Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, January 24, 2011

Milestones @ the Mod Club

On the 15th of February, I'll be 40. I started to think about where I would want to celebrate the fact that I would be changing decades. I didn't hesitate too long. It had to be at my second home, the Mod Club.

Mod Club veteran Lee Modern graciously accepted to co-host the event so we can make it a night to remember. A few milestones will be underlined. First, we will raise our glass to the fact that I survived the last 40 years. Two, Parka Avenue will celebrate its 1-year anniversary and finally, we'll toast the 4th year of Montreal's only Mod temple, the Mod Club. Lee Modern and myself will be hitting the decks, spinning your favorite sixties grooves, best soulful tracks and a few British Beat classics. 

Since the last  time I dropped the needle at the club, I have discovered a few floor fillers that I'm eager to share. For instance, take this unexpected cover of the garage classic Wild Thing made popular by The Troggs and remade, with a good infusion of sweet soul,  by one of my favorite sixties acts The Capitols

Few know that The Troggs version, released in 1966, is in itself a cover of a Chip Taylor song originally recorded by Jordan Christopher & The Wild Ones, released 6 months earlier. This is one of the rare instances were I think a cover version easily outshines the original, although the harmonica is quite a nice touch. Apparently The Wild Ones record is very rare. Have a listen at the original 1965 version.

In between sets, you will find me doing the Boogaloo on the dance floor or being teased by a few friends about what an old geaser I am. Some of the regular readers of this blog obviously live too far to travel to Montreal to party the night away but you are all still invited.
For those of you who will be there in spirit only, I have something for you. I'll be burning 5 compilation CDs of some the best tracks that will be played that night. All you need to do is send me a quick email at before Febuary 19th and I'll pick five winners out of my pork pie hat and I'll send you a CD. No skill testing questions for this one!
If you ever decide that you want to join us, then put on your dancing shoes and your sharpest threads and let's make this night a... Milestone!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Parka Avenue is 1 year old!

In the blogosphere, 1 year is nothing. So I'm not here to toot my own Fiamm scooter horn. But it is time for me to stop and reflect on the past year. For one, I wasn't sure if I would get this far but I'm glad I did. Judging from the number of readers steadily growing month after month, you can't help but be grateful.

When you write about a subject that people are so passionate about, you simply can't please everyone. When there simply isn't a standard definition of what is "Mod", you are bound to have critics. I don't see it as a point of contention but as a reason to bring a bunch of people with similar taste together, a platform to exchange ideas and form bounds. Besides, I don't pretend to know everything.

What I do know is that what this blog has brought me in the last year, far outweighs any of the negative comments. So when people ask me why I spend so much time and energy on what is basically a very public diary, this is what I tell them. Are you ready to hear the big secret? Parka Avenue is just an excuse to get in touch with amazing people from across the globe. So here you have it my friends, the hepcat is out of the bag!

Some of you I got to meet in person and became friends with. Others I hope to meet one day, a pint in hand. So this post is to thank you all personally.

First, I have to thank Eve Martel. She's the one who inspired and encouraged me to start. She's my soul sister, a veteran blogger and a very successful one at that. She's also responsible for coming up with the great Parka Avenue name.

A big shout out to the Montreal Originals and the Montreal Northern Soul Society: Frank, Steph V-Ginger, Julie, Steve, Charles, Chai, Magdalena, Claude and J-F. You guys always have my back.

A couple of my mates are in front but the rest have my back.

A huge thanks to Andre Desilets and the Skatton Club. You have given us countless hours of great music and entertainment. I am honored to be part of the Skatton Family. As Andre would say: "Dance & Dream my friends!"

A special thank you to Lee Modern, Shareen and Toby from the Mod Club Montreal. You have given me a second home. I truly enjoy every minute I spend with you and appreciate every time you let me behind the turntables.

Lee Modern and Parka Pat
A tip of the pork pie to Kier-La and David from Blue Sunshine, the best alternative movie theatre around. You have unearthed some true 60s gems on film for us. Keep up the great work and I'm looking forward to doing a Parka Avenue / Blue Sunshine collaboration in the near future.

A bump of the fist to the bands Le Chelsea Beat, Kid Sentiment, The Ray and The Outfit. You are keeping the Mod scene alive in Montreal. I see a lot of future nights in your company. I also hope to have many more conversations with Daniel Fiocco, Stephane Courval, Eric Boulanger and Christophe Schmitt. You are true gentlemen.

To Stephane Plante, Michel Alario, Eric Hauser, I see myself being friends with you for a long time. This blog is directly responsible for us meeting. We seem to have so many things in common it's scary. Speaking of this blog being the reason why we met, a warm salutation to Pierre Vaillancourt. Hope to see more of you in 2011. As for Sir Eric Colin, the best Mod DJ in Chicago, I hope I'll get a chance to give you a tour of my fair city sometime this year. To Alex and Scott in Ottawa, I hope I get to see you spin some wax very soon.

To Ben Shulman, my record pimp, you know more at 18 about music then I will ever know in a lifetime. You are responsible for most of the 45s I have in my collection and for my bank account being empty. Keep them coming my friend! Speaking of music oficionados, I enjoy every chance I get to exchange with Fraser Loveman of the 60s group The Modbeats.

Next are my virtual mates that I hope I will get to meet in the flesh one day. First is Ger O'Connell. He has the best scooter collection I have ever seen! We seem to see eye to eye on a lot of things, from scooters to fashion. He's very generous with his time and has helped me on numerous occasions.  A firm salute to Stephen Hughes and the whole Mod Generation community, one of the best Mod sites around. I learn so much from this bunch of dedicated modernists. To Erich from Nashville, we have to continue representing North America proudly.

A raise of the glass to David Smith who has the best Northern Soul, Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae podcast on the net. I never miss a show and you make walking the dog in the freezing Canadian weather an enjoyable experience. I'm sure that Dave will agree that the Twitter Mod Collective also needs an acknowledgement. Keep the faith!

Finaly, to my fellow bloggers, keep up the good work. You are a source of inspiration. For those of you who want to read quality mod friendly blogs, have a look at these.

Wilthomer's Anorak Things - 60's Music, Fashion & Beyond! Well... the title says it all.

Félix's great blog on 60s Quebec Garage. It might be in French but the music clips are universal.

Last but not least, a warm thank you to my Nikki. You have read every single word of this blog and  I appreciate your loving support.

Nikki and Steve behind me, watching my back.
This might of been a long post but it was necessary. I hope the next year will be as fulfilling...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mods and Fred Perry: A long lasting love affair

When I was 16, I had a “clothes allowance”. I don’t remember how much it was in 1987 but it was enough to buy your average, off the rack, big mall, plain clothes. But at least I had freedom. I didn’t need my parent’s approval. I could make my own choices and start to forge my own sense of style. That was a great feeling.

Designer labels were pretty much out of my price range. That was until I got my first job working at McDonald’s after school and on weekends. It might have been minimum wage but at least I could start to afford the clothes that I really wanted. I was bringing home an average of around $120 every two weeks.

This is when I first met Fred. Fred Perry that is! I had seen Jimmy Cooper, in the film Quadrophenia, wearing the classic white, 2 button, pique polo with the blue piping around the sleeves and on the collar. Your classic Fred Perry look, a staple in any mod wardrobe. Quality wear made in England.

The shirt that started it all for me
My first Fred Perry - 1987
Most of you probably came accross the shirt countless times but for a young French Canadian living in Toronto in the 80s, finding a Fred Perry polo was harder than finding the Holy Grail. In 1987, you couldn’t simply Google Fred Perry on your computer. Finding the elusive shirt was more of a treasure hunt. It was thrilling and the reward would be that you had something unique and exclusive.

In the 80’s, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste were the labels you wanted to be seen in. Pastel colors were all the rage and you had to wear your shirt wide open, with your collar up in the air. I went against the tide with my shirt buttoned up and my collar firmly pressed. I didn’t care. I knew I was cool. I was in an army of one. I was a Mod.

I had found two small shops in Toronto who sold a very limited selection of the coveted shirt. One was on Queen Street West. I can't remember the name but that's where you found your basic Mod revival wardrobe.  You had a few Harrington’s, James Jacket's in black and red, your popular Bomber jacket, a rather large selection of Doc Martens and your imported and sought after Fred Perry's. I must have walked in the shop a dozen times to stare at my favorite piece of cloth before I actually bought my first Fred Perry. Today, you will find a store called Modraphelia on Queen Street West but I can't positively say it's the same store.

Another store, that I was aware of, carried the object of my desire. Situated on Yonge Street a few blocks south of Bloor, it was your typical cheap souvenir / concert t-shirt / rock poster / patches and pins shop. For some reason, it had a small section dedicated to really cool Mod clothes. Limited to only a few racks, this is where I also bought my first black gingham Ben Sherman button down. It was also the only place that you could find Carnaby Cavern clothes.

My father and I somewhere in Spain in 1988. I'm wearing my favorite Fred Perry at the time.

From that moment on, I never looked back. Fred has been part of my life ever since. Pieces from the latest collections, Japanese imports, limited edition shirts, special collaborations and 60s original pieces all rub shoulders in my closet.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The restoration of the Lambretta TV175 series 3 begins!

It's official; the Lambretta TV175 s3 has left the dining room for a complete restoration. Let the bleeding of the wallet begin! A friend has graciously accepted to take on the task of bringing it back to its former glory. He's a master of the wrench and a fountain of knowledge when it comes to everything that is Lambretta or Vespa. I think my baby is in good hands.

The customary "before" picture taken the day the scooter was purchased.

After careful consideration, I decided to go for an original stock look with a Mod twist. What is a Mod twist you ask? A few tastefully and minutely chosen authentic accessories will be added. My problem is that I tend to go for the rare and expensive accessories before I take care of the nuts and bolts. But I think I got that covered by having put aside some money for the restoration. The rest of my spending money is to feed my serious accessory addiction. I sometimes need a serious fix of prescription Vigano.

I know that some of you cringe at the thought that I might drill some holes in this surprisingly pristine scooter body but I might as well tell you now, I will. I won't do anything drastic or irreversible but I will add a crashbar here... an embellisher there...

I first had to settle on a color. The Lambretta TV175 series 3 scooters came in 5 colors between 1961 and 1964: Grigio Scuro (Dark Grey), Rosso Corallo (Red Metallic), Giallo Chiaro (Light Yellow), Bianco Nuovo (New White) and Azzurro Met (Light Blue Metallic). Some hidden evidence indicates that my TV used to be an attractive metallic blue. That would make sense since I suspect that the TV is a 1964 and that was the year they made the Lambretta in that color. I still have to research the serial number to confirm the year. A few parts of the scooter like the glove box, filter box, gas tank, flywheel shroud and cylinder shroud were all painted New White. The seat frame and latch were painted gloss black and the front dampers were Fiat Aluminum. So it is settled. Metallic blue it is!

The only part that was missing from the scooter is the ever sought after disk brake. I decided to go with the Scoot RS reproduction. From what I can tell from simply staring at it, it seems to be well-made.  It basically looks exactly like the original. I can't wait until I can actually test it!

Aside from the disk brake, a few other essentials were purchased like a dark blue seat cover from Scooters Originali. The seat looks stunning and seems to be a high quality item.

Of course, I couldn't write this post without mentioning a few accessories I picked up. First is a Lucas Stinger backlight. With a body a bit longer then your usual brake light, it gives it a sporty streamline quality. The lens is what sets it apart from your typical lens. With a red bullet sticking out from the middle of the lens, you can't mistake it with the classic version and it's guaranteed to attract attention.

Joining the Stinger backlight, on what will undoubtedly be a very long list of attractive aftermarket accessories, is a pair of aluminum NOS heel plates from the good folks at Scooter Emporium in London. I will publicly admit it. I love chrome! I love it when it shines. If it wasn't so bloody expensive, I think I would probably dip the whole scooter in chrome. So expect more of the shinny stuff in the coming months.

If you want to see the color options that were available when the Lambretta came out of the factory, have a look at this wacky Italian television ad called the Lambrett Twist. My model is a few years older then the ones featured in the ad.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

11 classic Mod tracks for 2011

I felt honored to be asked by my friend, DJ Lee Modern, to be part of the Magnificent 11 at The Mod Club Montreal on 1-1-11. The concept is pretty simple: eleven Mod DJs, each playing 11 tracks to ring in 2011.
I'm not sure that all the members of this motley crew of DJs spent as much time as I did selecting the 11 tracks that were going to be played that night, but I had a great time tlast week narrowing the choices down. I know that a few of my compatriots simply showed up with a bunch of albums and decided what they wanted to play on the spot. That approach is as valid as any other and the mark of a good DJ is to know how to read a crowd and adapt.

I approached it a bit differently. Since I knew it was going to be the day after the biggest party night of the year and that the place was going to be relatively quiet, I decided to plan every track in advance. I thought to myself: "If I was to going play 11 of my all time favorite Mod tunes, what would they be?"

Well, the task wasn't as easy as I thought. First, I wanted to touch a variety of styles: soul, garage, Mod revival and a couple of French 60s tracks. Second, 45rpm was my medium of choice. Lets do this how it was meant to be! Third, I wanted to play classics with a few elements of surprise hidden in the set.

After much deliberation, I was able to complete the assigned deed and this is what I came up with:

1) Ooh Poo Pah Do - Skip Easterling
2) The In Crowd - Dobie Gray
3) But It's Alright - J. J. Jackson
4) Give Me One More Chance - Wilmer and The Dukes
5) Soul Bossa Nova - Quincy Jones
6) It's a Mod Mod World - Squire
7) Biff Bang Pow - The Creation
8) Till the End of the Day - The Kinks
9) Ça Ne Tient Pas Debout (Whatcha Gonna Do About It) - Les Dinn's
10) Respect - Les Preachers
11) Tainted Love - Gloria Jones

As the first few DJs were doing their set before my turn behind the turntables, I hear But It's Alright being played. Well... there goes one! I had already prepared for the eventuality that it would happen so in came We Got A Thing That's In The Groove by The Capitols.

My set went smoothly and went by way to quickly. The French tracks that I had selected were my two surprises for the evening. First was Les Dinn's doing a cover of The Small Faces hit, Whatcha Gonna Do About It. My friend Michel, who knows a thing or two about French 60s groups, gave this 45 to me. (Thanks again for the gift mate!)

But for some reason, little is known about this French quartet. The copy that I have is a Canadian pressing of the French label Riviera. Aside from that, this is the only photo of the group I'm aware of.

What is interesting is that the original version by the Small Faces was never officially released in Canada as a single. What I love about spinning a song like this one is when people on the dance floor react to the first few bars of the track thinking they are hearing their favorite London group and seeing their expression on their faces when they realize women are singing in French.

Another example of this is Otis Redding's Respect, popularized in 1967 by Aretha Franklin. I found a rare version of the hit performed by Les Preachers, a sixties Quebec group. It might not compare with the original but it's a refreshing take on it.

I decided to finish with something strong and a guaranteed floor filler. Gloria Jones was the perfect choice for the changing of the guards. My friend Eric B. was a great DJ to precede. I knew before he even dropped his first track that I would have a hard time leaving the dance floor.

Here's a little taste of how the DJ switch went.

I'm already looking forward to the next opportunity to man the turntables. It was such a wonderful way to start the new year. Happy New Year to all!