Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekly Blog Roundup: 7/29/2012

Due to life, I skipped out on a Roundup last weekend, so I've got plenty of links for you this morning almost noon-time:
I'd say have a great weekend, but it's almost over, so have a great week instead!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sharp Stylings #50: Bradley Wiggins

We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt. 

Hold on a sec while I climb aboard this bandwagon...

Okay, the name on everyone's lips right now is Bradley Wiggins and for good reason. The guy won the Tour de France! Hey, that ain't no easy feat. Trust me... I've seen The Triplets of Belleville!

Oh wait, what? Did you say he likes Paul Weller and Fred Perry? Oh man, forget the bike thing... let's talk about that instead, here and here and here...

Actually, if we're gonna take this down a mod path, then I foresee a lot of future 'mod' types skipping out on suits and even Fred Perry polos in favor of cycling shirts. And let me tell you, ya gotta be in pretty good shape to get away with those. (Why do you think I avoid them?)

Instead, people should be looking to this image for inspiration:
Photo taken from the Stockholm Mods blog.
I love this photo just for the quality, the choice of B&W, and the style of bike he's leaning on. Plus, he's got on a pretty dapper suit! The waistcoat buttons a bit too low for my personal tastes, but he is just looking razor-sharp here! Well-cut pants with just the right amount of narrow going on. Three-button, light-colored jacket with high arm-holes, ticket pocket, and medium-width lapels (not a bad thing). And it looks like he's wearing a french-cuff, rounded tab-collar shirt. Toss in the beautiful B&W wing-tip shoes, and you have one of the most stylin' athletes around! (And let me tell you, if I won the Tour de France, you better believe I'd be stocking on a whole mess of bespoke suits!)

Everyone right now is playing up the 'mod' angle behind Bradley Wiggins. Hey, I don't know how 'mod' he is outside of having pretty good tastes in general. But what all this attention has shown is that people from all walks of life get into the mod thing and that it's only one aspect of a person's character. Mod types aren't one-dimensional. They're musicians, graphic designers, business people, construction workers, managers, computer programmers, and athletes.

Whether Bradley Wiggins is mod or not doesn't matter... the guy just won the TOUR DE FRANCE!!

He's now a sports hero.

And if you want a great analysis of the media's coverage of Bradley Wiggin's mod leanings, ModCulture has you hooked up.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Mod Male Blog Is One Year Old Today!

Well, whaddya know? Seems today is the ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the MOD MALE blog! Holy-moly! A year ago today, I decided to start flappin' my own gums about what I thought was so great (and not-so-great) about Mod stuff, starting with this post.

In honor of the 1-year anniversary, I'm having a little giveaway contest! If you want to skip this next boring story, just head straight to the bottom of this post. If you want to stay and read on, I decided to talk about what first got me into this whole Mod thing and why it's still such a big part of my life. To today I present to you... MY SECRET ORIGIN!

Let's get into the ol' time machine and head back to 1987... a horrible year in pop music, TV idols, and fashions. It was also my first year of junior high school and I was getting my first taste of acne. I hated 1987.

By the end of the 7th grade, I decided I just didn't share any of the same interests as my peers (see 1987 links above). My friend, Robert A., had already turned me on to The Smiths, the radness of Pretty in Pink's Ducky, and the coolness of pointed creepers. At this stage in my life, I wanted to be 'unique'. That's an important thing for a new teenager, wanting your own identity. And back then, liking a band like the Smiths really set you apart from the norm. So, I got full on into them and other assorted new wave acts. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was walking around in black & white creepers and hair spiked up on one side. But even before then, on the last day of 7th grade, I read something that would end up seriously changing my life.

In our yearbook, if you had the money, you could buy a 'graffiti' square on a page and write whatever you wanted to write. Most people wrote messages to their best-frenz-forever or messages to their boyfriends/girlfriends about how they would be together 4-EVER. Well, these two 8th grade girls, who I remember walking around in black hair and 'new wave' stylings, bought a couple of squares and went in a different direction. Here is what they wrote:

'Mod'? I don't know what it meant, but it sounded cool and must have had something to do with all those bands I liked (with the exception of The Scorpions). The name floated around in my head, sounding mysteriously simple. Mod...

Later that summer, I was hanging out with a couple of cousins and they noticed my Smiths records in my room. One of them said, matter-of-factly, "We have a friend who likes The Smiths. Yeah, she's mod too." There was that word again. "Mod?" I asked. "Yeah, she's into all that weird music you like."

I remember looking through an issue of one of those Columbia Music House catalogs (remember, 12 records for the price of 1?) and in there was a section on all the new wave stuff I liked. You know what that section was called? 'Modern Rock.' Ah-hah! I figured it all out. 'Mod' was short for 'modern rock!' It totally made sense.

I couldn't wait for the 8th grade to start so I could share this info with my friends. They had to know that we weren't new wavers because new wave music was already old by 1987. No, now that music was called modern rock and we were mod because we liked it.

Further proof hit me at the beginning of the 8th grade when I was looking through my School is Hell book and noticed a comic dealing with the 81 Types of High School Students.

One of the 81 types of students was... The Mod. And he looked exactly like what I would expect one to look like (minus the duck-bill).

This discovery was extremely important to me. Not only did I have an identity separate from my peers (who were still listening to Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam), but, more importantly, I was into something that my dad and his generation were not a part of. See, when he wasn't talking about how great The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and 'The Sixties' were, he was always trying to school me on my own music: punk and new wave.

My dad was living in the Bay Area around this time and kept up with cool music. He had albums by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Elvis Costello. He was aware of bands like the Meat Puppets, The Smiths, and Flock of Seagulls. And he used to rub it in my face that he knew my music more than I did! In the 7th grade, when I told him I liked Echo & The Bunnymen because of their song 'People Are Strange' off the Lost Boys soundtrack, you know what he did? He made me a cassette tape of the Lips Like Sugar album and included the original Doors' version of 'People Are Strange'. Not only did he know my music more... he knew the original stuff being copied! And this drove me crazy. He was always one up on me.

But now... I was one up on him. I was mod.  And this was such a new thing, there was no way he'd be in the know about it. Finally, I had my own thing. Well, one day while visiting him in Berkeley, he and I were walking back from a day on Telegraph Avenue. I had a little skip in my step as I listened to him go on about Bob Dylan and the Beatles before trying to talk to me about my own music. I lured him into trying to act cool with me so that I could get him with a gotcha question. And then I went for it.

"Oh yeah? You think you're so cool, Papa? Man... I bet you don't even know what a mod is."

He looked down at me in surprise and paused.

"Oh yeah, kid... okay, tell me. What's a mod?" I had him!

I told him all about how new wave just wasn't new anymore and how it was now called 'modern rock' and how kids that were into that music were called 'mod' because it was short for 'modern rock'. I smiled knowing I had just widened that generation gap.

Then he responded, "Really, kid? That's what you think a mod is? Interesting..."

I looked up at him, "What do you mean? That's totally what a mod is!"

He sighed... "Kid, let me tell you what a mod really is." This conversation wasn't going like I planned. But then he gave an explanation that still resonates with me to this day.

"Kid, mods were around in the sixties. They were young guys, teenagers, who rebelled against the society they were living in through the types of suits they wore. You know how punks dressed shabby in torn-up clothing? Well, mods wore really nice suits with thin lapels and skinny ties. They wore army jackets called parkas to protect their clothes and rode around on Vespas, italian scooters. And they used to get into fights with Rockers."

His statement about rebelling against society by wearing nice suits hit my 13-year-old mind hard. I was used to seeing people dress outlandish in order to be somewhat 'unique.' But my dad just turned me on to a wild idea of dressing nice as an act of rebellion. I pictured myself in a suit with 'thin lapels' and a 'skinny tie' and walking through a crowd of kids in bad mullets, baggy pants, and Reebok hi-tops. I was utterly fascinated...

...until he said, "The Who were a mod band." It was like a record needle scratching across my mind. The Who? The band I read about in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the loudest ROCK band in the world? The band that looked like this?

At that, he turned me off. No way were those guys 'mod'. When we got back to his place, he started pulling records out. He wanted to show me a photo of them as mods. The photo he showed me did NOT win me over.

All I saw was a geeky guy with a big nose in too-crazy-and-colorful-for-my-thirteen-year-old-mind clothes. I didn't buy these guys as anything having to do with what I thought mod was, but I was still interested in the concept of this subculture of kids walking around in suits as a way of snubbing the society around them.

The 8th grade went on for me and I delved further into all the music KROQ was playing at the time. And despite my dad thinking The Who were a mod band, I still asked him about what sixties mods were like. He would talk to me about Dick Hebdige's Subculture book and would go on and on about how mods were 'working-class' kids. I loved hearing about them. And even though mods only existed in the 1960s, I still pictured them being into stuff like Echo & The Bunnymen.

One day, I was hanging out with one of my uncles. I sat on his bed relaxing while he was playing me various songs from the sixties, something he used to love doing. I endured it, even though I didn't really care for The Byrds, The Beach Boys, or any of the other bands he made me sit through. Then he told me, "Okay, I'm going to play you a song but I don't want to tell you who it is. Just listen and let me know what you think." "Oh geez," I thought. "Here we go with more..."

The song he played me was unlike anything he ever played me before. It was loud, manic, and totally punk rock! I looked at him in surprise. "You like this kind of music?" I asked. He just smiled. Yeah, you know what song he played me, don't you?

When it was done, I asked him who it was. "That's The Who?!" was my response when he told me. And that's the song that completely sold me. From that point forward, I wanted more than anything to be a mod. I wanted to be the only mod at my school, maybe even the world.

Later that year, I learned about the Jam from another student who claimed his brother used to be a mod. The Jam led me to the Mod revival, which jived more with the music I was into at the time. Plus, it made me realize that there were mods after the 1960s. By the beginning of high school, I was getting into ska music, which would sidetrack me for a bit. Eventually, though, I'd finally get my first suit and, in time, my first parka. Sure, over time, I'd make several mistakes while slowly morphing from new wave kid to mod kid, but I learned from them and hopefully improved as I got older (open to debate).

Soon, I discovered that there were Mod scenes happening all around, from Berkeley to Los Angeles to other parts of the world! Looking back, it's funny to me that on that walk with my dad in 1987, when he first told me what a mod actually was, there was a whole rocking Berkeley Mod scene going on around me. And as I sat in my bedroom in La Puente, CA, thinking about being the only mod around, my future wife was blocks away already part of a Mod scene.

This whole Mod thing has been a huge guiding force in my life. It's turned me on to great music, great clothes that I still obsess over, and even great design. I've met amazing people through it who have become life-long friends and have helped me become a better person over time (open to debate). Through the Mod thing, I've met the most amazing woman who continues to tolerate my behavior, even though we still fight over closet space. And each day, I still find something about this subculture to get excited over.

Thank you all for sticking with this blog over this past year and I hope it hasn't bored you yet.

Okay, in honor of the 1st year of the MOD MALE blog, I'm having a little give-away thing. What can you win?

The 2011 book, The Perfectly Dressed Gentlemen by Robert O'Byrne!

A great little guide on how to be an even more dapper Mod (or gentleman, in general), with illustrations by the talented Lord Dunsby. You can read more about it on the Retro To Go blog. Please keep in mind that this contest is not affiliated with any of these people. I just happen to have an extra copy and would like to give it to a Mod Male blog reader.

Here's all you have to do:
  1. Become a follower of this blog, if you're not already, and leave a comment on the blog telling me how you got into the Mod thing OR how you got into whatever it is you're obsessed with (i.e., goth music, a baseball team, your favorite author). Doesn't have to be Mod-related.

  2. 'Like' the MOD MALE Facebook page and leave a comment on the page, telling me how you got into the Mod thing OR how you got into whatever it is you're obsessed with (i.e., goth music, a baseball team, your favorite author). Doesn't have to be Mod-related.
Contest will end next two weeks from today, on August 9 at 6:00pm PST. That evening, I'll put all the names in a bowl and pick a name at random. (And if you 'share' the Mod Male status update for this post on Facebook or share it on Twitter (@modmale), I'll add your name TWICE to the bowl!

On Friday, August 10th, I'll announce the winner on this very blog! That's right, this contest will last two weeks only! GOOD LUCK!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blow Up San Francisco This Thursday!

Hey all! Are you gonna be in San Francisco this Thursday? If so, then come on out for the Blow Up record release party for Fay Hallam (Makin' Time) and The Bongolian's 'Lost in Sound' collaboration!

DJs will include yours truly, Major Sean (Tailor Made, Club Leisure), Galine Tumasova (Shake Appeal) & Russel Quan (Teenage Dance Craze) and a live show from The Chuckleberrys.

Click here to RSVP on Facebook!

It's gonna be a fun one! For more info, check out the Blow Up blog and the Blow Up website!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sharp Stylings #49: Ronnie Lane

We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt. 

Let's get straight to the point today. This is Ronnie Lane, of the Small Faces, in an awesome window-pane jacket with a breast-pocket flap:
Photo from the Magic Mac blog which always has the best photos.
Lane's hair is styled perfectly with sides that aren't TOO long and bangs slightly above his eyebrows. A nice pink-toned button-down which goes great with the brown of the jacket. And that jacket... whoa! You ever wonder if any of these clothes still exist out there in the world? Is this particular jacket hidden away in someone's closet, being unappreciated? Or is it in a trash heap somewhere? Just dig on how slick, yet comfortable, it looks!

Yeah, I used to be a Steve Marriott devotee. I dug it all, from his immense voice, to his sharp outfits, to his mannerisms on stage. When I was younger, I used to backcomb my hair, hoping to reach Marriott heights. Heck, I used to jokingly call myself 'Esteban Marriott.' And I still do really dig Steve Marriott, don't get me wrong, but these days, I'm much more of a Ronnie Lane devotee.

A few years back, our friends Mike and Sarah lent us a DVD on Lane's life (see bottom of this post) and it totally changed our perspective on his contribution to music. Soon after watching the biography, we hunted down his solo material and played it every day for months. I dug even further into The Faces output for every song Lane either wrote or sang on.

I know I should be writing more about how awesome Lane's Mod style was, but his music trumps all of that. If you're already hip to this stuff, you know where I'm coming from. If you're starting out with this Mod thing and haven't moved beyond the Small Faces yet, give Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance a... chance. You really won't be disappointed! The following are just 5 songs to open you up to the beauty of Ronnie Lane.

1. Debris

2. Kuschty Rye

3. Glad and Sorry

4. Barcelona

5. The Poacher

And here's just Part One of the documentary I referred to earlier. Enjoy!

Ronnie Lane... a Small Face with a sweet soul.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekly Blog Roundup: 7/15/2012

It's later than usual, but here are some links worth delving into!
Have a great day!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sharp Stylings #48: Andrew Loog Oldham

We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

Everyone on Facebook is talkin' about the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones' first show. Listen, after enduring celebrity birthdays and celebrity deaths on Facebook, I don't think I can handle anniversaries of shows on there. (I can barely keep up with birthdays and anniversaries of real-life friends!) When a celebrity starts wishing ME happy birthday or happy anniversary on Facebook, than I'll get more excited about wishing him/her one on Facebook!

That said, in honor of the 50th anniversary, let's take a look at a stylish shot of early Rolling Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham:

Although I'm not into the general shape of Oldham's jacket, I still find it pretty interesting. For me, the lapels are a tad too wide, especially for a 2-button front. Growing up in the 1980s really turned me off to this look. But why does it work on Oldham? Is it due to the ticket pocket? Is it due to the pattern? Or does Loog just carry it off because of the confident swagger?

The details of the jacket aside, Andrew Loog Oldham just owns this look! The black button-down shirt, unbuttoned on top... that wide belt with the HUGE round buckle... the slim-fitting (but not 'skinny') pants... and a pair of sharp, narrow shoes. Damn!

Again, a great way to carry off a casual, yet swank, look. Think about this image next time you're trying decide on what t-shirt will go better with your jeans, the target t-shirt or the Jam t-shirt.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mod Gone Wrong: The 'Mod' Dance

Ever wonder what the correct way to dance 'mod' is? Well, a few days ago, Parka Avenue posted a great video on Facebook. Now, take a moment, appreciate the lack of music to focus in on the actual dance steps, and learn a thing or two.

Feel like taking a fork and plucking your eyeballs out? Yup, I know how you feel. Don't get me wrong... I've no doubt these are 'professional' dancers. But, my god... that guy's horrible Beatle wig, peace necklace, and shirt made my skin crawl. And don't even get me started on that woman's stripper "go-go" boots! (Although her micro-mini-skirt is Mod Male-approved.) Then, you toss in all that hopping and those regimented dance moves we've seen over the years on-screen ranging from Troop Beverly Hills to Dancing With the Stars and I just can't take it. Things like this make me think, "Man, I hate the sixties!" until I look in the mirror and realize, "No, I don't."

Look, I know some of these dances were performed and popularized in the sixties. It was the times, making a dance fad out of anything possible. These days, however, my guess is that these dances are usually reserved for 1960s-themed costume parties across the nation.

Now, although the instructional video above refers to those dances as 'mod' and although there's a chance that some of these dances might have been performed by actual Mods in the sixties, I'm guessing that a lot of Mods were most likely dancing to a different set of dance moves... dance moves created in the clubs and then broadcast on the weekly Ready, Steady, Go!

I love watching these clips of actual 1960s-era Mod kids getting down with their foot-steppin'. This is the stuff that has inspired so many over the years. The foot shuffles, the ankle twists, the hip shakes... that's how you work it! From what I've read, the popularity of these dance steps changed as often as the fashions. Things are different today though.

Personally, I don't do the Freddie. I don't do the Underarm Scratch (or whatever that guy in the top video was doing). And, so help me God, I definitely do NOT do the Batman.  I do lean more toward the foot movements demonstrated on Ready, Steady, Go! But, you don't have to be tied to any of these moves to dance 'mod'. And you definitely DON'T need to dance like the couple in the first video. In fact, please please please spare us those dance moves!

Here's a secret for you: I used to HATE dancing. When I was in 7th grade, I asked a drill team member to be my date to the first dance of the year. Surprisingly, she said yes! She had to work the refreshment stand at the dance so I had to meet her there, but I didn't care. I was on my first junior high dance date! When Stacey Q's 'Two of Hearts' hit the speakers, she and I jumped on that dance floor and got down! Well... I thought I was getting down. I remember the exact dance I was doing: the same dance Lisa Bonet did on the Cosby Show opening credits. I thought I was doing pretty well until the one nerd kid at the dance started making fun of my dance moves. Yes, I was so bad that even the class NERD looked cooler than I did.

That was the last time I danced... until I learned how to 'skank' a few years later. Of course, I was even doing that dance pretty badly. I was doing the running-in-place skank. Ugh. I was even more hesitant to dance when I started going to Mod parties. Some of these guys were great, but I had less rhythm than that character on the Fresh Prince show.

Things changed though. One night, well into the early morning when one of these parties was still going on, a few people started dancing to Small Faces videos. One of them grabbed me to join, but I was too nervous. Luckily, I was also a little drunk so I gathered up the courage and just went for it. No one made fun of me, despite the fact that my feet were not moving to the songs playing. But it didn't matter... no one cared. We were all just there to have fun! It wasn't a game to see who could dance the coolest. It was just a chance to dance to awesome music with your buddies.

Despite that experience, I did want to try learning how to dance a little better. I did want to try learning how to make use of rhythm. There was one image I really took to in the Mods (Richard Barnes, page 52) book... an image of a kid about to unleash some massive dancefloor magic:

I wanted to learn whatever move this kid was doing. That's when I started to study old videos. I wasn't looking at instructional videos, like above. I wasn't looking at videos of people dancing "sixties"-style. Naw, I went straight to the masters. If you're new to this whole thing, I definitely recommend the same. No, none of us will ever be as good as these guys, but it'll give you some great direction. And notice the most important thing. Everyone in these videos just moves so effortlessly. They're not thinking about their steps. 

Take Sam and Dave, for instance. Dig on this whole piece, but if you want to get straight to their steps, check out the 3:23, 4:04, and 4:34 marks:

Whew! I gotta loosen up my collar after that!

Of course, when you think of soul dancing, I'm sure James Brown is the # 1 guy you think of and for good great reason! Here he is, doin' his thing with Sammy Davis, Jr. If you go out onto a Mod dancefloor, chances are you'll see at least 3 people trying to work these moves.

I said before that I don't really like doing regimented 1960s dance moves. Y'know why? Because the early '70s happened. As much as I like sixties music, it's those early seventies funky dances that can really get one to steppin'! Some of those dances can be as mellow and controlled as Michael Jackson here at the 2:24 mark:

Or, you can just go all out and really let loose, 1971 Soul Train-style (to Curtis Mayfield, no less)! These dances may not really be 'Mod,' but, hell, who cares? If you got funky moves like this, you shouldn't keep them hidden.

And now, there are even more modern dance moves to try borrowing from. Check out Aloe Blacc here, lookin' slick and lookin' hip, all while gettin' his groove on:

Mods of today, you know how this works: take a little of the old and mix it with some of the new. Apply that to your dance style and roll with it!

I didn't get much into Northern Soul dancing here because, frankly, I'm not super into it. Don't get me wrong, I think some of those dancers are amazing! I know a couple who blow minds out on the dance floor. But, I absolutely HATE talcum powder on a dance floor. And, I'm not really into those feet sweeping moves. Personally, I think more Mod dancers ought to shake their hips more and pick those feet & knees up when they're dancing (see Sam & Dave above)! But like I said, when you got good Northern Soul dancers out on the dancefloor, they really rock that floor.

I'm not a great dancer, but I do like having a good time at Mod/Soul/whatever dances. You might not be a good dancer either, but that's not the point of all this. Forget regimented dances like the Monkey or the Frug. Forget the idea of 'Mod' dances. JUST GROOVE. But... try groovin' well! And try not to step on your neighbor's toe.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekly Blog Roundup: 7/7/2012

Another morning and another great batch of links to catch up on:
  • A write-up on The Twisted Wheel and its possible closure. (Honestly, I didn't realize it was still in business!)
  • An interesting interview with Dougal Butler, former Mod, Keith Moon's personal assistant, and author of the book on those experiences, Full Moon.
  • Lord Buckley, one of the hippest hipsters that ever was! (Back in the days when 'hipster' was a hip term.)
  • I'm not familiar with Australian singer, Normie Rowe, but after this piece, I may have to look into his music more.
  • Congratulations to an old pal who'll be joining Beechwood Sparks on drums in Santa Cruz, if you're around!
  • Kevin Rowland on Ivy Style... almost as good as the comments in the post!
  • A great exploration into one of the best jazz films around, Jazz On a Summer's Day.
  • A photo collection of 1979 Mods... including Mick Talbot!
  • A podcast of some great soul, leaning more toward the modern sounds. Good stuff!
  • But I'm gonna end this with a track of 1960s mellow soul to start off the day!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sharp Stylings #47: Slim Harpo

We can learn so much from yesterday’s fashion icons.  And living in a post-Mad Men world means we can even enjoy aspects of current male fashions! Every Friday, I’d like to start your weekend off right with a little style inspiration from either then or now. Hopefully, my fellow Mod enthusiasts will find the whole or some detail of the whole to appreciate and maybe even adopt.

Lookin' for the king bee? You found him. Slim Harpo, the man who helped fuel hits for The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and many more. Not only was he a master of the harmonica (and guitar), but he was also as swank as they get:
Photo source: The World of Harmonica blog.
The photo above is filled with nice, detailed touches, from the thin, harlequin-patterned tie (with tight, perfect knot) to the hard-edged fold of the pocket square. In addition, you have the sharp, striped suit with thin lapels, and the broad (wedding?) ring and wrist-watch. Slim Harpo's just looking at you and daring you to match his suave self!

Slim Harpo is, hands-down, one of my favorite blues musicians. When I first moved to the Bay Area, one of the first LPs I purchased was 'The Best of Slim Harpo'.
What caught my eye immediately was just how slick he looked with that gal totally entralled with him. But when I played the LP for the first time, it was like all these Mod musical questions being answered at once for me. I was getting the roots of all these covers I had been listening to up until this point: The Rolling Stones' cover of 'I'm A King Bee', The Crawdaddys' cover of 'Rainin' in My Heart', The Yardbirds' cover of 'Got Love If You Want It' (which wasn't on this album, but a song I heard around the same time), The High Number's re-dux of that song as 'I'm The Face' , etc. Slim Harpo's originals were just so much more haunting than their covers. Then, when I heard 'Mohair Sam' for the first time, that funky groove just hit me right!

Slim Harpo... one of the most suave blues men that ever was. Now get to groovin'!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Very British Phenomenon, But...

At a pretty early age, I became infatuated with a particular British subculture... which is obvious if you're reading this blog. However, it wasn't the 'Britishness' which captured my attention. It was the method by which that subculture chose to express itself which piqued my curiousity, leading me into a life-long obsession.

Sure, the fact that the whole Mod thing was, indeed, very British did get me interested in the social/economic/cultural conditions of post-war England that led to Mods and surrounded their existence throughout the sixties and beyond. And to this day, I still find that whole history fascinating.

However, as much as I love that history, as much as I think the Union Jack is actually a great design motif, and as much as I really dig the humor of Ricky Gervais, I've never considered myself an Anglophile. For one thing, I don't spell the words humour or colour. Too much typing energy for me. I have also never used the words mate, oi, blimey, carboot, arse, or shite in conversation. I use my middle finger when flipping people off, not a two-finger salute. I call women women, not birds. And I don't know a thing about Manchester or Liverpool football teams. (But I do know it's better to call it football and not soccer!)

That said, I love a lot of British music from the 1960s up to today. (But, I also don't care for a lot of British music... Blur and Oasis, I'm looking at you.) I would rather watch a marathon of the U.K. Office instead of an episode of the U.S. Office. (Let's face it, the British know how to make great TV!) I think know James Bond is way cooler than Jason Bourne! And, of course, British culture helped spawn my greatest obsession: Mods!

And yes, it was a 'very British phenomenon.' Over the years, on occasion, I've heard about how non-British Mods have gotten called out on how they can be into this subculture when they themselves aren't even British. I've always found that to be an odd put-down, especially considering how world-wide interest in Mods has grown over the years. As a Mexican-American, personally, I've been asked before how I could be into a culture that is neither Mexican nor American in nature. And heck, I don't even live in Mexico, unlike these Mexican nationals!

My response to questions like these is that Mods/Modernists themselves weren't feeding off their own culture to begin with! Heck, they were influenced by bits of European culture (Italian scooters, French films, etc.) and a whole lot of American culture! In fact, as I've gotten older, I've realized I'm getting more into the American influence that originally fed Mod tastes and continues to do so today.

So today, in honor of the 4th of July (Independence Day), let's celebrate some of the American influences on Mod/Modernist culture over the years. (Click the header links for more info!) And then, go throw on The Kinks' Something Else LP to balance it all out!

John Coltrane
Photo source: the Ivy Style blog.
The Chico Hamilton Quintet
Photo source: Night Lights.

Ivy League Style
Photo source: The Ivy League Look.
Photo source: Ivy Style.
Photo source: A Modernist.
Photo source: Phil Are Go!
American Blues and R&B
Muddy Waters
Little Walter
Photo source: All About Jazz.

Levi's 501s, Sta-Prest, and More

Photo source: Where is the Cool?

Photo source: VINMAG.

Soul Music
The Impressions.
Photo source: Doo Wop.
Etta James.
Photo source: Little By Little (Hales).
Steve Wonder and the Funk Brothers.
Photo source: Soul Walking.

Bass Weejuns
Photo source: The Weejun (didn't see that coming, did you?)
American Pop Artists (Yes, British Pop Art did pre-date American, but keep in mind the prevalence of these images in Mod design over the decades.)

Roy Lichtenstein - Sweet Dreams, Baby, 1965
Andy Warhol - Campbell's Soup Can, 1964
Well, there you go. Mod may be a British phenomenon, but where would it have been without all of these great American influences? And, quite frankly, where would I be without all of those great British Mod influences? Not writing this blog, I'll tell you that.

Hope you have a super fun Independence Day today! Me, I'm oddly craving some fish & chips, a pint of Boddingtons, and some British freakbeat music right now. Go figure.