March 31, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Edwin Starr

Edwin Starr was an American soul singer most famous for his version of "War" which hit #1. Getting his start in doo-wop groups Starr scored his first hit just after being picked up by Motown in 1968 with what I think was by far his best song, "25 Miles." It went on to be a top-ten hit in 1969, and is one of the best, most dancable, soul songs ever produced.

Edwin Starr -- 25 Miles

Edwin Starr -- 25 Miles

March 30, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Burt Bacharach

Burt Bacharach, is without a doubt one of the great pop music composers of all time. Many of his songs -- like "Bond Street" -- feature the suave, swinging, beat sound that is so identified with sixties popular music. His compositions are best suited for trumpet, I've always thought, and there isn't a Bacharach tune that doesn't just sound better with horns aplenty blaring away. His melodies are catchy, his timing perfect. His pop sensibility is unequaled, and his songs have come to define the easy listening genre more than any others. Burt is perhaps best remembered for his work with Dionne Warwick, and for his Oscar winning score to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, and of course the movie's theme song "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." But, there's a great deal more to Burt than this. Born in Kansas City, MO in 1928 he studied music all through his childhood, becoming an accomplished pianist, cellist, and even percussionist at a relatively young age. A lover of jazz, especially bebop artists like Charlie Parker, Burt went on to study at the Mannes School of Music in New York as well as at McGill University in Montreal and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. After an early 1950s stint in the Army as a piano player, Burt met lounge singer Vic Damone ("Hey Little Girl") in Germany and became his pianist, as well as playing with other club singers like Imogene Coca, Joel Grey and Steve Lawrence. In 1957 Burt teamed up with Hal David, to form what would become one of the longest and most successful songwriting duos in pop music. Some of their earliest hits were "Magic Moments" which they wrote for Perry Como, and "Baby It's You," which they wrote for the Shirrelles and which was later recorded by the Beattles and Elvis Costello. In the early sixties Burt met Dionne Warwick, who was working as a member of the Drifters backup group. Thier meeting was most fortunate for both of them. With Burt's help Dionne scored eight top ten hits with songs written by Bacharach and David: "Walk on By," "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "I Say a Little Prayer," "You'll Never Get to Heaven," "Message to Michael," "Trains and Boats and Planes," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" and "Promises, Promises." Bacharach also wrote hit songs for other singers such as: Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 -- "The Look of Love"; Manfred Mann -- "My Little Red Book"; Jack Jones -- "Wives and Lovers"; Bobby Vinton -- "Blue on Blue"; Herb Alpert -- "This Guy's in Love With You"; Dusty Springfield -- "Wishin' and Hopin'"; 5th Dimension -- "One Less Bell to Answer"; Tom Jones -- "What's New, Pussycat?"; the Carpenters -- "Close to you"; and many others. As the sixties came to an end, Bacharach garnered more accolades when he and David wrote the Broadyway musical Promises, Promises earning themselves a Tony nomination and Grammy as well as a hit song for Dionne Warwick. Bacharach didn't stop with Broadway success, but moved into films where his movie scores have made him even more famous. His movie credits include: Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Alfie, Casino Royale, What's New Pussycat?, Arthur (with Peter Allen and Christopher Cross), Night Shift and Arthur 2: On the Rocks. And then of course there was his memorable cameo appearance in Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. His impact on rock music is ubiquitous and undeniable. Everyone cites him as an influence, from Saint Ettiene to Swing Out Sister to Beck. And everyone covers him from Elvis Costello and the Attractions in the '70s, to Naked Eyes in the '80s, to Oasis, Pearl Jam and Faith No More in the '90s, to Sheryl Crow, The White Stripes, Dr. Dre and the Offspring in the 21st century. Most notably though was his 1998 collaboration with Elvis Costello resulting in the excellent Painted from Memory album. Still, there's just something cool about Burt's songs from the sixties. It's those songs that I know and love, and always will. The White Stripes - I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (Directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Kate Moss) Stevie Wonder and Burt Bacharach Burt Bacharach - Bond Street

March 29, 2009

Modcast #123: It Came From California

This week it comes from California, the it being some great mod bands down through the years. California has always been the nation's defacto leader for the mod scene. Not that there aren't great scenes and bands from around the country, but in California you have three scenes in San Francisco, Los Angeles/Orange County, and San Diego, and each has its own distinct personality -- which you'll get a taste of on this show. Some new mod bands like The Parties and The New Fidelity, some mod legends like The Odd Numbers, The Pandoras and Manual Scan, and some lesser known mod bands like The Idea and The New Breed.

If you're interested in more about mods in the golden state checkout the excellent California Mod Scene website complete with history, photos, and flyers.

Listen Now

The Parties -- Radio
The Idea -- You Remind Me Of You
Sidewalk Society -- Night Owl
The New Breed -- Blessing in Disguise
The Pandoras -- Hot Generation
Manual Scan -- For Those
The Shambles -- She Said It's Late
The Eddies -- 65 Film Show
The Hi-Fives -- Hypnotizer
The Odd Numbers -- All Worked Up
The New Fidelity -- Right Track

The Parties -- Gotta Get Out

Manual Scan -- Come See Me

March 28, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Action Now

Action Now's only album has always been one of my favorites, right from the moment I stumbled across it in a used record store in about 1988. Action Now was a long-time band that included Paula Pierce who later went on to form the great all-girl garage band, The Pandoras. Starting out in the 70s the band was always strongly influenced by The Who and other sixties power pop bands, even as they explored a wide range of styles. Mostly though they were a punk/power pop band and eventually crystallized into Action Now in the early 80s. Then just as they were beginning to get some recognition split up. The 1983 split was due to the fact that the band wanted to pursue a more British focused punk direction, and Paula was obsessed wtih being in a sixties styled garage band. It's too bad that after her departure the guys didn't continue on their own as they may have contributed greatly to the LA scene at the time.

The song here is "When Wednesday Comes" from their only album, All Your Dreams. It's a fantastic record and I was hard pressed to choose just one song to feature. From the power pop title track, to the very mod "I'm Not Trying To Hurt You," to the melodic garage rock of "Every Word I Say" to what would later become a big hit (and the title of their best album) for Paula's Pandoras "Stop Pretending," there simply isn't a bad track in the bunch. They only had the one album that I know of, and that was only originally released in France. Now you can get that album and other tracks on a CD reissue from Avebury Records.

Action Now -- When Wednesday Comes

March 27, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Pizzicato Five

With a super suave, sixties hipster style, and, a sound like Sergio Mendes drinkin' martinis on a midnight jet ride with Corrin Drewery, Pizzicato 5 took the international scene by storm in the mid-90s.

But it hadn't always been such a magic carpet ride. The band actually started out in the mid-80s and went through a load of members and lead singers before hitting the jackpot in 1991 with the lead vocals of Maki Nomiya and the suave keyboard stylings of Ryō Kamomiya. The duo gave the band a heart and soul that it had been lacking, and Pizzicato 5 set about launching the Japanese lounge scene, Shibuya-kei, which was heavily influenced by soul, latin jazz, bossa nova, and synthpop. After that cool songs in both Japanese and English just seemed to pour out of the group. The hip, motown tribute "Sweet Soul Revue," the trippy, funky, sampled "Baby Love Child," the swingin' Carnabyesque "GoGo Dancer," and "Twiggy Twiggy," the soft trip-hoppy "I Wanna Be Like You," the Brasil 66 like "Room Service," and I could go on and on. You get the picture.

In 1995 Matador Records collected their early singles into a full lengthy USA release "Made in USA" which quickly sold a quarter million copies world wide. Later releases did equally well and the band's homeland popularity grew to superstar status until they broke up in 2001.

Pizzicato 5 -- Twiggy Twiggy (Twiggy vs. James Bond)

Pizzicato 5 - Triste

don't miss ... Pizzicato 5 -- Happy Sad

March 26, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Monkees

"Randy Scouse Git" is the first song penned by Monkees drummer Mickey Dolenz. It tipped the UK charts at #5, but never made it up the charts in the states. The song is from the combo's third album, Headquarters, their first real album on which there were almost no session players. The album was bolstered by surprisingly strong writing from Mike Nesmith and Dolenz and marked a turning point for the band from just a TV cast churning out pre-written songs, to an actual group of singers and songwriters working together creatively.

The Monkees -- Randy Scouse Git

March 25, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Jags

The Jags were a late 70s UK power pop band that somehow managed to dodge the mod revival and instead played a power pop more akin to their American cousins like The Knack, The Records, and The Plimsouls. But, because of their inherent Britishness it was hard for them to break out of the shadow of --and not be constantly compared to-- similar sounding artists like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. Usually remembered as one-hit-wonders for the top ten single "Back of my Hand" The Jags actually produced two solid albums with a number of punchy power pop songs, any of which could have, and should have been, hits -- the mysogynistic "Woman's World," "The Sound Of G-O-O-D-B-Y-E," "Small Change." "Desert Island Disks," and their first albums' title track "Evening Standards."

The Jags -- Evening Standards

March 24, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Eddie Floyd

Eddie Floyd was one of the most prolific singer/writers in Stax's stable of soul stars in the mid-to-late '60s. He started out in the late 50s in a Detroit soul group that briefly featured Wilson Pickett, and then moved on to writing for Stax's better established singers -- such as Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Booker T, and Pickett himself.

In 1966 Stax took a chance and released a Floyd recording of a song he'd written for Otis Redding called "Knock on Wood". It turned out to be Floyd's biggest hit and established him as a leading soul man in his own right. He recorded a number of other northern soul hits such as "But It's Alright" and "Big Bird", which was covered years later by The Jam. He went on to record on Secret Affair's I-Spy label in the late 70s, and then fronted The Blues Brothers Band on a number of tours. And, he's still going strong as evidenced by the video below.

Eddie Floyd -- Knock On Wood

Mod-A-Day: The Move

The Move were a later sixties mod psychadelia band that scored a handful of top ten singles, including one #1, "Blackberry Way." They incorporated the sound and style of most of the popular British mod bands of the day, from The Who-like "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" to the very Creation influenced "Fire Brigade." The Move also had a keen ear for blenging pop music with psychadelic and blues riffs that kept their songs easily accessible by the average listener and still gave them that little something extra that attracted those looking for things more outside the mainstream. The band moved steadily beyond pop and psychadelia to the prog rock arena and eventually morphed into Electric Light Orchstra in the early 70s and virtually abandoned any similarities to their early sound at all.

The Move -- Blackberry Way

March 23, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Mother Earth

Combining jazz, funk and sixties R&B into a meld of dancable rock was a mainstay of the acid jazz scene of the early 90s, and none did it better than Mother Earth. For some reason they never seemed to get the acclaim or the popularity of similar acts, most notably Corduroy and JTQ, but the band perservered to deliver four solid albums. Thier first, the People Tree was hailed as pretty much of a straight ahead jazz record, but the band seemed to not want to stay only in the jazz genre. This track, "Very Together," combines organs and guitars in a rousing bit of bluesy soul. Coming on their second release, You Have Been Watching and appearing along with a blistering hot cover of "Wham Bam Thank You Mam" it propelled the band more towards the sixties R&B and soul music than had been the case on their first album.

Mother Earth -- Very Together

March 22, 2009

From the Vaults: Modcast #66 Welcome to the Fatback Showdown

Once more into the vault my friends, once more into the vault. Step back in time, to a time when the modcast was young and fresh. Take a giant step outside your current listening constraints and journey with me all the way back to the cool cool days of September 2007. I've opened up the vaults and dusted off a classic modcast that I think you'll enjoy. Again.

Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World,and you better you bet believe that you are in mod company this week dear listeners. This show runs the gamut of mod friendly tracks from the acid-jazz sounds of The Bongolian to the mod revival classics of The Cigarettes to the garage rock of Beat By Five. You will be dancing, pogoing or snapping fingers (just don't tap your feet in the stall next to mine) at some point during this modcast, I guarantee it.

If you want to congratulate me on yet another fanfreakintastic modcast you can do that by shooting an email to

Listen Now

  • The Cigarettes -- They're Back Again
  • Irene -- Baby I Love Your Way (Myspace)
  • Imperial Teen -- Shim Sham (Myspace)
  • Beat By Five -- MaraQuee's Party (Myspace)
  • Teenbeats -- I Can't Control Myself
  • Killer Pussy -- Pump-A-Rama
  • The Briefs -- Move To Slow (Myspace)
  • Bongolian -- The Fatback Showdown (Myspace)
  • Corduroy -- Moshi Moshi
  • Surf Punks -- My Wave (Myspace)
  • The Ramones -- Substitute

Bonus Video: The Briefs -- Orange Alert Imperial Teen -- You're One

March 21, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Pretty Things

In the beginning there were The Rolling Stones, Mike, Keith, Brian and Dick Taylor. Wait? Dick who? Dick Taylor, who left the group in 1963 after about nine months to go to art school, where he met Phil May. Still bitten by the rock and roll bug, they formed a band, The Pretty Things. Not just a band, but a downright dirty, gritty, R&B, blues rock band. A band that had a real raw, edge, they went on to become a staple of the early London mod scene 1964-66, and are universally recognized as huge influences on more commerecially sucessful groups like The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream and more. They had a number of UK hits, the biggest being "Don't Bring Me Down," and the coolest which addressed being a mod in the scene, "Midnight to Six Man." After '66 the band's lineup began to fluctuate with the core of May and Taylor staying tight, but others coming and going.

The Pretty Things, besides producing bloody good music, have an interesting story. After a commercially disastrous, but strangely listenable pop music outing in 1967, they followed up later that year by producing what was arguably the first ever rock opera, S.F. Sorrow, which is a tour de force of mod psychadelia. Listening to it, it's hard to believe that The Who and Pink Floyd weren't hugely influenced by this when they worked on Tommy and The Wall (though they swear they weren't you listen and tell me if that's possible). Towards the end of the decade and the beginning of the next, even while still producing regular albums, the band decided to record a slew of film library tracks that eventually ended up as the music for scores of '70s horror and soft porn films. For lack of another name, and for obvious reasons not wanting to use their band name, the tracks were eventually credited to a group called Electric Banana.

The band continues to perform today, and have recorded albums in every decade since their inception, the last ---2007's being a pretty good, gritty, return to their R&B roots. Here they arae in a video for their very first UK single, which peaked the charts at #64, "Roslyn", made a scant 40+ years after the single dropped. This just goes to show, old mods don't die. But apparently, they do end up in the mafia.

The Pretty Things -- Midnight to Six Man

The Pretty Things -- Rosalyn

March 20, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Green Circles

A bit of mod friendly garage rock from down under today. The Green Circles are a psychadelic garage rock band in the best sixties tradition. With three albums under their belts the band has great staying power, and delivers knock-down garage rock with wild and wooly guitars, psych organ, and a Stones like bluesy agression. Their latest album Tavistock Stree dropped last November and you can check out some of the tracks on the band's myspace page like the blistering "21st Century Blues," or the excellent psych rocker "Shaken and Stirred." Still, I'm a bit partial to one of their older tracks, "Knee Jerk Reaction" which is from their second full-length Brass Knobs, Bevelled Edges.

The Green Circles -- Knee Jerk Reaction

March 19, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Listen up L'il Skanksters

Okay, not a band, but a cool video instead for all the little skanksters out there. This is from the Nick Jr. TV show Yo Gabba Gabba. Besides the ska melody, the video is chock full of mod/ska imagery like scooters, 2-tone arrows, targets, etc.

Pick It Up (from Yo Gabba Gabba)
Yo Gabba Gabba! - Pick It Up (GOGO13)

March 18, 2009

Mod-A-Day: Len Price 3

I know I keep saying this, but this might be the best mod band playing today. The problem is that there are a lot of really great mod and mod-friendly bands currently recording and touring, and they're producing some absolutely smashing music. So, whichever band I happen to currently have permenantly streaming through my iPod is likely to be the one I'm going to say is the best.

With The Len Price 3 that isn't overreach, it's just a simple statement of fact about their sound. They refer to themselves as a garage band, but they are ever so much and more so. Their sound is raw with sharp edges to be sure, but the songs are just-so, cut and polished little diamonds with all the aural glitter of a tight combo that purrs together like a well oiled machine.

Their first full length release Chinese Burn rips along with 15 songs in 30 minutes. Back then The Len Price 3 wore its influences on its sleeves a bit more then, than it does now. Hints of The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and of course The Who are all prominent throughout. The driving drums, the crashing power chords, the band's overall love of R&B is ever present. But, in their second full length release, Rentacrowd, the sense of paying homage is less obvious. The band's sound is still in the vein of sixties garage rock, but now they've smoothed things out and woven all the pieces more tightly together allowing them to create their own sound. (It doesn't hurt to have top notch production values, either.) And what a sound -- bluesy soul wtih blaring harmonica, pulsating power pop, soulful rock and roll, and enough garage punk to scare away the timid masses.

While they defined themselves and carved out their own place in mod rock, the title track is a standout on the album, soundling exactly like it was penned by Townsend, driven by Moon and punched up by Daltry and Entwhistle. With it's "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" attitude and vibe Rentacrowd could have been released by The Who in 1965 no doubt about it. But it wasn't, which is what makes The Len Price 3 a great band in its own right. The band has announced that it is take some time off to finish up their third album which is supposed to be out summer of '09.

The Len Price 3 -- Rentacrowd

The Len Price 3 - With Your Love

March 17, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Walnut Dash

The Walnut Dash would seem to have broken up, which is a shame since they produced some really terrific sixties influenced power pop with catchy hooks and melodies and some very good writing. The songs eight on their Titbits album are short and punchy, ranging from jangle driving power pop to retro garage power pop, but as you will hear right away, it's pure power pop beginning to end. The song here, Your Mum, is one of their earliest singles (seems most of the tracks collected here were released as singles in the first part of the century.) It's a raunchy little number, and has a great Who and Stones sixties like feel to it. Like most any good band, the songs are reminiscent of other groups with reminders of the Stones, Squeeze, Supergrass and The Three O'Clock, all of which should tell you right away that the Walnut Dash were the real deal.

The Walnut Dash -- Your Mum

March 16, 2009

Mod-A-Day: James Taylor Quartet

'Brashly, ballsy, bawdy British. In concert and on his diverse albums over the past decade, James Taylor takes the B-3 for a wild ride, driving his a funking frenzy...these guys know how to play and to party!'' Keyboard

The James Taylor Quartet has one of the hippest, grooviest, mod-jazz, now sounds around. The organ and horns fairly leap off every disk, transcending time and space to inundate your ear drums with a sounds so cool, so suave, it's almost alarming. You can't help but think of James Bond at his coolest. A martini at its chillest. Or, a slinky gogo dancer at her hottest.

Not to be confused with that other, anti-suave, wife-abusin' James Taylor from America, this British James Taylor wails on his Hammond B3 organ like some sort of sixties jazz cat who's been Austin Powered to the present day. Speaking of which, JTQ wrote and performed the cool Austin's Theme for the first of Mike Myers' go-go crazy feature length send-up of the Carnabyesque, superspy Austin Powers.

The Taylor brothers --yes, there's two of them, James and David -- got their start with garagish punk bands in the 80s, James with the ever cool Prisoners and David with the lesser known Daggermen. (check out James as a Star Trekkin', organ playin', mod garage rocker.)But later they got away from that underground sound and back to ultra-cool sixties R&B of their mod faves like The Small Faces. Their love of the sixties sound has never gone away. And whenever that cool sixties psychadelic organ sound is called for, James is very much in demand as can be seen by his recordings and appearances with U2, The Wonderstuff, The Pogues and Manic Street Preachers.

More than any other jazz-funk combo, JTQ managed to sound like they'd been playing their stuff since 1966, with a natural progression from shimmering, go-go music right into 70s soul-jazz and funk. It's not hard to sense the styles of hip organ beaters like Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Booker T in Taylor's own playing, which carried over to the band as a whole, helping create that sixties sound and feel.

With so many albums to their credit JTQ have three early ones that stand out in, my mind, as superb musical accomplishments: Mission Impossible(1987), The Money Spyder(1987), and Creation(1997-US). Not that they've ever done anything wasn't really great, but these happen to be the ones that capture my musical ear and shake it 'til it bleeds.

When Mission Impossible and The Money Spyder hit the scene in the 80s, JTQ's special breed of funk, jazz and mod music helped spawn the term Acid Jazz, which later became the name of a label, and even came to represent one of the most diverse musical genres and subcultures.

Mission Impossible laid the foundation for JTQ with covers of sixties pop and jazz songs like "Blow Up," "One Mint Julep," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Goldfinger." JTQ's obsession with spy jazz and copshow music was also present with a very traditional, yet cool cover of the "Mission Impossible" theme. For mods, jazz cats, and soulsters worldwide a new band was preparing to carry the torch.

And they didn't waste any time either, releasing The Money Spyder later that same year. What is supposed to be the soundtrack to a movie, made JTQ the ruling band for the crime-jazz sound. The title track sets the tone, conjuring images of lurkers in trenchcoats and tuxedo clad spies sipping martinis while casing a Riviera casino. The lush orchestration and percussion of the Mancini-like Mr. Cool's Dream and The Spiral Staircase is ultra-cool jazz, with a nod to the traditional jazz sounds of bygone jetsetters. Taylors, Booker-esque organ playing lends the whole album a very sixties "go-go" flavor, especially on the obviously Booker-T inspired The Onion Club.
'' Rude, hard funk -- like all the Blaxploitation movies and cop shows -- that's what we're aiming for," says James Taylor. "Really, instead of calling our music 'acid jazz' it's more accurate to call it 'cop funk.' Yes, that's it -- we're cop funk.''

Creation marks one of their funkiest albums (released in the UK as A Few Useful Tips About Living Underground). And the cop-spy theme is definitely alive and well, almost as a tribute to the funk and soul that typified so many cop shows of the seventies. From the first licks of the funkified "Theme From Starsky & Hutch" to the final track, the disk is blazing hot. "Theme From Starsky & Hutch" -- the band's anthem according to James -- was a #1 hit for JTQ on the UK club charts, and it didn't hurt to have James Brown's horn section of Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley along for the ride. "Man of Mystery" and "Road Rage" are funky, barn-burning originals, and the soulful spin they give the "Theme from Dirty Harry" lends new meaning to covering movie soundtracks. And "Summer Fantasy" is the perfect swingin' bachelor pad background music for swilling gin & tonics at your next soiree. The album is a natural next-step from sixties organ jazz, to seventies funkified organs and horns.

As time goes by the band moves more and more into straight ahead jazz territory. It's all still soulful, it's all still cool with a sixties vibe, but its jazzier and more akin to a smokey lounge than even their earliest recordings. Case in point is last year's Live at the Jazz Cafe recording which features this song, "Picking up where we left off" which is a blistering bit of hammond B3 magic. JTQ keep on keepin' on melding the best of jazz with with the best of soul in a way that makes us all proud to be aging mods.

JTQ continue to tour England and the continent giving what concert attendees call inspired and intense live performances where the band and audience jive to each others vibe and advancing the hammnond beat sound.

James Taylor Quartet -- Picking up where we left off

The James Taylor Quratet Theme

March 15, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The Prisoners

The Prisoners are perhaps the best mod band of the 1980s. That's saying a lot when you consider that on both sides of the Atlantic there were thriving mod scenes throughout the decade that spawned a number of great power pop, soul, and ska bands.

And still there are The Prisoners. Garage rock kings in many ways, but also purveyors of the melding of power pop with soul and R&B. And even though they often did it in a unique way, and did it first, they seemed to have missed getting much, or even any, credit for the trails they blazed.

The Prisoners were first and foremost a garage rock band, more so than any other mod revival band of the 70s or 80s. They had straight ahead rock and roll songs that they played loud and hard. Over the course of their four albums they grew into a more sophisticated and mature sort of mod garage band, one that featured the skillful Hammond B3 organ sound of James Taylor upfront and on top of the guitars. It was a twist that made them more listenable, while at the same time giving them arrangements that were more sophisticated than their mod colleagues of the day. Their musicianship was clearly head and shoulders above most of the whole rest of the 80s UK mod scene. Taylor of course went on to form the acid jazz pioneers James Taylor Quartet, while lead vocalist Graham Day has fronted two excellent bands in the days since then -- The Solarflares (with Prisoner Allan Crockford), and more recently Graham Day and the Gaolers.

This track,"Whenever I'm Gone" is taken from their The Last Fourfathers release, and is a Small Faces like R&B floorshaker. The vocals and the organ both compete for dominance, maybe not surprisingly considering the dueling between Day and Taylor throughout the band's history. Still, this is a downright souful bit of bluesy power pop that would have had any British invasion band beside itself with jealousy back in the day.

The Prisoners -- Whenever I'm Gone

March 14, 2009

Modcast #122: Watch. This. Now.

Welcome to modcast #122 and welcome to the Moscow Underground a brand new London mod band on this week's show. They've got a really cool, really heavy mod sound, as does the rest of the show. There's more new stuff as well from Supernova, Morrissey, and the Takeover UK, some garage rock from Los Immediatos and Magic Christian, as well as some Britpop from the likes of Blur and Sleeper.

  • Moscow Underground - Soho Strut
  • Morrisey - Last Time I Spoke to Carol
  • The Takeover UK -- Never Been So Sick
  • The Supernovas -- Diamonds and Gems
  • Los Immediatos -- Something Wrong With You
  • New Salem WitchHunters -- At The border
  • Magic Christian -- Tomorrow Never Come
  • Blur -- Clover Over Dover
  • Sleeper -- What Do You
  • Automatics -- Watch Her Now
  • Dead Boys -- (I Don't Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy

    Los Immediatos - Ella

    Blur -- Charmless Man

  • March 13, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: The Direct Hits

    After the mod revival died, another mod scene rose up from it's ashes that featured some of those same players and some new faces. The Direct Hits had previously tread the earth as The Exits, but reemerged in 1982 in this new guise. The band was less in the punky power pop style they'd previously favored, and more in line with the heavily 60s influenced beat sound that was being pushed forward by The Prisoners, Makin' Time, Fast Eddie and other of the 80s UK mod bands. The Direct Hits favored a more psychadelic sound, and a more melodic sound, than some of the other mod groups of the day. And mods favored them, making them favorites in the scene during the middle part of the decade. This track, "What Killed Aleister Crowley" seems soft at first, but when you listen to it there is a subtle strength that seeps through. It's got a bit of sixties folk, a hint of psychadelia, and solid base of power pop, tha goes well with a sort of macabre subject like Aleister Crowley.

    The Direct Hits-- What Killed Aleister Crowley

    March 12, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: Mark And The Spies

    Okay, this is a quickie. Mark & The Spies = good. Check out their way cool sound on their homepage. If you like Beattlesque songs then you'll dig Mark & The Spies. They've got great harmonies, pitch perfect hooks, and songs that are memorable without being derivative. Not an easy thing to pull off. They've got a new album coming soon which I'm sure will be a perfect adition to any mod collection -- if their past work is any indication.

    Mark & The Spies-- But I Do

    March 11, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: Eurovox

    Today I'm highlighting what I think is one of the best contemporary mod bands. In fact, they're good enough to rank right up there with any of the great mod bands of the mod revival, which their sound most echoes.

    Eurovox is a British band that followed in the footsteps of the London Bridge and moved themselves lock, stock and vox amp from the UK to Arizona in the desert southwest of the USA. That makes them the best mod band in Arizona today. Or for that matter, the best mod band anywhere today. No joke.

    Just check out their second LP, the 2007 released "Now...Here...This" which is the total package. Not a bad song in the bunch. Following on the heels of 2005's "This is... Eurovox", this album bursts forth with pounding power pop. The songs drive hard, and are fast and furious in both their delivery and their sense of action. It's one hard punch after another until you really do feel you've been aurally pummeled, but in such a good way you end up wanting to be pummeled over and over. Check out more cool tracks on their myspace page, and pick up their second release here.

    Thier track is "A Night on the Tiles" and is one hell of a mod piece of power pop. The ringing guitars, the driving drums, and some great lyrics make for a song that will take you back to '79 and at the same time leaves you thinking that this is one fresh band.

    Update: Sadly, Eurovox have broken up.

    March 10, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: The Targets

    I've blogged previously about The Targets, which was one of Southern California's best mod/ska bands of the early 80s. The band had a lasting impression on the mod scene of the day, even if they didn't last all that long. The songs that they did were well written, well played, high energy, and infused with both a sixties sensibility and a then-contemporary post-punk kind of power pop. Over the top of it all were some raw horns that only added to the authentic mod feel. Their six song EP Unity Beat was a veritable tour de force for the local So Cal mod scene. The Targets were able to fuse contemporary punk like power pop with sixties R&B and at times a nice ska vibe, that was mod to its very core, never mind the band name. Had they lasted, had they recorded, they could have really made a name for themselves as the region's premiere mod band.

    The Targets -- Two Tone Mover

    March 9, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: Dogs Die In Hot Cars

    This track is not from a mod or ska band per se, it's from Dogs Die in Hot Cars but it has such a cool ska vibe that I wanted to throw in here and get you all aquainted with them. DDIHC are another band to break out of Scotland, having done so along with Franz Ferdinand back in 2004 with the release of their album Please Describe Yourself which included this track, "I Love You Cause I have to." You can't miss the ska thing going on, and overall it's a pretty catchy piece of post-punk pop, though decidedly not pop-punk. Apparently they've had some troubles finishing their second album, leading to their asking fans to remix some of the unfinished tracks for them. Sounds lazy, and like a recipe for disaster, but you just never know. Anyhow, enjoy this one.

    Dogs Die in Hot Cars-- I Love You 'Cause I Have To

    March 8, 2009

    From the Vaults: Modcast #62 -True Believer

    Once more into the vault my friends, once more into the vault. Step back in time, to a time when the modcast was young and fresh. Take a giant step outside your current listening constraints and journey with me all the way back to the cool cool days of January 2007. I've opened up the vaults and dusted off a classic modcast that I think you'll enjoy. Again.

    Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. The modcast has tons of cool sounds coming your way this week from Scottish bands to American bands to Finnish bands organized by Americans and everying thing in between like The Lambrettas, The Svengalis, The Tunes, The Thanes, The Goldbergs and much more. So, put on your headphones and crank up the volume because it's time to mod out.

    • The Mod Fun -- Hope It's Today
    • The Concretes -- Oh Boy
    • The Tunes - Valerie
    • Two Hours Traffic -- Stuck for the Summer
    • The Goldbergs -- True Believer
    • Ok Go -- What To Do
    • Dukes Jetty -- No Reason
    • The Zips -- I'm In Love
    • The Svengalis -- Love Letters for Delinquents
    • The Thanes -- That's the Story of Your Life
    • The Lambrettas -- Runaround

    Questions? Comments? Requests? Let me know if there's something you'd like to hear and I'll try and spin it up on a future episode of the modcast. E-mail me at

    Bonus Videos

    The Thanes -- I've Seen Darker Nights

    The Concretes -- You Can't Hurry Love

    March 7, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: The Style Council

    "Yet behind the ultra-Mod imagery, Weller's horizons as a songwriter and musician continued to expand. Since the last days of his former group, Paul had strived to create a modern, sophisticated blend of jazz, funk, soul and pop. Teaming up with some of the UK's finest young jazz and funk players, he was now able to realise those ideas." -- From the accompanying book to the ultimate 5-disc TSC box set: The Complete Adventures of The Style Council
    Click here for more excerpts from the booklet

    The Style Council were one of the most influential forerunners of the modish acid jazz scene that exploded in the early 90s. The band's sound was a long way from Paul Weller's punk angst on display with The Jam in 1977. And it was a sound apart from Weller's later 90s revival as the godfather of britpop. The early incarnation of the band was probably Weller at his most mod, and most prolific. 

    TSC's combination of soul, jazz, and pop was enhanced by Weller's biting lyrics and social commentary. At the same time, his lyrics were punched up by music that was at times wistful, at times sharp, and always rhythmic and vibrant. Early TSC was more playful and energetic, but as the band, and Weller in particular, matured the music mellowed like a fine wine, without losing any of it's potency. TSC put all the elements of acid jazz together in their own unique way. The earliest albums had a decidedly soulful flavor, mixed with the synthesized pop sound of the mid-80s, all of which later was enhanced by jazz and classical elements. 

    Mick Talbot, once-upon-a-time mod scenester with a resume that boasted tours of duty with mod revivalists Merton Parkas, horny soul outfit The Bureau, and soul brothers Dexy's Midnight Runners, complimented Weller's guitar playing with a soulful style of playing that was Motown crashing Blue Note head-on. Behind that was the driving force of Steve White's absolutely inspired drumming. White, a jazz drummer, auditioned at 17 and Weller hired him straight away. And alongside all of that, sharing vocal duties with Weller himself was the divine Dee C. Lee, for a shortwhile Paul's wife. 

    Put all that together and you had one of the best, and undoubtedly underrated (at least in the US), bands of the 1980s. In the beginning The Style Council were more than just a band they were the modernist ideal, a collective of individuals whose own personal styles were continental and international, and all the time had that certain lounge feel that was slick and sophisticated, somehow so cool as to almost be unreachable for us average blokes.  

    By the late 80s the band's sound had morphed into a soulful blend of organs and synthesizers, accompanied by strings and horns, with less and less guitar. In '88 Steve White left to pursue other projects, and in '89 Weller veered away from the well traveled paths of his past and produced a rave album of house music and dance tracks that his record company declined to release. The album finally made it to the streets on The Complete Adventures box set. Parts of it hard to listen to, sounding too much like Madonna with a bit more soul and piano. Other songs hint at the coming acid jazz sound mixing boogaloo with soul and funk.  

    The song here is "A Man of Great Promise", which appeared on the second TSC album released in the US as Internationalists. It was written as a tribute to a friend of Weller's who died of a heroin overdose. The song is surprisingly upbeat and bouncy considering the lyrics, featuring bongos and a sort of latin vibe but with the superb arrangement and production that typified this whole era of the band.

    The Style Council -- A Man of Great Promise

    March 6, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: Sleeper

    I'm a sucker for a pretty girl. I can't resist 'em, especially if they're fronting a band. So, along comes Sleeper, the first female fronted Britpop band to hit it big. Yup, even before Elastica technically there was Sleeper, even if only by a matter of months. No matter, it was hard for Sleeper to compete with the marketing and publicity juggernaut that was Elastica, hampered as they were with the Elastica's public onslaught, not to mention their own label's inability to truly capitalize on their potential . Sleeper's front woman, Louise Wener herself wrote about this at length in a memorable way.
    It's fair to assume, as I did then, that an organisation dedicated to the purpose of selling records might exhibit some skills relevant to that purpose. The shock from which you never quite recover is discovering that record companies have no skills at all. They stumble around repeating the same three tricks over and over again. Everything moves forward on the basis of blind luck and muddled thinking. Perhaps in an effort to distract me from this fact, an executive from our record label escorted me directly from the record signing to the stall of a sour-smelling urinal and offered me my first line of cocaine. It made no difference. I already knew that I'd made a mistake.
    Of course, all of that makes it sound like no one ever heard them, which is far from the case ... at least in the UK. Sleeper had three UK top 10 albums, and a string of charting singles that were also included in movie soundtracks such as "Trainspotting." But the big lights of Britpop fame were pretty well dominated by the boy bands, and by Elastica - fronted by Justine Frischmann. Apparently, and sadly, there was only room in the Britpop pantheon for one woman to stand out. There's a lot to say that it should have been Wener.

    No matter, Sleeper produced some fantastic music. While many point to their sophmore release "It Girl" as their high-water mark, I disagree and say that by far their best stuff is on their debut full-length player "Smart". The songs are sharp. The chords all reverberate with a purposeful resonance that was at odds with the tail end of the grunge era, and helped to plot a road map for later bands to follow. Early songs like "Twisted", "Inbetweener" and the lyrically brilliant "Swallow" were the shining lights of the Britpop path for the rest of the decade. And later songs like "What Do I Do Now?" and "Sale of the Century" moved the genre along in a pop avenue, but still with the power pop foundation that always underlay the best of the Britpop outlings.

    The song here, "Bedhead", happens to be my favorite. It's got all the drive and tension that Sleeper was so easily able to capture in sound. The guitars march along proudly in time with the drums, and Wener's vocals almost float across the top of the music. At least until it comes to those points where she exclamate's the music to a perfect point. It's a beautiful bit of punk, via Britpop. And one that any good mod should stand up and salute upon hearing. [updated 2021]

    Sleeper - Bedhead (Peel Session, 25th October 1994) Sleeper Interview Part 2

    March 5, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: The Moment

    The first phase of the mod revival died out in 1981/82 as the music media turned the public's attention away from mod and ska, and towards the rising tide of new romantic bands in the UK. While the mod scene moved along into a more soulful direction, there were still a few revival type bands to come -- and they would usher in another, smaller, mod revival in the mid-80s. Along with Squire (a holdover from the first phase), and the Prisoners, The Moment led the pack musically. They were the full package. A power pop core, infused with rhythm and soul, and a sixties sensibility that fueled their sound and their style.

    At the turn of the century the band managed to turn out a best of disk compiling most all of their recordings. It's a must have for any mod's catalog. Front man Adrian Holder has gone on to produce some noteworthy solo material, and bandmate Steve Rinaldi has two fantastic albums on Tangerine Records as Rinaldi Sings.

    This is the band's second single, "One, Two They Fly", released in 1985 (the same year they appeared on Eddie Piller's legendary Countdown Compilation.) The song fuses hard driving power pop with soulful horns, to turn out what I think is the band's best arrangement.

    The Moment -- One, Two They Fly

    March 4, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: The Pills

    Boston power pop outfit The Pills have produced a trio of powerful albums, their last and best in 2004. The band's sound ranges from a sort of garagey version of britpop ala Elastica, to rocking power pop with crashing Who like fury. There are obvious nods throughout their discography to everybody from The Kinks to The Buzzcocks. Overall though their music just oozes the rock and roll ethos: loud, hard, and fast. This track, "Slam Book" is no exception coming on strong like The Hives, but at the same reminiscent of Supergrass.

    The Pills -- Slam Book

    March 3, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: The Icicles

    If you like your power pop with a touch of twee, and a big huge dose of sugary goodness than The Icicles are for you. The estrogen loaded band (the only testosterone is bangin' the drums, appropriaely enough) has hooks aplenty, and that hasn't gone unnoticed. Most people will know them from the inclusion of their songs in nation-wide ad campaigns first for Motorola, and then later for Target. But their albums are packed full of even more great tunes.

    This track is from their second LP Arrivals & Departures which features a number of fairly good indie pop songs, and a few truly stand up and shout about it great power pop numbers, not the least of which is this track, Snappy. It's got a sort of sixties west coast pop vibe to it, with psychadelic riffs, swirling organ, and sharp, well, snappy lyrics.

    The Icicles -- Snappy

    March 2, 2009

    Mod-A-Day: Henry Mancini

    When it comes to true lounge music there is one man whose music and manner are legendary. Henry Mancini was the quintessential swinger with his dapper clothes, his perfect style, his suave manner, and his swinging songs. While the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter are heralded by exotica loungeaphiles, and the novice lounger may settle for some Rat Pack stylings, both are inevitably aficionados of Mancini. His music and chic sophistication speaks to everyone alike and makes him both accessible and worthy of worship.

    Henry Mancini's Italian immigrant father was a sometime musician himself who introduced Henry to music and pushed him to follow what was so obviously his calling. A composition he wrote for Benny Goodman paid off when Goodman encouraged him to attend New York's prestigious Julliard School of Music. But, WWII got in the way. Fortunately. Henry, more a lover than a fighter, managed to land an audition with the country's musical commander in chief, Glenn Miller and spent the rest of the war playing in an Air Force band. After the war Mancini ended up in the Glenn Miller Orchestra, conducted by Tex Benneke.

    From there, Mancini followed his heart to Hollywood where he could finally realize his dream of scoring movies. His earliest works included numerous sci-fi and B-films like Tarantula, It Came From Outer Space and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Unacknowledged success composing for such films paid off when Mancini was asked to arrange the score for The Glenn Miller Story, and later The Benny Goodman Story. Both are excellent soundtracks that showcase Mancini's early swinging style.
    The Academy Award nomination he received for his efforts made Mancini a household name. And by then every household had a TV and so it fit that Mancini begin to write the best TV themes ever composed. His first was for Blake Edwards' Peter Gunn, and soon after he scored Edwards' Mr. Lucky as well.

    For all his TV scoring, Mancini's most famous works came more from movies than television. The Pink Panther is one of the the most memorable of the films Mancini scored, and the title track fit the film's star, Peter Sellers, perfectly.

    However, the music he penned for 1961's Breakfast At Tiffany's is indeed classic in every sense, and produced what is his most famous song "Moon River". Few songs have the pure genius that Moon River does, and few soundtracks catch the feel of its movie any better than this one. It's got a bit of everything, like the chic cool of "Something For Cat", the lush "Sally's Tomato", the crime caper jazz of The Big Heist, the big swing sound of "The Big Blow Out", and my favorite the super suave "Latin Golightly."

    When you want to sit and just listen to good lounge music, you can't go wrong with anything by the maestro. Cheers to Mancini.

    Henry Mancini & His Orchestra -- Latin Golightly

    March 1, 2009

    Modcast #121: The Beat is Back

    Welcome to Mr. Suave's Mod Mod World. I do love 1975 -- that would be the title track on the new album from modsters Fay Hallam Trinity, featuring the pure gold soul vocals of Ms. Fay Hallam, the mod diva from Makin' Time and the Prime Movers. Got more new mod songs for you including some tweeful soul (or maybe it's soulful twee) from Pow Wow; heavy soul from Stone Foundation; cool sixties sounding garage pop from The Higher State; and straight ahead pure power pop from Choo Choo. Last but not least I've got a demo track from Green Day, off of their forthcoming album "21st Century Breakdown". What more could you ask for? Let me know in the comments.

    Cloudberry Jam -- Easy

    The Higher State -- You Can Forget About That