Friday, September 28, 2012

Casual Fridays #6: Jackie Opel

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

A few days ago, Mod Male Facebook reader, Lion F., turned me on to a great singer: Jackie Opel. I'll be honest with you, as much of a ska/rocksteady fan that I am, there is still a lot out there that falls off my radar. Thank you, Lion, for bringing him to my attention because not only is his music just what I needed this morning to get me ready for the day, but dig on his style vibe here:

Jackie Opel, not only rockin' the madras jacket, but gettin' down to the ground in the process! A pair of sharp shoes, narrow slacks, white cufflink shirt (with what looks like a button-down collar), and that great jacket sans tie... cool 'n' casual!

His look actually reminds me of what some of the guys I first met up in the Bay Area used to wear on a casual basis. I'm from southern CA. When I was still living down there, I remember the casual Mod look consisting of sneakers, jeans, and a Jam t-shirt. That was the daily look. At least it was with some of the people I knew or saw around.

When I moved to the Bay Area (Berkeley/Oakland), I saw a huge change in how the fellows dressed. Up here, on a daily basis, a few tended to wear 1960s narrow slacks, dark pointed shoes, vintage dress shirts (Arrow Kent, Van Heusen, Towncraft, etc.), and a 3-button suit jacket (or corduroy/suede/leather coats), with no tie. And this was just to hang out listening to records!

Jackie Opel's look above wouldn't have been out of the ordinary back then. It's a look well worth exploring once you're ready to move up from jeans and a Fred Perry. Plus, once you master this type of daily wear, think how much you'll start improving your evening club wear. Jackie Opel, for instance, looks slick and smooth here, but when he got dolled up, well....
...dude didn't mess around.

Now, let Jackie Opel start your day off with some sounds to get you bouncin'!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rise of the Internet Mods

Image taken from Modculture's 'The 10 Varieties of Mod'.
So, I've been listening to a great online radio station lately called We Are The Mods. Don't let the name throw you... it's not a show dedicated to the Quadrophenia soundtrack! It's actually a fun 2-hour mix of music (some you'll like, some you might not) and rants about Mod stuff, hosted by DJ Warren Peace. Well, the show got me thinking about something: technology... namely, the internet. The internet and the Mod thing.

Some of you might be too young to remember life before the internet. Heck, in MY time, I had to march through the concrete landscapes of La Puente, CA, rain or snow, to make it to my local library and find whatever music or sociology section existed there. I'd go straight for a book's index and look up 'mod,' 'The Who,' 'The Jam,' or 'ska.' Rarely did I find anything, but if I found even a nugget of information, I'd file it away. This was my 'google' search back then. Things got easier in college thanks to the larger libraries of books, newspapers, and magazines. (Anyone else remember microfiche?)

But in my second year of college, I was introduced to something that would change my life FOREVER. An email address. And with that, access to something I had never heard of before: the internet. Now, this was back before actual webpages with GIFs. When I first started using the internet, all that was available to me were text-based newsgroups. Things like or alt.literature.keroauc. Unfortunately, there was no alt.subculture.mods...

... until a woman named Lisa Gerson created the Modslist (click the link for the skeletal remains of the first major online Mod group).
For the first time, thanks to this list, you were able to communicate with Mods across the country and across the world via email group messages. Not many people were on this thing at first, but over time, it grew. It's where I met some great people with whom I still keep in contact today. (Leave a comment if any of you out there remember the ol' Modslist!) Of course, there is always the negative side to internet communications and soon the Modslist became an arena for online fighting. I ain't gonna lie... when britpop hit big and people started joining the list in droves, I spent more time arguing over whether britpop was really 'Mod' (I didn't think it was) than actually studying for classes.

But as the Modslist grew, old subscribers dropped off while new ones joined. Soon, other online forums started popping up. You had Yahoo groups catering to scooter scenes, music scenes, and local Mod scenes. (Anyone else remember Bespoke, What's Shakin', Britishmods, or Mod Veterans?) You also had new websites popping up which catered to regional Mod scenes. There were sites coming out of Chicago, New York, Italy, Germany, the UK, and Spain.

By this time, I was out of college and working on websites with friends. In an effort to help spread the 'Mod message,' while mastering Flash technology at the same time, we created a fictional 1960s cartoon group called The Huggabaloos.
We wanted to make sixties stuff accessible to people, with the idea that there would be kids out there turning on to the site and turning on to Mod culture. We featured record reviews, animated pieces, and games. It was a fun time as we tried pushing the boundaries of web design while pushing forward our own Mod interests.

Around this same time, a few important sites emerged: Uppers, New Untouchables, and Modculture. Each of these tried to cater to all aspects of Mod life, but Richard Karström's Uppers website really went for the world-wide angle. There were record reviews, club night galleries, and general news items from all over. Contributors from the UK, the US, etc. helped build this site into a great source of information. It used to be my first go-to for anything Mod-related.

The New Untouchables site was something that really needed to happen. These are the guys that kept 'the faith' going through the lean years and beyond the britpop years. Chances are, if there's a giant Mod event going on, these guys are involved somehow. From Le Beat Bespoke to the Mousetrap, the New Untouchables are the movers and shakers. Jason Ringgold was the man behind the original website (now designed by pip! pip!), which added in great design and functionality. This site worked to spread the news on their happenings and create a forum for people to share news and information.

And then there's David Walker's Modculture site. If I remember correctly, it started out a little clunky and seemed to concentrate, at the time, on more British happenings. It didn't seem to be updated as often as I would have liked and I tended to forget about it from time to time. But eventually, it went through an overhaul and now stands as one of the best stops in the Mod interwebhood.
They are on top of everything, from Mod news in general to music news to book releases to info on new clothing. It's filled with fantastic interviews, well-written articles, and great galleries. Modculture has gotten so big, it's spawned various sister sites, including Retro To Go and His Knibs. And if you like their Facebook page, you'll get daily updates on current news stories.

And this really does lead us to today's online Mod landscape. In addition to Modculture, you now have Stephen Hughes's The Mod Generation site. I joined this quite some time ago and, quite honestly, forgot all about it until about a year ago. I was working on a blog entry on white socks, and in a google search, I happened to find out that this very subject was already being discussed... on The Mod Generation!
And that's not all... Mods from the 1960s to today were on the MG forums talking about everything, from the history of the culture to happenings today! 1960s Mods were contributing interesting articles and correcting various myths that have existed since the '60s. In addition to their forums and articles, I think the most interesting contribution coming from The Mod Generation is its "Weekly Paper," a one-stop shop for any news worth knowing about that you may have missed. Of course, much like Modculture, The Mod Generation also has a strong Facebook presence updating members daily with news stories, links to outside blog posts, and music clips.

And let's not even get into how social websites have affected the Mod thing... okay, let's get into it. First, there was Friendster. People logged in, said nice things about their friends, and uploaded profile photos. It was a neat time.

Then, along came MySpace. All of a sudden, people had the ability to alter their personal pages and, in effect, create their own personas. By adding photos of op-art designs, Twiggy, and The Small Faces, and uploading profile pics of themselves with a sexy pout and a Who Poster in the background, people could show the whole wide world that they were MOD! Heck, based on MySpace itself, you'd think a whole Mod revival was happening online!

Things mellowed out a bit thanks to Facebook, but even here, Mod exploded all over the social landscape. MySpace Mods migrated over. New Mod social groups popped up on the site, many of them mediocre, but some of them fantastic (like my favorite, Original Modernists 1959-1966, which features actual, original modernists from this period). Many people, in fact, have used Facebook to change their names in an effort to ensure people knew what they were about (for instance, instead of my for-realz name, I could just re-name myself Mod Carlos... yeah!). On Facebook, you could like your favorite bands, your favorite record labels, or even your favorite blogs (hint! hint!).

Speaking of blogs, well, I'm sure you know how those have grown over the last several years. If not, peek on over at the right-hand side of this page... yeah, see that list there? Just a handful of recently updated blogs worth your time!

In addition to blogs, websites, and forums, you have Mod radio stations and podcasts. Frankly, I didn't explore these much before. I mean, why would I when I have music at home to listen to and an iPod to keep me busy at the gym. But then, I realized some of these stations were good with hooking me up to new sounds. Plus, I'm always a fan of theme shows. That's how I got turned on to Mr. Suave and his podcast.
Then, there's the actual 24-hour-a-day Mod radio site, Mod Radio UK. This site includes revolving DJs (like Captain Stax), new and old music, and cool promos, including one by Chico Hamilton who, honest to God, declares himself to be an original Mod in the promo!

But, my favorite online show now is the one that spurred me to think about this entry: We Are the Mods. At first, I was a little hesitant. I think you all know my viewpoint toward Mod cliches. I saw the Facebook page for this station and was faced with targets, Quadrophenia images, and Pete Townsend keeping it real. But this site was recommended to me by Gabriela of French Boutik, and one thing I know... you don't question Gabriela's tastes. So, I logged on to the We Are The Mods show... and was floored! In addition to a good mix of musical styles, you have a host who isn't afraid to speak his mind (and if you thought I had strong opinions... wait 'til you hear this guy!) and who works to get people thinking about this whole Mod subculture. That's what makes the show... the music (which is very varied) and the charisma of the host. That's what we needed... someone who's excited about this stuff and willing to call out the bunk side of it when necessary. Trust me, it's worth your time!

Lately though, the host, DJ Warren Peace, has been talking about the idea of this whole Mod thing dying without some sort of new revival to keep it going. I've mentioned before that this Mod thing seems to be going through a revival every couple of years since britpop first hit. If it wasn't before, it's definitely in the mainstream consciousness now, thanks to the Olympics. But, over the years, I've heard others share the 'fear' of Mods dying out (because, y'know, global warming, poverty, and terrorism aren't fear-inducing enough.) In the past, I've been told I need to help build the 'scene' or work to get more people into this thing. Sometimes, I still hear that.

But here's the thing... I'm much older now and 'scene' stuff doesn't really interest me. Helping to grow a 'scene' isn't on my to-do list. I know what I like, and I've liked loved this stuff since I first got into it. I'm lucky in that many of my friends still really love this stuff too, without the need of a 'scene.'

Now, if there are kids out there discovering the Mod thing for the first time today, more power to them! Personally, though, I don't want to be the creepy old Mod guy hanging out with a bunch of 19-year-old kids trying to help them 'keep the faith'. That's not my role. It's up to them to forge their own ways. Don't get me wrong... if I'm djing a club and there's a bunch of young mod kids out there dancing, I'd be stoked. But I'm not going to go up to them afterwards and say, "Hey gang, let's hang out and get our mod on."

Ew. See, I had my time. I had my youth. When I was younger, I hung out with people around my own age and we did these things on our terms. We didn't have a lot of clubs at the time, but we had each other. We hung out and turned ourselves on to music and discussed clothing. Some of my friends spent time and money on their scooters, in addition to slick clothing. Now though, we're all older and at different phases of our lives. Some of us have families of our own, some don't. But for me and my friends, this stuff still excites us! Families and jobs didn't kill the Mod thing for us.

Now, though, it's the younger kids' turns to form their own little scenes. Some will last, some won't. Some of these young mod kids will stick with it and evolve, trading in their parkas and Jam pins for sharper, more detailed clothing. Some will veer off into other looks/scenes/whatever, and might retain a love for their Mod past (while others put it down). Others will drop out completely (and maybe come back in their 40s, looking to continue where they left off at age 20). And this will go on and on for years to come, much as it has been going on for years past.

Think about this... I started using the internet in around 1993. Since then, as mentioned above, we've had new websites, blogs, online radio stations, social media pages, etc. Kids born in 1993 are now (oh-my-god-why-am-i-aging-myself-like-this?) 19 years old! They've grown up with the internet and don't know life without it. If they get into the Mod thing, the internet is going to be their main source of info. Sure, it'll be easy for them to find what they need in a matter of minutes and become insta-Mods in a short period of time. People my age went through a longer process, but probably gained a better appreciation of it all, after all the hard work. Some kids today will get into it after a Wikipedia search, a download of the top 25 Mod hits, and a purchase of a Pretty Green shirt. Some will drop out to follow their next fancy. But others will really stick with it and use the information to explore more and push themselves to learn more. And this will continue on...

Mod is never going to die. And you know why?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekly Blog Roundup: 9/23/2012

Your weekend's just about over and you're not looking forward to starting a new work week. Well, take your mind off it with a selection of great blog posts out right now:
  • I don't know about you, but I've been a fan of Bob Dylan's most recent works (with the exception of the Christmas album) and am looking forward to his newest. But what does Monkey Picks think?
  • Need a primer on '60s soul music? Head on over for the Parka Avenue's second segment!
  • For those who can't be there in person, how about a virtual visit to the Stax Museum?
  • Looking for a beautiful restaurant to take your date on next time your in Paris? Le Continental has a suggestion that just might wow her (or him)!
  • SpyVibe digs into a new Saarinen book coming soon.
  • Voice of East Anglia explores typographer Herb Lubalin
  • Indochino is opening up a shop in San Francisco. Interested in checking them out, but I'll wait for Made By Hand to go through its experience first.
  • Ivy Style hits the Huffington Post!
  • How about an awesome collection of soul 'zine covers?
  • Action fans... it's coming!
  • Ending this with another shot of sweet soul from Derek's Daily 45!
Now that you're refreshed, you should be ready to earn those dollars tomorrow!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Casual Fridays #5: The Kinks

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

Alright, this one's for all the scooter Mods out there! You're probably getting ready for a weekend of scooter riding, dressed in a parka covered in enough Mod badges to match the number of lights and mirrors on your scooter. But wait... take some inspiration from this shot of The Kinks, spending a quiet day on a couple of nice, Italian rides:
Taken from the We Are The Mods online radio station page.
(BTW, give that show a listen... I think the host has stronger opinons on Mod stuff than I do!)
What's this? You can actually see the great shape and design of their scooters since they're not covered up by a silly amount of Christmas decorations? And they're NOT wearing parkas?

Oh no, The Kinks know how to spend a day in sharp style. Check out Dave's chisel-toe shoes, narrow trousers and suit jacket. Ray's sporting a similar look, as he sits on his scooter, looking sharper than most of today's scooter boys!

But my fave here... Pete Quaife, of course! That's because he's sporting that sweet leather coat instead of a parka! Scooter-riding Mods... it's time to graduate to a 3/4-length leather coat for your weekend rides! (Psst! Here's a suggestion: get on Ebay and look up 'vintage car coat'. You might find something nice that'll set you apart from the rest of the parka army!)

Now, if you're don't plan on riding your scooter this weekend, then just pretend you are as you watch this video, featuring a beautiful 1970s Kinks song reminiscing about the 1960s!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekly Blog Roundup: 9/14/2012

I've fallen behind on great blog posts out there! But slowly, I'm attempting to catch up. Let's ease back into this with a small selection for you today:
 Have a great weekend!

Casual Fridays #4: George Harrison

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

After a rough week at work, it's time to slow things down for the weekend. So, let's start it off with this nice, kick-back photo of my favorite Beatle, George Harrison:
From the mikl-em's combine blog.

Harrison's just bustin' a slow hang in a sharp roll-neck sweater, thinly-striped (or are they corduroy?) trousers, and a beautiful 4-button (?) coat... all the ingredients for a crisp, casual look.

The best piece here, though, is the turtleneck sweater with the ribbed neck and bottom. The neck is not overdone with so much material that he's barely able to lift his head out from it. He's got room to breathe! And the material of the sweater doesn't look too heavy so he can wear this in pretty moderate weather without sweating on the inside. I love me a good roll neck, but haven't had much luck finding them in the past. Seems things have change now, thanks to companies like John Smedley and Art Gallery!

And George seems to keep his patterns limited only to his trousers (assuming they're not corduroy), which provides a nice break from the solid light-coloring of the sweater and the dark of the jacket. I wish I had a color photo handy, just to see what color those trousers are and how they work with the rest of the outfit. Awesome balance, overall though, of color and pattern, I'm sure!

All right now, let's end this post and start the weekend with my most favorite Beatles song ever... written by George Harrison!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Casual Fridays #3: Sonny Stitt

Working to look sharp for a rare evening out on the town can actually be easy. The tough job is trying to look sharp on a daily, casual basis. Yeah, you might have your Friday night suit at your beck and call, but what does it matter if you spend the rest of your time in target t-shirts and jeans? Every Friday, I'd like to offer up some style inspiration for tightening up your casual look, because let's face it... sometimes you just don't feel like wearing a tie, but still want to keep it sharp.

Jazz saxaphonist Sonny Stitt showing you how to keep it on the down-low in this photo from 1961:
From The Impossible Cool blog.
It's all in the details, from the swank wristwatch, pinkie ring (!), madras-looking shirt with done-up button-down collar, soft cardigan, and all topped off with a sharp short-brimmed fedora. This image just shows one of the best ways to lay out a look of relaxed cool. Nothing uptight or stiff going on here.

This photo, though, brings up an oft-debated topic: should the top button of a shirt be done-up if no tie is worn? Personally, I keep it unbuttoned, but damn! Stitt still looks slick with all the buttons closed!

For years, I thought I kept to the idea of always keeping the top button loose when not wearing a tie. But lately, I've been looking at photos of myself from the 2000s (after I became aware of this tip) and in most of those photos I have my top button buttoned... with no tie! I don't know what I was thinking, but at the same time, it doesn't look too bad. I guess it's one of those things best left to personal preference.

My general attitude, though, is that if I don't have a tie on, I'll keep my collar loose... unless I'm wearing a tab-collar. But, take note on Sonny Stitt here... I guess it's all in the attitude because he still looks relaxed and smooth despite being buttoned up to the top!

Now sit back and let a man do what he does best:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Top 10 Stone Cold Soul Grooves

Hello friends! Well, it's been a while, huh? Yeah, sorry about that... side projects, side trips, and a day job have made it a little more difficult to sit down and think up moddy things to write about. Well, today, I'm taking the easy way out... with a Top 10 song list!

I'm a huge fan of soul music, especially the type that gets you off your feet. But man, I'm an equal fan of the mellow sounds, especially when I'm at home with the lights dim and a nice drink in my hand. Now, I've mentioned before my Top 10 mellow songs, more in a folk/country vein, but let's get into the slow soul grooves.

The following list is definitely not complete and there's a lot missing (i.e., Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations, Aretha), but I just wanted to get into what I was digging on today with a mix of old AND new soul sounds. So, relax, take a load off, and if you're able to, grab a glass of wine and mellow down easy as I present to you my Top 10 Stone Cold Soul Grooves (in no particular order, of course):

1.  The Superlatives - I Don't Know How (To Say I Love You) - Listen, when my wife first moved in with me, she brought a lot of things into my life: love, companionship, help with washing the dishes... and this amazing 45! As soon as she first stepped through that door and dumped her record boxes onto the floor, I dropped her suitcase, accidentally pushed her to the side, and delved into those boxes. And this song was the cream of that crop!

2. Solomon Burke - Fast Train - It's well known that Solomon Burke has a solid catalogue of amazing soul songs from the 1960s. But have you explored his work in the 2000s? Oh man, this song (written by Van Morrison!) is a strong example of an old soul moving his sound forward. Slow, sparse, with a steady build up, this songs hits just right. The rest of this album (Don't Give Up On Me) is highly worth checking out as well. Hey, if it's good enough for The O.C.'s Peter Gallagher, then it's good enough for you!

3. The Spinners - Bad, Bad Weather - Aw man... do I even need to write anything about this one? Come on... how can you beat a line like "now my little room reminds me of Londontown, when the evening sun goes down, and it's cold and misty and oh so foggy and it's hard to find my way around"?

4. Candi Staton - You Don't Have Far To Go - Another example of a 1960s soul star doing what she does best TODAY. That nice, steady, building beat is in full force on this song with great back-up vocals and strong horns. Can we all just forget that 1980s over-production on soul songs ever happened? Too many soul stars fell victim to that back then, but now, mistakes have been learned!  

5. Darondo - True - Uh huh, oh yeah... sometimes, you just need a little funk with your mellow groove. And it don't get much funkier than this Oaktown soul man's track. If you have that glass of wine in your hand, whatever you do DON'T get up and walk around! Otherwise, your hips might start shakin' and your back might be movin', and you just might spill that drink all over the place! 

6. Nick Lowe - Homewrecker - Yup, I'm including Nick Lowe on this list. Nick Lowe has written some amazing music over the years, but his greatest song, 'What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding', was featured on The Bodyguard soundtrack. Big deal, right? Well, the money he received from those royalties enabled him to not have to worry about selling hits again, instead concentrating on just making good music on his own terms. And songs like this are the result of that.

7. Donny Hathaway & June Conquest - I Thank You - Donny Hathaway put out one of my most favorite live soul albums, Live, back in 1972. But dig on this punchy number with June Conquest from a couple of years earlier. Once featured on the Derek's Daily 45 blog and for good reason... pure Chi-Town sweet soul!

8. Laura Lee - Dirty Man - Just a powerful song about a strong woman ridding herself of a cheatin' man. A strong Muscle Shoals backing help bring out the grit behind Laura Lee's voice as she kicks this fellow out onto the curb. Ladies, hopefully it doesn't happen to you, but if you are ever wronged, just take some inspiration from this song.

9. Sugar Billy - Super Duper Love - One of my most favorite soul songs, EVER. Slinking guitar licks, funky drumming, blasting organ, rolling horns, and Sugar Billy's unabashed declaration of love kill me every time I hear this. This is the kind of guy Laura Lee needs after that last song! Both parts are here for your pleasure.

10. Eli Reed - Am I Wasting My Time? - Another newer soul track, this time from young soul man, Eli Reed. A strong voice with great instrumental backing shine through on this one. 

BONUS TRACK: 11. Lorraine Ellison - Stay With Me Baby - Okay, I had to throw this one in there! I ain't even gonna talk about it. Let it speak for itself. (And afterward, compare it to the Terry Reid version to keep the awesome moving!)

Alright, that's it for today. Hope these songs hit the spot for you!