Having had the song stuck in my head for nearly three days, I have concluded that I am NOT a rock, and I am no island.
I’m somewhere between a Nerf-like consistency and soapstone, perhaps, bordering on doughy, depending on what I ate for dinner the night before. And possibly more of a jetty or an isthmus or a peninsula, even. It’s not a commitment thing by any stretch, but more of some Darwinian deal, in which I’d prefer some form of diversity, yet I select to have this marshy land that’s difficult to traverse to get to the core of my land mass, you know? Not fully secluded, but certainly not to the point of having an Applebees and four Starbucks. A small town with some cultural history, yet not enticing to hipsters. Like sort of dangerous-looking, but mostly due to the abandoned, half-stripped car sitting on the corner near that really tasty rib place.
I’m sorry, Paul Simon, but while you touch no one, and no one touches you, I simply cannot keep my hands off of myself. And this isthmus/jetty/peninsula-man thing cries.
If you’re a band and looking to create a video for a B-side single, the least that you can do is hire a B-movie director to craft the thing. It just makes sense, you know?
Focusing on the golden era of music videos, I can’t help but imagine “Murder By Numbers” from the Police, set as a Larry Cohen short film, with the numbers in question bridging It’s Alive with a slightly more cerebral The Stuff. Better than that, a Troma Pictures-esque video for “How Soon is Now?” from the Smiths… Or even a super-low budget Robert Rodriguez-directed “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, which, while not a true B-side in that form, it was originally a Gloria Jones tune (1964; re-released in ’76, and then covered by Soft Cell in 1981 should you be keeping score), which could be an utterly epic, if not campy sci-fi-thriller about imported love that is, well, tainted with a virus. Or a present-day Jerry Lewis in a Rob Zombie-directed remake of Michael Jackson’s Thriller short, but using the original cut, “Starlight.”
Or we can abandon the B-side thing in favor of an Adam Jones stop-motion epic for The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” (which was the A-side to the terrible “Seconds” – don’t get me wrong, that whole JFK thing could work as a John Waters send-up), set as a peek into the breaking mind of a jilted lover… So many ideas.
I know… Most cover bands opt for the hits; the better-known songs, and sprinkle a set with a few key B-sides. What makes this trio what they are is having three members.
Wait, no… That’s not where I was going.
These guys have managed to capture the decline of Guns N’Roses… The years of infighting, manic-depressive behavior, and drug addled ruin, and packaged it in one take.
Seeing it this way elevates it from mere “learning curve” stature, and boost it to something more, transcending the headache it inspires.
It’s not a jam session.
It is PURE performance art.
…at least through the eyes of a modern art critic, I’d imagine. Welcome to the Age of Entitlement. Grab a trophy on your way out.
A little piece I threw down for Tubbed Magazine. Stop by and enjoy the second coming of Pro-Street.
Think back to your first memorable experience that set your fate as a “car guy.” Don’t let nostalgia sway you, just blurt it out. Just roll with the first one that comes to mind.
I’d be willing to bet that it had nothing at all to do with what anyone else thought of you. Taking that a yep further, I’d sweeten that bet by adding that it had nothing to do with fame or money. While one or two of you may have though about the guy with the bitchin’ ride in your hometown that got all of the girls or that every other guy wanted to be, that seems pretty normal, and had nothing to do with defining just who you were. It started with the car, right?
Along that patch of blacktop we all travel on our way to becoming full-fledged car guys, we all get a taste of the pride that comes with a thumbs-up at a stoplight, or the strangers wanting to discuss our cars and the one they had “just like it” back in the day. Ego always grows a bit to fill those freshly upholstered bucket seats, and it’s all fine if you know how to keep it in check. And if you had any car guy friends worth anything, they knew how to help you keep that in check. It’s what good friends do.
It’s a family.
Compare your memories to what any kid coming into what remains of the hobby today will know it as:
A bunch of posturing and ego-driven, money-hungry wannabe celebrities driving catalog-sourced vehicles destined to provide big returns at auction. In an entitlement-driven, fame-is-everything era, we’re losing the real car guys and builders to a steady stream of TV stars and project managers. It’s an awful lot like Hip Hop and reality TV: Just a load of “look at me” bullshit with no redeeming value. And having already conquered reality TV, it’s not a far stretch to see the whole thing sink to a level of commerce-driven stereotypes telling you what’s cool this week, and making everything so base and trend-driven that they’ll be left with little choice but to either cannibalize the damned thing, or just leave it to die and move to the next.
Let’s roll with the whole Hip Hop analogy. Let’s create a fictional car guy who maybe came into the scene in the late-1970’s. He’s stoked about these “Pro-Street” cars, and can’t get enough of the look. It becomes in his mind the right look: Big, fat tires out back, a rake, skinny tires up front, and perhaps some form of induction poking though the hood. The essentials are in place. Our budding car guy is exposed to cars like Joe Ruggirello’s Mustang II or Lisk’s Challenger or Kollofsky’s ’55 Chevy (side note: Anyone else find it coincidental that all of these guys have names befitting a cool character or bad-ass cop in a movie?) or any other of a series of killer, pro-style bruisers. And much as any fan of what would come to be called “Hip-Hop” would have heard Grandmaster Flash or the Cold Crush Brothers early on and been drawn to it for the unique approach and the imagery it inspired in anyone outside of the Bronx, what would come to named “Pro-Street” did likewise to anyone who never cruised Woodward.
While Hip Hop evolved by taking outside influences from funk and soul to new wave and even punk, Pro-Street did likewise, borrowing from Street Freaks and Street Rods and other places, always looking to raise the bar just a touch. And, like anything gaining popularity, each had a stand-out that came to be the face of the movement: Hop Hop had acts like Run DMC, and we scored with names like Sullivan, Dobbertin and Hay (they could play the law firm in that film idea mention earlier). And in that popularity of a select few, we can trace the evolution of each, mans see the ongoing influences applied to shape just where each might head.
Like anything that goes popular, there exists the danger of haven it buckle under its own weight. While Pro-Street suffered from a number of ills, we could blame the decline on magazine saturation and constant competition to be the next big thing, with cars adding more extreme power plants and detailing and so-on, that it just became a caricature of itself, and begged for something to step in and rebel against it. We wound up with Pro-Touring, which didn’t seem to heed its own warnings, and is finding itself on a similar path. As for Hip Hop, it changed from a creative ocean of experimentation and arrangement to a soul-less money farm in the 1990’s (oh, the similarities between Hip Hop and Pro-Street are many, kids), and eventually a sad joke with all of the “gangsta” posturing and crunk-style bragging. (Side note 2: Consider that Dr. Seuss coined the phrase “crunk car” back in the 1970’s, and you start to feel all lightheaded, right? Scary how that works.) Where Hip Hop and its offspring found their way into the mainstream via MTV and radio play, hot rodding was doing likewise via major events, magazines and videos. TV wouldn’t be far behind.
It’s not such a far reach then, to compare Hip Hop and Hot Rodding. Each became a pale version of its former self once television became a part of the marketing. Hell, we could take this little notion on a whole other ride, but let’s settle on the marketing of each as being hand-in-hand harbinger of destruction forthe movement. Don’t get me wrong, I get the money thing… We all need to eat. But when the problems come banging down the doors, they usually look like the fresh-from-College guys from Marketing. And when they come visiting, even the goldfish stop swimming, if you get my drift. The dollar signs flash, and it’s off to the races. On the music side, it becomes about selling the image of what Marketing thinks that it should be, with reference to moving product (as Yogurt the Wise taught us so many moons ago, the real money is in merchandising). You craft an image, and get the kids to buy into that. On the car side, it’s eerily similar: Craft an image of what someone outside of the whole thing thinks it should be (based upon what the data shows will sell), and run with it, facts be damned if need be. Understanding that, it’s not so difficult to see why we had shows like Orange County Choppers or, keeping with the theme, Pimp My Ride. On one hand, you had screaming and yelling and time crunch drama because, by golly, that has to be how it is in a real shop, right? The natural outgrowth was American Hot Rod, Wrecks to Riches and their ilk. They appealed to the “behind the scenes” exclusivity gene which TV inserted into the genetic code, and never mind how skewed from reality it might be… Just cash that check and find more shit to fight about. Take that a step further in the appeal to “you can sell these cars and make money!” idea, and by golly, the shows practically write themselves. I am convinced that there are but two formulas for any reality-based show:
1. The Shop as setting for drama (family, client/shop, contest, money or otherwise) formula,
2. The find it/buy it/fix it up/sell for profit/repeat formula
…each of which may be seasoned to taste by adding celebrity appearances, surprises, some form of competition, pranks or canned “tech tips” wherever holes appear in the story line. Take a long, hard look at Monster Garage and tell me it isn’t so. Shit, get a hold of a script from Lords of the Car Hoards, Unique Whips, Leepu and Pitbull or Fast N Loud, mix them all up, and I’d bet that a seven year old could put a season’s worth of shows together at random, and you’d never be able to tell the difference. You could do likewise with any current Hip Hop video premise. It’s not about telling a story or building a cool car; it’s about who can brag the loudest. And that opens the door to really scary things, and can usher outcomes like not unlike the Lucifer Effect, as postulated by Philip Zimbardo (aka the Stanford Prison Experiment), wherein the wheels can be put into motion that make a good person do some really twisted evil things. I mean, what would the dollar amount be for you to sell out and bastardize the car hobby you love? Roll with your first instinct. That’s a lot of fucking zeros, isn’t it? And that’s chump change when the Advertising Department bros get involved (and you thought that little fishie was holding still earlier? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet). And when the image consultants and writers come to play, you’ll hardly recognize yourself. It doesn’t take a lot to go from singing about your sneakers over a sampled loop to bragging about the women you slept with in the penthouse last week and how big the rims on your SUV are when the residuals roll in.
And that’s where we stand today: It’s not about some guy with a cool 1970’s action movie cop name building a kick-ass machine that will set your synapses afire, blazing a whole new path for thought across your brain or even mashing two things together that have never been mashed before. It’s about having some money guy or project manager (at best) playing the douche (OK, sometimes it’s not a stretch for the guy. As a wise man once told me, “Only two kinds of people wear sunglasses indoors: Rock stars and assholes. Be on the lookout for a guitar.”) and creating some filler to top with ad sales. It’s loosely connected product placement opportunities designed to make the numbers so that Trent and Blaine in the front office can keep that tee time. You don;t have the imagination or thrill of discovery involved with your entry to the hobby anymore. Instead, you have an image to play up to, and try to out-douche so that you can make your own mark and score that show.
After all, it isn’t about the cars anymore, unless they’re a prop for your bitches to lean against while you pose with jewelry and assorted gold-plated handguns. While I can appreciate how anyone uninitiated into the family that is hot rodding can fall for this, you can bet your ass that I’ll be stepping into frame and doing my best to drop knowledge on Quick Mix Theory and Bill Jenkins’ Pro Stock Vega.
You may know of Led Zeppelin (and other bands as well) having had practice sessions in Clearwell Castle following Robert Plant’s personal tragedy, but you may not be aware of the band Helium Submarine and their lower-budget recording sessions high in the Rocky Mountains. As I complete my research and begin writing the script for the major motion picture based upon their story, I’d like to invite you to crack open a fresh bottle of whiskey and bring yourself up to speed on one of the greatest rock-n-roll fables never told.
The fabled band, having begun as a side project of three roadies from Black Sabbath, the next-door neighbor of an ex-girlfriend of a guy who changed the oil in Deep Purple’s tour bus, and a guy who knew the guy who scored the pot for a batch of brownies that never made it backstage to the band Sweet, Helium Submarine began as a cover band, but soon found their sound and inspiration via a shared interest in Pre-Columbian history, Biologist Trofim Lysenko, and Tesla’s third cousin Lepzig, inventor of the “Purple Nurple”. Composing such epic tracks as “Overcoming Gravity: The Pharaoh’s Phallic Pleasure Palace (The Ballad of Hefferendendanum, Stone Mason and Footballer Extraordinaire to the One and Only True Descendant of the Beer God, Pete)”, “Hybrid Turnip Yield Failure”, “Lysenko VS Mendel’s Giant Pea in the Lair of Common Sense”, and “Jacob May Have Had a Ladder, But I Have a Really Long Fireman’s Pole, But It’s More for the Chicks” (Parts I-VII), which in and of itself comprised three sides of the quadruple concept album …and a side of open-mindedness for my date, please (which tells the story of an astral-projection date gone terribly awry when one of the couple’s silver threads becomes entangled in the power lines following a time-traveling misadventure), the band was not getting commercial radio play, most likely due to the length of their songs (27 minutes on average). Or perhaps an affinity for screaming the word “pisspussy” repeatedly each time a cymbal would crash following a piccolo solo in an arrangement. By their second major release, “Captain Squeaky’s Sandwich Disaster”, the band was pursuing new roads, accidentally inventing “sampling” when they had a tambourine stolen, and the sole remaining recorded track of the missing membranophone was found to have, in the background, their neighbor, one Ms. Elsa Sheranislovsky yelling at her cat to stop peeing on the rug (and thus the birth of the aforementioned catchphrase “pisspussy”).
In any event, their A&R guy, Jerry Bettleford-Volume (heir to the Volume Family fortune – his great-Grandfather was one Chas. Whitwether Volume II, inventor of the volume knob, and who, having the foresight to not only Patent the device, but also managed to retain the forward rights for all future inventions, including what he described in 1904 as a ‘moving picture box” 1, was able to leave a very sizable empire and thus provide a comfortable life for his family to engage in pointless endeavors such as being an A&R guy) had suggested that the band try a more “radio-friendly” sound, and the band sought to head to the famed Clearwell Castle. Naturally the label denied the trip on grounds of “absolutely zero budget”, and as DoubleCross Records Senior VP Sol D. Seitowicz was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t trust those morons in a garden shed, much less a castle.” Ever forward-thinking, Bettleford-Volume bartered with a neighbor to use a cabin that he had won in a game of high-stakes Hungry Hungry Hippos after-hours in the zoo he worked at, located in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains, deep in what is now known as Colorado, just slightly upriver from where Coors gets its water. The cabin, of course. Hippos cannot survive in the mountains. Not for lack of trying, mind you. We’ll cover that in a future post, “Noah’s First Ark: Big Waves Tend to Carry Things a Long Way From Home” (Scholastic Designation: “The Engineering of a Storm-Induced, Sea-Faring Vessel, While Having Obvious Similarities to a Regular Ship, Like Say for Instance a Barge or Something Like That, Would Logically Dictate Notable Structural and Functional Differences From One Designed to Endure a Storm of Sea-Making Potential While Carrying a Pair of Every Known Species for an Undefined Period of Time, Allowing for Storage of Fecal and Other Matter of an Undetermined Prior Mass in Advance of Setting Sail and Thus Begs the Question as to Just How Many Versions of Said Ark There May Have Been Before Noah Got it Right, and Just How Many Really Cool Animals Didn’t Survive to Make That Final Journey, Assuming That Said Animals Weren’t Just Complete Douchebags, and That Then Begs the Question of Whether or Not it Weren’t Simply a Case of Choosing the Wrong Animals to Bunk with One Another, as We Have No Record of an Official Bill of Lading for Any of Said Ark Versions, Or the Ship’s Crew, Most Notably the Social Director”; Remedial Title: “Big Animals on a Boat”).
What was to come of that trip is now a part of Rock-n-Roll folklore. At nearly any festival, you can hear it being re-told in hushed tones over the hypnotic crackling of a campfire roasting Fritos and S’mores-flavored Hot Pockets… and the gasps for fresh air between breezes carrying the foul body odor of the attendees far along to the next campsite.
Following a two day hike to the cabin (which, had it not been for lead singer Ashton Mung’s severe leg cramps and the band’s insistence on using a place mat treasure map taken from a Denny’s near Loveland Pass as the only form of navigation, would have taken approximately nine minutes from the frozen lake their plane had set down upon), the band settled in, and began writing what was to be their first commercial album. According to the manic scratchings and crudely-rendered cartoon penises in bassist Paul-Jean-Pierre Gowenbrowski’s journals, many of the songs were of an absolute genius not seen or heard since the Beatles and their secret “K-Mart” sessions, which bred over 4 million hits worldwide. The band had truly found their stride. Drummer Steve “Ukulele” Marzipone was experimenting with new forms of rhythm, as well as time signatures based on the numbering system for describing sexual positions. Lead guitarist Todd “Lozenge” Lozengensen was discovering new sonic frontiers alongside the string section they had liberated from a Czechoslovakian cover orchestra (hailed in their time as “The Closest You Can Get to the Philadelphia Philharmonic Without Having to Deal With People From Philly”), and rhythm guitarist Jim Freuchelisnki was working to harmonize with synthesizer wizard Vinny “The Organ” Quinn. The lyrics were of a deep personal nature to lead singer Mung’s heart, but dumbed-down just enough to rhyme and repeat per and over again, making them ideal for radio and the idiots listening to it. Things were progressing beautifully. Even the dozen oil painters brought along to create cover art were finding inspiration in the spectacular views and many varieties of hallucinogenic plants growing in the area.
Then it all fell apart.
As storms blew in, the band refused to leave. While ninety four of their entourage sought refuge in the town at the base of the mountain, and the remaining seventy-seven musicians brought along left on planes over the next three days, the band pressed on, writing and arranging their magnum opus. During this time, the weather worsened, blowing in Arctic air and temperatures reaching 70 below zero… But not before dumping forty-nine feet of wet snow upon the tiny two-room cabin.
Over the next five days, travel was impossible, and the resulting horrors I will spare you here. Having burned all nine of the drum kits, Marzipone was close to a percussionary breakthrough, using the skin and bones of Quinn; it being decided that his services were no longer needed, especially with the power being knocked-out and all. Suffice to say that in a Donner-esque turn, only one band member was to survive the ordeal… although left an empty shell of the fun-loving poet genius he entered that cabin as.
The resulting solo album, 1-8-5 (the cover art was an assemblage piece; a collage of the surviving pages from the journal that escaped burning on day two, and released overseas as Wiping You Away) has been hailed as a “remarkable work of lyrical inventiveness and very unique arrangement, paying little, and at times absolutely no attention to things like music theory”, and rare copies can be found in the bargain bin at weird little record stores that you wander into named “Spinners” or “Deep Tracks-n-More”, thinking that they may have a public restroom you can use while attending local art fairs and drinking far too much lemonade.
1I should write a bit here about the controversy surrounding the demise of the volume knob, and the resulting drama surrounding that, more commonly referred to in scientific circles as “The Great Volume Button Controversy”, but let’s be honest here, and accept that this has gone well beyond where it needed to, and save that for another day, shall we?
Digging through a folder of assorted notes I’ve written, and I stumbled across this gem:
“A cacophony of flip-flops, crying kids and a loose shopping cart wheel that goes clackity-clackity-clackity-click-click-thump-thump-thump-thump-clackity-thump.”
One might think I’d remember just what in the fuck that was all about; much less that at some point I was writing a Disney musical number. Phil Collins is going to have a hard time writing the score for this, but hey, that’s on him. Hit me if you’d like to purchase the rights to a brilliant idea for a Walter Mitty meets Toy Story meets Full Metal Jacket meets an Un Chein Andalou/Tarzan-esque animated spectacular.
As a fan of pushing the limits, and making the most of one’s talents, I have to admit that while I may not like shows such as “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” or “The View”, there is something to be said about taking amateurs with little (and often misguided) vision and strapping them into a vehicle that could rocket them to fame, no matter how lacking they may be in the content department. Sit back and drink in the magic of going from a nobody to having YOUR OWN VEGAS SHOW! Your name in lights… tickets being sold at a deep discount at a kiosk outside of a hotel on the Strip where people stop abruptly to take photos on an overpass amongst the homeless. It’s what dreams are made of. Or at least the outer lying fringes of dreams… but with far more talking animals, strange indoor weather and a smell that you can’t quite put your finger on (and live in fear that you may have stepped in). And, should you recall my earlier dream of becoming a world-class Olympic Figure Skating Choreographer, well, this just builds toward that, my friends.
That said, in keeping the underlying “solo sex tape” theme from a prior post, let’s really stretch this out, and throw down a tribute to Liberace. After all, the man personifies the Vegas of old, so it just feels right. But as a traveling, one-man show that would one day find its way into a theater in Vegas, baby! We set things as a retro-looking piece, inspiring the glory days of that city in the desert, featuring Brian, Master of the Hands-Free Piano. A jaw-dropping spectacle that’s loads of fun for everyone. Can you see it? I can:
“He really works to put the ‘penis’ in ‘pianist’. Really an eye-full!”, raves Variety.
“Re-MEMBER your favorite classics as Brian tickles the ivories with his giggle stick!” —People Magazine
“A festival of testicles… and something else we weren’t sitting close enough to get a really good look at.” Entertainment Weekly
“It was all over so fast. And pretty much all over.” — Clarice Gimbalson, front row, center at the Harrisburg YMCA show
The show, in a nutshell: I take to the stage, riding atop one of the old Siegfried & Roy Tigers, decked-out in roller skates and having a gold-plated chicken on its head (at the matinee shows, we’ll have matching gold-plated chickens). The chorus will rise into an a cappella version of the “Axel F” theme from Beverly Hills Cop, and little custom Skittles, coated to look like Cialis will fall from the ceiling into the crowd. I’ll pound-out classics like “I’ll be Seeing You”, “The Beer Barrel Polka”, and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing”, and putting my own spin on favorites with versions like “Begin the Big One”, “Everywhere My Love”, and “Spellbound Cockcerto”. We’ll use the intermission as a refractory period, and allow for a costume change (and a cleaning crew to, uh, do their thing). Come to think of it, if we can get Clorox on board, this will be great. Ponder, too, the sheer genius of having the theater lit by blacklight, and then incorporating a laser show… We could do a planetarium tour, and change-up the show with some Pink Floyd. This is going places.
Actually, I jumped the gun there. We save the cleaning crew for AFTER the finale, which would be a back-light and laser light spectacular! Sequins and ropey jets all aglow, the relentless pounding of the ivories, a triple-stacked set of grand pianos and a trampoline are but the beginning! Axl Rose will join me in a gut-wrenching duet of “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”, on which we’ll have to write our own lyrics, but he’s good like that. We’ll drift into a medley, highlighted by my unique spins on classic with “Semen Mixer”, “Brian Rag” and the visual tour de force “El Cockbanchero”, finally closing it all with a reprise and disco remix of “I’ll Be Seeing You”… and a walk through the gift shop, thank you very much.
I want people to think of this as not only a tribute to the days gone by in showbiz, and not just a cross between Zumanity and a Gallagher show from the 1980’s, but a commentary on what people perceive as celebrity. It’s everything that you never imagined Vegas could be.
Ponder the genius of this being televised on New Year’s Eve, and the natural tie-in to the ball drop. Naturally, we’ll have to stage this someplace much warmer than Times Square, but sometimes we have to make concessions. Suck it, Seacrest.
I like looking at things from a decidedly different angle, and am often inspired to seek out the inspiration behind a trend, or a particular style… I’m a fan of mixing and matching themes, styles, whatever…and an even bigger fan of just having fun with whatever I’m doing, and often seek out things that reflect this attitude. Whether in friends, books, movies, or music. Occasionally, this leads me to seek out stuff that’s a bit off the beaten path. Such was the case here in the studio once again.
(Yeah, it’s gonna be another musical jaunt… and it’ll all wrap up nicely, as usual, with cars. Stay with me, I think you’ll dig this little side trip.)
Anyway, I got to thinking, of all things, about Herb Alpert (not Marv Albert. That’d be weird.), and gave a listen to “Whipped Cream and Other Delights”… A far cry from what I was listening to a week ago, to say the least…. and by far much stranger cover art (if not quite risque’, considering its 1965 release date):
Granted, this album was released before my time (granted, there may be another me in some other dimension, hanging out in a lounge giving this a listen back in an alternate ‘65…), but man… how cool were these cats? If you’re not familiar with the Tijuana Brass, here’s a quick history lesson:
Herb Alpert was a trumpet player who developed a unique sound that was a mix of south-of-the-border, mariachi and distinctly lounge-y sounds, probably best described as Ameriachi (as I learned from a few sources). If you’re really lost here, think of the theme from the TV show The Dating Game, called “Spanish Flea”, which was a Herb Alpert/Tijuana Brass tune, and you’ll have an idea… or their version of “The Lonely Bull”.
Anyway, the ‘Brass cranked out a few albums in the ’60’s (even a cool Christmas album! Find a copy, and mambo your way through a Christmas Wonderland…), until Alpert called it quits, and took his (and business partner Jerry Moss’) record label A&M, and signed some heavy talent, releasing a few albums of his own along the way (out-selling Michael Jackson in the late-’70’s, which says a lot for that era, I suppose), before selling the company to PolyGram in the late 1980’s.
So what’s this got to do with cars? Think traditional lowriders. Bellflower custom style(named after the city in LA county where the look spawned). A mix of the lowrider and custom car, and you’ll see where I’m headed.
Consider Watson’s Caddy:
It is the embodiment of the Bellflower look… the low stance, simple (if often ANY) body mod’s, the bold, yet somehow understated paint technique (much like his T-Bird that came before), and those killer pipes. The East LA style, mixing elements from two cultures (like the Tijuana Brass did!), and coming out the other end with a clean, cool style. It’s all about class, luxury, and style. Just like a lowrider, but with custom roots.
Lowriders embodied Mexican tradition. Crusing in a decked-out ride to impress the ladies, and show off your skills was more than just about the cars. Cruising may be traced back to the “paseo”, where singles would walk around in the central plaza of the village, basically checking one another out. The idea here was to impress. Put these kids in cars, and it sure looks a lot like cruising… Which brings us forward a few years to the end of the second world war. Hot rodding was booming as young men returned from military service, eager to make creative use of their new mechanical skills. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mexican immigrants were making their cars look luxurious. It was style over speed… lowered stance, different hubcaps, an accessories like spotlights, skirts, pipes… many items shared in traditional customizing.
Fast-forward a few more years, and combine this look with the growing custom scene, and well, you got some clean, mild cars that made the most of the new styling coming from the factory… Apply it to a luxury car, and you’re well on your way to a crossover look beyond compare. Imagine in late 1957 (coincidentally, the same year Bellflower was incorporated as a city), a young Larry Watson cruising into the Clock Drive-In in his panel-painted T-Bird…
I have a soft spot for this look… A number of years back, I sketched up a modern take on the look, combining it with the pro-touring look — note pinstripe whitewalls on a 5-spoke as a nod to the classic “Supremes and pinners” look (OK, and a mild chop, extended quarters, relocated and shortened trim…):
The idea behind the Bellflower look is clean lines, cool, vibrant and rich colors mixed with just enough chrome to keep your eyes happy…Make use of some ‘flake or pearl, some striping… In other words, think mild custom, but dressed a notch higher. It’s a fun style, to be sure, much like Herb’s band of session musicians belting out Ameriachi cover versions.
And speaking of cover versions, consider how just a few fresh chords, or an alternate take on a solo in a cover song can change things up drastically, consider the lowrider style, versus the custom car style. One change can send the car from one camp to another… For instance, this pickup is pure lowrder-feel:
Yet, this ’50 has a distinct hot rod/custom feel:
Straddling that line, and walking a bit closer to contemporary style (yet still working-in some retro-style mods) is this unibody Ford:
Consider the Impala and Rivieras of the early (and even mid-to-late) 1960’s… the kind of cars that walk between street machine, muscle car, custom, lowrider… And never seem to get lost along the way:
Simply adding or removing an accessory can dramatically change things up (sort of like adding a horn section to your punk band can suddenly change things to sound much more like Ska…) :
Imagine swapping wheels on this beast… it can go from mild to menacing, and be equally at home almost anywhere:
A wheel and tire combo change on any of these could easily change the look and overall feel in a matter of minutes. It’s all in the vibe the vehicle sends… if you pay close attention to that, magical things start to happen, and soon enough, you’re leaving any ‘theme’ behind, and heading into that wild territory of making it your own. Take one thing, and spice it up with another influence, and man, you can’t help but feel the vibe, and nod your head approvingly as you smile.
And that’s how my mind works: From whipped cream to salsa, stopping in between for some quick history, and leaving you to consider mixing up some styles on your project…