VVV: You Get What You Give

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.

VVV: My Lambretta

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!)

VVV: Your Wildest Dreams

Danny Brownpants, we found you a halloween costume!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”

The Lions Roar; This Generation Not Like My Generation

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.

-Matt ‘With Fries’ DeVries.

TVV: Roy Ellis “You Can’t Leave Now”

It’s a day late for a Vednesday Vespa Video, but it can’t wait until next week: Our old pal Laurel Parker, who many years ago directed (starring some 2SB familiar faces) has just released a new music video for “You Can’t Leave Now” by Roy Ellis (of Simaryp fame) with the Spanish ska band Transilvanians. Great tune, much more handsome extras than “Our Town,” and, yes, she snuck a few scooters in right at the last second. Bravo!

VVV: The Screenbeats’ “Super 8”

It’s been a while since Vespa Video Vednesday, unless you count last week, and let’s not. Here’s another good one from David Smith’s big list:

Generally I like to go on at great length about these, but it’s five minutes to Thursday and I have a lot of American Scooterist work to do still. More importantly, I don’t know jack about these guys aside from what I see on their Myspace page. They’re English, they’ve been plugging away at it since 2005, and this video is from circa 2008. The video’s got a good chunk of joyful P-series Vespa riding footage shot with a secret prototype Holga Super-8 camera and cross-processed for a nice vintage look.

VVV: We Sell Soul

A couple hours left for a Vespa Video Vednesday, so here’s a quickie musical Interlude with scooters: The Spades (featuring Roky Erickson) doing We Sell Soul, featuring a nice slideshow of mod scooters. No one could be less mod than Roky Erickson, but it works. I’m DJing at Slaughterhouse, maybe this song will get me cut off so I can get to the bar faster.

If that’s not awesome enough, here’s a sweet Spacemen 3 cover. You heard they did a reunion show right?

VVV: Wyclef Jean:
“Another One Bites the Dust”

It’s been a while, but Vespa Vthursday VIdeo is back. Today we appropriately honor one of Haiti’s greatest exports, Wyclef Jean, with an entirely inappropriate song, given the circumstances. In 1998, Jean covered Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” with help from Fugees bandmate Pras, Free and Canibus. The song was produced for the Small Soldiers soundtrack, but thankfully they ignored the film and brought in uberdirector Michel Gondry. It goes a little something like this…

Artist: Wyclef Jean feat. Pras Michel, Canibus, and Free
Song: “Another One Bites the Dust”
Album: Small Soldiers film soundtrack (1998)
Scooter(s): Vespa P-series
Scooter content: 5 seconds
Jump to the good parts: 1:33 to 1:38

The original Queen 45 was in constant rotation on my Fisher-Price record player and at #1 on the Q102 top ten for weeks, until “I Love Rock and Roll” came out and changed everything, forever. I’m sticking to that story even though I just checked Wikipedia and the songs came out 20 months apart. It was Cincinnati, time means nothing there, as the XYLs will tell you.

This version, like many cover versions, seems entirely unnecessary, but it’s not bad. The song’s not Wyclef’s best work, but it’s allright. The video’s not Gondry’s best work, and certainly not his most original concept, but it’s suitably weird, fun, and full of Gondry-style camera tricks, gimmicks, and visual puns. And best of all, it’s got nothing to do with the film it’s promoting, preventing the typical “Who’s Johnny”-type debacle.

As far as scooter content, not too great, but they can’t all be, right? After the remote-control olive-green Vespa P-series is introduced for a few seconds at 1:33, I expected it to come back and save the day later, but oh well, it’s still a pretty good video, and the vintage Mini makes up for it.

So yeah, Haiti. This is what passes for a tribute on 2strokebuzz. I’ll go donate some money now.

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.

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!