One particular interview, however, deserves special mention. I had seen pictures of an exhibition entitled "The New Faces" on Modculture. They were impressive, there's no question about that. But I hadn't heard the more detailed story behind them. That was to be put right by the Modcast in question, with photographer Dean Chalkley, the auteur behind the short film of the same name.
The film can be found at SHOWstudio and the description is as follows:
Focusing on the sartorial passion and commitment of young British Mods in the twenty-first century, 'The New Faces' is a documentary showcasing the continuing popularity of the sixties-born youth cult. A study of eight Mods bound together by a shared passion for smart dressing, rare soul, socialising and dancing, this film short is directed by photographer and filmmaker Dean Chalkley.
What's clear from the outset is that the subjects of the film are at top sartorial end of the modernist spectrum. They quote the simplicity of Ozwald Boeteng and enthuse about Claudio De Rossi at DNA Groove. And they look the part, right down to their inch wide ties.
The attitude of the protagonists is an eclectic one. There is talk about mod being a personal passion, that develops from within, and of picking up bargains in charity shops. Then there is the shared love of music, especially northern soul.
Chalkley has created a small piece of social history, one that will be used as a reference point in years to come. In a sense, it is a time capsule, portraying the essence of a moment, in the same way as Absolute Beginners, Mark Feld's interview for Town magazine and Bronco Bullfrog.
It stuck in my mind for the rest of the day, kept me thinking about the visuals and what had been said. It struck me that modernism is wonderfully diverse. Maybe it always has been. Not everyone will agree with what is said here and, in a double dip recession, many will not be able to afford the bespoke tailoring. But, in a sense, that doesn't matter. There is no correct way to "do" modernism. There never has been. It's all so individualist.
This short film will inspire. There will be clued up kids out there who will see these boys (rightly) as examples to aspire towards. They will visit charity shops, save up for clothing they can't afford, search out old northern soul tunes. In doing so, they will create their own scenes, with their own logic and impetus, as well as their own individual approaches to all things modernist. And that's how the whole thing continues to evolve. In fact, there are no doubt some doing exactly that right now, who have taken an influence from the film and are moving in their own unique direction. And, if that happens to be the case, this excellent film will have played it's part in the ongoing, evolving modernist process.
The Strypes wear authenticity in their sleeve. Check the polo neck sweaters and those haircuts. And it's made even more authentic on the video for You Can't Do That when you get a brief glimpse of their footwear, Converse All Stars, the one element that tells you it's 2012 and not 1964. They're the trainers they'll wear on the streets, with their mates, hanging round record shops and cafes on a Saturday afternoon. It's a moment of imperfection that somehow makes the whole more perfect.
And they're not that young anyway. They're only a year or two younger than than the likes of Lennon, Townshend and Weller were when they were recording the best of their early music. Perhaps it's just that the rest of us are getting older.
Whatever, they're ace. Listen and enjoy.
I found all this out on this excellent website called 60's Garage Bands. It's a site I will be checking out regularly.
Of course, it doesn't actually matter who The Benders were, where they came from or who was in the band. I came across this by accident and the only thing that struck me was what a brilliant record it is, how raw, how in your face, how much energy there is. That I just needed to turn it up loud and let those distorted guitars and that voice get inside my consciousness. And then I realised, like so many times before, that this is what makes rock and roll so amazing - you can think you've heard it all and then an obscure band from long ago comes along and totally blows you away, so that you feel like you did when you first heard My Generation all those years ago.
And then it hit me that they looked as cool as hell. Which is what really counts, of course.
The novel has now been given the big screen treatment. Outside Bet stars Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter, Rita Tushingham, Philip Davis - legends of British cinema in other words. Along with younger actors, such as Emily Atack (The Inbetweeners) and Calum MacNab (The Football Factory).
It's a film that looks very promising indeed and is being greeted with not a little excitement from those in the know. It's out on Friday. This is the trailer:
Fast forward to now and he's just released a new single. "Best Of Days", with Wesley Doyle,on vocals, is a quality, upbeat tune. And very danceable. And it's available on iTunes now.
I've still got my old, battered copy of Electric Warrior by T Rex. It was the first album I owned and, as such, has an important personal significance. In my view, it captures Marc Bolan at his artistic peak, when lyrics were strange and interesting and the music had a hard edge that appealed to rock and roll afficionados as well mainstream pop pickers. In short, Bolan was the coolest thing on the planet in those days. And when Electric Warrior was released he was emerging from the hippy fringes into the spotlight of media and adolescent attention.
Tunes like Mambo Sun, Cosmic Dancer and Planet Queen were classics which sit neatly alongside the more well known tunes, Get It On and Jeepster, which adorn the album. They demonstrate fully that there was more to Marc Bolan than the records that hit the top five. Not that there was anything wrong with those classics, of course.
It is pleasing to see that Electric Warrior has been given the Deluxe treatment, all of which include rarities, b-sides, outtakes. There are a variety of options available, from the box set (including DVD, poster, collectibles) to the single cd.
Details are here:
All in all, the album still sounds as fresh as always. And I've always said that you can see true genius by the quality of an artist's b-sides. To put Life's A Gas on the flip of Jeepster shows true belief, an intimate and unflinching confidence in your music and star quality.
This is Life's A Gas:
Illegal Notes have been a band worth keeping an eye on for a while. Frontman Charlie Phelps has written some quality tunes both with his current band and, prior to that, with The Reaction. One tune to especially look out for is Twisted Beginnings, which they released a while back.
Now they've gone one better and produced what is perhaps their best tune yet. Soho Junkie is an infectious, dirty little tune with lyrics that exude sleaze and a guitar part that just drags you in. It's a little bit glam, a little bit indie and a little bit mod. And I love it.
What's more, they're making the demo available as a free download.
Here is their Facebook page and the link:
It was certainly an interesting insight into early seventies Britain. There was an in depth look at cultural changes, especially the growth among the lower middle and working class of home ownership and foreign holidays. And plenty on the politics of the time - from Ted Heath, to the miners strike of 1972 and entry into what was then known as the Common Market.
I do wonder, however, whether the changes all had their roots in the seventies. The aspirational and bohemian trends would seem to have started in the sixties, or earlier. The narrator in Colin MacInnes classic 1958 (published 1959) novel Absolute Beginners would have hated the conformity of the new housing estates that were springing up (see Bob and Thelma's home in The Likely Lads from 1973 or Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party from 1979) but he would have recognised the aspirations towards escaping from working class roots and towards a sharp, clean modernity.
It was good to see David Bowie and Marc Bolan covered extensively, as well as their teenage fanbase. Watching the kids, in the latest fashion and with their cutting edge haircuts, made me think that the whole modernist outlook reinvents itself. Constantly. There was a clip of a group of fans walking along when Sandbrook was talking anout Bolan. How they strutted, the way they looked, the attitude. They could have been mods.
This one's well worth a listen and a download. Former Makin' Time vocalist Fay Hallam has recorded an album - Lost In Sound - with multi-instrumentalist The Bongolian (Nasser Bouzida). The album's not out until May. But, as a taster, they've released a single, Dancing, which is rather impressive, complete with an infectious Hammond sound. What's more, you can, for a limited period, download the single here.
Final episode of White Heat and the story is brought up to date. It was brilliant, moving, sad, yet uplifting at the same time. There were surprises, shocks, revelations. I had wondered whether using two sets of actors for the earlier and later scenes would detract from the overall effect. It didn't. The flashback technique overcame that issue and it worked perfectly. Best thing on television I've seen for a while.
Watched the fifth episode of White Heat. Its 1982 and the Falklands campagn is gathering pace. Jack the public school proto-new Labourite is doing cold turkey, Lilly has big ideas and Charlotte's love life is in usual turmoil.
This is proving to be a gripping, tantalising series. We still don't know who is the reason for the flatmates visit to the flat, although there is a strong implication. I have a feeling there is a surprise in store on that point but it would be so like the series to draw you in and then let it turn out that your initial assumption was right all along.
And what of the politics? The trailer for next week implies that someone is about to revert to type and follow the party of his ancestors.
Claire Foy gives the standout performance as Charlotte. But, equally worthy of mention is Jeremy Northam, as Jack's father. For my money, easily the most sympathetic character.
Watched the Old Grey Whistle Test compilation on BBC4 last night. Various luminaries, obscure and not quite as obscure. New York Dolls, Captain Beefheart, Johnny Winters. The Jam, The Specials, Patti Smith. Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight, The Wailers. Among many, many more.
What struck me was how conservative most music, and society in general, is today, in comparison. My initial reaction was to ask where are the new radicals.
Then I reminded myself. As if I needed to. There are some great radical bands out there, mainly the underground ones. Bands like Likely Lads, Wideboy Generation, Lost Boys. They are the bands to shout about. They are the ones to make the great tunes of tomorrow.