[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. ☺

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.

Blue Rondo à la Turk