“The Birth Of The Cool” with Tim Vickery

“I’m looking at some photos of The Small Faces as their glorious time together neared its end.  The shoes are still on point.  But the hair is lank and the clothes are very disappointing.  1965 has given way to 1968, and sloppy has replaced sharp.

The times had a-changed, and were still changing with bewildering speed.  It’s the thing that always gets me about the 60s – the velocity of the process.  It took The Beatles a year to get from ‘Help!’ to ‘Revolver.’  What must it have been like to live in the age of a zeitgeist that changed its clothes three times a day?

In hindsight, the changes affecting the aesthetic of The Small Faces are clear.  They were products of an RnB scene – urban and sharp.  And by the end the vibe was one of rock, a rural thing – bands were forever going to the countryside to get their heads together.  Instead of wanting to look sharper than the boss, the ideal now was to drop out.

Wealth and the need for privacy had forced the stars out of town.  A separation had emerged between teen idols and serious, album bands.  Developments in amplification had made the new rock sound possible.  And the drugs had changed.  Speed had suited the urban RnB thing – cannabis less so, LSD not at all.  The tide swept all before it, and even someone as devoted to the sharp as Steve Marriott was a scruff with long hair, a moustache and flares.

We subsequent generations look enviously on those who were old enough to enjoy the 60s.  Nothing, not even the effervescent late 70s and certainly not the Britpop thing – nothing could ever be quite as exciting.  The consolation, though, is that we have the time and the distance to avoid the pitfalls – from over-indulgence in acid to the hippy style monstrosities.  We can act as guardians of the tradition, taking what we find to be valid and planting our flag.  And one of the places that I want to plant mine is modern jazz.

It is easy to forget the importance that jazz once had.  It was sufficiently serious to fight about.  Years before anyone was rucking on Brighton beach, fans of traditional and modern were coming to blows during the 1960 Beaulieu Jazz festival.  The move out of bebop into cool jazz appeared to offer endless possibilities in the late 50s and early 60s – symbolised by Miles Davis’ magnificent ‘Milestones,’ which pioneered the fade out, leaving the impression that Miles and the gang could come up with infinite variations on the theme.

Fresh, cool, cosmopolitan, mysterious – and immaculately attired.  If bebop had been played in zoot suits, this new sound came presented dressed up in magnificent new style Brioni suits or dressed down in elegantly casual popover shirts – along the lines of the ones that Pellicano has thoughtfully brought out.

I’ll be wearing my shirt while listening to some friends I’ve made in recent times, such as  ‘Mode for Joe’ by Joe Henderson, ‘Dorian’ by Kenny Dorham ….

Morning’ by Yusef Lateef, ‘Lazy Afternoon’ by Pete La Roca, ‘Down in the Village’ by our very own Tubby Hayes and Gerry Mulligan’s sublime ‘Night Lights’ album.  I wish I’d discovered ’em all years ago.  But I’m making up for lost time – with a soundtrack from 1960 and a Pellicano shirt from 2020″

Add to the playlist : Contact Pellicano Menswear

Tim Vickery – Eternal Modernista and BBC South American Football Expert

Follow Tim on Twitter: @Tim_Vickery

Also check out – “Hipper than Hip: modern Jazz and the Ivy League Style

And: “Coffee, Clobber & Cool Jazz – The Absolute Beginning


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