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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.