Millions Like Us

Back in another age, the nineteen seventies, there was a feeling among the more perceptive of the teenage population that they were the generation that had missed the sixties, who had reached maturity at just the point when the party was over. The iconography of the time only served as a reminder. Whether it was The Likely Lads on television, or reminiscences of a quickly fading World Cup glory, it was hard not to be reminded of that lost decade. In particular,  a landmark double album, with accompanying picture booklet, brought into focus a particular concept from that era. The  album was The Who's landmark 1973 classic Quadrophenia. The concept was mod.

Many of that teenage generation, with mod in mind, we're waiting for something big to happen, something rebellious, with attitude, streamlined for the street rather than long-haired and dawdling stadium rock. And then, right on time, along came punk.  Bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks were what we had been waiting for, an energetic, dynamic return to a stripped-down aesthetic. They played in small clubs, had short hair and liked reggae. They even covered The Who and The Small Faces. The references were clear enough. One of them - Generation X - was named after an early sixties sociological study of youth. It was, in short, a return to the ethics of mod.

But enough of repeating the regularly told story of punk. What does it have to do with this box set?
The answer is what happened next. The punk flag flew and some of its most celebrated purveyors became icons themselves. At the same time, and more importantly, there was another demographic, the slightly younger kids, the ones from the suburbs, who felt left out in the cold by the evolving punk vanguard.  Those kids formed bands and - arguably spurred on by the example of the new breed's most relevant purveyors, The Jam - made their references to the mod heritage more explicit. In one of those wonderful moments of chance, the emergence of these bands coincided with the release of the film version of Quadrophenia. The result was a fully blown mod revival.

The revival lasted, in one form or another, well into the next decade. The output is documented here. From the early post punk beginnings to the sophisticated underground conclusion. What's clear is that these bands were not "punks in parkas".  These are the kids from the suburbs recounting tales of daily life. The early morning tea and toast and Modesty Blaise in the daily paper.  The anticipation of the weekend and the potential it brought. The days hanging around a small town, the nights seeking out whatever thrills are on offer.

The mod revival bands forged their own identity.  They are represented comprehensively here, from the early trailblazers,  like The Chords, Secret Affair and The Purple Hearts, through to later stylists such as The James Taylor Quartet, The Studio 68 and Makin Time. The vast majority of the great bands are  covered along the way, including The Cigarettes, The Prisoners, The Moment and many more too numerous to list here.

What jumps out from these tunes is the quality in many of these grooves. Right from the outset, the delivery and social commentary chimed with the bands' contemporaries, whether the subject matter was covered in Millions Like Us, Maybe Tomorrow or They're Back Again Here They Come. As mod went underground in the face of the eighties, the new protagonists developed their sound and outlook, whether that was stylishly reworking classic sixties instrumentals like Blow Up or describing modern life in songs like In This Town.

The mod revival bands have never fully been covered before.  As such, this excellent Cherry Red box set fills a significant void.  Complete with sleeve notes about every band and track, it chronicles a unique and diverse youth explosion that sprung up in the late seventies and has continued, in one form or another, ever since. It is the story of the musical output of a generation that had been inspired by the legacy of the original mods. It is well worth a listen.

Sawdust Caesars

If you fancy catching up on your modernist heritage, you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of Tony Beesley's excellent Sawdust Caesars.  It chronicles experiences from "original Mod voices", those who were there at the outset and through the initial heyday in the sixties, through the dispersed scene of the seventies and into the mod revival and beyond.  There are a whole range of anecdotes, which give a wide perspective on the many-textured experiences of modernism.  My favourite has to be section where Terry Rawlings describes his discovery of the Quadrophenia booklet from the original album in 1973 and how those pictures were in a sense his own personal "dead sea scrolls".  It was exactly the way I felt.

You can get a copy of the book from Amazon or via the Facebook page. This book sits with the best of the mod back catalogue, including Richard Barnes' "Mods", Paul "Smiler" Anderson's "Mod The New Religion" and Terry Rawlings' "Mod - A Very British Phenomenon".  If you fancy a late Christmas treat, you could do a lot worse.

French Boutik - Mieux Comme Ca

Back with more Parisien chic come those doyens of Gallic rhythm and soul, French Boutik. Their ep Dans Paris got the thumbs up from connoisseurs last year and this new collection hits the mark just as effectively.

Mieux Comme Ca contains four tunes, each of which resonate with maximum style and finesse. From the opening guitar of the title track, through the harmonies and hammond organ, this is a selection for bona fide movers and shakers around the technicolor world.  Check out the haunting melodies and power chords of End Of The Line, the mood of Spring that emanates from Le Vie En Couleur, the distinctive guitar refrain, piano and vibes of Tiptoes.

There are vocals that remind of Julie Driscoll and Serge Gainsbourg, guitars that would not sound out of place coming from  Revolver or Rubber Soul, a look courtesy of the early films of Jean Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer. If the world out there is dour and grey, these slices of colour add life and hope and sunshine to a barren palate. It may not be Paris in the Springtime right now but that's what's coming through the speakers. Put on this double vinyl package and turn it up.  Loud.

French Boutik comprise Gabriela Giacoman (vocals), Serge Hoffman (vocals and guitar), Jean-Marc-Joannes (bass), Terry Brossard (piano), Zelda Aquil (drums) and Mad Iky (organ and trumpet).  

Mieux Comme Ca was recorded and mixed by Dennis Rux at Yeah!Yeah!Yeah studios in Hamburg and Talent’s River Studios in Paris.  You can buy it from copaseDisques or via their Facebook ordering page.  Also check out their Facebook home page.

And this is the first video from the collection.