The early British Modernists of the 1950s sought to emulate the socially mobile elements of American society. Stylistically, they drew inspiration from the sleek, sharp and minimal suit favoured by the avant-garde musicians of the East Coast jazz movement and the more casual wares of the denizens of chic European café society. Philosophically, early Mods saw themselves as citizens of the world - a world in which it only mattered where you were going, not where you came from – a sentiment Beau Brummell would have endorsed.
All About My Girl dips it's beautifully shod toes (clad in Ravel Basket-weaves) into the soulful depths of an oasis of style amidst a cultural desert of post war early sixties London.
It is about the Mods, high street stars that shone in a midnight blue mohair clad sky and their impact on a rain-grey world. It is about the daily grime and the daily grind that only adds fuel to the fire that explodes into living for the whole weekend before jumping the trains back to grey-ness and Monday. It is about the impact of their passion and its wider social impact on those who's weekends are a forty-eight hour wait for conformity.
It is about the gangsters who operate above the law and above their social station. It is about the law who struggle to adapt to increasing pace of change of the young idea. Those that agree that they have no pre-ordained place in society, fuelled by the amphetamines and the violence dealt in equal measure by those gangsters.
It is about those lofty individuals that sit in guilded palaces above everyone. About how there tenuous grip on society is slowly weakening. How their morals prove to be their inevitable down-fall as they lie cowering in their ivory-towers left to watch their once-proud now-crumbling empires fall.
The ripples from those beautiful shoes spread far and wide!
In the beginning
All About My Girl: the book; starts life as a short article I write for a South Coast based Mod/Scooter fanzine called 'Enjoy Yourself' complied by a very good friend of mine; Paul Bedford. 'Just write about a tune you like or something' is my very limited brief. It just so happens that I am on a very big Mod-Jazz trip at this time and doubly so where the Hammond organ was concerned.
I select 'All About My Girl' by Jimmy McGriff although it could easily be 'I Got a Woman', 'Discotheque' or any of the other immaculate Sue releases from the original Modernist period. The article writes itself very quickly and I am extremely enamoured with the feel of the piece. It goes on to generate much good feedback in its admittedly limited circulation.
The piece sits in my in-box for a while and after initial plans to write a book on Mod Fashion (tentively titled 'From the Midst of the Peacock Revolution') I decide to revisit the 'All About My Girl' piece and expand it into a short novel from there.
I guess from start to finish (and bearing in mind I only had access to a computer at work) it took a year to write, print and put together into the book it is now. It is essentially written in the first person on behalf of three different characters (which takes a little getting used to) who's lives overlap as the story reaches it's conclusion.
Like I say in the intro of the book there are many influences throughout. The first person over multiple personae was an influence of Irvine Welsh's 'Filth' and not naming the main Modernist protagonist is a deliberate move copying Daniel Craig's character from Layer Cake, which I think helps the reader imagine themselves 'in the lead role'.
Should you have the book you will hopefully see flavours of the writing of the great Modernist chroniclers, Colin MacInnes (Absolute Beginners), Irish Jack (various Essays), Tom Wolfe (Noon-day Underground) and much of Paolo Hewitt’s writing. This is wholly intentional and is meant with great love and respect for these writers whose works I wholly recommend to anyone.
Ultimately this book is written with love and thanks for a scene that I feel truly privileged to be part of. An endearing cult that through exquisite taste and cutting edge style has always left a steady stream of admiring onlookers with their noses pressed up to the windows of it’s mysterious world. I’m on the inside looking out, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Thank you Lord!
All About My Girl: The original article from Enjoy Yourself fanzine
I think very few people hear music, well I mean they all hear it but few really hear it. It’s for the rare moments when something opens within, and then the music enters, and what we hear becomes corroborated, it becomes feel. But for the man who creates the music is hearing something else, he is feeling something else, articulating my feelings better than I can ever put to words, he’s dealing with the roar rising from the void and he imposes order on it as it hits the air. What is invoked in him, then, is another order, a new science, a new feel and that is the triumph, his triumph becomes ours… but not yet the bass and the drums are treading water, keeping the time, keeping the beat, but not yet my beat…. I can see the organist he’s there in my mind, dressed as immaculately as the sleeves of those albums, who’s Blue go beyond mere colours and through the void until it comes feel… but not yet; the rein is too short, but the promise is there, his band want him to leave the shoreline and strike out for deeper water. We are all witnesses that deep water and drowning were not necessary the same thing… we knew because we’d heard them before. We were waiting for the Organist to take the first steps, let us know he was in the water.
And while I danced, I feel the movement, deep within exactly like someone in torment. I had never thought of how hard the relationship must be between the man and his keys… the keys to his freedom… but first he has to breath life into his instrument, he has to make the instrument live, he has to make it feel and while the organ is just an organ and there’s only so much you can do with it and the only way to find this out is to try; to try and make it do; do everything. But not just yet, the organ is stammering, starting one way then getting startled before retracing its timid steps… to a new direction, but not yet to a new destination, and still the beat is there, the time is keeping us ready for the parameters that were about to be subverted, but for now, steady as she goes… and I am starting the familiar rise again… the organist’s eyes are becoming heavy lidded and just as he was in danger of burning out, his hands cross over and things from within, from the void were burning their way in and lighting the way, by the fire and fury of the battle that was raging within him… I was having the feeling that something had happened; something I maybe hadn’t heard… no matter I was feeling it.
I’m coming up, up like the steam from the espresso machines fuelling the lost souls above our heads… the bass began asking questions, it was letting out the reins, the drums began to answer and then an insistent guitar, sweet and high, slightly detached was flying like me across the Soho night…and still the organist was surveying his path, driving beautiful, soulful and I’m feeling it… It’s the young man blues, its my French blues; as blue as the deep watered sea into which they were sailing… keeping it new, keeping it fresh, at the risk of ruin, running aground, death even all in order to give the music that feel… it must be heard, it must be set free it’s the only light we’ve got in the darkness and now the band are coming together, the groove is there, the rhythm no longer encouraging the organist into the water, it was wishing him Godspeed and I can feel that step back and the immense suggestion that the Organist speak for his blues, speak for mine…. His fingers fill the air with life, his life and my life. He is going all the way back to the sparse stripped back opening statement that I never heard fully until now, It isn’t hurried, it is confident now where before it was a cautious lament. I can hear the burning with him now as the pace is picking up, the Freedom it promised is being shown to us… and I can picture his face drenched in sweat, yet there is no battle in the face now it is soaring it is free. Freedom was all around, I understood, at last, that we could all be free if we just listened… that we would never be truly free until we did… I was hearing his triumph, I was feeling my triumph, and I knew we’d both carry this moment until we were laid to rest in the earth…. Lord Yes Amen!