Mad Pop Science by Mike Baron


It’s been a long time since I built a model car. It’s taking a long time. In my salad days I was an avid builder and won several trophies. I was in a variety store looking at a plastic ray gun one day and I thought I could turn that into a hot rod. Why? I don’t know. I’ve always loved hot rods and customs. My favorites are the wild customs, the bubble tops, the Beatnik Bandit, Silhouette, and Intruder. Ed Roth, Dean Jeffries, Daryl Starbird. Crazy shit with double engines, mismatched wheels, and elegant, originalbody work.

Fifties and sixties customs that wore too much body putty, like aging actresses with too much makeup, were called lead sleds. If you build a four thousand pound vehicle that only carries two people, you’ve failed. It lacks elegance. A custom should be graceful in form and movement.

I see very few radical customs these days, and they seldom hit the cover of the few remaining model car magazines. The emphasis is on low riders, rat rods, and trucks. Having grown up in the era of the elegant custom, I never cottoned to rat rods, vehicles designed to look as decrepit as possible, rusting,
cancerous suffering from leprosy.

I love power pop. The bands I love the most, like the Beatles, Jellyfish, or XTC, employ what Icall mad pop science. Instead of the hoary but beloved three chord progression, usually one, four, five, as found in much of the Rolling Stones or Chuck Berry, mad pop science uses unexpected chords and harmonies in elegant ways. The music is always surprising, but always makes sense, in the way that the end of a great story should come as both a complete surprise, and perfectly natural.

This is what I seek in music and models.


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