Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for July 15, 2012

Mod Subculture

“The mod subculture began with a few cliques of teenage boys with family connections to the garment trade in London in 1958. These early mods were generally middle class, and were obsessed with new fashions and music styles, such as slim-cut Italian suits, modern jazz and rhythm and blues. Their all-night urban social life was fuelled, in part, by amphetamines. It is a popular belief that the mods and their rivals, the rockers, both branched off from the Teddy boys, a 1950s subculture in England. The Teddy boys were influenced by American rock n’ roll, wore Edwardian-style clothing, got pompadour or quiff hairstyles, and brought stylish gang violence to the UK club scenes.

Originally the term mod was used to describe fans of modern jazz music (as opposed to trad, for fans of traditional jazz). Eventually the definition of mod expanded beyond jazz to include other fashion and lifestyle elements, such as continental clothes, scooters and to a lesser degree a taste for pop art, French New Wave films and existentialist philosophy. The 1959 novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes has often been cited as an inside look at the late 1950s teenage London culture that spawned the 1960s mod scene.

Members of the rockers subculture (associated with motorcycles and leather biker jackets) sometimes clashed with the mods, leading to battles in seaside resorts such as Brighton, Margate, and Hastings in 1964. The mods and rockers conflict led to a moral panic about modern youth in the United Kingdom.”

Almost over before it became popular, the Mod scene faded after it’s notorious high point (low point according to the British press of the time) of late 1963-64.  The Mod scene all but disappeared, Rock music arrived and steamrolled all in its path, until Pete Townsend wrote a rock-opera based on those ‘crazy days’.

“The 1979 film Quadrophenia, based on the 1973 album of the same name by The Who, also played a major role in the fashion industry, being one of the influences on the resurgence of Mod culture in the late 1970’s and the rise of the New Romantics of the 1980s. The style of the film, featuring tailor-made slim-fit suits and ties topped over with an oversized parka (itself influenced by French New Wave cinema) was also extremely popular and highly imitated in fashion, music and cinema in the following decades.

I fall neither one way or the other, loving music, fashion and art from all subcultures, however, the style and angst of Quadrophenia set a high bar for all youth films of the last 30 years… few have managed to come close.

Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton (born July 14, 1926) is an American actor, musician, and singer. Stanton’s career has spanned over fifty years, which has seen him star in such films as Cool Hand Luke, Kelly’s Heroes, Two-Lane Blacktop, Dillinger, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, The Godfather Part II,  The Missouri Breaks, Alien, Escape from New York, Paris Texas, Repo Man, The Last Temptation of Christ, Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Green Mile, and The Pledge. In the late 2000s, he played a recurring role in the HBO television series Big Love. 

Stanton was born in West Irvine, Kentucky, the son of Ersel (née Moberly), a hair dresser, and Sheridan Harry Stanton, a tobacco farmer and barber. Stanton attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studied journalism and radio arts. Stanton is a US Navy veteran of World War II, he served as a Navy cook during the Battle of Okinawa.

Coming to acting late, he had many supporting roles in some excellent films for almost 30 years before his breakthrough part came with the lead role in director Wim Wenders’ film Paris, Texas (1984). The movie’s screenwriter Sam Shepherd, had spotted Stanton at a Santa Fe, New Mexico, bar in 1983 while both were attending a film festival in that city, and the two fell into conversation. “I was telling him I was sick of the roles I was playing,” Stanton recalled in a 1986 interviews. “I told him I wanted to play something of some beauty or sensitivity. I had no inkling he was considering me for the lead in his movie.” Not long afterward, Shepard phoned him in Los Angeles to offer Stanton the part of protagonist Travis, “a role that called for the actor to remain largely silent … as a lost, broken soul trying put his life back together and reunite with his estranged family after having vanished years earlier.”

Other notable roles include as ship engineer Brett, (Stanton), who with Parker (Yaphet Kotto), almost steals the show in the Ridley Scott classic Alien (1979); if it wasn’t for a certain ‘chestburster’ scene with John Hurt they most certainly would have. The set the standard for grumpy, complaining blue-collar workers for the last 3 decades. However, my favourite Stanton role is that of Bud, a seasoned repossession agent, or “repo man”, working for the “Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation” (a small automobile repossession agency) in the Alex Cox cult classic Repo Man (1984). Bud takes under his wing, Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez), a young punk rocker who gets fired from his boring job as a supermarket stock clerk. He has also made several appearances for David Lynch, notably in Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Inland Empire.

In 2011, the Lexington Film League created a festival to honor Stanton in the city where he spent much of his adolescence. The first annual Harry Dean Stanton Fest was three days of film screenings and the premiere of a PBS documentary by director Tom Thurman entitledHarry Dean Stanton: Crossing Mulholland.

In 2012, he had a brief cameo in the superhero blockbuster The Avengers in a scene with Mark Ruffalo. Always watchable, he should still be on everyone’s casting list of exceptional character actors.