I’ve loved the song “Jet Fighter” by The Three O’Clock since I first heard it on college radio in the eighties, so it’s ridiculous that I’ve never come across this music video until today!
The song is a masterpiece of catchy power-bubblegum-psych chord changes, with an organ part that has always reminded me of Cheap Trick for some reason. It defined the “Paisley Underground” sound, a term singer/bassist Michael Quercio coined to describe the short-lived scene that also included The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Game Theory, and the Bangles.
The video wasn’t shot on a Duran Duran budget, but it’s pretty ambitious for a new-ish band on a small indie label. It’s pretty ludicrous, like most music videos of the era (and today!), mixing footage of a child obsessed with planes, the band in various cockpits, smoke machines, cheesy camera tricks, a diner video game, and a lot of stock footage. But 3/4 of the way in, the protagonist (is it Quercio?) leaves the diner, writes “For Sale” on the window of his Jeep, and hops on a Lambretta. As he races towards the airport, a couple dozen others join him, and the final quarter of the video is packed with mod scooters riding around eighties Los Angeles.
There are a couple YouTube comments from folks that were extras in the video, and I found this facebook post with a photo from the shoot, so I’ll follow up with them, but if you were there, I’d love to hear more about the shoot, get in touch!
Today I accidentally clicked on a folder of bookmarks containing my “daily feed” of scooter blogs, boards, and groups from about twelve years ago, when 2strokebuzz was going strong. Faced with 60 open tabs, I thought it’d be fun to tally how many of those sites were still live. The results:
Half (mostly blogs, including some “official” Vespa blogs) are long gone. A few (mostly European shops and industry sites and groups like Modern Buddy and Modern Vespa) are still going strong. A bunch are frozen in time in the late 2010s (like the beloved scoot.net), or changed topics (usually “my new baby” or “my new motorcycle”) and fizzled out anyway. Only three are like this one… still around, with an occasional update.
What’s it mean? Well, nothing much. I guess the biggest bummer is that blogging is dead. It was fun while it lasted, but it got too commercial and competitive and probably most people (like me) got tired of spending our time doing research and writing content that would immediately be reposted without attribution on fifty other blogs that actually made money.
Did all these people lose interest in scooters? Did they all transition to social media? Is there anything like 2strokebuzz out there today? Many of you tell me you miss 2SB, and I miss it too, but no one reads blogs anymore. Trying to re-establish a foothold in the clickbait/hype/repost/shitty meme world of social media is not something I’m interested in. If you know of any sites or feeds that regularly publish curated, researched, useful, and (dare I dream) low-key scooter information, I’d love to know about them. Maybe I’ll start a new bookmark folder.
And hey, keep in touch! I still see a lot of you, but I haven’t heard from some of you in years. I’m still riding, and I occasionally post ride recaps and other content at VCOA Chicago.
You gotta register before SUNDAY (June 19) to personalize your plate (3 characters). We might have some random-number plates left after that, but if you want to be sure to get a plate, REGISTER NOW. If you’re an IL resident and submit your scooter info with your registration, you can get it before the rally and USE IT through Labor Day. If you don’t have a legal plate already, or if you’re from out of state, you’ll still get it, but the state won’t release it until after the rally, so we’ll mail it to you.
We’ve got a bunch of other good stuff lined up, too, including maybe the best patch ever. If you haven’t been to Slaughterhouse for a few years, now’s the time, this is going to be one of the biggest and best ever (nearly 100 registrations already and it’s only MID-JUNE!) Did I mention TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS includes the plate, patch, and a weekend of fun? You spent that much on drinks last night. See you there!
Smarter Every Day is a fantastic YouTube channel that really digs into explaining and simplifying how things work. The latest episode looks at carburetors, the device that mixes air and gas with the proper quantity and ratio to be compressed and detonated by the spark plug in the cylinder.
Even if you’ve been fiddling with scooter carburetors for years, you still might have no idea how they actually work. Like many people, you might understand the basic theory of a carburetor, but still feel like there’s a little bit of magic going on in there.
Destin explains the basic concept, then builds a clear model of a very basic carburetor, where you can actually watch the droplets of gasoline being sucked up from the float bowl, diffused in the venturi, and sucked past the throttle into the engine. Turns out it’s better than magic, it’s science magic!
Watch it now, the rest of this post is just my dumb comments…
As Destin’s dad points out, a real carburetor is much more complicated, with with different pathways and jets that can adjust the mixture and flow depending on how wide-open the throttle is. Removeable jets with larger or smaller holes allow further adjustment. And there are different shapes and sizes and designs of carburetors. But boy does this video make it clear how it all works. watching those tiny droplets of gas turned into mist by the suction nearly brought me to tears, especially knowing that a “real” carburetor would meter and disperse the droplets even more elegantly.
So why not just use a bigger jet (or a bigger carb) for more power? Early in the testing, Destin’s dad warns of backfire or damage to the engine if the throttle is too-wide-open. You can actually see backfire shooting out of the intake at the 18-minute mark, weird that they didn’t point it out! You can push the limits with tuning, but scooter engineers know what they’re doing, and your stock carb is designed for long, reliable engine life, maybe at the expense of a little power.
Every scooterist knows you can kill an engine by blocking the air intake. Towards the end, they’re having a harder and harder time killing the engine, because the holes where the choke lever was mounted are open. Enough air is coming through those tiny holes to keep the engine running. This is a reminder that the engine needs to be airtight and any tiny airleak in the carb, gaskets, manifolds, or seals will throw all this precise engineering out of whack. In some cases it can be fixed temporarily with more choke or a different jet, but ultimately airleaks need to be addressed properly for the scooter to really run properly.
It’s Vespa Video Vednesday again (it comes every few months at random intervals, it’s handed down by the archdiocese, the schedule doesn’t really make any sense) and this one is a winner. It comes by way of my very first scooter comrade, Alfredo.
Alright, it’s not Wednesday. But tomorrow is, and it’s the Inauguration of our 46th president, and of all the bands in the world Joe Biden could have requested to close out the event, he asked Gregg Alexander to reform New Radicals and play their 1998 hit “You Only Get What You Give.”
Your first thought, like mine, was probably “why?” They’re a one-hit-wonder, they only released one album and disbanded just before their second single was released. New Radicals was hardly even a “band,” for that matter, it seems to be basically Alexander plus whoever else was around at the moment (often Danielle Brisebois). Then—like me—you remembered how damn good that song was. Any band or songwriter should be thrilled to have one such success. But still… why them, why now, 22 years later?
Turns out the song was a favorite of Beau Biden, and became the Biden family’s rally song through Beau’s cancer treatment and 2015 death. Coincidentally (or not?) Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ husband and our first Second-Gentleman-elect, used the song as his walk-on music during the campaign.
So it all starts to make sense, and honestly I’m pretty excited about it, largely because the video is a masterpiece and has always been a favorite. As you may have ascertained by now, it features some scooters.
The video features Alexander leading a smiling group of diverse, hip young adults as they overthrow the Staten Island Mall. While the tone of the video is as light-hearted as can be, I’m sure politically-minded people can easily picture Jared Kushner and Ivanka as the yuppies put in dog kennels, and Kayleigh McEnany as the Karen who’s pinned down and forced into barista duty. Trapping a mall cop in a net is the first step in defunding the police, right? I like this world these guys live in. Soft-serve from the tap for everyone!
But—of course—the best part is the scooters zipping around. I remembered hearing at the time that Gene Merideth was somehow involved. Gene was the longtime owner of Scooters Originali (located at the time of the video in New Jersey, but later in Pennsylvania, and now under different ownership in the Pacific Northwest). Gene sold me my second scooter back in 1996 or so. He’s in England now, so I texted him to see what he remembered:
“Richard Agerbeek was the one with the hook up, and he brought John Melville along and got me to bring John Wilson so that we had a few scooters for the shoot,” Gene remembers. “Wilson’s was green, John Melville had the blue and white Li3, and Richard had the gold Vespa.”
Sadly, Gene didn’t get much time in the video, as it took the crew a long time to rig a camera to his purple and white Lambretta’s crashbars. On the plus side, the low angle shots from his Lambretta-cam as it dollies through the panicked crowd look amazing, and prominently feature Gene’s feet.
Wilson, Melville, and Agerbeek get more screen time riding through the mall and menacingly circling the bourgeoisie. Agerbeek gets several closeups, and (to reinforce the point that the New Radicals’ lineup was fluid-at-best) he can be seen playing a green bass behind Alexander in the performance shots. Hopefully they bring him back for the inauguration!
Even without the scooters, the video is a wonderful, happy time capsule. I’m sure glad this song is out there. It all feels surprisingly relevant. We need the positivity. Bucket hats are really big right now. “Health insurance, rip off lying/FDA, big bankers buying,” holds up even if the celebrity disses are a little dated. Hey, Beck, Courtney Love, Hanson, and Marilyn Manson weren’t invited to the Inaguration, so Alexander won that battle.
Joe Biden isn’t as new or radical as I would have preferred, but he and Kamala Harris are a hell of an improvement, here’s hoping the next four years are as progressive, fun, and scooter-filled as this video.
UPDATE: A week later… Gene found this photo of his TV with the camera rig: Pretty astute use of grip arms there, it never occurred to me that Florida bars are pretty much MADE for that. Thanks again, Gene, for helping to document this important moment in American motorscooter history!
As far as the actual performance on Inaguration day, I clearly set my expectations too high, ha. I figured it’d be a soundstage video segment and not a live performance, and I was right. New Radicals’ performance itself was perfectly fine (Danielle Briseboise sighting!) but it was just a brief clip buried in hours of other clips of Cub Scouts and dancing retirees. The whole “parade” was appropriately heartwarming, but it didn’t transcend the Covid-era slapped-together video clip-show genre and didn’t feel tethered to the actual inauguration events. But it’s always a joy to hear that song.
For Vespa Video Vednesday, here’s a song NOT about Vespas, and without an actual video, but hey, it’s still Wednesday!
It’s the feel-good single of the summer, a month too late, but whatever, the LP just came out this week… “My Lambretta” by North Cackalacka’s The Gallows Birds is just what you’d hope for, a surf-ish pop-punk love paean to the World’s Finest Scooter.
I’m not the foremost scholar on Lambretta history, but I’m pretty sure the “TV Special” is not a model that ever shipped out of Milan, but it does have “a two-stroke engine and the body’s painted baby blue” so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re taking some poetic license. The B-side (of the digital single — I wish it there was a 7″ for my jukebox) is a fantastic cover of the Graham Parker favorite “Local Girls.”
The rest of the debut album (which is thankfully available on LP from Rum Bar Records) is a quick romp through familiar pop-punk territory, but there ain’t a thing wrong with that. If you liked the Smugglers, you’re gonna dig this. Along with a few other 100%-solid originals, there are top-notch takes on Wreckless Eric and the Beach Boys. And the front AND back covers feature a Lambretta, and it includes a mini-poster, so… I see you’ve already bought it, nevermind… (Thanks, Matt, for suggesting I preorder this two months ago, ha!)
Today, we honor one of our favorite scooterists and dearest friends, Matt DeVries, on his 50th birthday with 2strokebuzz Issue 6, which finally concludes the subscription he paid for in 1995. Happy Birthday, Matty!
Never thought you’d see another issue of 2strokebuzz, did you? Well, I made a very modest kinda-shitty fifth issue back in 2015 to hand out at Bandcamp but I ran out of time to print it and I never got around to sharing it.
Now it’s 2020, a weird, scary, and depressing year. We’re all realizing that there are a lot of simple pleasures that we take for granted, but Bandcamp isn’t one of them. I’m certain we all drive home on Sunday realizing how special and important it is, with the promise of the next one keeping us going, as we count down the months and days until we see our friends again.
So here it is. This issue isn’t any great shakes, it’s only a few pages, some of it seems inappropriate even five years later, Milena’s pronouns are wrong, some of the inside jokes are already forgotten, and (thankfully!) I met “that guy” the next year. But hopefully it fills a little part of the big hole we’re all feeling this weekend.
This year sucks, but please use the downtime to do something creative and/or productive, and to be thankful for what you’ve got. If you’re reading this, you probably have a motorscooter and good friends, and that’s a lot to be thankful for. If you’ve got more than that, please use a chunk of your resources to make the world better.
Let me get you started… this isn’t the most pressing issue out there right now, but it’s the most relevant to this post: If you’re missing Bandcamp as much as I am, please donate a few bucks to the Toronto Band Fathers to keep that stupid magical football field and barn waiting for us next year.
I need a “winter project” to keep me sane through the long Chicago winters. Last year, it was my first Lambretta after 25 years of Vespas. This year, in January, I resolved to finally get our 1962 Seeburg LPC-1 jukebox running again. A month or so ago, with a lot of help and a level of obsession approaching my scooter projects, it came back to life, and we’ve really been enjoying blasting our scratchy old 7″s through the house at the press of two buttons.
On the last day of school before the COVID-19 quarantine here in Chicago, my son Calvin brought home an origami piano that his friend Kingston taught him to make, and I thought “That shape looks familiar!” During our first weekend of quarantine, I made a prototype, then a fancy papercraft model of our jukebox based on Kingston’s piano, and here’s a PDF file so you can print it and assemble it yourself! Hopefully this project entertains you for a brief period while you’re housebound.
If you’d like some background music while you assemble it, check out our Jukebox Playlist on Spotify:
Someday we really hope you can come by and see the real thing in person, it’s a beauty. If you enjoyed building this, maybe you’ll want to check out the 2strokebuzz Action Toy we made way back in 2001!
OK, it’s actually Vednesday now, so it’s Vespa video time! This one comes from 2sb editor Matty, and you’ll find it features the rare confluence of a great song, great video, and front-to-back vintage Vespa content…
Back in “the day,” we used to post music videos featuring scooters on ”Vespa Video Vednesdays,” and just the other day Matty sent me one so good that I decided to revive it next time a Wednesday rolled around. But that one is in the hopper. In the meantime, i want to share a story that came to mind today, even though it’s Monday: Continue reading “VVV: Your Wildest Dreams”
Remember back when our friend Matthew’s 2002 Bajaj Chetak was somehow titled as a “Yacht Club” by the Illinois DMV? Well guess what, itshappeningronpaul.gif because Vespa just commandeered (commodoredeered?) that very same name for a limited edition Primavera and GTS. Glad to see Vespa has backed off their elitist suburban leisure marketing and got back to making efficient, affordable scooters for the proletariat.
Slaughterhouse 24 is, as always, Labor Day Weekend in Chicago. This year, there’s (finally) preregistration, register now if you want a shirt. (On-site registration is the same price, without a shirt.) As always, there will be various rides, food, drink, fun, music, and friends. This year we’ll also be bowling at Fireside Bowl, the legendary ’40s bowling alley-turned-’90s punk venue-turned-bowling alley again.
Hi faithful readers! It’s been a while. Hope you’re well! It’s Spring, not that you’d know it, and I’m looking forward to another season of rallies and rides without being compelled to tell you all about them. BUT! there’s an interesting development in my life among the scooters… Continue reading “Ciao for Now?”