Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mod On The Road - Day 2 - Meeting Fraser Loveman from 60s group The Modbeats

On the second day of our road trip, we woke up in Ste-Catherines, Ontario. A quick stop at the I-Hop and a short hop over a bridge and we were in Niagara Falls. My partner in crime Ben and I were pretty excited to go pay a visit to a true pioneer of the 60s Canadian rock scene, Fraser Loveman, lead singer of The Modbeats. You can read an interview I did with him here.

He had extended an invitation to us into his psychedelic lair full of treasures. Talk about an impressive collection of music! He has amassed, over the years, over 20 000 records all neatly organized. Once the initial shock subsided, I told Ben to pull out a 45 at random and see what we would end up with. Low and behold, he pulled out a Canadian pressing of The High Numbers’ I’m the Face. What are the chances of that happening?

Ben had asked, in a previous conversation, if he had the uber rare 45 from the obscure Canadian 60s Garage group Underworld. Ben had only heard of it and had never seen an actual copy. Of course, Fraser had one. Just seeing DJ Papa Bill mesmerized and salivating over this 7” piece of vinyl had me laughing for 10 minutes, especially when Fraser called him a “poor, sad, little man.”

In fact, laughing is almost the only thing I did for the following 4 hours or so. Just listening to the banter between Fraser and Ben was the most entertaining thing I have heard in a long time. If I wasn’t laughing, my jaw was usually dropped. Fraser showed us some color footage of his band in the early 60s, all dressed in full Mod gear. The go-go dancers, shaking their tasseled mini-dresses perched up high, had me hypnotized. It was IN-CRE-DI-BLE! This was some rare piece of Canadian Mod history I had just witnessed.

The Modbeats circa 1965
One of the lovely Go-Go dancers seen in the video

 Speaking of authentic 60s Mod fashion, Fraser showed me a stunning bespoke olive colored suit he had made back in the day. The slim fit jacket had some great period details like the Mandarin collar  (also known as a Nehru collar) and the covered buttons. It was now my turn to be made fun of for being in awe in front a piece of clothing. 

Tapered leg with frogmouth pocket
Fraser was a tremendously generous host. Aside from a towering pile of records (two of them being signed copies of his 45s) and a couple of magazines, I left with two great items of clothing from The Modbeat’s past. First was a great 60s leather cap that was sometimes known as a Beatle’s cap. 

Next was this cool blue Arrow shirt with contrasting white Mandarin collar. Aside from the fact that I love genuine 60s clothes, especially smart shirts with a contrasting collar, we really bust the coolness scale when you think that this was worn by Fraser himself. I think it’s safe to say that this will stay in my collection.

I not only got to see some incredible memorabilia from the past decades but we got to listen to some amazing music as well. One of the highlights for me was when Fraser pulled out a 3-track test pressing of The Modbeats album. You want to talk rare my friends? The first two demos sounded familiar and eventually made it on the album but the last song was a cover of Walking The Dog

How that song never got released, I have no idea. We also listened to Fraser’s audition tape that was made for Motown. It’s a shame that young white Canadians were not in huge demand at Hitsville.

I knew us meeting Fraser was going to happen eventually. What I didn’t expect was how hard I was going to laugh and how time would fly by so quickly. This is all thanks to a witty, sarcastic, funny and warm individual. Hope to see you again soon Fraser!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mod on the road - Off to Motown - Day 1

What happens when you put two record collecting nuts in a car with a full tank of petrol on spring break? You get a road trip to Detroit, Michigan! I thought it would be a great idea to hit the open road with my Modtreal partner DJ Papa Bill. He might only be 19 but he has been digging for soul records since he was 9. That’s right, you read right. But there’s one place where he has never been and that’s Hitsville, USA. So off we were to go worship the Motown gods at the alter of Soul.

After both of us spent the night spinning some sweet Soul music at the Mod Club in Montreal, we didn’t have a minute to spare so we put the pedal to the metal and hit the highway. Our first stop was going to be Toronto, some seven hours away. Thank you Red Bull for the jolt I needed!

As soon as the sun came up, my co-pilot Ben had a strike of genius and looked for flea markets in the surrounding area on his phone. As luck would have it, we found two on our route, the first one being at the next exit in Courtice, Ontario.

Flea markets are usually hit or miss. If you are patient enough and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can sometimes hit gold for a pocket full of change. In this case, I didn’t find a 2000$ rare Northern Soul record but ended up with some decent, more common 45s at a 1$ apiece. One of my favorites has to be the Senior Soul single on Double Shot. He is known for doing groovy instrumental renditions of soul classics and garage anthems. This one had an amusing cover of Psychotic Reaction originally done by Count Five.

Just before we left we came upon a kiosk selling vintage musical instruments. A vintage 60s Kay guitar caught Ben’s eye. The price tag said 75$. When we inquired about it, we learnt that we had to multiply the price by ten. There was a 0 the size of a Cheerio that sat next to the 5. We still exchanged a few words with the owner but it’s when he said: “Some people just try to Jew me down” that we decided we had enough. Not the thing to say when your friend standing next to you has Shulman for a last name.

Our second stop was at the flea market in Whitby. This place had a few stalls dedicated only to records but the quality was limited. I still managed to leave with a dozen records for less then 10$. I grabbed a double of The Rationals doing a cover of Respect that I’ve always enjoyed.

Toronto was only a few hours away and Kops Records on Queen Street West was our intended destination. This place has always had a good reputation for having a wide selection of soul 45s. The thing is, they do. The downside is that they are a bit on the pricey side. 

The 45 collection found upstairs
Still smiling even after a night of non-stop driving
We intended on spending some serious cash but I ended  up leaving with only 2 singles. I’m happy with this one.

Ben left with one that he has been obsessed with ever since. You can bet that Barbara Lynn - You Can’t Buy My Love will be part of his regular rotation.

As we were leaving, one of the employees at Kops let us know of a record convention that was held in Hamilton, a town a few hours from Toronto. If we didn’t waste any time in the Queen City we would have a couple of hours to spare. So off we were.

The hustle paid off for me because I found a few interesting singles for a very fair price. The late hour probably helped in the negotiations. One was a UK pressing of My Generation by The Who. Nothing out of the ordinary here but I was happy to have Shout And Shimmy as the B-side.

The Canadian pressing I own has Out In The Street as the flip.  I also got an American pressing of Like We Used To Be by Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames released in 1965. This is something you don't come across often in Canada.

Here are a few more I was glad to have put my hands on for a dollar.

Open The Door To Your Heart - Darrell Banks - Revilot
You're A Wonderful One - Marvin Gaye - Tamla Canada
Security - Etta James - Cadet
Bring A Little Lovin' - Los Bravos - Parrot
Working In The Coal Mine - Lee Dorsey - Quality
Pictures of Lilly - The Who - Decca
Ready Steady Who EP - The Who - Reaction

526 kilometers, 2 flea markets, 1 record store, 1 record convention , 4 pancakes and 26 singles bought. This is what I call a good day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Mod in the Making

I just love sweaters that have buttons on the shoulders. They look even smarter if they have mock turtlenecks. There’s something distinctly Mod about them. They look good worn casually with a nice pair of Sta Press and desert boots or you can go for a more formal attire with freshly pressed Farah trousers and Bass weejuns loafers.

Having a fashion sense didn’t come overnight when I turned 16. At a young age, my mother would bring my sister and I to this children’s clothing boutique where they sold high-end clothes. I’m certain that she spent more on clothes for her children then she ever did on herself. Not many of my friends, in the late 70s, would sport exclusive lines imported from Paris. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was pretty fortunate. All I remember is spending countless hours in changing booths.

Ultimately, this is probably where my love for smart clothes came from and specifically my affection for sweaters with buttons on the shoulders. Well, in this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here you have it, a Mod in the making. This class photo was taken in 1979 when I was 8. I think that the fact that I chose this outfit for my yearly class photo, probably with some clever influence from a motherly stylist, says a lot about my burgeoning taste in fashion.

Two years later, in 1982, at the tender age of 10, there I am proudly wearing a similar sweater. My obsession with watches also dates from that year. I remember being pleased that this was the assigned pose because that meant that I was going to show off my watch. I had one of the earliest examples of digital LED technology. It came from Birks, a reputable jeweler here in Montreal and was one of my most valued possessions. A couple years ago, nostalgic for my first watch, I bought a similar vintage Birks model online.

Now, back to the modern world! I’m certainly a man that looks to the past for inspiration but my goal in buying the following articles was not to look like a boy. One of my favorite Mod clothing lines is Madcap England. They don’t have a huge collection, but what they have is worth investigating. Distributed by the online retailer Atom Retro, I can attest to the quality of their knitwear. I only have a minor issue with the Madcap brand. The colors seem to fade after a few washes. If you are looking for a vintage look then this won’t be a problem.

The first one I bought was this blue jumper with the red contrasting buttons and piping around the collar and the cuffs. In my opinion a perfect mix of a contemporary look with a retro touch. Worn with a dark pair of Levis and Clarks desert boots, you are in business.

I usually like to wear this sweater with my Diesel watch that has a red band around the dial or this slick timepiece by Fossil, designed by Philippe Starck.

I really like the next piece. It combines two of my favorite elements: buttons on the shoulder and racing stripes! How can you go wrong with that? With black being the template, it makes the burnt orange, reminiscent of the sixties, pop out. I like to wear this with a pair of black tapered trousers and Chelsea boots. 

As for the watch, I often go for this futuristic looking watch from Tokyoflash or this classic chronograph timepiece from Ben Sherman.

Make sure you have a look at what Atom Retro has to offer but beware, you might end up spending a bit more than you anticipated.