Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Profiles Of The Best 60s / Mod DJs in North America: Special Edition - Soulelujah

The highlight of my year as a DJ has to be when I'm invited to join the stellar cast of wax spinners at Boston's weekly Soul night. To say that the night is successful is an understatement. 

It now boast two rooms packed with sweaty dancers but it has also been named the city's best dance night. Some of the accolades should be directed to my man Sean Quinn. He works tirelessly at making sure that it stays that way.

Your name / DJ
Sean Quinn aka Claude Money, Spiritual Adviser for Soulelujah

Patrick Foisy, Sean Quinn and Ty Jesso
Somerville, MA, USA
How would you describe your musical style?
Medium Rare. Nothing too deep, but I'm not afraid of hits either. I got a soft spot for the funky ladies and girl groups. Jeanne & The Darlings - Soul Girl gets a lot of play, so does Barbara Acklin - Am I The Same Girl. I really love anything that hits hard as well. Current heavy rotation would include, Sir Guy - Funky Virginia, Lou Courtney - Hot Butter 'N All, Dyke and The Blazers - Funky Bull, shit like that. But I love playing things like Jackie Wilson - Higher and Higher, or Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell doing Ain't No Mountain High Enough too.

What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?
Irene Reid - Dirty Old Man. Just a great example of a hard hitting cut. It's got everything I love in a 45. We put it out with Deano Sounds and Cultures of Soul last year. Again, not a rare record by any means but I play it every time I DJ.

Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.
Eh, that's super tough. I don't really work that way. I keep lists of records I would love to have like anyone else, but I don't really think about it that often. Honestly there is no "must have" record for me. There are always things that become "MUST HAVE" that fade over time. Maybe there's a record you wanted forever and when you finally get it, it doesn't really fit into your set. There isn't a whole lot of value in that for me.
I remember keeping a cut on my wants list for 2 years, casually keeping an eye out for Landscape by the Mohawks. It's an awesome organ groover that sounds like Serge Gainsbourg is smoking cigarettes on a stool in the studio, waiting to jump in at any moment. I looked for that record for two years and then one day flipped over a re-issue of The Champ that I had owned forever. There it was, staring me in the face, Landscape. I was stoked to be sure, but also wondered how much mental energy I had wasted looking for a "must have" that was already sitting in my crates. Maybe that just makes me kind of stupid, but I figure I have the records I'm supposed to have. My collection is continually expanding, but nothing is missing.

Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.
Soulelujah every Saturday night at The Middle East and ZuZu in Central Square, Cambridge, MA USA. We've been running the night for over ten years now, since 2003, and things seem to be going well. We run two separate rooms every Saturday and have an incredible team over there that help us pull off a great party every single week. A lot of Soul nights around the country are monthly. I'm incredibly proud of our team and our ability to pull off two rooms with a separate DJ in each room EVERY WEEK. That's basically 104 shows a year. The Soulelujah crew includes myself (Claude Money), Ty Jesso, E. Dorsey, The Brobots, John Funke and PJ Gray. 

Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?
Absolutely not, it's just my preference. I download MP3's like everyone else. If I am out at a night where DJs are using Serato and they start playing Syl Johnson, am I supposed to give them the old stink eye because of the format? Fuuuuuuck that. My personal preference is for 45s, and for Soulelujah it is without question the aesthetic that we all adhere too. First of all, the Soulelujah DJs all have incredible taste and selection, and secondly format does force you to make specific choices. In my earlier example I mentioned a typical club DJ working in some Syl Johnson and how awesome that can be. On the other hand, if I found myself at a vintage soul night and the DJs were using Serato, I do believe that would have an impact on the vibe of the night. One of the amazing things about digital music is that you can find just about anything without trying very hard. That may seem great at first but your set will suffer for it. In my personal experience, working with 45s forces you to make more interesting pathways to get to your dance floor destination. You have to be more conscious of building a particular vibe just so you can work in that new 45 you got that is so damn good, but doesn't really fit in easily anywhere. The vinyl based DJ will find a way to make it work where the digital based DJ may not even consider it.
On a side note regarding format. I believe in good vibes, transference of energy and shit like that. Every record in my box went to quite a few parties before I ever got my hands on it. It soaked up a whole mess of good vibes along the way. When that little party animal gets to scream its face off on the turntable for a room full of sweaty dancers? There is a difference.
What is your favorite place to buy records?
My all time hands down favorite way to buy records is from old friends or new friends over conversation and sharing of knowledge. When that isn't the way it's going down I hit up In Your Ear on Commonwealth Ave in Boston.
As I mentioned in my last post, you won't find many DJs I respect and admire like this guy. He's certainly one of the reasons why Soulelujah is such a hit.
Your name / DJ
Ty Jesso

Providence, RI
How would you describe your musical style?
I DJ mostly 60s, 70s, Soul, RnB, Mod, Garage, Freakbeat and Boogaloo.
What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?
Preston Epps Trio - Say Yeah (Polo) or Mack Rice - Baby I'm Coming Home (Lu-Pine)

Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.
Troy Dodds- Real Thing (El Camino)

Bobby Adams & Betti Lou - Dr Truelove (Tra-x)

Ray Medina & the New Latin Breed - Heads Head (Mares)

Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.
I spin every second Friday in Providence at my night Soul Power at Dusk and I spin usually 2 Saturdays monthly at our weekly Boston DJ night , Soulelujah at ZuZu & the Middle East Club. Both nights have been going on for over 10 years now so we must be doing something right.

Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?
I spin 99% 45s. A few LP only tracks and 12"s. I do spin repros as long as they have good sound quality.
What is your favorite place to buy records?
WFMU Record Fair in NYC and via private dealers wherever.
I want to thank my two gracious hosts for inviting me once again to spin at one of the best Soul nights on the continent. Mark my words, I'll be back.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mod On The Road: Party in Providence

Some of my friends think that I'm mad when I tell them that I will drive 6 hours to go DJ somewhere. For one, I don't do it for the money. I'm glad when it covers expenses. I'm ecstatic when I have money left to buy a few records.

I do it because I get to hang out with people that are as passionate as I am. And that is worth driving twice the distance. When DJ Ty Jesso invited me to join him at his Soul Power night in Providence, Rhode Island, I didn't hesitate one second. I don't throw the word "mentor" around frivolously but when it comes to Ty, it applies quite adequately. Ty is the type of DJ that "gets it". He doesn't care about rare records or first pressing (even if he has a collection that will put us all to shame). He only cares about what works and what will make people dance and want to PAR-TY!

Before heading out to a full night of doing the Watusi and spinning records, our host brought my wife and I to one of his favorite watering holes. 

As soon as I walked into Ogie's, I was greeted with some classic 60s Soul. Always a good sign. You also have the impression that you're inside a 60s trailer park at night. It's what I call "kitchy done right". 

On the menu, you'll find confort food that you'll find in any respectable trailer park. The mac 'n cheese balls were worth every mile I travelled to put my hands on some. And I have to say, their selection of local beers on tap is another reason why I didn't want to leave.

But we had a gig to DJ. Next stop was Dusk. The perfect venue that has the right amount of vintage feel and equal parts charm. The crowd that came is definitely a notch above your average mix of drunk college kids and pretentious hipsters. The patrons had as much class as the city they live in. The go-go dancers were more spectacle than authentic but they seemed to enjoy themselves and that's good enough for me.

Let's dance!
The brief night's sleep didn't stop me the next morning from getting up early and going through several hundred 45s my mate Ty had set aside for me. I managed to deprive him from a little more than a dozen 7 inch gems. You can hear most of them on the latest Parka Avenue Podcast here.

This unknown scorchin' Soul stomper from the southeast is one exemple that I pulled out of Ty's stash. When I find a dance floor mover and shaker that has sweet lyrics like "Are you a turtle? You bet your sweet ass I am", you know that it's going directly in the DJ box.

This mystery Garage jewel is another one that will get a lot of spins. Not much can be found about The Brotherhood. I find it interesting that the song is credited to Serge Blouin. Mr Blouin came out with several cheesy 45s in my own province of Quebec.

The rest of the day was spent cruising the city, taking in its beautiful architecture with the occasional stop at a vintage shop or record store. We had picked the perfect spring weekend. The sun was shinning and the trees were in full bloom.

After a light lunch at Chez Pascal, a local French bistro, where I devoured some delicious sausages made in-house, we were ready for every Mod's favorite activity, shopping. Our first destination was a second-hand shop called Foreign Affair. The selection was small but the prices were rock bottom. Unfortunately, the friendly owner let us know that her shop might be closing soon.

Next stop was Rocket To Mars. This is the type of place you wish every city had. They have a decent selection of clothes and every knick knack you need to decorate your groovy pad. I left with 2 shirts and I was privy to the "friends of Ty" discount. Could not ask for more.

Our final shopping spot was The Time Capsule. Half of the store is dedicated to comic books but the other half is all about records. You'll find plenty of $1 to 5$ records to dig through. There's a good selection of more common Garage and Soul 45s that you can buy to complete your collection. The rarer stuff is usually put right up on the net. I left with a small stack and the good news is that I still had plenty of money in my pocket.

Ty doing his thing

We had just enough time to sample some more beers from the area and a few stuffies, a local seafood staple,  at the Hot Club before heading to Boston for Soulelujah. We are in store for another night of spinning records and debauchery.

The view from the deck the Hot Club
For a sample of the records I pillaged in Providence, head over to the Parka Avenue Podcast on Mixcloud right now!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Modzine: A Mod Revival Legacy

Before you had blogs like this one, you had Mod zines. Dedicated Modernists from across the globe spent countless hours, researching, writing, interviewing, editing, distributing and sharing their views of a Mod Mod World. They touched on every aspect of the scene: music, clothes, scooters, event reviews, scene gossip and more. Some lasted only a couple of issues while others had a run of a few years.

You want a look inside the mind of a teenage Mod of that era? You can't find a better way. By revisiting some of them, you realize that some things have changed while others are set in stone. Today, I celebrate these well dressed DIY pioneers by presenting to you a few of their creations and revealing a few nuggets found buried within the pages, bad grammar, poor spelling and all.

Sometimes I find it hard maintaining a blog. A quick look at these and you soon discover that I have it easy. Usually written on an old fashion typewriter and assembled by hand, they were a labor of love. Friends, this is part of our collective Mod heritage.

Get Smart - Issue 6 - March 1984 - Sydney Australia

The zine that will tell you all you need to know about the Mod scene in the land down under. It tackles a wide variety of subjects and is full of photos. I love hearing about bands that you never heard of and that were only influential locally but predicted to be the next The Jam.

It has the Parka Avenue stamp of approval for:

Three articles on the global Mod scene, the Irish, the French and the German, in a column called News Of The World.

Favorite quote:

"After a tiresome day of riding around in the rain for hours... I don't care what happens now, just as long as my pipe doesn't drop off!"

You learn something new every day:

Northern Soul fave - Tainted Love - Gloria James

Things that will never change:

"The most driven scooter in Bamberg is the P80X Vespa, but I don't like it, as it looks too modern."

Life After '66 - Issue 3 - 1984 - Leicester UK

This is your typical black and white stapled mid-eighties zine. Rants, album reviews, style advice. It's all there.

Top read:

A two page article entitled Muddy Waters - The Father Of Electric Blues.

Favorite quotes:

"This magazine was put together with all the skill and finesse of a Taxidermist stuffing a chicken. But without the sage and onion."

(In the Letters section) "Don't be scared off by other youths, who know next week the new trend might be eutnanasia?!"

Worth a second look:

The one page article on collars.

Things that will never change:

"So instead of following others create something new, it is far better to be a shepard than one of his flock"

Out In The Street - Issue 3 - 1985 - Rotherham UK

This is your classic 22-page, black and white Mod zine, centred mainly around music. It's a bit of a strenuous read since it's written without a single paragraph.

Wish I would have been there moment:

"The Prisoners came on to mass cheering, this was what I had been waiting for [...]"

Favorite quote:

In an article about the band Studio '68: "They then kicked out the bassist 'cos they didn't like his haircut!"

Remember those?

The band profile with a series of cheesy questions.

Things that will never change:

From page 1

Results of "Out In the Street" Charts!

Fave 5 Sixties Bands / Artists !

1, The Small Faces.
2, The Action.
3, Otis Redding.
4, The Who.
5, The Creation.

The Hipster - Issue 3 - 1985 - Coventry UK

Today, the word "Hipster" has a whole different connotation and Mods usually stand clear of that label. Back during the Mod Revival days, it was a whole different story. Even during the sixties, being hip was the equivalent of being cool. This zine has all the elements of being just that. Printed on glossy paper, it has a very professional look and the content reflects the high standards.

I managed to track down Andy Clarke, the editor of The Hipster and I asked him if he would tell us about his experience at the helm of the mag. This is what he had to say:
"We started The Hipster as there was nothing else quite like it at the time. We were from Coventry and called ourselves the Hip Citizens and were all into the 60s more than any of the revival stuff. I worked as a paste up artist on local papers so had access to a pro studio which was something else that set us apart in terms of production standards. Mod is all about one upmanship after all! We did three issues and each improved on the last in terms of style and content.
We bagged some great interviews with people like Jimmy James who'd been at the heart of the 60s London scene as well as original mods from the Coventry area who gave us some fascinating insights. It was hard work as it had to fit around day jobs and social stuff but worth the effort. We started issue four but I decided to move to London part way through so it never got printed. I still have the artwork which included a four page interview with Jimmy Smith. The guy was a gent and invited my star struck 19 year old self to have dinner with him and his wife at his fancy London hotel. He was fascinated that all these years later there was another audience of well dressed kids lapping up his music. I got all my LPs signed and thirty years on, still treasure them.
Running the mag got us noticed and we connected with like minded people not just in the UK, but continental Europe, the U.S. and Japan where we even had mods getting us deals sorted for shops in their countries to stock it. This is all before the Internet and all done with phone calls and hand written letters. I still make my living designing magazines although it's corporate and nowhere near as much fun as The Hipster. Some of the writing and design is frankly awful but I'm really proud of what we did back then. Editions were even featured in a style exhibition at the V&A museum which was a great honour. I'll sign off saying to young mods of today that are reading this in the same way I used to sign off my editorials: Keep looking, keep moving, stay cool!"
Favorite quote:

From the interview with Fiona Werrell, a French Mod from Lyon:

"Everyone should bring new ideas to the scene, something to make us stand out from the others, this is what Mod should be in my opinion. Within the Mod world each Mod should stand out as an individual."

Things that will never change:

What about scooters, you've got one haven't you?

Andy Farley - 19: I have but it's a bust at the moment, it should be on the road soon, if not, I'll get another one, I'd really like a GS.

Must read:

The Jimmy James interview on page 27

This is just a small sample of zines to hit the streets during the Mod Revival.  I have many more I will feature in futur posts, all with their own unique twist.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Top 12 Soul & RnB Records About Money

In the sixties, Soul music was the soundtrack of the lives of the American black man and woman. Blues centers around pain, loss and heartache while Soul and RnB touched on a wide variety of themes. Recurring subject matters seemed to be love, sex, relationships, dancing, partying and everyday life.

When I flip through my 45rpm collection preparing for a night of DJing, I sometimes see a theme emerge. You can read my posts on the Top 20 Soul and RnB Tracks About Monkeys and Top 15 Northern Soul Tracks About Dogs to give you an idea. This time, I'm tackling the whole mighty dollar. Yes, the greenback has made more than one appearance on vinyl. Heck, there's even a Money record label! Blues artists have certainly recorded their fair share of tracks about a fistful of benjamins but today we will tackle the Soul and RnB side of things.  The songs mostly revolve around wanting more cash, not having enough, the evils surrounding it and everything in between.

Tommy Ridgley - I Want Some Money Baby - Johen

Tommy Ridgley is a New Orleans native and a local RnB legend. His career spanned 50 years without ever having a major hit. He did work with some of the biggest names on the New Orleans scene: Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Lloyd Price.

I just can't get enough of this track. Not a dance floor scorcher by any means, it's a true RnB number that you want to swagger too. I'm always surprised at how, even if it's relatively unknown, it always keeps the dance floor going, giving people a respite from a series of more uptempo tracks. My favourite lyric: "There's only one thing that I like better than the money I know and that's more, more, more".

Willie Mabon - I Got To Have Some - Formal

At first glance, you might expect this slow RnB burner to be about something else than money. Once you have steered your mind out of the gutter, you realize that it's all about chasing the buck. It came out in 1962 on the Chicago label Formal. Interesting fact, one year later Willie came out with the follow up track Just Got Some on USA records.

Willie Jones - Where's My Money - Mr Peacock

Speaking of Willies, this Detroit RnB singer recorded Where's My Money in 1961. This widely sought after 45 has undeniably attained the classic status and deservedly so.

Sister Cookie and the Soulful Orchestra came out with their own cover in 2014 on the Italian label Soulful Torino. Rare are the contemporary versions that come close to the original. This might be the exception.

Baby Washington - Money's Funny - Neptune

This 1961 RnB single was one of her early releases in a career that spanned a few decades. Move On has to be my favorite but this one certainly qualifies has an underrated single.

Elmore James - Shake Your Moneymaker - Fire

Technically, this 1961 release is not about money. But let's not get too hung up on formalities here, it's still a good song. This Mississippi native was a Blues musician that crossed over musical genres. A master of the slide guitar, you can hear his musical prowess and mastery on this very track.

Barrett Strong - Money (That's What I Want) - Anna

Since we're on a RnB binge, here's the most recognizable track of all. Covered by so many artists, it's hard to keep track: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kingsmen, The Sonics, The Surpremes, The Miracles, etc. In my opinion, nothing beats the original.

I may have one obscure cover that is worth mentioning. If you want a female version, may I recommend Jannell Hawkins. This is a great way to surprise a crowd with something they are all familiar with.

Marie Franklin - Don'tcha Bet No Money - Maverick

This 1968 Soul screamer has everything to get you fired up. More about love than actual money, West Coast singer Marie Franklin surely belts it out with conviction. The B-side is just as raw and powerful but with a slower, Blues driven vibe. For some reason I've seen the same record come out on a green label. Why? I could not tell you.

Young Holt Trio - Ain't There Something That Money Can't Buy - Brunswick

This band from Chicago came out with this classic exemple of pure Mod Jazz in 1966. If you want to talk about what the original Mods listened too, forget about The Who or The Small Faces, THIS is it.

 Ramsey Lewis - Money In The Pocket - Cadet

Speaking of Mod Jazz, here's a little instrumental number, with a cool sax solo in the middle, that won't cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, if you buy this 45, you'll still have money left in your pocket. Plus, you have the added bonus of having an instrumental version of Uptight (written Up Tight) on the opposite side.

Cathy Lynn & Lou (Moondog) Lawton - Dollars and Cents - Heart & Soul

It's not a record that is impossible to find but not much is known about this one or the small New York City label it came out on. This track is a hard driving uptempo number that will make you dance and leave you  breathless. You would assume by looking at the label that this is a duet. You would be mistaken. Unless Cathy is a musician, not a trace of her is on the track. She is credited as the producer though. Lou Lawton is better known for one of my all-time favorite singles, Nick Nack Patty Wack.

James Brown - Money Won't Change You - Delta (In Canada)

This list wouldn't be complete without a little Funk from the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. The thing is, James Brown had more than one 45 with "money" in the title. I've Got Money is a prime exemple.  Money Won't Change You hit the air waves in 1966 and climbed to the #11 spot on the RnB charts and peaked at #53 on the Pop charts.

The Pleasures - If I Had A Little Money - Catch

Last but not least is this underplayed little Soul gem. Not much is known about The Pleasures or the Catch record label, aside from the fact that they were distributed by Era Records, based in LA. Brenda Holloway was the better known artist to also have a 45 come out on Catch.

If there's a song I haven't mentioned here and that is worth spending a little moolah on, please let us know. To hear all the tracks form this list, just shimmy over to the Parka Avenue Podcast right here.