Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Building a Mod retreat

What do you do when you love to collect mid-century modern furniture but you don’t have spare space to put it? It’s simple. You build a mezzanine!

Since the first time I laid eyes on the building plans when I bought my loft on paper five years ago, I knew that one day I was going to add a mezzanine. With 14' high ceilings, it’s a shame not to take advantage of the vertical space.

More easily said then done, you need a vision, a healthy bank account and a trusty contractor. Luckily, the last two came in the form of an amazing family. My wife’s parents and my own parents teamed up to offer us a generous wedding present. 

First, define the space and frame it.
This will be the future reading and listening corner situated above the loft's entrance.
The futur bedroom

I can’t thank my father enough for spending the better part of 3 weeks turning my vision into reality. He not only provided skilled labor and a detailed plan, worthy of a seasoned architect, but also transmitted his passion for work well done and attention to detail.  If only I was this talented! It was equally pleasant to have my father-in-law join us on the weekends to lend a helping hand. 

My father on the left and my father-in-law hard at work
Built almost entirely of cedar, I thought it would match perfectly the existing 100-year-old columns. To add that modern look, some glass blocks made up part of the guardrail. 

Glass blocks were used only for part of the wall. One reason why is that they are bloody expensive. Plus, they are hard to displace if you need to move large pieces of furniture upstairs. So a section of the guardrail was built using industrial steal tubing and wooden posts. This gives the part of the mezzanine with less direct sunlight more light. 

One section of the rail’s tubing is slightly smaller in diameter then the next so that one can slide into the other. One of the posts can also be easily removed which leaves a large opening.

An engineered wood floor was chosen for it’s practical and economical advantages.

Elegant cedar planks were used for the ceiling of the first level to mimic the factory's original mill-floor ceiling.

What I think is the most impressive part about the design my father came up with for building the upper level is that nothing is permanent. Although the structure is very sturdy and solid, it’s the equivalent of a giant painting hanging from the wall. Every piece of wood is screwed in so if a future buyer doesn’t appreciate the extra room, it could all be taken down easily.

I would never paint wearing a Fred Perry but doing it in a Lacoste is acceptable.

Mezzanines are most often used as bedrooms and we won’t break with tradition this time. With the ceiling less than 5’ over your head, your options are limited. One area will be used as a reading and listening corner. A Space Age, Mod decor is in the works. Only 60s vintage furniture and accessories will be part of the landscape. This is when the fun begins for me! Picture Eames, Saarinen, and Panton for a mental image. Small halogen spotlights were also added under that section to add much needed light to the loft’s entrance. 

The bed's new home.

All that planning freed up space in the former bedroom to organize a proper office. I’m working on an antique industrial look that is the new trend in lofts and seem to be all the rage in Europe. Expect a future post on the design of the new office.

A huge thank you to my whole family for all their support. In the coming weeks, get ready for the more interesting part: the decorating. Now, that’s MY domain!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top Ten Garage Parka Avenue favorites

Coming up with only 10 Garage records as my favorite purchases for 2011 was quite a challenge. Just like in the previous post, I acquired those precious little vinyl discs from a variety of sources: the Internet, friends, shops, record conventions, my travels, etc. I have to say that I’m not big on compilations. The Pebbles, Nuggets and Back From The Grave compilations might be a great way to discover those forgotten gems but I rather simply stumble upon them by accident. This is the case for most of the 10 tracks that follow.

1) 1-2-5 – The Haunted – Quality

This is the score of the year. This sought-after Garage classic from my hometown of Montreal was found in near mint condition at a flea market for a mere 2$. The seller told me it came from a jukebox. From what I can see, it wasn’t very popular. The first pressing of the single has the band's name misprinted as The Hunted. Surprisingly, the correctly labelled record is now harder to find.

2) I Need You Baby - The Bohemians – Blue Jeans

The Bohemians were another local band that have been known to open for The Haunted. Only 500 copies were pressed of their only single with 100 copies going to friends and family. It might be in a bit of a rough shape but it’s very hard to find and well worth the dollar I paid for it. If you ever come across a record on the Canadian Blue Jean record label, just buy it.

3) Crazy Things – The Quid

The hunt for rare Canadian Garage 45s has definitely been good this year. Case in point, this group from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I sometimes forget how much good stuff has come out of this country.

4) Who Dat – The Jury - Port

I have to thank my Record Pimp Ben for this one. This is a rare example of an American pressing of another smashing band from Winnipeg. You want fuzz? You got fuzz!

5) Give Me Lovin’ – Great Scots – Epic

Why stop now with the Canadian 60s scene? I have to thank my friend Felix for selling me this prestine example of this 45 from a band from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

6) Just a Little Bit of Oh Yeah – Martin Martin – RCA Victor

Yet  another example of Canadian talent with this French Quebec artist. He was also known as Martin Hill, Billy and Billy Blue. There is also a very rare version of this song in French. If you are fluent in French, have a look at my friend Felix’s great blog post about this elusive man.

7) She’s Mine - The Children of Darkness – Royce

This made a bit of a dent in the wallet but I have no regrets because this is a real 2-sider. In fact, the B-side is my favorite. How can you not love a song titled Sugar Shack A Go-Go? It reminds me of home.

8) Hay Girl – Chyld –  Warner Bros.

To continue with the children theme, this is another killer 2-sider from this Ohio band. I was very glad to put my hands on this perfect promo copy.

9) Stop And Listen - The Shag – Capitol

This 1967 stomping, fuzz infused Garage goodness is said to be one of the first anti-drug rock songs to be recorded. All I know is that I'm ready for another dose of The Shag!

 10) Don’t Want To Cry – The Buckinghams

This is the Chicago based band's second single, released in 1966.  A lot harder to find then their first hit Kind of a Drag and definitely one of their best.  This baby came from my buddy record collector and DJ extraordinaire Ty Jesso. Thank you brother!

The pickin’ Gods were good to me last year. Let’s just hope 2012 is half as good as 2011 was.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Top Ten Northern Soul and RnB Parka Avenue favorites

2011 has been a busy year on the record-collecting front. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some great cities to go crate diggin’. Chicago, Memphis, Boston and Miami have served me well.

My own city was also generous in offering some real nuggets thanks in part to some great record shops and flea markets but most notably because of my friend Ben Shulman who I affectionately call my “Record Pimp”. This kid is a record pickin’ god. He knows more about 60s music at 19 that I will know in a lifetime. I’m glad that he considers me his number one customer.

Swaps amongst fellow DJs, the ever-present eBay were also a great source for searching those missing gems from my expending 45 collection.

So here is my top ten list of my favorite Northern Soul and RnB singles I have acquired throughout the year. Some are rare while others are classics. A few I paid top dollars for but most were less then 20$. You'll notice that most of those songs have been club classics since the 60s, but there are a bunch that are not . They are definitely worth a closer look, having the potential to become part of the circuit. They all have 2 things in common. They all came out in the 60s and they can pack a dance floor!

The titles are listed  in no particular order.

1) Knick Knack Patty Wack – Lou Lawton – Wand

This is one example of a single I was ready to part my hard earned cash for and it was worth every penny. I already had Wrapped in a Dream from this Savannah, Georgia singer but this is the single to have.


2) I’m the Man – Chris Jones – Goodie Train

I found a mint example of this funk masterpiece at a local record shop. Chris Jones can go toe to toe against James Brown anytime with this tune. Why? Because he’s the man!

3) Clap Your Hands – Memphis Slim - Fontana

I dare you not to clap your hands on this one. Interesting fact, the backing band on this record is Les Lionceaux, a French group that recorded a lot of covers in the 60s.

4) Rubberneckin’ - Elvis Presley – RCA Victor

This is the only song by Elvis that can be labeled as Northern Soul. Why it wasn’t more popular? I have no idea. It’s the perfect track to get a crowd going.

5) Landslide – Tony Clarke - Chess

This Northern Soul staple is readily available as a UK pressing. The original US single is getting harder to find. Thank you eBay for this one!

6) You Shot Me (Trough the Grease)  – Georgia Soul Twisters - Mainstream

I knew nothing about this group when I picked it up at my friendly neighborhood record shop. And I’m still clueless to this day! All I know is that it’s damn good! I can’t believe nobody snatched it up before me.

7) Find My Baby – The African Beavers – RCA Victor

With a name like The African Beavers you would expect a great Garage band, right? Not so! Little is known about the group and this up-tempo early gritty RnB track. The song is credited to Wayman Glasco better know as blues great Buster Brown.

 8) My Baby Likes To Boogaloo – Don Gardner – Tru-Glow-Town

This tune will grab you instantly with its powerful guitar lick. Everything is great about this song: the guitar, the horns, the organ, the crazy drums, Don Gardner’s wailing voice, EVERYTHING!

 9) That Thang - Buddy Lucas – Mohawk

I don’t have much info on mister Lucas but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to jump up and move every time I hear this! It has a great little Latin feel to it that is undeniably infectious.

10) Hit & Run – Rose Batiste – Revilot

As I was rounding up my top ten, I realized that I had no female singers. Let’s rectify this right now with this classic Northern Soul dancer by Detroit native Rose Batiste. It’s a shame that this talented singer didn’t make it big.

Next post: my top ten favorite Garage record purchases of 2011.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Search for Northern Soul and Garage Records in Miami

It seems like I was a good husband during our 10-day honeymoon because on the day of our departure I got an hour off for good behavior. Thank you dear! So I spent this time wisely and it was in a record shop of all places.

Record shops aren’t around every corner in Miami so it’s a good thing they have Today & Yesterday Records. Situated at 9274 S.W. 40 ST, you’ll most likely need a car (or a scooter!) to get there. 

What makes this place a worthwhile stop isn’t necessarily it’s abundance of 45s in stock but more the very reasonable prices and the friendly and knowledgeable owner. The shop is immaculate and very well organized. It’s the perfect remedy for the man on his honeymoon that doesn’t have a minute to spare. Did I forget to thank my lovely wife?

A varied selection of LPs are up for grabs but I hit the 45 section right away. The 7” are housed in filing cabinets at the back of the store. A bunch of drawers are packed with your variety of commercial 60s and 70s tracks. Newer releases and reprints are also available. All neatly placed in alphabetical order, I skipped the well-known artists and concentrated my research on the miscellaneous sections. Every once in a while, you’ll come across something worth a second glance.

I always expect to find records of local artists, on hometown record labels during my travels but I’ve come to realize that every tourist like myself wants the same thing. In the end, you have as much a chance of finding these records in your own city. Case in point, I ended up buying a 45 from the Canadian Garage group Mashmakhan. Go figure…

Don’t go looking for that box of rare and expensive singles hidden behind the counter. There simply isn’t one. What you see is what you get. I did come across some interesting labels I hadn’t seen before but I was disappointed to learn, after a quick listen, that most of them were country songs.

I did come across a couple of captivating ska and rocksteady tracks like this classic one by The Slickers.

I also picked up this low down and dirty early R&B, bluesy number by Buster Brown.

I couldn't leave without some latin-funk from a group named Coke. You have to admit that when you pick up a record by a group with a name like Coke on a record label like Sound Triangle you would  expect some trippy psych, right? Not so my firends!

The find of the day came in the form of a Garage 45 from the K-Otics. Double Shot  is the catchy A-side. The surprise was when I listened to the B-side. What a revelation! Wow! It’s ten times better! I don’t always listen to the flip side and maybe I should. Let this be a lesson.  Hum...I wonder if The Kinks were an influence? What do you think?

All in all, it was worth the detour. And if you have extra time on your hand, make sure to visit the Cuban eatery next door for mouth watering authentic cuisine. This is what awaits you…

Iron Beer. New to me and worth seeking out.
So long Miami!