Is there dignity in rock and roll when you’re older? The Stones often get mocked, but Chuck Berry is applauded...
I think it’s fine to do it anyway. What else are the Stones gonna do? What else would Keith Richards do? He’s gonna be doing it until he drops down dead, isn’t he? So did John Lee Hooker. All the black American blues artists played until literally the time they dropped, and no-one criticised them for that. If you look at all other cultures - Indian music, African music - their top musicians are all in their seventies or eighties. That’s what they do in life, they play music. It’s only different in pop music because it’s so associated with youth. But anyone can play music, any ages. And the village elders are more respected because that’s what they’ve always done in life, they’ve always played this music, and they have something to impart and pass on. It’s just different because our music is dressed up in the clothes of youth. That’s just the way it is. It’s a commercial thing, it’s a sellable things, and when I’m talking about Indian and African music it is literally something that is passed on culturally. I don’t really see how pop music should be that different from those indigenous folk musics really. Pop music is just modern folk music; it informs us, it entertains us, it’s everything if you’re into it.
I was all set to wax ecstatic about seeing Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at the Warfield last night, but then I learned original Kinks bassist Pete Quaife had passed away a couple days ago. Quaife left the band in 1969, but he's on everything from "You Really Got Me" to "Days." And of course, his bass line is the first thing you hear in magnificent "Sunny Afternoon."
In their prime, the Kinks were a volatile group, due largely to the caustic relationship between brothers Ray and Dave. By all accounts, Pete frequently assumed the role of mediator between the two, and was just an all around good bloke. When he finally left the band for good, it was due to constant disharmony caused by the warring brothers. He was replaced by John Dalton, but the band's golden age effectively ended with his departure. (And yes, Arthur and Lola vs. Powerman are both good albums, but neither are a patch on Face to Face, Something Else or Village Green...)
Quaife had been diagnosed with kidney failure in the late '90s – and guitarist Dave Davies suffered a stroke in 2004 – but Ray Davies had been discussing the possibility of a reunion for the last couple years. I wouldn't walk across the street to see Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey perform their Who tribute, but seeing the original Kinks on stage again was one of my fondest wishes...
Was there ever a cooler looking band than The Style Council? When I was 16, I viewed Paul Weller as the absolute epitome of cool, and despite his success over the years, I don't think he has ever looked better than he did circa '83-'84...
Carrying on from yesterday's post about the Ivy League look adopted by Dexy's Midnight Runners for Don't Stand Me Down, here's a fantastic essay on Ivy by veteran fashion journalist G. Bruce Boyer. Originally published in 2006 on Scott Schuman's fashion blog, The Sartorialist, it's still one of my favorite pieces of writing on the subject.
A Curmudgeon’s Lament, or Musings of an Old Ivy Leaguer
G. Bruce Boyer
When I was growing up back in the late 1950s, the matter of dress for young men was relatively simple. When a boy reached adolescence he would put away much of his childhood wardrobe -- whatever that might have been -- and begin to wear a basic outfit that would see him through the college years and beyond. It was a time before the designer revolution in menswear, before the Ralph Laurens and Versaces, the Armanis and Paul Smiths, the Dolces and the Gabannas. A simpler time.
It was a time when there were basically three types of clothing stores. There was of course the traditional store for the traditional American business look: conservatively cut suits, safe shirts (the majority of which were white, with one or two collar styles), and discreet foulard or striped neckwear. Then there was the somewhat “sharper” store, a more courant version of the trad store, more upscale, hipper, more for the man who was known for caring about style. In the late ‘50s this store took on a bit of European flair. The clothing was called “Continental”, meaning Italian, to distinguish it from British. There had been a tradition of British clothing here, but the Italian thing was new.
Finally there was the Ivy League shop.
Called "Ivy League" or “campus” shop because the style had originated, evolved, and took it's strength from the prestigious Eastern Establishment universities. After World War II young men of growing middle class means attended these institutions of higher learning in droves on the G.I. Bill of economic assistance. What they found was that they could construct a basic campus wardrobe without a great deal of money and effort. There was high serviceability and low maintenance to the college wardrobe of the day.
The basic items were the oxford cloth buttondown shirt and cotton twill khaki trousers. Six shirts, three white and three blue, and two or three pair of khakis would do the job. In cooler weather, a Shetland crewneck sweater in any color was added. A pair of brown penny loafers and white tennis sneakers (possibly a pair of white or tan buckskin oxfords) constituted the acceptable range of footwear.
For outerwear, a cotton gabardine balmacaan raincoat (always tan), and a stout duffel coat (in tan or navy) were all that were needed, although many men also had a cotton gab golf jacket, also in tan. Mountain climbing parkas, safari jackets, trout fishing coats, barn coats, and equestrian slickers were all thought of as exotic sportswear.
Everyone had a tweed sports jacket (Harris or Shetland) and/or a navy single-breasted blazer for semi-dress, and a gray flannel suit for dress. Summer semi-formality was assured with a seersucker or tan poplin suit; some had madras sports jackets; for the more formal occasions a dark Grey or navy tropical worsted suit. A half-dozen ties (regimentals, foulards, or dots), and the necessary complement of underwear, socks, pajamas, and handkerchiefs filled out the basics.
Cut, fit, and quality were what was important. If it was all properly fitted, of the acceptable cut, and made well, these items would do a young man proud, no matter where he was going, or what the occasion, from a faculty tea to a classy dance.
And it wasn’t a matter of being simply less sophisticated either. There were intricacies of cut and quality to these basic garments that belied their straight-forwardness. Good jackets, for example, were always three-button and natural-shouldered, softly constructed in the chest and cut on the easy side. Lapels extended about a third of the way to the shoulder line, and aficionados were quick to note the hook vent in the rear. Trousers were also cut easy, just this side of baggy. Everything, needless to say, shouldn't look too new. Quality used to imply longevity in those days. Raincoats, khakis, shoes, and tweeds were all expected to be slightly scuffed and rumpled. A soft patina of age was desirable, and total effect should be rather a studied nonchalance. An old money sprezzatura was the style.
Those dozen garments or so weren't the be-all and end-all, of course. There were myriad other attractions for the dandies amongst us. Silk knit ties (plain black or navy was best, with square-cut ends) and paisley pocket squares, odd flannel trousers, broadcloth tab-collar shirts, cordovan brogues and scotchgrain wingtips, navy worsted pinstripes with vests, white duck trousers for summer, and lambswool turtlenecks for winter. The sophisticated young man may have splurged for a camelhair polo coat. Everyone seemed to have colorfully striped surcingle belts with brass horseshoe-shaped buckles. And the brightest Argyle socks.
For most, the subtleties of double-breasted jackets and grenadine neckwear, of suede town shoes, enameled cuff links, covert cloth chesterfields, and cashmere cabled hosiery were not imaginable. But then neither were exterior logos, Italian designers, or microfibers.
There also didn’t seem to be the questions of what to wear when. We certainly knew when the occasion called for a tie, and gym clothes were confined to the gym.
From Dexy's Midnight Runners' finest album, the incomparable Don't Stand Me Down: the full-length promo for "This is What She's Like."
I don't know if this was ever shown on MTV in the US when it was first released. If so, I can't imagine what the reaction was to Kevin Rowland and Billy Adams chatting away in their Brooks Brothers finery, especially considering the gear Kev was decked out in when "Come On Eileen" was topping international charts in 1983. Filmed in 1985, this was the first glimpse of the new look Dexy's, and in a year dominated by the likes of Tears For Fears and Wham!, it was a look that stood out. (Something hilariously underscored in the video itself, around the 2:10 mark, when we first see the backing band accompanying Rowland, Billy Adams and Helen O'Hara.)
Rowland later explained that the band's foray into Ivy style was prompted by his recollections of what he termed the "great lost look" of the late '60s, a look that evolved out of then-current Skinhead style and drew heavily from America's Ivy League.
Whatever the case, for me it remains Rowland's sartorial high water mark, and even given the many, many strange things committed to film in the name of marketing pop music during the 1980s, the sheer audacity of this video ranks it amongst the most bizarre...
They came, they rocked, they called it a day a bit later than they probably should've.
My top 10 favorite Supergrass songs:
1. "Late in the Day" (In it for the Money, 1997) 2. "Sad Girl" (Road to Rouen, 2005) 3. "Richard III" (In it for the Money, 1997) 4. "Mansize Rooster" (I Should Coco, 1995) 5. "Going Out" (In it for the Money, 1997) 6. "Sitting Up Straight" (I Should Coco, 1995) 7. "Mary" (Supergrass, 1999) 8. "Nothing More's Gonna Get in My Way" (single b-side, "Richard III," 1997) 9. "Melanie Davis" (single b-side, "Going Out," 1996) 10. "Seen the Light" (Life On Other Planets, 2002)
AMC's critically acclaimed series Mad Men returns for a fourth season on Sunday, July 25th and it looks like there are already some photos circulating. Or "photo," really, because it's just this one of Pete, Don and Roger that, honestly, could have been taken at all most any point in the last three seasons. These are exciting times we live in, aren't they?
AMC is slowly releasing photos from the upcoming adaptation of Robert Kirkman's Image Comics series The Walking Dead, and if the attention to grizzly detail they're lavishing on the zombies is any indication, this show is going to be amazing.
Everyone knows who MGMT is so they're not all that new, but something everybody may not be aware of is this awesome performance they did for "Live on Letterman" this past May, highlighting their amazing new album Congratulations...
The Len Price 3 aren't all that "new" – latest album Pictures is their third time to the rodeo, after all – but if you haven't given their stripped down sound a listen before, they're new to you. And if you like The Who, The Jam, The Kinks or The Prisoners, you'll be aghast you hadn't made the acquaintance of these garage rock gods sooner...
On the evidence of songs like "All I Wanna Do" and "Let it Slip," it probably wouldn't be out of line to simply recommend Cardiff band The School as the Welsh Camera Obscura. On closer inspection, though, The School actually owe a greater debt to the classics of the '60s than Scottish indie pop of a more recent vintage. Motown, The Beach Boys, The Left Banke and Phil Spector's girl groups all get equal time on the recently released debut, putting them in the same company as bands like The Concretes, The Pipettes and Lucky Soul. "I Love Everything" evokes The Beatles doing Buddy Holly and there's even a nod to Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" on "Is He Really Coming Home?" making Loveless Unbeliever a sublime slice of summery pop that gets its hooks in deeper with each listen.
So, following on from yesterday's Lucky Soul post, I think this week is going to be entirely devoted to new (or relatively new, anyway) music that deserves a wider audience.
Today: Theoretical Girl. 2009 debut Divided showcased a few different style, effortlessly switching between folk, chamber pop and '80s-esque electronica to somehow create a sound all its own. Vocally, there are nods to everyone from Kate Bush to Morrissey to Nico to Kirsty MacColl. A new album is purportedly in the works, but this one remains a sheer pop thrill from start to finish.
A bit late to the party on this one, but Lucky Soul are a British group making '60s inflected pop that recalls both vintage Cardigans and Saint Etienne, thanks in no small part to their fetching lead singer Ali Howard. Their debut album, The Great Unwanted, was released right around the time Duffy was making her big splash, and while Rockferry remains a firm fave 'round these parts, it's nothing short of a crime some of that success didn't rub off on Lucky Soul. (See also: Candie Payne)
Lucky Soul's latest longplayer, A Coming of Age, is out now. And it's fab.
10 albums in, Neil Hannon is still producing the same clever, tuneful pop that made The Divine Comedy a rather surprising success during the mid-to-late '90s. Even after a four-year break (punctuated by collaborations with Air and Pugwash, contributions to a Doctor Who soundtrack and a cricket themed album under the name The Duckworth Lewis Method), Hannon remains in the finest of form.
Bang Goes the Knighthood take a few listens to fully reveal itself, but once it does, prepare to be sucked in by a set of songs that at times sounds like the words of Ray Davies sung by Scott Walker. From Davies, Hannon has inherited the keen observational eye that allows him to populate his songs with characters that seem well-rounded and real, even within the confines of tracks that clock in around or under three minutes. So, over the course of the album, we get to meet to a clueless indie kid unable to connect with the girl of his dreams, despite their shared musical interests ("At the Indie Disco"), an architecture-admiring group of day trippers ("Assume the Perpendicular"), a banker unashamed of all the havoc and ill-will his insatiable greed has wrought ("The Complete Banker") and a masochistic aristocrat with a high level of self-awareness (the title track). Perhaps the album's most poignant character study, though, comes in album opener "Down in the Streets Below," as Hannon deftly compares and contrasts the weariness of marriage with the single life.
The album really only goes awry when Hannon indulges his sense of whimsy on the throwaway "Can You Stand Upon One Leg." It sounds like a children's song and sits uncomfortably between the heartfelt soul searching of "When a Man Cries" and the exuberant declaration of physical attraction on the stomping "I Like." Songwriting social satirists as consistently brilliant as Hannon are allowed the occasional misstep, though, and that one aside, Bang Goes the Knighthood is possibly the most rewarding Divine Comedy album since Casanova.