Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parka Avenue in the newspaper!

I'm very proud to announce that my loft has recently been featured in the "House & Home" section of Quebec City's newspaper Le Soleil. Journalist Laurie Richard contacted me after seeing a recent post about my place on the Apartment Therapy website.

We had a lengthy interview over the phone (it was long simply because I wouldn't shut up). I was asked mainly about the inspiration behind my unique decorating style and the fact that I like to give old objects a second life.

I was surprised when I was asked if could send some photos for the article. I expected a professional photograph to visit me, considering that it was for the decor section of the newspaper. Apparently, asking a photograph to drive two hours from Quebec City to Montreal is too much to ask for. But what if my photos are not up to their standards? And how should I know what they are looking for? What's the angle for the article?

Since I was asked to take the pictures myself, I didn't take any chances. I embarked on a 2 weeklong intensive cleaning operation. My loft was dusted, scrubbed, waxed, vacuumed and disinfected from top to bottom. The dust bunnies behind my fridge and the inside of my cupboards wouldn't be visible in a photo but why risk it! You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

All the chrome or metal in the digs was polished. The teak furniture was meticulously oiled and the 8 feet high windows were thoroughly washed. I guess it's a good thing that I'm a teacher and that I get my summers off. When you have 110 000 people reading the Saturday edition, you want to make sure that your place is spotless. I've always been a neat person but we're talking military clean here. Does "clean living under difficult circumstances" ring a bell?

Again, I'm not a professional photographer. You probably can tell by the photos on this blog. They are decent but not necessarily worthy of a big publication. Anyway, I took the ladder out of storage, waited for the right lighting and did my best. I took a lot more shots than were needed but I figured they could have the pick of the litter.

The final result: 2 weeks of preparation for 2 photos in the paper! It might have been a few shots shy of what I expected but I was content with the way my home was portrayed. The article might be in French but you can have a look at the online version here (with only one photo!)

If you want the full tour of the pad, have a look at my flickr album with a total of 74 photos! It's the result of my 2-week obsession. And I dare you to find a speckle of dust in any of the photos!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Having a bespoke Mod suit made

Gone are the days when a Mod would walk the back alleys of Carnaby Street and have a tailor made suit for his next allnighter at The Marquee or The Flamingo. Having a bespoke suit made by a Saville Row tailor, following strict guidelines, for the discerning Face with means, is a thing of the past. The early sixties were the heyday of the Mod suit with its attention to details and its ever-changing and adapting style.

Today is a different day. Tailors are a dying breed and casual wear is now the norm. Two weeks ago, I attended a friend's wedding and the best man was wearing jeans. Last Saturday, my friend and I went to the Mod Club and only two people in the place were wearing suits. I will let you guess who they were. I think we all get the point here.

For those of you who think that wearing a suit is like having a second skin or that a suit, a M-51 parka and a 1964 Lambretta TV175 is a match made in heaven, then this post is for you.

Although you can find a very smart looking, ready made, mod suit from a reputable shop or a the occasional authentic vintage threads out there, nothing will surpass the hand made example. The thing is, they are bloody expensive! I have a very skilled Italian tailor situated a few blocks from my place that will charge an average of a 1000$ for a bespoke suit. I recently had a pair of Ben Sherman slacks tapered by him at a cost of 45$. I find it a bit out of my price  range if you consider the fact that I paid around 100$ for the pants.

But do not despair my Mod and Suedehead friends from across the globe! I have the solution for you! I present to you: Prince Henry tailors. Based in Thailand, Mr. Sethinamvong travels, twice a year, to all the major cities in Europe and North America to meet you in person and dazzle you with all the possibilities. He will greet you in his hotel suite with a wide variety of fabric samples.

Your basic Mod cut suit will start at 250$ US. At that price, your choice of fabric is somewhat limited. But you can have a stunning 3 or 4 button, black or navy jacket and pants for that unparalleled price. How can you go wrong with that? The last suit I had made ran me 275$ and that included the shipping costs. Can I hear you say: "That's a steal!”

Once you have chosen your fabric and discussed all the intricate detailing that will make your suit a true Mod work of art, Mr. Sethinamvong will take all your measurements. Then, all you have to do is pay with your credit card. A few weeks later a well-known international courier will deliver your one of a kind suit. With that, your Ace Face status will be cemented forever!

Searching for a perfectly fitting shirt? They will make that for you also. Can't seem to find a sharp looking one-inch tie anywhere? Why not have one done to your liking? I haven't had the pleasure of having any of the two done before but I'm certain I will tempt the experience the next time they visit. At a cost of 39$ for a shirt and 19$ for a tie, it's hard to resist.

One thing is unfortunately missing from their wide variety of quality fabrics: the popular tonic or sharkskin. Aside from that, I highly recommend you do business with them. You won't be disappointed. I invite you to check out for all the details.

If you ever decide to pay the very cordial Mister S. a visit during his next trip to your city, tell him Parka Avenue sent you. He'll understand why you are asking him for such narrow lapels and why you want so many buttons on your jacket sleeve.

For more ideas on how to customize your suit to make it a true mod statement, have a look at the February 25 post, What is the perfect Mod suit?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Garage Rock at it's best. The Fleshtones live in Montreal

I can't believe I had never seen The Fleshtones live before. They must be one of the most hard working, underrated garage rock bands out there. It's hard to understand why they never got the global recognition like one of their counterparts, The Ramones. But loyal fans they do have.

The thing that sets them apart from so many bands out there is that when you see them live, you're under the impression that they're playing their last gig. This might sound cliché but they do give 110%. They'll give as much on stage in front of 10 people as they would in front of a stadium full and they expect the same from the audience. If the crowd is too quiet, they will let you know by standing there, motionless, with their arms crossed.

I think I can safely say that it was one of the best raw garage rock concerts I have ever seen. It's not everyday that you have the guitarist jump off stage to climb on the bar to do a solo and the singer hand you the mike to finish the song. The concert ended when the whole band played their last song amongst the crowd. Their last few riffs were done on the sidewalk. Now that's a concert!

These guys exemplify the true spirit of the rock attitude. Still skeptical? Check out this video of the concert.

The Fleshtones live in Montreal

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The quest for Northern Soul and R&B records in Chicago: The final chapter

Before my road trip to Chicago ended, I had time to squeeze in a few more record shops. These were unscheduled and I stumbled upon them by chance. Sometimes, this is when you get unexpected and pleasant surprises.
First was Reckless Records. They have a few locations across the city and I got a chance to visit the Madison store. This place seems popular because it was fairly busy. They have a decent selection of CDs, DVDs, LPs and books. 

Don't expect to go crate digging here because their 45rpm section is tiny. Most of the records you'll come across are from newer indie, punk and alternative bands. 

But I've learnt something from all my years of antique and flea market shopping. Parka Avenue shopping tip #325: Always ask the guy behind the counter if he has stuff that just came in. Hold and behold, he did! He dropped a box of two dozen 45s in front of me. You could tell a record collector had just came in and sold his stash. One thing was certain; this mysterious seller was very meticulous and careful because these records were in mint condition.
This is what I left with.

Got To Find A Way – Harold Burrage – m-pac! Records
You Ought To Be Ashamed – Andrew Brown – 4 Brothers Records
Better To Be By Yourself – Al King – Modern Records

Next was Gramaphone Records, situated at 2843 North Clark Street. Don't let the name fool you, you won't find any 78rpm or wax cylinders for your 1899 Edison phonograph. Quite surprisingly they sell mostly house and techno records.

Again rule #325 proved to be useful. There was a box of 45s on the counter with nothing in it worth mentioning but there was a box in the back store of unpriced singles begging to hit the open market. It was once more the result of somebody getting rid of his collection. This time it was Jimmy that grew tired of listening to soul and R&B. His name was on every other record. And you don't have to worry about buying a record without having a chance to listen to it because there are listening stations everywhere.

The staff was very friendly and attentive. Jason went beyond the call of duty and introduced me to a website called It's a place where you can build a personal database of your record collection. It also serves as a marketplace for music fanatics to buy or sell music. It's apparently a good alternative to eBay.
Here are a few 45s I am glad I put my hands on.

Let’s Have Some Fun Part I – Mod Singers & Mod Lads – Savern Records
Strain On My Heart - Roscoe Shelton – Sims Records
The Price Of Love - The Soul Invaders – Sagport Records
The Meditation - TNT Band – Cotique Records
This Is Paradise - The Rituals – Arwin Records (Promotional copy)
Why Girl - The Precisions – Drew Records
Everybody Saw You - Ruby Andrews – Zodiacs Records
Last but not least was Dave's Records. Not too far from Gramaphone Records you can take a leisurely stroll to 2604 North Clark Street. Dave's motto is simple and stated right on the store window: "All vinyl. All the time." Sounds good to me!

If you are looking for a brand new copy of a recently released album, chances are you will find it there. As for 45s, my luck had run out. There’s a small section at the back, behind the counter. Don’t expect to find a rare promo copy of an obscure Northern Soul group for a dollar. Dave is simply too knowledgeable to make that kind of a mistake. Another thing you won’t find is a listening station. But if you ask Dave nicely, he will play it on the store sound system. I did leave with a mint copy of a very cool soul/surf version of the Batman theme by The Marketts and the Booker T and the MG’s LP Hip Hug-Her.

In the end, I think my hunt through the Mid-West was a successful one. I didn’t find an ultra rare, never released, demo version of an unknown soul singer worth thousands of dollars. I probably wouldn’t have recognized it anyway. Instead, I brought home infectious grooves that will keep my feet shuffling for years to come. Every time I will drop the needle on one of those tunes, I will be transported back to that memorable road trip. Now, all I need is a jukebox!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The English Beat, Bad Manners and Chris Murray live in Chicago

I’ve seen The English Beat and Chris Murray a few times before. So one of the main reasons why I drove a total of 1370 kilometers to Chicago was to go see the great British ska band Bad Manners. I believe the last time they came to Montreal was in the 80s.

I know they have always been pretty active in the UK but for me this was quite an event. What a line-up! The English Beat and Bad Manners are two of my favorite bands from my teenage years. The only way I can think of a better line-up is if I had been in the crowd in 1980 during the recording of the Dance Craze album.

To have Chris Murray, my favorite contemporary traditional ska artist as an opening act was more than I could hope for. Chris was as good as ever and although he was alone on stage, his presence rivals that of any 8-piece band. I could tell he was happy that my girlfriend and I were singing along to all of his songs.

Bad Manners
didn’t disappoint either. When Buster came out in his fuzzy leopard suit, I knew instantly that we were in for a great set. All the classics were played and it justified the many miles we had traveled to get there. Between two songs, I overheard a guy next to me say: “He might be a bad singer but he’s one hell of an entertainer!” You could say that…

At this point, everybody was sweating profusely, on stage and off. The place was hotter than a furnace in hell! That didn’t stop The English Beat from giving a stellar performance. I was quite impressed with the new kid on the block, Antonee First Class. He toasted a few of his own compositions and it was well received. The boy has talent.

Aside from the intolerable heat, I was glad to have seen my teenage heroes in a city like Chicago. Next time around, I hope they stop in Montreal. And mister Dave Wakeling, what have you done with my pin? (see April 5 2010 post)

Want to see a few videos of the concert without having to suffer from the heat. Follow these links:

Bad Manners - Sally Brown

Bad Manners - Lip Up Fatty

The English Beat - Hands Off...She's Mine (extended version)