Swedish Army Huskies

We try to only talk about motorcycles when it’s absolutely necessary, but with Cold Weather Challenge fever heating up and a few threads going about the snowmobilification of scooters, Mad Man Maddox posits an alternate scheme based on Sweden’s late-seventies military Husqvarna. Even motorcycle-haters can love a 250 automatic, but it’s the ‘winter package’ that will send gonzo CWC would-bes on an errand to the welding supply shop. These Huskies feature spring-mounted outrigger skis! On roads, they pop up out of the way and you put your feet on the pegs. On snow, you rest your feet on the skis, which automatically adjust themselves for cornering and snow height. Brilliant! If that doesn’t sound like fun, check out this video:

Yesterday I demanded Brooke procure some video of Bob and Colin racing ski-scooters across Lake Minnetonka with “Take Me With U” playing in the background. But scratch that, now I demand footage of you psychotic Minnesotans tearing up Michele Bachmann’s front yard on dual-ski outriggers. Get on it!

Oh, if 2SB only had Top Gear’s budget.

VVV: David Bowie “That’s Motivation”

Last week’s Vespa Vednesday VIdeo was David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners”, the title track from the Julien Temple film. This week’s video also features Bowie, but this time it’s a clip from the film itself:

Artist: David Bowie
Song: “That’s Motivation”
Album: Absolute Beginners film soundtrack (1986)
Scooter(s): Vespa GS
Scooter content: 20 seconds
Jump to the good parts: 3:56 to end

There’s not much to add to last week’s rant about “Absolute Beginners,” the musical. Great book, sort-of-embarassing film. As much as I love Bowie, his performance (or is it his character, Vendice Partners?) is a bit stilted and creepy. His Busby-Berkeley-inspired paean to advertising was probably meant to be the film’s centerpiece, but as far as overblown showtune production pieces go, Ray Davies’ Music-Hall romp “Quiet Life” steals the show and somehow seems to fit the story better. And Edward Tudor-Pole’s “song” isn’t on YouTube, but there’s a Vespa billboard in the background. If all this makes you want to see the film, I’m doing it wrong. OK, fine, it’s a guilty pleasure. But the book is a must!

But hey, back to the point, there’s a scooter in Bowie’s number. And it’s not really so bad as I remembered it. And another VVV is written and posted, on an actual Vednesday. That’s Motivation!

VVV: David Bowie “Absolute Beginners”

Did we just post two videos? and did we just miss two weeks of Vespa Video Vednesday? Never fear, we didn’t forget you. Today we have another clip from David’s list that just so happens to be one of my favorite songs:

Artist: David Bowie
Song: “Absolute Beginners”
Album: Absolute Beginners film soundtrack (1986)
Scooter(s): Vespa GS
Scooter content: 5 seconds
Jump to the good parts: 2:19, 2:22, 2:36

David Bowie, of course, is a genius. As Jon Langford would put it, he’s the “Chameleon of Rock.” And Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners, is definitely one of my favorite books. So what could be better than a film version directed by Great Rock and Roll Swindle director Julien Temple, featuring David Bowie AND Ray Davies (AND Edward Tudor-Pole)!?

Well, the film turned out to be nothing but a marginally entertaining (at best) musical (no!) love story that nearly ignored the book’s rich drama of gentrification, race relations, and the rise of the English teenager. The Fifties setting was overwhelmed by the Eighties set design, and today it looks dated and campy. The soundtrack holds up a little better, featuring songs from Jerry Dammers (of the Specials), the Style Council*, and rare proof that Sade was a promising talent back when she had a last name. Even Ray Davies’ subtle nostalgic song is pretty good. But the gem was this David Bowie track.

Julien Temple directed Bowie’s epic “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” video in 1984, and Bowie was chosen to appear in the film as shady advertising magnate Vendice Partners. The single was recorded in June 1985 but delayed to wait for the film’s release. The video is nothing special, a Duran Duran-inspired parody of British “Strand” cigarette commercials with awkwardly-chromakeyed film footage worked in. The scooter footage is minimal, and all from the film (a Vespa GS graces the soundtrack album cover and makes a few appearances in the film).

But, oh, the song is so great. It strikes me as the anti-“Uptown Girl,” showing Billy Joel that Eighties arena pop could actually be fused with doo-wop without disastrous results, and thus proving David Bowie is actually capable of anything. The lyrics are beautifully vague and can make me cry if I’ve had a couple beers and I pretend it’s about whatever dramatic situation is troubling me at the moment. Even the obligatory Eighties sax solo is magnificent. It’s perhaps a bit long, though it’s available in several remixes of varying lengths across CD, CD3(!) LP, 7″, 12″ releases. The film was massively hyped before release, then panned by critics and fans, but the single reached #2 in England and nearly cracked the top 50 in the U.S.

There, it’s ten minutes until midnight, and VVV lives. All that for five seconds of secondhand scooter footage. See you next Vednesday.

*Speaking of Paul Weller, The Jam’s “Absolute Beginners,” (#4 UK charts in 1981) is surely also inspired (though equally subtly) by MacInnes’ book. It’s really a must-read novel, and in this age of remakes and re-hashed ideas, hopefully another filmmaker has a go at it, but it’s going to be hard to top the two great songs it’s already inspired.

Wisconsin’s Majesty

2SB reader Mark Neustadt shot and edited a series of road-trip videos on his Yamaha Majesty 400. You’d think nine-minute clips of a dude riding a scooter might get boring, but it’s shot pretty well and his Wisconsin roads sure look like a lot more fun than my Chicago commute. In fact, these might really help us all get through the winter.

Thanks Mark! Now stop fidgeting with the camera and mind the road, we don’t want to watch you lowside on YouTube!

Corazzo’s “Ramp Test”

Corazzo has released a technical/snuff film showing some very unscientific tests of their jackets. Surely, it’s mostly for entertainment value (it’s listed as “comedy” on YouTube), but there’s probably something educational buried in there. Corazzo’s “Shop” is my usual riding jacket, so in the sequel, I wanna see how the “Shop/UnderHoody” combo compares to the “Transparent Vinyl Raincoat/Naked Bradford Duval” combo.

Slaughterhouse XV

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Slaughterhouse XV is this weekend in Chicago, a fact so obvious to me that I didn’t bother posting it until now, which is sort of irresponsible of me, sorry. Who’d have known back when we joked about never making it to “Slaughterhouse 5” that the rally would endure and grow for 15 years. It’s changed hands a few times, but it’s always fantastic, and there’s always something for everyone. This year shuffles up the usual schedule a bit with Roller Derby on Saturday night and a bigger-than-ever party on Thursday, and still features a few great rides, one of the best gymkhanas around, and more. If you’re into the whole social networking thing, there’s a ning site.
Continue reading “Slaughterhouse XV”

“The Vespa Experiment” results

Here’s a video recap of “The Vespa Experiment,” a Pacific-coast tour by three musicians on Vespa scooters. One of the musicans, Amber Rubarth sums it up:

I feel like this whole tour was all about getting to the core of life and purity and innocence. And, just getting back to the musical part and not in the business of it.

Sure, apart from the fact that it was PiaggioUSA marketing scheme, business didn’t enter into it at all, ha. The music’s not my thing (noodly earnest mellow acoustic pop) but they seem like nice kids. As far as PiaggioUSA marketing schemes go, it seemed pretty successful, and if nothing else, three musicians had a good time and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so Vespa FTW!

Dumba Dumba Dumba: Madness’ “City”

Madness’ awesome TV commercials for the Honda City, The City was a compact hatchback with a matching folding scooter that tucked into the back, a concept that deserves to be revisited with the Fit. The jingle was later reworked as the “In the City” single, and “Honda Honda Honda” was replaced with “Doomba Doomba Doomba.”

(Thanks, Heather, awesome find!)

VVV: Rancid, Rancid, Rancid

Rancid: A little ska, a lot of punk, almost cartoonish machismo, it’s no wonder they’re a scooterist favorite. And it doesn’t hurt that their videos are loaded with scooters. Welcome to a triple-play Vespa Video Vednesday.

Artist: Rancid
Song: “Salvation”
Album: Let’s Go (1994)
Scooter(s): Several vintage Vespas and Lambrettas
Scooter content: about 15 seconds
Jump to the good parts: 1:22, 2:08

After a few weeks of VVV, we start to see a pattern develop: when you need some subbacultcha cred, just call the local club and have ’em show up for the video shoot. In this case (my favorite Rancid song, if you care), the boys are on the run from the suits, and they get chased through an alley full of scooters, which later join in the chase. Good footage, the scooters dont’ seem too extraneous, and it’s a good song. I bet this video sent a lot of punker kids to the classifieds looking for scooters.

VVV listmaster David Smith says there’s a scooter in the video for Rancid’s biggest hit, Time Bomb, but I’m not seeing it. Maybe at 1:16? (Sorry, can’t embed that video. Amazingly, the YouTube videos linked from Rancid’s site were removed by their label, and some of the ones that remain have embedding blocked)

Artist: Rancid
Song: “Red Hot Moon”
Album: Indestructible (2003)
Scooter(s): 4 vintage Vespas
Scooter content: 3 seconds
Jump to the good parts: 0:00

Rancid hasn’t gone away, they pop up with a new album every few years (the latest came out a couple months ago). This video is for a lesser known track from 2003, but it’s a good one. It appears to be shot in and around the historic New York City club CBGB (which sadly closed last year), and the opening shots feature a group of mods and rockers parked in front of the club. From there, the video goes all over the place, with some live footage, and a couple different storylines, and we don’t see the scooters again, but if David’s right (I’m sure the comments will be full of people telling me how blind I am), that makes three videos with scooters from one well-known and famously uncompromising band, two of them fairly big hits. That’s going to be hard to top.

VVV: Les Breastfeeders “Mini Jupe et Watusi”

Velcome! It’s Vednesday, and here’s your Video: today we’ve got another of the dozens of videos on David Smith’s list that I’d never seen. Les Breastfeeders from Montreal:

Artist: Les Breastfeeders
Song: “Mini Jupe et Watusi”
Album: Déjeuner Sur l’herbe (2004)
Scooter(s): ’60s Vespa (VBB?)
Scooter content: about 30 seconds
Jump to the good parts: throughout

For the second week in a row, we milk Canada (or should I say MuchMusic) for a VVV, and while JDiggz’ video was fun, this one is even more fun, and the song is way more up our alley. Les Breastfeeders have been around for a few years, mixing up a garage rock sound with power pop and a hint of classic Yé Yé that Stereo Total stole from Serge Gainsbourg and Françoise Hardy. Which, hell, how can you not love that combo? They top it off with an undead tambourine player named Johnny Maldoror, who I’m guessing is the Quebecois version of Bez out of Happy Mondays, or the weird old guy in Arrested Development (not Jeffery Tambor, I’m talking about the band!).

In this particular effort, they tie together a song honoring the mini skirt and Watusi with a slick video featuring a Godfather-style gangster plot. Les Breastfeeders’ bassist Suzie McLelove appears on a white Mod Vespa throughout the frenetic video, and delivers the hit weapon and facilitates the getaway. This is the best video/song combo to grace VVV yet, and I’m having a hard time seeing it going anywhere but downhill from here. I’m definitely going to be tracking down some more music from these guys and putting VIna’s nearly-useless bachelors’ degree in French to the test.

Thanks to everyone who’s been sending in videos! David’s list contains enough to last a couple years of Vednesdays, but keep ’em coming! Hard to believe there are so many!

NoHo’s “Cash For Clunkers” Program

NoHo Scooters in Los Angeles is doing its part to clear out our streets and carports of junk scooters, without government subsidies! Bring in any scooter, running or not, and get $300 off a new one. That’s the best deal you’re ever going to get on your Geely with a seized engine and 250 miles on the odometer. NoHo Owner Mike Frankovich tells us “Somebody had to do it!.”

VVV: JDiggz “Make It Hot”

Vespa Video Vednesday is back, on an actual Vednesday! Here’s a good one that I think ten people sent me two years ago when it was new and I never even watched until I saw it on David Smith’s master list that inspired this enterprise:

Artist: JDiggz
Song: “Make It Hot”
Album: Memoirs of a Playbwoy (2007)
Scooter(s): Series 1 Lambretta, Vespa P-series
Scooter content: about 30 seconds
Jump to the good parts: 1:11, 1:42, 4:08

Canadian rapper JDiggz’ tune doesn’t do much for me, but it’s at least innocuous. The fact that the video is so totally incongruous to the song kinda makes it better, and the fact that they steered clear of the obvious gang-war motif buys them some points, too. It’s very nicely shot, and fun. JDiggz looks totally slick, and his posse of mods and hot-pantsed bootie chicks is somehow funny and believable.

The La Dolce Vita-esque intro is funny, but doesn’t really fit with the Quadrophenia thing. Though it appears to be a TV175, the Series-1 Lambretta predates the mods-and-rockers era, and the P-series Vespa is even more out of place. Of course JDiggz fans could care less about that. It’s obviously shot in Toronto on a leftover Jackie Chan movie set, which doesn’t really evoke London or Brighton, but JDiggz looks just about as wobbly and uncomfortable on a scooter as Phil Daniels.

Remember that time we had an idea for a regular feature and only kept it up for three weeks? Check back next week and see if we can break our record!

VVV: Third Eye Blind, “Semi-Charmed Life”

So we’re back with the second installment of Vespa Video Vednesday, only a couple days late, and this time we’ll choose a video at random from David Smith’s list… Ah, crap, not this one…

Band: Third Eye Blind
Song: “Semi-Charmed Life”
Album: Third Eye Blind (1997)
Scooter(s): Many vintage Vespas and Lambrettas
Scooter content: 30-40 seconds
Jump to the good parts: all over the place

This is the sound of late-nineties douchebaggery, the sound of Spin-Doctors-wannabees stomping on Kurt Cobain’s grave throughout the second half of the decade. To be honest, it’s not a terrible song, it’s catchy enough, but its oversaturation in commercials, movies, shitty parties, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch was more than enough to make these guys rich, and they probably hate the song more than I do. It’s such a chick flick cliche that even chick flicks make fun of it now.

I didn’t have a TV for the second half of the nineties, so I never saw this video until a few years ago. I don’t imagine I would have cut the song a break even knowing about the scads of sweet vintage scooters in the promo clip. If you turn down the sound, and you aren’t prone to seziures from the EXTREME! NINETIES! ONE! SECOND! EDITS!, there’s a lot to see here. Clearly they rounded up a So-Cal club at the height of the vintage glory days (Burgundy Topz? Secret Society? someone will post an angry comment and tell us, I’m sure) and you can see in the scooterist’s faces, they’re hoping the song doesn’t catch on and immortalize the two afternoons they spent hanging out with these guys.

Check in next vednesday! Ve promise it vill be better.