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!
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!)
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”
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.
After 16 years of scootering and 2strokebuzz, it’s easy to forget what attracted me to the machines and people that make up this dumb subbacultcha. If the first third of this video doesn’t make you want to stay up all night prepping your bike for a 5am, 250-mile rideout with some friends, there’s something wrong with you.
To our newish friend Bo and our oldish friend Bart, who shared the link on the facebooks, thanks for the reminder!
SIP Scooter Shop shared a video on their Facebook page today. It is a National Geographic program clip about the Piaggio factory in Pontedera. The video has a few shots of vintage machines in their museum. But one of the views that appealed to me was the factory building tucked in the Tuscan hills shown in the background of the test ride shots. I don’t know if the buildings are the same, but it was reminiscent of those old aerial photos of the factory from the 1950s. Other parts show the processes involved in the building of their larger engines (What are they doing tossing crankshaft halves into big vats of rocks?!) and the assembly of the MP3 hybrid scooter. Not a 2-stroke in sight. I wonder where they build those? I focus on the visual aspects of the video because it’s all in Italian, a language I do not understand. If anyone wants to translate any remarkable points of what looks to be a standard factory tour for the kind of shows that used to make the Discovery Channel great before they jumped the shark, feel free to post below.
Jeb (of FIDO fame) spotted an interesting badge on the electric car shown at 4:28 in this video collage of electric vehicle photos from EICMA…
Our first Britney Spears-inspired headline heralds the (maybe? sorta?) return of famed Lambretta maker Innocenti in a story that hasn’t garnered any media coverage, but once we blow it out of proportion here, it may send a few Austrian IP attorneys into a tizzy.
Jeb (of FIDO fame) spotted an interesting badge on the electric car shown at 4:28 in this video collage of electric vehicle photos from EICMA: Continue reading “Not So Innocenti…”