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.
Attilla the Stockbroker – “Burn It Down”
Leonard Nimoy – “Where Is Love?”
Sandie Shaw – “Til the Night Begins To Die”
Rinaldi Sings – “Heaven Knows”
Cat Stevens – “The First Cut Is the Deepest”
The Smiths – “Back to the Old House”
Menswe@r – “Being Brave”
The Jacks – “Gloomy Flower”
The Flaming Stars – “God Told Me to Do It”
The Small Faces – “Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire”
Paul Weller – “You Do Something to Me”
David Bowie – “The Prettiest Star (orig. studio w/ Marc Bolan)
Tot Taylor – “Australia”
Fosca – “Assume Nothing”
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – “All Tomorrow’s Parties”
Siouxsie & the Banshees – “The Last Beat of My Heart”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…Empty Glass, when compared with The Who’s 1981 album Face Dances, was considered the superior album, with many critics calling it a Who album that never was. Roger Daltrey later commented that he felt let down by Townshend, and that many of the songs from the album would have worked well for The Who, among them “Rough Boys” and “Empty Glass”; Townshend countered by saying that he felt “Rough Boys” was the one song Daltrey would have wanted clarified (in terms of the song’s homoerotic subtext) and toned down if he were to sing it, thus defeating its message…
It is August 1983 and the letters page of Smash Hits is ablaze with controversy. The cause is the video for the Style Council’s new single Long Hot Summer. It features Paul Weller, saucy in bare chest and espadrilles, fondling the ears of his new musical collaborator “Merton” Mick Talbot. It may qualify as the least erotic piece of homoeroticism ever captured on film: “Merton” Mick’s facial expression suggests not the bliss of Zeus and Ganymede but disappointment and confusion, as if a golden career opportunity isn’t really panning out as he had expected. Nevertheless, it’s enough to cause uproar among teenage male Weller fans: in a world of gender-bending synth prodders, the former Jam frontman is supposed to be a dependable source of resolutely blokeish rock. Anguished letters flood in, until the editors are forced to intervene in time-honoured Smash Hits style: sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip!
Possibly the lowest point of Bowie’s career, especially in the 1980s, and Mick Jagger’s highest point in the 1980s.
Here’s something better:
Turner [from the 1970 film Performance] is a reclusive, eccentric former rock star who has “lost his demon” and who lives there with his female friends Pherber and Lucy (Michele Breton), with whom he enjoys a non-possessive and bi-sexual ménage à trois.
I almost made a post of nothing but this song (at about 12:44, there’s a chorus of “It’s Labour Day!”, and I have to say, this is possibly the most wonderful song I’ve ever heard — but I listen to Yoko Ono and Iannis Xenakis, your opinion probably differs), but I like both my listeners — I wouldn’t do that to you.
I was hoping to putt another theme, but gods above, do you have any idea how lacking in the topic of labour is the music of a subculture composted by an overwhelming majority of working-classes? It’s very lacking. Very, very lacking.
So no theme for this one, I wish I could, but fuck it, maybe next time.
This is the longest set I’ve posted in a while, so this will make up for the fact that I forgot to post something last week, like I said I would — which I apologise for, but I woke up last Monday and honestly forgot it was Monday until quarter til midnight — and then I remembered that since I’m doing this in WordPress, I can set it to post things at a specific time and date, to avoid this. Which is what I’m doing now. Podcasting from the past! …or maybe I’m podcasting to the future? Either way, please, let this blow your freakin mind — or just tell me it did.
Also, please donate to the tip jar. I really want to go see some friends in Baltimore (and stalk John Waters, perhaps) later this year, and that cannot happen without delicious monies.
Boys Next Door – Boy Hero
Roxy Music – Do The Strand
Shakespear’s Sister – Excuse Me John
The Smiths – Handsome Devil
The Monochrome Set – Silicone Carne
Cat Stevens – Lovely City (When Do You Laugh)
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood – Lady Bird
Billie Davis – Billy Sunshine
The New Constitution – No Easy Way
Paul Weller – Peacock Suit
Them – Bright Lights, Big City
The Fall – City Hobgoblines
Art Brut – Blame It On the Trains
Gavin Friday – Kitchen Sink Drama
Leonard Cohen – Stories of the Street
Rufus Wainwright – Old Whore’s Diet (w/ Antony Hegarty)
I’ve wanted to do a set like this for a while, but since I decided to use this podcast blog less as a “proper DJ blog” and more as a concept and form of self-expression, it’s been hard to think of times when I might be able to make a post such as this one. It’s no secret to my friends that I love big cities. Seriouslky, Philadelphia, while a gorgeous city, still feels too small to me. Even Chicago, with just short of 3milion, is probably the smallest city I’ve been happy with — London, on the other hand, city of my adolescent summers, not only has its nostalgic values for my life (where I first say RHPS, first got drunk, learned how to drive, etc…), but it has an urban population of nearly 8.25million and has this immaculate filthiness that has entranced people for generations.
But not every song can be about London, nor does every song have to have ties to a specific city.
And why? No, not “why can’t every song be about London?” The question is “why, Ruadhan, do you pick this of all weeks?” Because it seems that at my appointment with my allergist on Friday, March 19th, I was determined to be officially allergic to wilderness. All common grasses and half common tree pollens and weeds. And considering that my spirituality is even linked to large cities, my room-mate felt it appropriate to make the joke “this is some deity making a claim on you — because you can’t ever do anything simply by asking you to, you have to be given a reason”. Even ignoring the spiritual gratification, an allergy to wilderness not only explains elevated mood and feelings of wellness, but also the sometime-dramatic weight-loss I’ve experienced in long-term stays (two weeks or longer) in large cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, London, HK…. Hell, even Toledo, Ohio. Granted, city-prompted weight-loss is no doubt accelerated by the fact that the public transportation is better, and it’s easier to get to what I need and want to do just by walking, but personally, increasing mobility in rural and suburban areas has, for me, not done a whole lot for weight management on its own (and ask my smart-ass room-mate, I don’t eat that much; often enough, the “recommended serving size” on the package has proved itself too filling for me)
But don’t take this as me saying to pave the rainforests — after all, city air has to start as fresh air somewhere, and the grasslands are inefficient for oxygen production, as they’re where food is gestated before arriving in my grocery store, free of pollens and wrapped in cling-film. It’s all a splendiferous chain with connected ends, never ending, always turning in the hands of gods and daimons.
Leonard Cohen – Stories of the Street
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood – Paris Summer
The Who – Armenia City In the Sky
Petula Clark – Downtown
Roxy Music – Streetlife
Cat Stevens – Lovely City (When Do You Laugh?)
The Monochrome Set – I Love Lambeth
David Bowie – London Bye Ta-Ta
T Rex – London Boys
The Inmates – Dirty Water
The Artwoods – Big City
The Lambrettas – London Calling
Manual Scan – Man About Town
Secret Affair – Soho Strut
The Jam – Town Called Malice
The Selecter – Bristol & Miami
Eleanor Rigby – Last Night In Soho
Madness – Razor Blade Alley
Giddle & Boyd – Sunset Strip SS