in the story.

“The Jet Set Junta” was partially what inspired this scene with Jacky beating the crap out of three other young men after Gaz was attacked by them. The song that initially inspired it was “3-5-0-0″ from the soundtrack to HAIR, but I was listening to “The Jet Set Junta” as I went back and polished it up, edited, etc….

Gaz was listening to “There There My Dear” by DMR in a scene where, after back home in Belfast for a week, and in his own blue funk, he meanders down to the kitchen for breakfast with his mother. I hesitate to call this one his “theme” as I’m not sure what this says about his personality, but he was a main character in this one, and I felt compelled to associate a song with him on this mix.

I decided that Alice was a David Bowie fan as I was setting up her background, which included being a long-time DJ of Rhythm & Blues, soul, garage, psych, etc…, so I put a bunch of David Bowie in WinAmp while writing another scene. Lodger was an album I’d listened to only seldom before them, and so when “DJ” came on, sparks of Alice’s personality seemed apparent in the emotional tone Bowie used in his voice whilst recording that one. There’s a causticity alternating with nonchalance that I think helps round out Alice’s character nicely.

I decided that Nino’s favourite band was going to be The Fall, cos that’s one of my own personal favourites. I made his “theme” one of my favourite songs of theirs from the years appropriate to the time of the novel — which has its story-line ending in 1983. Nino is alarmingly literate and wise for being the youngest amongst the characters, and his parents are “deep old-schoolers” and intellectuals, making him an oddity amongst them, and The Fall has also been one of those plain quirky and weird bands that exists outside the realm of genre. My decision wasn’t random.

“What Did You Expect” was selected for Jace because it’s lyrically melancholy, implies alcoholism as an escape, and I decided that Jace’s favourite band was Secret Affair.

Dougan’s personality really didn’t bring itself out to me until I decided that his father was Black. After that, it just made sense that he was a bit more introverted than the others, he has a good-standing relationship with his mother, and even an amicable one with the man his mother implies is his father. It also seemed very apparent that Dougan most allows himself to express his feelings through music, and he took up the piano (and later Vox Continental organ) after discovering Brian Auger at about the age of eleven or twelve. I think the Auger instrumental i chose “for Dougan” adds something to his character that I only hinted at in the story, and that even i don’t feel I hinted at very well.

“Beautiful Dreams” directly inspired Eliza’s “big scene” — those pages would not have happened if I hadn’t decided to hit “back” to repeat this one and really listen to how Twiggy emotes this one. The lyrics have nothing to do with the scene, and while Twiggy has a flawed, almost tinny soprano (which almost compliments Eliza’s otherwise flawed, one-sided character of “the selfish girl everybody secretly hates, but puts up with”), she’s pretty good at emoting as she sings (and the other characters, at least those who have a band together, put up with Eliza cos she’s a good emotive singer). I think Twiggy seems to actually “cry” through her voice in this one, and when i picked up on that, Eliza was given a chance to break down and cry, and apologise to the others for something she had done. This song also doesn’t “fit in” very well with the others, and Eliza is absent through most of the book, except to act as a catalyst for something or another — basically, she doesn’t fit in very well with the others.

“Eros (What Brings Colour Up the Stem)” inspired a concert scene moreso than the song I named in that scene did.

I chose the cover of “Can’t Help Thinking About Me” cos 1) I’d already used a Bowie song, and I didn’t want to use another, and 2) listen to the lyrics. This song is about gayness. If you can’t hear it, then you just may be lacking some grey matter.

“I Second That Emotion”, I realised, was left off the track-listing for the CD-Rs that i gave away at the book signing *after* I had already printed out the tray cards. You have no idea what a pain in the rear I was having printing them out. I selected this for the mix because… Honest answer? David Sylvian and Mick Karn are gods among men. Do not argue with me about this.

2009-08-24… wait a second….

OK, yes, I know I was going to post this yesterday, but eh, shit comes up. Actually, yesterday, I spent most of the day stressing out and goofing off to try and relieve some stress, and I didn’t even give the cats their wet food, cos that was just one more stressor in my life, and as much as i love doing this, so is this podcast.

Why so stressed? Because I’m having a book signing for my second novel (the first in what I’m calling “The Mod Stories”), and I’m just anticipating nothing going right. Why? It so rarely does. I mean, already, I can tell I’m in for a real doozy, cos only today, did Lindsay tell me that my name has been added to the poster 9and this event has been secured since January, and was supposed to happen in July, but hey, last minute scheduling conflicts are like the Father Dougal to my Father Ted).

That said, if you’re stuck in or (gods forbid) plan to be in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti, Michigan (U$A), area this Thursday, 27 August 2009, then come down to (or rather up to) The Heidelberg Club Above for Direct Hits, the area’s only Mod / Trad Skin / Retro night — in fact, it’s the only one I know of until you get to either Chicago or New York City. This month, the Big Event is “Bomb Pop Boutique” and will feature a gallery of local artists, a mini fashion show from The GetUp Vintage Clothing on State Street in Ann Arbor, and yours truly, hawking his second novel and selling his top-quality crap. All copies of the novel will come with a CD-R of next week’s Modcast (most of which I consider to be “themes” for various characters), a set of buttons for the novel, and a hand-written coupon for $4 off my first novel (e-mail me for details).

 

2009-08-25
The Tabe-beatles – All’s Right With the World
Nouvelle Vague – Come On Eileen
Brian Auger Trinity – In & Out
Mari Wilson – Beat the Beat
Prince – I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
The Singles – The Most Beautiful Girl
B-52s – Strobe Light
Art Brut – Direct Hit
The Chesterfield Kings – Outside Chance
Revillos – Voodoo
The Love Me Nots – Dark City
Van Morrison – Ro Ro Rosey
The Jam – English Rose
Style Council – Long Hot Summer (Club Mix)

ModCast Archive: 2006-07-10

OK, I know it’s not a new cast, but if you had any idea how long I’ve been fighting with this website, and how many weeks I had to take off for surgery, you’d be lazy, as well. This has been off-line since late 2007, so unless you’re one of the two people who told me they downloaded it, you’ve probably never heard this before. There’s a good even mix of ’60s, “Revival” and “that’s not Mod!!!”.

 
download link

Tracklist for 2006-07-10
Auger & Driscoll – “This Wheel’s On Fire”
Los Vidrios Quebrados – “Oscar Wilde”
Chris Farlowe – “Paint It Black”
The Bureau – “Looking For Excitement”
Gloria Jones – “Heartbeat”
The Fall – “There’s A Ghost In My House”
R. Dean Taylor – “Gotta See Jane”
Squeeze – “Cool For Cats”
David Bowie – “I’m Not Losing Sleep”
Georgie Fame – “Sunny”
Dexys Midnight Runners – “I Love You (Listen To This)”
Spencer Davis Group – “I’m Blue (Gong Gong Song)”
Mari Wilson – “Ecstasy”

PS: There may be an issue with the first song, so if there is, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to fix it. I basically had to make the cast again, cos the volume wasn’t fixed and I decided to start doing these as low-fi mp3’s, to conserve space.

ETA:
OK, there was definitely an issue with the first track, but I’m backed up on button orders that I really should have done yesterday, so I can’t do anything about it right now. Just skip ahead by about 3:33, and I’ll get to this tomorrow, after I make some deliveries to my stores.