musicology #375


Modernist #3

(Major Lance – The Monkey Time)

Following yesterday’s dynamic duo of, (an extract from), Johnny Spencer’s excellent ‘Mod/ernist’ critique combined with the equally inspirational Miracles cut I would like to continue by quoting from a piece by Dick Hebdige who wrote a paper, (presumably for a thesis), in 1974 called ‘Style Of The Mods’. The majority of it, (as the title suggests), involves ‘Mods’ which is a different subject but obviously connected.

“All youth styles are threatened with the eventual neutralisation of any oppositional meaning. Mods were particularly susceptible to this combination of limited acceptance and full blooded commercial exploitation. According to George Melly the progenitors of this style appear to have been a group of working class dandies, possibly descended from the devotees of the Italianate style known through the rag trade world as ‘modern’ who were dedicated to clothes and lived in London. Only gradually and with popularisation did this group accumulate other distinctive identity symbols, (The Scooter, Pills and music). By 1963, the all night R&B clubs held this group firmly to Soho and Central London”.

In my personal experience the ‘Modernist’ of the early 1960’s steadfastedly refuses to align themselves with the ‘Mod’ movement that followed even though between 1962-1965, they shared many of the same clubs, dancehalls, venues and of course music. The ‘Modernist’ was not all all interested in imitation and therefore the music had to be Authentic. Be it Modern Jazz, Early Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Blues or the sounds of Jamaica that were beginning to be heard in and around London’s clubs at the time so NO English band imitating R&B would ever have been taken seriously. An exception may have been Georgie Fame’s Blue Fames who were BIG downstairs at the Flamingo but NEVER groups like The Animals, The Who, The Stones, Small Faces etc..they would be considered MOD bands.

Today’s slice of modernist musicology is courtesy of Major Lance whose vocal sound helped revitalise the sound of Black America. Mainly it must be said down to one man…Curtis Mayfield who in 1963 was at the forefront of the OKeh label’s re-emergance as a serious force to be reckoned with. This cut I know for a fact was a firm favourite downstairs at THE club for hip cats of the time ‘The Scene’ , (located in Ham Yard Soho). Arranged by Johnny Pate and produced by Carl Davis

Hold this quote on the cut from Robert Pruter’s definitive book on the subject ‘Chicago Soul’.

“On May 8th 1963, Lance went into the studio again and made what has to be considered recording history. He did three songs; ‘Monkey Time’, ‘Please Don’t Say No More’ and ‘Mama Didn’t Know’, the latter an answer to Curtis Mayfield’s Jan Bradley hit, (or the much more obscure Fascinations cut), from earlier in the year ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’. Monkey time was paired with ‘Mama Didn’t Know’ for Lance’s second release on OKeh, and the record became a monster hit during the summer and early fall, eventually selling more than a million copies. ‘Monkey Time’, featuring the classic brassy sound that distinguished later OKeh hits, launched the OKeh label and popularized a dance of the same name.”

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27 thoughts on “musicology #375

  1. BIG BIG song at All of the early sixties venues… wheather club, dance-hall, coffee shop…. or dive!

    Respect. Dick Hebdige certainly did his homework. Nevertheless, he’s wrong when he says…

    “Only gradually and with popularisation did this group accumulate other distinctive identity symbols, (The Scooter, Pills and music). By 1963, the all night R&B clubs held this group firmly to Soho and Central London”.

    Sorry Dick but Scooters and Pills (certain Music too, but as Dick doesn’t say which I won’t either) were Mod things, NOT Modernist….

    So here we go. In the blue courner Mod. In the red courner Modernist. Seconds away, round one!!!!

    (hopefully!)

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    1. To be fair to Dick Hebdige he doesn’t mention Modernists at all in his paper as it’s only concerned with Mods but No denying that Modernists took pills and rode scooters too as far as I know

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    2. Also just like you to bear in mind that this theme is about the period between 1959-1963 and Mods, (for definition’s sake), only creep into the frame in 1964 as far as I’m aware. When I say ‘Mods’ and correct me if I’m wrong the actual word wasn’t used by those involved until the media labelled ‘it’ whereas Modernist was used by some within the group.

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  2. ahhhh, Monkey Time!!…to me this is queing on the
    stairs to The Scene listening to this track floating
    up through those black doors everytime they opened, promising so much! I only ever thought of myself as a Modernist, and never considered myself a ‘mod’ even when the media labelled us younguns as such..those things are important when your 15!

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    1. So modernist was definately in use by you back then? (for the record)..South Of ‘father Thames’ or North?

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  3. south, although most of my stompin ground was the west end and soho…I have no idea now how I knew the label, I just remember telling people (family members and school friends) that was what we were!!…and being annoyed when the media shortened it to Mods.

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  4. I don’t remeber hearing the word ‘mod’ in 1962 – then the descriptive term used was ‘modern’ or ‘well modern’. That’s what I heard in East Ham among my contemporaries, and this was from early 1962, when I was still at school and about to leave. Scooters were definitely part of the scene then – we had the big scooter shop Eddie Grimsteads just down by the White Horse pub in High St South at that time. I used to go there after school to droool over the GSs on sale.
    The pills came in when I started going ‘up west’ in the autumn of 1962. I stopped going up west in the summer of 1964, which is when I staretd hearing the shortened ‘mod’ word. But by then it was a bit of a craze, ‘all the go’, and to be honest I had lost interest. All that decoration of scooters – the carriers, crash bars, fox tails was considered by me and my ‘lot’ to be well over the top, ie ‘uncool’. It was a metropolitan thing at first, and places like the ‘new towns’ were considered to be ‘in the sticks’ and therefore ‘uncool’. Elitist – of course, that was the point. It seemed then a viable way to be an ‘individual’ in the best possible way. Even if we were a bit deluded, it was very enjoyable all the same….

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    1. Steve…welcome to the debate.
      Nailed on…I’m assuming ‘mod’ would definately not have entered anyone’s vocabulary in 1962. I was born in 1968 so my ‘knowledge’ is based purely on my own family history and what I have read, (the interview you gave ‘Sir D’ being priceless). This theme is close to my heart in many ways not least because having grown up with both ‘modernist’ and ‘mod’ influences it has always been part of my narrative.

      Regarding the ‘Jack & Jills’ they were also used by, (among others), members of the ‘underworld’ at that time, (and before in some cases), partly due to their availability to frightened teenagers who found themselves on the frontline during the war and subsequently came home to decide that a ‘New’ way of life was in order. As I’m sure you know Soho was a favoured haunt for many of the underworld’s ‘players’ and I have always believed that there is a strong possibility of their influence on the scene. They were, (certainly South of the River), held in high regard by the youth of the day especially for their attitude but also for their style and are not often mentioned. Villains of the period were known to get ‘pilled up’ before ‘going out’ long before the youngbloods.

      No doubt in my mind that the ‘nameless thing’ was over in 1964 to be replaced by the media and consumer driven ‘Mod’. Not in any way belittleing the experiences of anyone post ’64 due, in part, to the quality of the sounds that were being produced but also the enjoyment of the freedom that had been ‘won’.

      I hope you will agree that as far as the music was concerned, (the real story), it went from strength to strength both from America and, (just as importantly), JA. In my experience the vanguard of any youth movement steps to a musical march and 1962 is, for me, the key year when Soul stepped out of the shadows of Rhythm & Blues, (and Ska out of Shuffle), to stand on it’s own. Too many examples to list but I think you know what I mean. Before that there were a handful of tunes, (beginning in 57/58), that were moving in that direction but Cats like The Impressions, Major Lance, Gene Chandler, Marvin Gaye, The Valentinos, Miracles, Temptations..not to mention Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and others seem to have changed the face of it. Many’s the time have I debated the difference between Soul, (which for me was a new sound), and Rhythm & Blues, (which had been around since the 40’s), in fact part of my ongoing project has been to filter the 45’s I own by year rather than label/genre/artist which is a large part of my opinion on 1962 being the pivotal year.

      Agree 100% with your comments on elitism and the individual which seems to be an important factor in the mix of ‘modernist’. Not disimilar to my first excursion into the underground in ’82 when again the music drove us on.

      Two questions I would like to ask you..
      When was Count Ossie’s ‘Oh Carolina’ released on BlueBeat? I ask because it has been mentioned to me as one of the early crossover JA pieces to have got a spin.
      And was ‘Modernist’ part of your vocabulary in ’62?

      Thank you for taking the time to comment…most appreciated

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  5. I don’t recollect hearing the word ‘modernist’ either – it was definitely ‘modern’ that was used as a term of approval, as noted above. In that sense, there was no articulation of the ‘group’ identity- it was an unspoken rule, although the only motive was apparently that you could think of yourself as being ‘modern’. . being ‘Modern’ was ‘better’. And that was absorbed largely by imitation – you checked who were the group who were getting the girls, who had the best style clothes [and LPs], who was ‘hardest’, and basically, ignored anyone else. Very ‘exclusive’ and at the time, new – at least it seemed that way. It was a way of differentiation, escaping the crowd….

    As for the villainy, that was there. I had mates who came from Mile End, Whitechapel, Bow who would begin their saturday night at pubs like the Beggars and Grave Maurice and THEN continue their night out up the west end. Those were pubs that certain of the ‘elite criminals’ frequented too…. Some of these younger guys had ‘hard’ reps and later ‘progressed’ into various forms of villainy, petty and otherwise.
    In fact I had quite a few friends who were part of that scene, but they weren’t necessarily part of the ‘modern’ fashion vanguard, just ‘smart’, suited and booted types.

    As for the pills, it was common [street] knowledge that the drinamyl [purple hearts or ‘doobs’, ‘dooberies’ ] were being nicked from the factory in Welwyn Garden City where they were made. They used to cost 6pence each when I first started taking them – for 10 bob [50p new money] you could get 20, which was enough for the saturday night/sunday morning buzz.

    Re: “Oh Carolina” – Derrick Morgan told me that was recorded in late 1960 – he was mates with Owen Gray, who played piano on it. I bought a copy on Blue Beat label in late 1962, which was when I first heard it. It’s more than possible that it was released in Ja sometime in 1961. Again, this is something that I have been unable to ascertain definitively. But I definitely heard the tune the very first time I went up west, in a club called the Limbo in D’Arblay Mews W1. I know this because I went up to the deejay and asked him what it was, along with several other discs I’d heard that night – “Humpty Dumpty [Eric Monty Morris], a couple of Derrick Morgan’s early tracks for Beverley’s too, and Busters’s “They Got To Go’. All of these were ‘big tunes’ of the day, without any radio play anywhere. I was able to find all these records for sale in the months after that first visit, at places like Pauls For Music stall in Whitechapel High Street, and an ironmongers shop in Angel Lane Stratford that had a record box. This shop also sold paraffin, bundles of firewood, as well as tools, nails, and stuff like that…..

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    1. So your first trip up west, (funny how certain language transcends time and location), was in late ’62 to a club called the Limbo? (off D’Arbly Street?), did it cater for all musical tastes or just the sweet sounds of JA? good friend of mines dad who came over here from Jamaica used to roll in a group of friends has mentioned it. He’s also got some great memories of them days. It’s an interesting story from the West Indian perspective and one that has yet to be told. Haven’t a clue about East London but down our way the cross fertilisation of locals and immigrants, (Greek, West Indian and Irish), made for an interesting mix of cultures and influences. Reggae was big South Of The River stretching from Camberwell down to Lewisham with venues like the Ram Jam, El Partido and the many Blues a constant feature which went a long way in determining my generation’s experience.

      Never knew that Owen Gray played Piano only know him as a vocalist. ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and ‘They Got To Go’…quality.

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  6. …juts one thing about the music – for me then and now, Ray Charles was the bridge between R&B and soul, particularly from 1959 on. For a time, he epitomized this new sound. His was a a gospel type soul, just like Bobby Blue Bland was a more bluesy soul,[with the occasional ‘gospel’ scream]. Both of them TRULY GREAT and never equalled…..

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  7. …and you are right about that Mary Wells ‘Punch’ track too – that was the first ‘Motown’ sound to impinge on my consciousness. I can remeber watching all the girls flooding on to the dancefloor at Ilford palais when it was played – BIG BIG TUNE !

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  8. Well Steve Barrow….. You Beat Me To The Punch….. nice!
    (I too read the Mod Culture interview/article…. respect. We may have even crossed paths. I went to St. Bernards R.C. school in Stepney).

    In the summer of ’62 I was 15 (summers being the defining periods of what we’re debating here). I was “up west” most weekends and I never heard the term Modernist once. “It’s modern”, “they’re modern”, etc. perhaps. But Modernist (much less Mod) as a moniker like Teddy Boys or Beatniks for example…. NEVER!
    But hey, does it matter…. What’s in a name anyway? Surely it’s the “song an’ dance” that matters!

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    1. Did Teddy Boys call themselves that though or was it a media label like ‘Mod’?. Of course you’re right there is mot much value to be had from any form of categorisation other than to use it within a dialogue. my conclusion regarding ‘category’ is that without it certain historical debates would be difficult. Funnilly enough I has a similar discussion about Reggae on a different forum not too long ago. Imagine for example we were all were trying to discuss a certain kind of music but had no acceptable vocabulary such as, (in this case), Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Ska, Shuffle etc and I hope you will agree that we wouldn’t get very far.

      Don’t want to stray too far from the subject here but I also have a passion for history and listen to a LOT of lectures on diverse subjects and one in particular stands out in relation to this topic and it’s the notion of ‘linear history’ which according to this particular lecturer is a ‘Western’ notion that helps those who are interested, (and I am certainly one), in reaching a better understanding of who we are at any particular juncture. for me themusicologist is a way of charting the changing tides of my life with the music that has informed it. as far as I’m concerned music has always held deep, profound and significant meaning in my life and always will so the ‘categories’ used are related more to the music than anything else. ‘modernist’ for me will always be more to do with this than anything else, partly why I’m always searching for and responding to originality and authenticity

      like to thank you all for joining this debate on the nameless thing…quality..

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  9. I also recall using the words Stylists and Individualists amongst our lot..for me and my
    friends it was about minimum display, other than
    on the dance floor with intricate jiving moves, so when the Clacton/Margate invasions happened we didn’t associate ourselves with that at all..or being lumped with all and sundry young’uns in the press..It was never quite the same after that…..Great track, do you know whether this had a good b side?

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  10. countess, the b-side is “mama didn’t know’

    As for the Clacton thing, I went there quite a few times on my scooter – I was there in August 1962 0n the road between Clacton and Walton when a guy drove past and shouted out that Marilyn Monroe was dead. I don’t remember any trouble at those times, until Easter 63 when it all kicked off. I was there then too…and I do agree with you when you say about something, a phase, ending then. Up until then the ‘stylist’ phenomenon had been pretty low key, and not ‘usual’. After that it started to get bigger, moving out to outer suburbs of London that were really in Essex…

    Anyway, Monkey Time is definitely one of those songs that when you heard it, it really connected – like it was being sung for YOU, in that particular time. So you dived right in, let it take you – and if you really wanted to know how to do the monkey, you only had to listen to the words later, after this intro verse:

    “There’s a place
    right across town
    whenever you’re ready,
    where people
    gather around
    whenever they’re ready
    and then the music begins to play,
    you feel a groove
    comin’ on its way
    are you ready,
    are you ready –
    well you can go, ‘cos I got mine –
    it’s called the monkey time”

    Faultless song construction by Mr C.Mayfield.

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    1. Steve,
      On the American copy the B-Side of ‘Punch’ is ‘Old Love’, (let’s try it again), which is a piece weak in my opinion!!

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      1. yes musicologist, that was on the b-side of the Mary Wells, but i thought countess was asking about Major Lance [sorry, I put a comment abt Mary Wells in this thread instead of the one after]. I didn’t see that you can reply after each comment [the eyes are going….]

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      2. Steve you were right…looks like The countess was asking about The B-Side on the Major Lance so ignore my comment..just tied mesang up in a bit of confusion as all the Action is going down on the Major Lance comments !!

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  11. thanks to both for b.side answers, I should have asked that on the Mary Wells ‘comment box’..I know what you mean about Monkey Time drawing you in, dancing was THE thing for me, whether it was jiving at the dancehalls or the block and later the slide in the cramped Scene (my ‘dive’ of choice)
    so the songs that I loved the most were those that hit just the right sound for dancing,I must say I didn’t know anyone who did ‘the monkey’ did you?..I remember once seeing a girl do the Wha tusi at the Lyceum, another brilliant tune to jive to.

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  12. Phew, I can’t keep up with this!!

    themusicologist.
    1. “No denying that Modernists took pills and rode scooters too”
    I beg to differ. If they really existed then yes, pills maybe. But scooters? No. These guys were dandy’s in the true sense….. they wouldn’t crease their meticulously designed and handmade cloths getting on an “open” machine. Not to mention their immaculately styled barnets (hair).

    2. “this theme is about the period between 1959-1963”
    Good point. As I’ve often said, it’s a ‘mare trying to disipline myself on this subject. However, do you think 1959 right for this themes time-frame? For the sake of MUSIC GENRES debate consider this.. 1957 and all of 1958 as one. 1959 and 1960 as another. 1961 and 1962 yet another, etc., etc. If you stick to a 24 month cycle I think it would be easier (for me at least). It also lends itself nicely to MUSICAL HEADINGS, i.e. 1959-1960 Modern Jazz…. what d’ya think?

    3. “I have always believed that there is a strong possibility of their influence on the scene.”
    Too right Sir. The CHAPS were pulling ALL the strings clubs and drugs-wise. A book, let alone a theme, could be written on this subject… very diplomatically broached if you don’t mind me saying so!

    4. “Did Teddy Boys call themselves that though or was it a media label?”
    It was a “mild” media label that stuck (Teddy-cuddly, Eddie-Edwardian.. get the drift). The boys themselves liked it. But remember, back then the media had a different handle… journalism. They were relatively decent. They hadn’t taken the gloves off… yet!

    5. “my conclusion regarding ‘category’ is that without it certain historical debates would be difficult.”
    Spot on. And that’s why this elusive character is so ff-ing hard to nail.

    6. “music has always held deep, profound and significant meaning in my life and always will so the ‘categories’ used are related more to the music than anything else.”
    True… music, in this context, is an imperative.

    Steve Barrow
    I was going to add to/interupt your dialogue with themusicologist but (you’ll be pleased to know) They’ve kicked off in Manchester and I’m a Spurs fan with a vidio link….. COYS.
    Even so, I have to say Ray Charles… The Man in 1961/2…. The track I wore out playing was The Night Time featuring The Rayletts…..
    “You know that the night time
    night an’ day
    is the right time
    night an’ day……………………..

    Countess
    The same applies….. nice!!!

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  13. too many answers !!!
    so I’ll do one like tony has:

    countess:

    well, I never did the monkey either, but I did let my “backbone flip” and “moved my hip”, which is probably more than I can do now….

    tony:
    again regarding the ‘type’ I was, during summer & winter of 62, I rode a scooter, and [later] took pills, not at the same time! But I guess I never was fastidious enough to be an archetypal ‘modernist’….

    as for football, I’m still a WHU fan, in fact all my life, and still am. Went to the same school as Ronnie Boyce & Peter Sissons – although I confess I had a mid-60s season when I followed Spurs during the Greaves/Gilzean era. But only one season….

    and yes, the ‘chaps’ were definitely ‘on the scene’…

    As far as brother ray goes, like the annouincer says on that live LP: “Ray Charles…the High Priest – what a show, what a show…”

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  14. And there you ‘ave it Steve….. “not fastidious”. The difference is as simple as that.

    I began all this saying I’d never known a Modernist but, since seeing Paolo Hewitts discription of a Modernist, lo and behold, I did…. He was living on the same estate as me; in the same building; in the same flat even….. My older brother!!!

    How do I feel? What a plonker me!

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    1. Not Paolo Hewitt’s description..he compiled the book, (Soul Stylists; Six decades of Modernism), that the quote came from. I’ll be laying some more down from it over the coming week.
      Older brother…now there’s a turn up for the ‘captains’ how much older?

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