Thursday, May 30, 2013

May Music Picks

Wow! May was a big month for us. After 18 years in the same building and 13 years in the same apartment (7 for my wife), we finally moved. (See post here.) 

All this moving business got me really nostalgic, so that colored my music mood and got me into some sweet, mellow tunes I've enjoyed over the years living here. So, here friends, is my May playlist:

1. Ella Fitzgerald - It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing - The very first item I moved into my own apartment 13 years ago was a tape player. And the very first piece of music I played on it was off of an Ella Fitzgerald cassette tape. I moved down from an upstairs apartment, went straight to my new empty bedroom and plugged in my tape player with an Ella tape. I sat there listening to this, excited about my first, solo apartment.

2. Colin Blunstone - Caroline Goodbye - Okay, this one's old hat amongst the veterans out there, but if you're a newbie Mod kid getting burnt out on the "Mod! Mod! Mod! Rah! Rah! Rah!" music, then invest in Colin Blunstone. Former (or current, I guess) lead singer of the Zombies, Blunstone put out some absolutely beautiful solo music. And hey, if you're at a point in your life where you're looking to impress the chicas, play some of his music for them. They'll either soften up and see you as a sensitive, deeper-than-a-Mod-kid-should-be fellow or just not get the beauty of Blunstone. And if the latter, they ain't worth your time! I found this CD again when I started packing up our collection and just had to hear it.

3. Twin Engine - Give My Love A Chance - Another CD I found in the archives. Old pal, Pat Johnson turned me on these guys years ago when I was trying to explore more Byrdsy-country sounds. Listening to this again after so many years made moving a lot more easy. I don't know a whole lot about Twin Engine, but seems their back-up included guys like Clarence White, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Sold! (Unfortunately, I couldn't embed a YouTube clip, so you'll have to check the link yourself.)

4. Nick Drake - Northern Sky - Of course, moving always brings up some good nostalgia and although Nick Drake, for me and many others, is timeless, hearing this CD always brings me back to a period when I started to get real adventurous with music. My buddy Aaron used to always turn me on to great stuff that took me out of my Mod/soul comfort zone, including country, late '60s hard rock, and '60s/'70s folk, like this one. But as hard as he tried, I still had my limits (sorry Grateful Dead). But Bryter Layter and any Nick Drake is always welcome on my player!

5. Rodriguez - I'll Slip Away - Yes, we're still on a Rodriguez high and his music has been playing non-stop on our system while we packed up. Kind of makes it hard, though, when you're trying to hurry up and box up some books, but need to stop and take in a moment for a song like this. Many times, I had to tell my wife, "Hold on... let me just dig my jam for a bit and I'll get to the next box..."

6. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys - Love That Man - Many times, my wife was in control of our CD player (can you tell by now that our turntable was one of the first things to get packed?) and that's always a good thing since she puts stuff on that I forget about sometimes. We're huge Big Sandy fans and need to make more attempts to see him and his band live when they come through. A fantastic backing band, great voice, and beautiful music in a more '50s vein. I don't know about you, but 'rockabilly' music is A-OK with me!

7. The Jam - In The Crowd - I can't tell you how many times we drove back and forth between our old and new place dropping things off. And one of the CDs my wife kept playing was a Jam CD. I never find myself putting The Jam on, not because I'm tired of them (I still love them!) but because there's so much other great music I like listening to. But it usually takes my wife to remind me of good music like this. Everytime I jumped out of the car to drop boxes off, this was the song that remained playing in my head.

8. Johnny and June Cash - If I Were A Carpenter - This was off a different CD my wife had playing in the car. Off of a compilation of country music that we got while part of a CD club with friends, this number was the one I kept waiting for whenever it was on. The CD itself was filled with great stuff, but hearing this cover, which was a new one to me, is what kept me relaxed during the drives back and forth.

9. Nick Lowe -  Long-Limbed Girl (This video features Chris Barber)! - On our last night, all I had left music-wise was my iPhone. This was one of the last songs I remember listening to, late at night, while packing up shoes. Man... Nick Lowe is one of the few who has aged so gracefully and gotten better with his music. Don't believe me? Then play the video.

10. Jefferson Airplane - Embryonic Journey - Yeah, I know I put this in the last post, but I'm including it here anyway. Whereas Ella Fitzgerald was the first thing I played when I moved into my own place 13 years ago, this song was the last thing I played as we left. I was fooling around, really, as my wife walked out filming the empty apartment. I put the song on my iPhone as she was shutting the door as a joke, but when I saw the look on her face and the tears welling up, even I got super sad! Didn't help when one of the newer neighbors walked by looking at us like we were crazy.

Well, that's it for this month. In case you're wondering, our music system still isn't plugged in. (But our TV system is, so Arrested Development, here we come!) And our records and CDs are piled everywhere. I think this'll be the weekend to finally get some good music playing at the new place.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Casual Friday #14: Hank Ballard

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.

I saw this photo of Hank Ballard posted on the Style and Classics Vintage Menswear Emporium Facebook page and had to include it here today.

Also on the Les Enfants de Jean Brun Tumblr page worth following for great images.
Okay, first off, let's get over the loose fit of the jacket. I know you Mod types like your jackets nice and tight, but lay off of Ballard, who's just keepin' it loose'n'cool.

Besides, it's the color and individual ensemble pieces that make this such a great, casual style. This look actually reminds me of what some of the Berkeley Mods were dressing like when I first moved to the Bay Area: vintage slim trousers with a higher rise, 3-button pop-over shirts (which you could still find at thrift shops at the time), and late '50s/early '60s pointed shoes.

In fact, if I could take a closer look at Ballards shoes, I could almost swear they're exactly like the type I still wear these days for work (and play)! You can keep your desert boots... I'd rather stick with slick, leather dress shoes.

The slim fit of the trousers work well with the overall look as well. I don't really do high-rises on my trousers these days, but if I could find a pair that looked this great, I'd do it.

Now take a look at that shirt... man! Nice, Autumn-flavored bold stripes with that 3-button front and button-down collar. You just don't see shirts like this that often anymore and it's really too bad because they're perfect casual shirts that beat any ol' tennis polo shirt any day of the week.

Bam! This all gets topped off with a rust-colored coat that matches his shirt perfectly. His ascot is just icing on the whole cake.

Hank Ballard... casual by day, slicked-up by night, all in one outfit. All right, Hank, now show us how the funk is done:


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mod Life: Overrated

You probably thought I gave this blog up, but the reality is that I've been way too busy with a miserable, overbearing task: moving.

Seriously. My wife and I just finished moving and the largest lesson I've learned from this whole thing is that this Mod thing sucks. I'm done with it.

I understand now why many 1960s Mods splintered off into more spartan, hippie lifestyles. I'm trading in my suits for target t-shirts and jeans, trading in all my shoes for a single pair of Adidas trainers, trading in all my vinyl for a single iPod, and trading in the books for a library card.

Of course, 18 years of accumulation is a hard thing to just pack up and move. We're dealing with boxes & boxes of shoes and bags & bags of clothing... and let's not get into my wife's collection of shoes and clothes! We couldn't have done it without the help of a moving company and our friends Jon Burchard, Karen Finlay, Syd Wayman, and Mari Corella. (Thanks guys!)

A few things I came across during our packing included an old pair of original 1960s Denson 'Chisel Poynters' I wore once long ago, before the tongue fell out. At the time that I got these, I didn't appreciate the fact that they were original Densons!

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I also found my old pair of Jam stage shoes.

A few other clothing pieces I came across included a beat-up pair of Cuban-heeled pointed boots...

some madras jackets...

my old houndstooth suit jacket...

and my paisley 2-button jacket (thanks Sean C.!).

Also came across some old paperbacks with great covers:

Oh yeah, and I found my old scooter!

Now, I  lived in that last place for almost 18 years, believe it or not. I moved in, as a couch-surfing student, with my friends Susan and Mike Therieau. At the time, The Beatles were celebrating their Anthology and local brit-pop club, Popscene, had just debuted at the Cat Club.

A month later, I had my own apartment in that same building with my roommate DJ Sean Cavanaugh. 4 years or so after that, while riding high on the dot-com craze, I had enough money to rent my very own apartment with no roommate in the very same building. Unfortunately, a month later, the dot-com craze died, but I survived and held on to that apartment! About 6 years later, my future wife moved in with me and now, 7 years later, we're off to a bigger place. Sigh... sad leaving that place behind.

Many Mod friends passed through as residents of that building over the years including Mike Therieau, Sean Cavanaugh, Dennis (Denny) Winston, Jason Ringgold (New Untouchables), Jon Burchard (ex-The Idea), and more. Many good times of BBQs, parties, and late-night hangouts.

And now, it's over. Time to move on.

As we cleaned out the last bit and prepared to close the door for one last time, my wife wanted me to take photos of the old place. 
And as we shut the door, I just had to play this last song (as I reminded myself to stop watching so many sitcoms):

Now it's time to give the spartan life a chance... a-a-a-and that's over. I feel like book-shopping.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Music Picks (A Day Late)

Alright, alright, only my second monthly playlist and already I'm late. Hey, what can I say? Life.

Anyways, this is what I've been diggin' on this month. That Acid Jazz box set really got me on a hip-hop kick (*gasp*), but that's not all I've been listening to. Check it!

1. Ry Cooder & The Chicken Skin Band - Dark End of The Street - This version just floored me. A beautiful mix of tender, soft soulful vocals, slide guitar, and Tex-Mex accordian. I had this on repeat for almost an entire work day. For no reason whatsoever, I've never picked up any Ry Cooder albums, but have wanted to explore his records for a while. This song just might be the kick in the pants to get on that!

2. Three O'Clock - In My Own Time - This month was a big concert month in the Bay Area. The Specials (or did they play in March?), Peter Daltrey (see below), and The Three O'Clock. Gotta say, the Three O'Clock were pretty great! When I was younger, 'Canteloupe Girlfriend' was my jam. These days, it's this track.

3.  Kaleidoscope - Standing/Diary Song: The Indian Head - Peter Daltrey made a return visit to San Francisco this month, so I spent time catching up on all my favorite Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour recordings (i.e., all of them). I was super excited to catch him again, as he was so good last time he played. But what happened? I got sick and couldn't make the show! Although I missed him, I still have fantastic songs like this, probably my favorite off of the White Faced Lady album.

4. Ricky Fante - Let You Go - Man, talk about getting lost in the shuffle. There are all these great new soul acts playing today, but Ricky Fante was one of the first back in the mid-2000s. I don't know why he wasn't picked up on more or why he didn't continue on the path of this sound. (Maybe it was the out-of-place dancers all around him?) But listen to this and tell me this ain't some great 'new' soul!

5. Dave Pike - Big Schlepp - I'm always in the mood for some good, funky Dave Pike jams. This is perfect music for just hangin' at home and kickin' it easy. Thanks to YouTube, you can find some good live footage of him. But the song that was ticklin' me this month was 'Big Schlepp!'

6. The Pharcyde - Oh Sh**! - As mentioned above, I've been on a hip-hop kick thanks to the Acid Jazz 25th Anniversary box set. I was never much of a hip-hop guy when I was younger. I think the only tracks I liked back in high school were 'Express Yourself' (NWA), 'Fight The Power' (Public Enemy), and 'Me, Myself, and I' (De La Soul). These days, though, I have a much larger appreciation and have been diggin' on songs I missed out the first time around, like this.

7. The Velvet Underground - Oh! Sweet Nuthin' - Ah, you all know this one! I was at the gym the other day, and this came on my iPod. It had been a while, but a very welcome listen. Unfortunately, it made me want to get off the treadmill and just want to mellow down easy.

8. Guru - Le Bien, Le Mal - Here's an old hip-hop tune I was into back in the day. In fact, while Guru's Jazzmatazz was probably hipping hip-hop kids to jazz, it was actually hipping me to hip-hop. Plus, you just can't beat the sound of French rapping.

9. Caetano Veloso - Lost In Paradise - This album is always lying by the side of our turntable because we are often in a Veloso mood. This particular track kept floating around in my mind this month.
10. Hidden Jazz Quartet - High Heels (Lack of Afro remix) - It's been a while since I've bought new 45s, but I just recently picked this one up. I actually learned about it from the Sussed Facebook page (thanks guys!) A nice slice of new soul that totally makes me want to DJ again!

Alright, that's it for me this month. Hope you dig!