Thursday, November 27, 2008

AVS # 7 | Penal Code 100 A (1996)

Sure, before FTC’s first video Finally, some people had dabbled in the classic soul-ish repertoire. Some. Because in 1993, rare were the ones who allowed themselves to think outside the Das Efx/De La Soul box when it came to picking tracks for a skate video. A smooth-operating, Chico Brenes Finally part set to Sade’s suave purring later (not to mention the OG Jackson 5 intervention in Video Days), it suddenly made sense. So once again with FTC’s second film, Aaron Meza digged deep for the oldies (*) and skateboarding’s soundtracks were changed for a while, launching a trend that culminated with Girl’s early flicks.
Penal Code 100 A
is such a good shop video, it even made forget that there's a Coolio tune in the Howard/Carroll part –courtesy of Mike Carroll, according to Aaron. The epitome of the SF/NYC connection, it also doubled as the the swan song of the hi-top white Superstar craze and featured about fifty of the most-wanted (sometimes blunted) skaters from both coasts, on classical spots. Penal Code 100 A also drew the blueprint, music-wise and otherwise, for the Girl/Chocolate decade to come.
Welcome to the 7th installment of A Visual Sound, dedicated to all the Markus Browns and Ben Sanchezes and Keefe bros out there. Droorstalgia at its fullest, people. Again.

(click on the sleeve, see the part)

Van Morrison: Moondance
Tune used: Caravan (Bobby Puleo)
As the Cliché team has proved more than once with its infamous tours, the gypsy lifestyle has been fascinating “gadjos” for a while. Irish songwriter Van Morrison was no exception, as the Rroms prompted him to write Caravan, a tune present on his third album from 1970 –with the other inspiration being how as a kid he could distinctely hear his neighbor’s radio, even though the guy was one mile away down the road. Weird, huh? Especially the link between the two, pretty hard to figure out but hey, what do you expect from a dude nicknamed “The Man” thirty years before John Reves?
Besides being one of George Ivan Morrison Order Of The British Empire’s reliable live crowd pleasers, Caravan reached a mythical status as one of the highlights in Last Waltz, the Martin Scorcese doc about VM’s last show before his band split, in 1976. Which leads us to our own legends and Martin Scorceses : Bobby Puleo and Aaron Meza. The former showed how to pop properly out of a f-side boardslide on a curb, while the latter figured out how all this epicness could be encapsuled: via a song from an absolutely classic album by Van The Man, brewed in a time when ‘R&B’ actually had the words “rhythm” and “blues” in it. “I like how the lines are during the versus and the single tricks during the chorus,” Meza had to say about his second-favourite tune on PC100A, after Althea and Donna’s (*).

The Isley Brothers : 3+3
Tune use
d : Who’s that lady (Montage #3)
Allright, allright: some might argue that this section’s highlight actually starts when the music stops. Just when the brothas from the same motha stop wondering who that intriguing lady might be, the Lennie Kirk show begins. Two sick lines, one drop of death, no music, cut. This said, this 90s skater’s wet dream montage wouldn’t be this good without The Isley Brothers’ track, a 1973 reworked tune inspired by, yes, another Impressions song. Which in turn was used by the Beastie Boys on Paul’s Boutique. “They sampled this and I loved it,” Aaron says, “so I just went to the source on this one.”
Back to more skate-related concerns, though: Guy Mariano’s come back. About as big as The Isleys’. Hailing from Cincinnati in 1954, they consisted originally of four brothers and lasted only one year with the original line-up, before they disappeared. The reason being, one of them died in an accident. Three years later, using the reliable Phoenix tactic, they rose from their ashes and went on as a trio, briefly using a guitar player named Jimi Hendrix. After elaborating some pretty cool soul/funk singles and LPs, success came when the Isleys somehow looked in their drawers and found two more brothers, plus one brother-in-law. Hence their album’s name, as simple as what they had become : 3+3.
After various disbandings, platinum albums, deaths and add-ons, things became fairly more complicated, so why get into it? All you need to know is that some of the most powerful (sometimes political) soul music came from this band of bros that sang a tune called Fight The Power 25 years before Public Enemy. Also, that once upon a time, a skateboarding montage bared names such as Weston Correa, Pepe Martinez, Robbie Gangemi, Rob Carlyon, Ben Liversedge and... wait, was that photographer Lance Dawes, almost a decade before Chomp? Meza truly invented everything.

Sly and The Family Stone : There’s a Riot Goin’On
Tune use
d : Family Affair (Montage #2)
Skateboarding’s always loved lyrics that matched the “montage spirit,” for some reason. While the Plan B guys were appreciating “a little help from their friends” in Virtual Reality, FTC saw the whole thing pretty much as “a family affair”. Cute. “I think I picked the people for this section that were actually family,” Meza explains, “like Marcus and Lavar McBride and the Keefe brothers, or people who were really close friends. Pretty corny, huh?”
Anyway, Sly’s little affair wasn’t any less rambunctious, as he stated on his 1971, Rhodes piano-led, synth-drummed mega-hit co-sung with his sister Rose. Family Affair definitely helped propelling the band’s fifth, darker and more conscious album to the very top of the charts. A funny destiny when you keep in mind that the tune itself got recorded in a Wenebago, at least part of it. And also that it was this close to becoming nothing at all: according to the biography Sly and the Family Stone An Oral History, the singer felt that Family Affair wasn't strong enough to be released as a single. Imagine that. What would Aaron Meza have done? Use Thank You For being A Friend by Andrew Gold, of Golden Girls fame?

(*) Disclaimer : Please note that if one of the cleverest-matching tunes of all video-times, Althea and Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking, “Nah pop no style” (on Huf's section), isn’t part of this selection, it’s simply because it is drowned in one of these disappointing reggae albums (jut re-listened to it, I confirm) –and we’re all about fully classic LPs over here, sorry. What do you mean, what’s a LP?

1 comment:

Not The New Stereo Video said...

For those adventurous enough to venture into the Comments section, here's alittle easter Egg : the semi-full Meza interview (i removed the quotes from the article for redundancy concerns). Enjoy ! I'm competing for longest comment ever.

How many videos had you worked on before PC 100 A?
_ I made an FTC video before that one called “Finally” which is as shitty of a name as Penal Code 100A. Filmed for a few other videos before that too. “Love Child” and some others.

How were you approached to work on penal code 100 A?
_ I was filming with James Kelch and he hooked me up with Kent from FTC. It’s all who you know.

Were there ever music in skate vids that you were stoked on before?
_ I really liked Mike Vallely’s part and song from Speed Freaks. I liked some of the Powell stuff too. And the first Alien Workshop video had good music.

Why such a heavy soul oldies influence in PC100A?
_ I think because that’s what would fit the skaters. They didn’t really listen to punk or fast music. They probably liked hip-hop more, so I thought I’d meet them in the middle.

What was the process for selecting the tunes? Did the skaters have any input in it?
_ The only skaters that had input were Mike Carroll and Huf. I don’t think Carroll would ever let someone else pick his song, though he has picked a lot of songs for other people. Like Eric Koston skating to Master P in the Chocolate Tour. Bummer.

Since having this kind of tunes on video parts was fairly new, were the skaters in it critical of your choices at all?
_ Yeah, before Penal Code in the first FTC video I had Jeron skating to Mary J. Blige. He seemed pretty hyped on it.

How come the full Althea and Donna album is so awful?
_ You know I’ve never heard their album or that song before making the video. Huf was like, “I want to skate to a Reggae song.” And I was just like, “Ahh, man, this is gonna suck!” But when I heard it I liked it.

Retrospectively, what tunes would you have loved to have in it?
_ I’m not sure. I was editing the video and was kind of struggling on a couple of songs for people. I didn’t have a song for Scott Johnston or Max Schaaf. I just picked their songs kind of last minute. I wish I would have maybe picked something better for them. All the other songs I knew I wanted to use probably for like six months to a year before the video came out.

Did you have to pay any rights to the bands back then? If not, have you heard of any of the artists later on?
_ It’s against video making code to speak or ask about these things. Shame on you Seb.

Did you and do you still collect music now? if yes what are some of your fav albums?
_ Most of the music I listen to now could never be used in a video. Joanna Newsom is probably my favorite. She’s the best songwriter since Lil’ Wayne.