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 #172

alternativesoundtrack2..Quadrophenia #4

(Robert Parker – Watch Your Step)

today’s section is the scene about ‘scoring the ‘Jack & Jills’ for Brighton, featuring Jimmy, Dave, (his so called best mate), and Chalky. ‘Flash’ Pete puts them on to some proper Villians from South Of The River and the story unfolds..

one thing I would like to add is that there is no way that what follows, (“lets do the bastards motor”), would or could have happened back in the day…it’s pure fantasy to suggest it. what definately did happen back then, is Villains were on the speed long before the ‘mods’ and it many cases would have been how the teenagers were introduced to them.

speed was in use throughout the 1950’s, (especially in and around Soho), and was known to have been used by some in preparation for crimes that sometimes required a ‘liitle helper’. used in World War II, ( British troops used 72 million amphetamine tablets in the second world war), it was freely available to soldiers to ‘help’ keep them alert, awake, and fearless. I recall a sentence from a fantastic work of art, (Information Panel), detailing the late 50’s, early 60’s period of crime in London and it mentions ‘teams of pilled up 16 stone villains striking terror into the hearts of most’…especially on the ‘armed blag’ so to suggest that young kids would have been so foolish to have dealt out such retribution over such a small thing as a ‘Cockle’s’ worth of pills is misguided.

the piece of music that follows the dialogue is a well known Mod/ernist slice of the Rhythm & Blues pie by artist Robert Parker that was issued in the UK on London DJ and musicologist Guy Steven’s Sue label a couple of years after this one, (the American original released on V-Tone in 1961).

I know it’s been all Rhythm & Blues so far but it was this music that defined Mods up to the year in question, (1964) and certainly not bands like The Who. Live music was performed at places like the Scene by bands such as The Who, The Animals and others but they were mostly to be found, (tradition that still holds), performing in local Pubs and live music venues.