musicology #384

Modernist #12

(The Drifters – Up On The Roof)

Modernist / Mod / Mods..for me the label is not the issue it’s the philosophy..the ideology that’s important and how it evolved to influence almost every ‘trend’ that followed. That’s what fascinates me. The narrative of the early sixties is well documented from almost every angle other than the ‘street’ perspective in part because the voice of the people is not one that is often heard. As Johnny Spencer said ‘by 1965 the essence and meaning was gutted from the original movement because it was a genuine threat to the staus quo’. For sure the consumer revolution had been managed as far back as the early part of the 20th Century but ‘Mod/ernist’ was never part of the equation because it came up from the street where the establishment had no control or initial interest other than in how to ‘capitalize’.

By the time I was born in 1968 the control was being fought for and for a moment the chance was there to bring down the system but by then the momentum was with the bourgouise intellectuals who when it came down to it didn’t realise that in the words of Martin Luther King there would be ‘No victory without sacrifice’. As the 70’s rolled on everything had been commoditized and the moment passed, (much to the relief of the establishment), who then went on, (in the 80’s), to destroy the working class by giving us ‘something’ to lose in the way of our own property which, of course, wasn’t ours anyway as it belonged to the banks that had sold us into debt slavery.

Interpret my musings how you will but I know how it was to live through these times with a narrative of Mod/ernist as the guiding principle which is after all an Attitude rather than merely a fashion trend. In my opinion part of why the lifestyle of Mod/ernist has been, (and continues to be), so enduring is the underlying principle at the heart of it which is to follow your own path and, (as much as you can), decide for yourself what to do, wear, listen to, watch, read, learn etc.

Today’s 1962 cut by the Drifters is so well known that it is easy to dismiss it as nothing more than pop but if you listen to the words it speaks the language of pure Mod/ernist, the cats who met, walked, talked and lived together metaphorically

“Up On The Roof..way up where the air was fresh and sweet and away from the hustling crowd and all the Rat Race noise down below…….right smack dab in the middle of town..”

Listen Tune…

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musicology #383

Modernist #11

(Chris Kenner – Land Of 1000 Dances)

Sliding out of the Jamaican selection into one from New Orleans featuring a Cat who is perhaps best known to Mod/ernists for his 1961 cut ‘I Like It Like That’.

Popularised by Wilson Pickett in 1966 this, the 1963 original, speaks volumes for what distinquished the Mod/ernist from the Mods. Hold this quote from an ‘information panel’ on the subject by musicologist Johnny Spencer, (he of the magnificent project)

“By 1964 the Mods had arrived and it was all over for the Modernists, the faces that had piloted this new paradigm of liberty for British youth, a liberation that was carried in the mind from generation to generation. Mods, generally the younger siblings of the Modernists, could not claim the originality of their predecessors, although they shared many of their preferences, smart clothes, Soul music etc, they came to a ready made situation, the territory had been won, what they chose to do was enjoy it. They were more casual and this led to a lack of vigilance, a dropping of the guard, and soon the media and corporate interests were in there, bleeding, filleting and gutting this new market and threat to the status quo. Masses of newer converts, ‘tickets’, were soon sold the concept of Mod: an outfit, pop idols and an attitude, it was small wonder that by 1965 the entire movement was dead, and with the age of the ‘Skinhead’, who also shared a subtle common bond with an emerging, oppressed black culture, the first real and enduring anti-fashion movement started”.

Nailed on..

Today’s cut is based on a spiritual entitled ‘Children Go Where I Send You’, further evidence of the debt owed to the Gospel tradition by the new music emerging out of the urban experience of big cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Detroit and Memphis where migration had a major impact. Recorded for and released on the fabulous Minit label which had already scored with Mod/ernists by releasing cuts like the above mentioned ‘I Like It Like That’, Ernie K Doe’s ‘Mother In Law’ and Benny Spellman’s ‘Fortune Teller’, (To name but Three)..written by Chris Kenner and Fats Domino.

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.”

musicology #373

Modernist #1

(Bobby Bland – Turn On Your Lovelight)

‘Modernist’ was a word used by some on the London scene in the early 1960’s to describe the ‘new breed’ of young bloods that had emerged out of the post war doldrums in Great Britain and had begun to throw off the shackles imposed on them by the establishment to do their own thing. They weren’t catered for or to so had to create a new set of ‘rules’, (clothes, music and attitude), and as a predominantly youth movement were unknown and unrecognizable, (this was when adolescents/teenagers were not even seen let alone heard), to all but those in the know. The influences of this movement were varied, (and will be gone into in greater detail as the theme unfolds), but as is often the case, (in England anyway), they were fused together by a creative vanguard to bear Englands first and most important youth movement.

Today’s cut is courtesy of a Modernist icon who has featured a few times on themusicologist and whose output was as important as any single artist’s in defining the new genre that became known as Soul. Born in 1930 Robert Calvin Bland begun his career in Memphis in the early 50’s associating with a collective known as the Beale Streeters but it wasn’t until ,1958 (at the dawn of Soul), that his distinctive vocal style begun to make Modernists sit up and take notice. Up until then he was a Blues singer but in ’58 he begun to set himself apart from categorisation with a string of monumental cuts of the highest order. This one is a classic from 1961 the year that his landmark album Two Steps From The Blues hit the streets. Many artists have cited Bobby as a major influence including original Modernist David Bowie who is reported to have said that the album changed his life.

Of note is that Bowie was born in 1947 making him 14 in 1961 and ripe for being at the forefront of a youth movement that peaked in London in 1964, (not sure about anywhere else as I have no background knowledge), and fell soon after when the media packaged it as ‘Mod’. Just like to add that In no way am I disregarding what came after ‘Modernist’, (especially not as far as music is concerned), but for many who were on The vanguard and had been at it since 1961 the infamous Bank Holiday gatherings signalled the end of the movement they cherished. I know that there will be many who disagree with me about the dates and events and I’m sure they can support their views and present them in their own way but certain dates such as ‘The Scene’ opening in August 1963 can not be disputed neither can the release dates of the musicology that supported and drove the movement as I intend to show. Finally I would also like to add that those born before 1946 and after 1948 must have been on the fringes purely as a result of their age and not their appreciation of either the music, attitude or the lifestyle in question.

All that’s left to say is that this one is for all the Lyceum, Town Hall, Tottenham Royal and Streatham Locarno Cats whose memories of being there can never be replaced.

musicology #178

alternativesoundtrack2..Quadrophenia #10

(The Who – I’ve Had Enough)

final cut of the Quadrophenia selection and i’m finishing up with the piece of music that closes the film. pucker tune and one that definately had an impact on my mindset growing up.

Jimmy’s gone back to Brighton and had the final igmony of seeing ‘the face’ in his dayjob as nothing but a ‘bell boy’. it’s the final straw for him and reminds me of a saying that I once heard and took to heart…something like

“never try to reach out and touch a ‘golden idol’ as the gilding might come off in your hands..”

I always took it to mean, never idolise anyone as they chances are one day they will dissapoint you. it’s unfair to put such a weight of responsibility on someone elses shoulders because we are all human and full of contridictions.

for the record, even though I was introduced to ‘Mod Revival’ through the Jam’s first album ‘In The City’ a few years earlier than seeing the film the actual soundtrack was, for me, always a bit of a dissapointment. that said I rate Pete Townsend, (and the Who’s), original album from which the film was crafted. Townsend’s lyrics were a guide for themusicologist and will always hold fond memories.

“you were under the impression, that when you were walking forwards,
that you’d end up further onwards, but things ain’t quite that simple,

you got altered information, you were told to not take chances,
you missed out on new dances now your’e losing all your dimples,

my jacket’s gonna be cut slim and checked,
maybe a touch of seersucker with an open neck,
I ride a GS scooter with my hair cut neat,
I wear my war time coat in the wind and sleet,

love reign o’er me, love reign o’er me…..

I’ve had enough of living, I’ve had enough of dying,
I’ve had enough of smiling, I’ve had enough of crying,
I’ve taken all the high roads, I’ve squandered and I’ve saved,
I’ve had enough of childhood I’ve had enough of graves,

love reign o’er me, reign o’er me,
love reign o’er me…looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove

I’ve had enough of dancehalls, I’ve had enough of pills,
I’ve had enough of street fights, I’ve seen my share of kills,
I’m finished with the fashions and acting like I’m tough,
I’m bored of hate and passion, Iv’e had enough of trying to looooooooooooooooooooooooooooove

you stop dancing”