November 28, 2007

Mr. Suave's Mixology Lab

Since I've been in a martini mood of late . . . .

You might like a drink with vodka, but it isn't a martini. If I had a penny for everytime I've had to teach that lesson. This is Mr. Suave's Mixology Lab and Swinigin' Cocktail Lounge, learn to make a real the one place you can martini.

Too many cocktail bars mix any old concoction of alcohol and add 'tini as a suffix thinking they'll make it big. All they make is a pathetic drink that is NOT a martini. Enough about bad drinks, this podcast will teach you to make one good drink. Sit back, relax, and remember Mr. Suave's motto -- there are no subtle drinks.

November 25, 2007

Modcast #76: Gettin' Better All The Time

Here it is November with Christmas creeping towards us, and it is damn cold here in Seattle. So to help warm the blood I've got another great set of songs for this, the 76th installment of the web's original modcast, Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World.

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Kicking things off is a great bit of power pop from BBC DJ Mike Reid's group The Trainspotters. The story behind this one is interesting to say the least. Reid is probably most famous for being the DJ that vaulted Frankie Goes to Hollywood to #1 hit status -- completely unintentionally. The story is that one day on his BBC show Reid started playing a new single from Frankie called Relax, without ever having listened to it first. While it was playing he listened to the lyrics and got so enraged that he pulled the record off the turntable in mid-song and broke it half right on the air. Within hours the BBC had banned the song from all of its stations. It was then that the law of unintended consequences kicked in and within a few days the song was #1 and Frankie Goes To Hollywood became megastars overnight.

There's a few lessons in there to be sure. The rest of this modcast is a lesson in pure power pop. So get yourself a lusty libation, sit back, relax and enjoy the sounds.
The Strollers -- Red Skies

I Love My Jeans -- Camera Obscura

Mr. Suave

November 24, 2007

The Martini Mood

When your sipping on a chill martini, just about anything sounds good. An extra-dry 'tini with high proof gin -- believe it, or not --can be complemented just as easily by pulse-pounding, three-chord bashing from The Damned or Social Distortion as it can by the hip, sixties sounds of Jefferson Airplane, The Who or the Doors. And of course more traditionally by the soft, crooning of Mel Torme, Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, and certianly the swinging sounds of Henry Mancini, Les Baxter or Count Basie

Frank Sinatra -- Bim Bam Baby

Still, there is a right way to truly enjoy the Martini Mood. A good martini should always be accompanied by music, friends, or a combination of the two. This is part of what makes it a good martini. As you mix the martini it is important to conduct a brief self-examintion and decide on the music or companions that will mix best with your martini and your mood. (Note: Sipping a martini alone and listening to Pink Floyd is not considered a safe -- or sane -- mix.)

B Martin/P Coulter -- Teen Lovers (AKA Big Moody)

A good mix of the Martini Mood can include a swinging film like "The Guide to the Married Man" (Walter Matthau, 1967), an exciting baseball game, or Combustible Edison. Don't waste a good martini on NASCAR, "Rocky V," or Boys II Men.

Combustible Edison -- Checkered Flag

The perfect martini:
  • 4oz. Gin (I prefer London Bombay Dry, or Beefeater -- both have a strong gin/juniper taste and a strong, smokey finish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry vermouth
  • Fill a metal shaker (glass shakers don't stay cold for long) about half way with crushed ice.
  • Add the gin first (preferably it should already be ice cold, straight out of the freezer) and swirl it briefly, then add the vermouth.
  • Stirring is better than shaking -- although shaking does tend to bruise the gin, meaning it brings out a stronger flavor.
  • Strain into an ice cold cocktail glass. I use stainless steel glasses (stored in the freezer so they are always ready to go), again because they will stay cold longer.

    Sip it, don't gulp it.
  • November 20, 2007

    The Mod Sound: Manual Scan

    In the summer of 1983 I discovered a whole new world of music. I was introduced to the mod scene sort of by accident. Already interested in punk and new wave, I was still really figuring out what that music was all about when I met some mod kids from Huntington Beach, CA -- at summer camp of all places.

    And they were cool. Their clothes were cool. Their music was cool. And their style was all about their clothes and music. They were mods and I was very impressed. Especially with that blonde one named Heidi who introduced me to a couple of things besides The Jam and Secret Affair, but that's another blog post entirely ... if you get my drift. Ahhh, summer camp. Where was I? Oh yeah, learning the ropes about being a mod.

    Anyhow, in 1983 I discovered the southern California mod scene --which I say was just about to explode at that time-- and the first local mod bands I remember really getting into were The Untouchables and Manual Scan. On the local scene, they were the shiznit if you will.

    Manual Scan were the mod band for purists at the time. They blended the sixties with power pop in a pitch perfect way, and they did it with impeccable style and grace. Where the LA mod bands were either sloppily dressed punks playing really cool soul infused power pop, or caricatures of sixties garage rockers, Manual Scan were reliably well dressed in the very sorts of clothes that the fashion conscious mod teens of the day were spending all their free time and money obtaining. They looked like mods. They acted like mods. They played music like mods. They were the real deal as far as most 16 year old mods in 1983 were concerned, me included.

    Depending on what you believe on the internet, the band started in the late 70s or the early 80s. Regardless, by 1981 Manual Scan were a mod force to be reckoned with and in 1982 they released a five song EP, Plan Of Action, that set them even further ahead of the pack in many ways. Not the least of which was being the first serious So Cal mod band to have a significant release. It put them up front as some of the leaders of the mod scene in California.

    Manual Scan was always a major presence in San Diego and San Francisco, but less so in LA where the mod scene was more punk and ska focused. Still, I remember them as one of the bands that we absolutely loved to see, and would at times scoot for hours to catch one of their shows. There's an interesting article about the band which I won't copy here but direct you to check out at the California Mod Scene site which has some really incredible bits of historical info regarding the birth of So Cal's mod scene.

    In 1986 the band released their first LP titled One on Hi-Lo records in the UK, and it was finally released in the US two years later in 1988, titled Down Lights. A few years back, well a lot of years back actually in 1996, a very good compilation of their music was released on Get Hip records. It provides probably the best collection of the bands work.

    Manual Scan went on to have several other releases throughout the 80s. The band's core was always Bart Mendoza and Kevin Ring, original members, who went on to form another influental mod/sixties act, The Shambles in the early 90s. Mendoza himself is something of a legend having networked with most of the mod and garage rock scenes around the United States and indeed the world over the past 25 years. His presence on stage with Manual Scan was great, if not magnificent, but his presence off stage for the San Diego mod scene at first, and the world scene later, seems to have been even more important. I comment as an observer only, but his mentions and appearances with various mod bands, projects, and events over the years indicate a serious appreciation for the music and the scene.

    November 18, 2007

    Modcast #75: Pull The Trigger

    Mr. Suave's Mod, Mod World
    Modcast #75: Pull The Trigger

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    Welcome to Mr Suave's Mod Mod World. First, all apologies for missing last week's modcast. It's inexcusable, but by way of an explanation I will tell you that losing electricity to half your half house is a mind boggling experience. Mostly because you're trying to figure out what the hell happened between one electical outlet and another to make half the house light up like a Christmas tree and the rest of the house to play dead like a possum. Regardless, I am now able to get the latest modcast broadcasting far and wide. So, here you go with this week's goddam good set.

    • Mooney Suzuki -- Yeah You Can
    • Couple -- Now That I Can See
    • Dirty Pretty Things -- B.U.R.M.A.
    • Jasmine Minks -- Think
    • Looker -- After My Divorce
    • The School -- Let It Slip
    • Acid House Kings -- This Heart is a Stone
    • Odd Numbers -- About Time
    • The Crooks - Waiting For You
    • The Elevators -- Your "Is" Are Too Close Together
    • 27 Various -- If You Can't Trust Death

    Mr. Suave

    November 5, 2007

    Modcast #74

    Editor's Note: Due to a technnical glitch this episode was late in posting. Please forgive.
    Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World all girl special. I started putting this modcast together and realized that purely by accident I'd picked out mostly songs about girls. So I finished up the set keeping that with that unconcsious theme and now you're going to be treated to girls, girls, girls. Hopefully I won't get tagged as a perv for searching out songs about little girls, tricky girls, school girls, naked girls, and other girls. All from bands like The Creation, The Thanes, The Scooters and The Headboys. Get youself settled and turn up your speakers, it's time for the show.
    • Kids -- Hey Little Girl
    • The Scooters -- Young Girls
    • The Headboys -- Schoolgirls
    • Wardens -- Tricky Girls
    • The Diodes -- Plastic Girls
    • The Kidnappers - Spanish Girls
    • Red Cross -- Clorox Girls
    • The Creation -- The Girls Are Naked
    • The Thanes - Girls
    • The Orchids -- Girls
    • Eux Autres -- Other Girls

    The Creation -- Makin' Time

    Oingo Boingo -- Little Girls

    November 1, 2007

    The Mod Sound: The Untouchables

    In the early to mid 80s Southern California boasted the USA’s largest mod scene. And no wonder, the weather was such you could ride your scooter virtually rain free over 300 days a year. British mods never had it so good.

    In the early 80s in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Orange County and the Inland Empire, the scene was exploding. Relatively speaking. (Never mind San Diego and San Francisco that were also beginning to stir to life as centers of mod activity.) Scooterists were popping up everywhere and scooter clubs were forming, and more importantly young wanna be musicians were thinking that a mod sort of sound was for them. Fortunately for most that passed quickly in the summer of '79, or maybe ’80. But for a few it made an endearing and indelible mark that would haunt them throughout the decade. One of the first bands so branded were The Untouchables.

    Rather than tell you their history, which you can find elsewhere, I will tell you my history with the band –such as it is— and how I perceived them, and hope no one steals my story.

    I was a sophomore at Upland High School about 30 minutes east of Los Angeles when I first heard the rumblings about The Untouchables. It was 1983. I was a lowly scrub with little social standing at school, but they were already well on their way to local notoriety with the onslaught of their second single. Of course, everyone I knew thought it was their first. So much for marketing.

    First, second, no matter. The single was The General and it was a piece of … work. But, if you fancied yourself a mod –and I did, even if it wasn’t always the case at the time– then this was the goddam best fu*king single of the year.

    I mean in 1983, The Jam were just recently departed – never mind we in the US were just really getting used to a band named after something we put on bread – and the two-tone ska movement of Britian was already ashes. Here in the states kids were still discovering the sound of the mod revival and pounding it out in their garages (and church multi-purpose rooms mind you) as if it were brand new. And for us it was brand new. The Jam, and the Damned, be damned.

    The Untouchables hit Southern California in 1981 amidst the explosion of punk rock – their compatriots in some sense were X, Black Flag, and the Circle Jerks – and they tapped into that vibe, but with their own sort of ska and power pop mix that seemed to tap equally 1967 and 1977. They covered the Monkees, and then they covered The Specials. It was a pure mix of power pop and ska that few bands other than perhaps Madness (and they’re mostly a ska band at heart) have ever managed to really grab onto. Mixing soul with ska was one thing, lots of acts had done that. Mixing soul with power pop was becoming more and more common all the time as bands hearkened back to the Who, Yardbirds and early Stones. But precious few bands ever mixed all three of these elements together, let alone successfully. The Jam mixed a lot of soul with power pop. Likewise the Specials or English Beat mixing soul with ska and reggae. Probably only The Clash ever really came close, and they're the exception. As far as I'm concerned, no commercially succesful band ever truly merged all three sounds -- so I'd argue that The Untouchables alone really did so. (Okay, commercially sucesfsul and Untouchables in the same sentence might be a stretch. But, since I remember hearing Free Yourself on the radio in Indianapolis in 1985 and thinking, "DAMN! The UTs have hit the heartland" (I'm willing to argue they were somewhat commercially sucessful - though the band's bank accounts may beg to differ.)

    Between 1981 and 1986 The Untouchables were the preeminent mod band, and the preeminent ska band, in southern California. No one mixed the two genres as seamlessly as they did, and with as much passion and resulting in as much enjoyment from their audiences.

    I didn’t see the band live until 1984 and many said I missed their best shows -- though I find that hard to believe having seen them do some pretty great sets in some pretty crappy places (Oscar's Cornhusker, The Timbers, etc). From what I remember I would say I saw them at their peak when they had smoothed out the rough edges. Seeing them upwards of 20 times in 1984-1986 I can tell you that band was smooth in that very cool "we know what we’re doing" way. And they also had a certain raw, untempered feel to their shows. These weren’t over-rehearsed sets choreographed by a video producer. These were Untouchables shows with all the intensity the band had ever had, as well as some of the foibles that made them real and raw.

    Here then are two of the many great tracks that the band produced. First up is Mod Knights, which no one would remember if it wasn’t for the comp CD ‘Cool Beginnings: Rare and Unreleased 1981- 1983' (even though it was a staple of their live sets through the mid 80s). That CD is excellent and boasts loads of early Untouchables recordings, as well as both their singles. The second track here is the second of those singles The General. I include it not because it is the best, but because it is perhaps most representative of those early years, and one of the most well known tracks of The Untouchable’s formative time. And it's a good track.

    The Untouchables - Mod Knights
    The Untouchables - The General

    The Unctouchables discography
    • Twist n Shake b/w Dance Beat (1982)
    • The General b/w Tropical Bird (1983)
    • Live and Let Dance EP (1984)
    • Wild Child (1985)
    • Agent Double O Soul (1988)
    • Decade of Dance (1991)
    • Cool Beginnings - Rare & Unreleased 1981-1983