Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Big Bass Man

“Living as a Mod in the 21st century” is the subtitle of this blog. It’s a statement I try to hold myself to. In all honesty, I’ve made a sustained effort of exploring every aspect of the culture since my teenage years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

There is one thing I have never attempted and always regretted not doing when I was younger. I’ve long had this burning desire and pushed it aside for all these years. There’s one thing that needs to be added to my Mod resume.

I thought that before I was going to turn 41, I was going to learn to play a musical instrument!

Most of my friends are talented musicians and I admire them for it. They speak a language that is foreign to me and I’ve always yearned to be part of the inner circle. My good friend Daniel, guitarist for the Chelsea Beat, is one of these well-rounded musicians that are passionate about creating music.

I guess he sensed that I wanted to take the plunge and join the ranks. All I needed was a slight push. Daniel was there to provide it and I thank him for it. But I suspect that he had a hidden agenda for wanting me to pick up an instrument. I believe he has an ulterior motive. I think he wants to start a Soul band. “Built it and they will come”, my new teacher often says.

It all started with a simple email. In it, he told me that he had something that he wanted to talk to me about. Mysterious… He also asked that for the next few weeks, I pick out some of my favorite tunes and that I pay careful attention to the bass line. Without asking why, I followed his instructions.

This is one of the songs I picked out. I always thought that the bass line in Start! from The Jam is quite catchy.

My friend Olivier, a good bass player himself, made me realize that it’s basically the same bass line as Taxman from The Beatles. Well look at that! Maybe I should have a second look at that little British band they call The Beatles.

A couple of weeks later, Daniel invited me over to his place. I had done my homework not knowing what to expect.  After exchanging a few pleasantries and catching up, we moved to his basement. That’s when he handed me his beautiful German made Hoftner club bass guitar. “I’m going to teach you how to play”, is all he said. Daniel is sometimes a man of a few words.

So for the next couple of months, we’ve been meeting once a week in his man cave to jam. Luckily, I have an incredibly patient mentor who’s willing to tough it out until I get to play something that resembles a tune.

I’m at the point where my brain is faster than my fingers. My digits won’t catch up just yet. I often complain that my fingers are “out of breath”. Apparently, that is normal in the beginning. The most encouraging words I’ve heard yet from my master are: “Patrick, you need 3 things to become a good musician. One, a little theory. Two, technique and three, feeling. The good thing is you already have one of the three and that’s feeling. It’s the only part that you can’t really teach someone and it seems to come naturally to you. Playing Soul is 10% technique and 90% feeling.” Wow! He actually believes I can do this! Let’s do it!

So here is my pledge to you, Parka Avenue readers. In exactly a year from now, I will record a little video that I’ll post on this blog showing my progress or the lack thereof. This is the type of incentive I need to push myself.

In the meantime, to give you a small idea of what a beginner’s lesson is like, I’ll let my teacher be the star. With today’s technology, all you need to immortalize a basic bass lesson is an iPhone and an email account. After each visit, I’ll use Daniel’s phone to film my homework for the week and send it by email.


  1. Well Patrick, hats off to you for this dare which is totally within reach, if I can add. I would double dare you: in one year from now, how about playing "Taxman" by the Beatles, in memory of this post and because, well, it rocks!

    But the again, it ain't soul, so not too sure where that suggestion will sit... Oh well. Bonne chance, vieux!

    1. Gauntlet thrown, gauntlet picked-up. How's this. What if I do Start! by The Jam instead?

      Is that acceptable to you my friend?

  2. That is a sweet Hoffner!! I recall Tina Weymouth from The Talking Heads playing on like that back in the day!

    1. I'm always impressed by your knowledge of music.

  3. cool blog. here's mine
    by the way i got my copy of the underworld-go away 45 for ten cents at a thrift store. i even played it one night dj'ing at a club

  4. The Höfner Club bass is a nice instrument, get some flatwound strings on it for extra groove!

  5. the great button badge image stealer of old London townApril 21, 2012 at 6:08 AM

    Well, if Weller can steal a bass line from McCartney (and also from the Supremes in A Town Called Malice), I'm sure that innocently using a picture of button badges resulting from a google image search on the word "mod" is excusable. 21st century modernists need to stick together, rather than wasting everybody's time going on, on every available web forum,about "blog etiquette" (whatever that is). All that was needed was a polite request and it would have been taken down. Now the blog has gone for good. I mean, what is the point in blogging when you encounter that sort of attitude?

    As Oscar put it, "talent borrows, genius steals".

    Good luck with learning to play bass by the way. I'm off to plug in my guitar and play My Generation very, very loud. Guess what, your precious attitude has made one 21st century mod feel as angry as if he was 16 again!

    1. First of all, I totally agree with you when you say that 21st century modernists need to stick together. In fact, I regularly promote other blogs on this very site. Isn't that the exact reason why we should NOT take content from each other? Doesn't that make sense?

      When you do a Google image search, a link is always attached. You are a click away from finding where that image comes from. "Blog etiquette" or not, isn't it simply common courtesy to ask or give credit for taking an image that is not yours?

      Now, I would of kept quiet if the image was used somewhere inside a post to illustrate a point you are trying to make. This is not the case. You used it as the header to your blog! This is your calling card. Don't you want it to be your own?

      Some people don't realize how much effort goes into creating content. For me, photos represent a considerable investment of time and energy, especially because I'm not particularly good at it. I have to be honest, it's frustrating when people take it without thinking twice.

      Maybe, I didn't use the right avenue to make my point. Granted. But there's no way to contact you directly! In my case, you can reach me through Facebook (on the Parka Avenue page or personally), via Twitter, on Flickr, on Tumblr or by email directly on this blog. Believe me, I tried to write to you directly. Heck, you don't even have a name!

      I wish you would reconsider putting your blog back online. We need more people spreading the word and Keeping The Faith, not less. My comment was not meant to make you feel angry.

      I don't think you had any bad intentions when you used the photo but a simple apology would of been appreciated.

  6. OK, point accepted about supporting each other and not taking content from each other. I agree it was laziness on my part, I should have checked. I also accept the point about using the pic as a banner. It just seemed you'd overreacted a little. That's all.

    I'll think again about blogging. I may get involved again once the dust has settled.

    All in all, I'm happy to put this behind us and move on. Is that OK with you? Far better to concentrate on positive issues - like all those great records, films, books out there.


    1. Could not agree more. It takes a big man to admit his mistakes. Let bygones be bygones. If you decide to join the blogging ranks once more, let me know and I'll gladly put a link up on the Parka Avenue Facebook page.

      As a show of support, if you ever make it to this side of the pond, the first round of pints is on me.

      Mods of the World Unite!

  7. Good man. Same goes if you're ever over here. What I do have to say is that the content of your blog is spot on. For example, I have always wanted to visit the Motown museum. Anyway, I'll contact you via Facebook when I'm next on. And I'll start blogging again soon - though I may start a new one, I'll see.

    One small thing. How do you feel about taking down those comments about my using the pic, on Facebook, Twitter etc? Just think it would be best to move on with a clean slate.

    Best wishes

  8. You're a gent.

  9. I'm back - plenty more posts to follow. I'm going to add a list of top blogs when I've a little more content online, of which Parka Avenue will be one.



    1. Now that's a great looking header! Good job mate!

      Long life to A Beat City Diary!