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!
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!)
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…
Amerivespa 2013 registration is now open! The Vespa Club of America’s national rally returns to San Diego on June 27-30, with all the usual good stuff, plus a Friday night performance by the English Beat!
Even though Bryan has his weekly VVV where he showcases a scooter centric videos each and every week, I had to share this new video from The Lions. The Lions feature members from Hepcat and a few other LA area bands and the video for their new single features some nice Vespa/Lambretta footage. Notice that only the Vespa riders receive credit at the end.
Jen points out that Heritage Helmets now offers Trojan Records helmets to go along with their Consortium-approved Lambretta helmets. They even offer one with both Trojan and Lambretta logos, which is kind of surreal. Beautiful stuff, but, once again, they totally forgot the part that covers your chin and face. If you can afford an extra helmet for parades and photo shoots, pony up!
A few years back, Lambretta Clothing teamed up with The Who to reissue some of the band’s Mod-est attire, including the famous parka from the cover of Quadrophenia, pre-stenciled for your convenience. Apparently Lambretta marketing contracts aren’t worth much these days, so with a new Quadrophenia CD/DVD “Directors Cut” box set coming out, they’ve switched alliances to Vespa. Mancunian twit Liam Gallagher will display a new PX125-based Quadrophenia scooter, film memorabilia, and Who-insipired fashions–including (again) the Quadroparka–at his Pretty Green clothing store on (where else?) Carnaby Street.
In other news, Noel Gallagher has installed turnstiles at Easington Colliery, charging punters £5 to urinate on a lump of concrete.
Quadrophenia, aside from its obvious charms to scooterists (and I admit a compulsion to watch it occasionally), isn’t much of a film and is even less of an album, so it’s interesting to see it repackaged yet again. Confusingly, (“Director’s Cut?”) this new 6-disc set doesn’t include the film at all (the DVD is surround mixes of the album), and omits all the great music (by the Who and other R&B greats) that appeared on the original soundtrack, which was re-released in 1993 and 2000.
The album (as opposed to the soundtrack) isn’t horrible, it’s just neither the Mod music that’s the subject of the film, nor the Mod revival music that sparked its release. It’s exactly the noodly late-’70s stadium rock that Revival Mods and Punks were rebelling against at the time. It may be sacrilege (and completely against the point), but I’ve always felt, aside from a couple tracks, the film would have been better off with all music from the mod era. The book included in the box set is the most compelling component, I’d be far more interested in the backstory and Townshend’s memories than hearing demos and gimmicky 5.1 mixes. Townshend calls it “…the best album that I will ever write,” but it says a lot that the album was blocked from #1 on the charts by Pin Ups, David Bowie’s great ’60s cover album… containing two early Who songs.