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.