Sixties-loving mod-man Bart Mendoza first came to local prominence fronting Manual Scan, formed in the early 1980s. The first lineup consisted of Mendoza on vocals and guitar, Kevin Ring (later Kevin Donaker-Ring) on guitar and vocals, David Fleminger on bass, and Paul Kaufman on drums. Throughout several lineups, the core of Mendoza and Ring remained, and Manual Scan was one of the premiere mod bands of the U.S. in the 1980s.
Releasing a string of singles beginning in 1981 and an album issued in both the U.S. and England in 1986, the band toured extensively throughout California and Arizona as well as England (the 100 Club and the Marquee, among other venues) and Mexico.
Manual Scan was all about the city's then-prolific mod scene. "You had to own a metal scooter to be mod," Mendoza says, referencing local scenesters who used to hang out at Vespa Super Shop and Gelato Vera in Mission Hills, checking out the Tell-Tale Hearts at the old downtown Soma or rallying to see Quadrophenia at the Ken Cinema.
Numerous bands from around the world have covered the band's songs, including the Eddies ("Jungle Beat"), Afterglow ("Of Heart & Soul"), Mod Fun ("Nothing Can Be Everything"), Anna Troy ("31968"), the Kingpins ("Plan of Action"), Anthony Meynell & Sugarplum ("Confidence & Love"), and Static Halo ("American Way").
While maintaining day jobs such as managing Diamond Comics Distribution San Diego warehouse in the late eighties through early nineties, Mendoza managed to tour with bands around the world, especially in Spain and England, where his brand of mod-influenced pop has always remained popular.
Manual Scan eventually evolved into the Shambles, Mendoza's longest-running musical endeavor, still with boyhood friend Kevin Donaker-Ring at his side. Their songs still maintain that '60s sound, albeit more powered-up, à la Nick Lowe or Oasis, plus they have a vast repertoire of eclectic covers (Badfinger, the Zombies, unreleased bootleg Beatles cuts, and more).
As of 2009, Mendoza is cowriting a book covering "every record released from every San Diego performer" from the turn of the 20th Century through the '90s. He also collects local vinyl, with the most rare piece in his own collection being the Scottsville Squirrel Barker album with Chris Hillman (later of the Byrds), from around 1962. "Copies have sold in excess of $200 in mint condition. I got mine at a thrift store, although that was 25 years ago."
He still rides a metal scooter and has never owned or driven a car.
Bart Mendoza's brother Joe Mendoza - a former cop - also performs around town, and a South Bay School is named after the Mendoza's grandfather, the Teofilo Mendoza School. In fact, the whole Mendoza family has been so long-entrenched within the city limits, they're probably more San Diegan than most families named Diego.
A comic book edition of his local music compilation series Staring at the Sun was issued in conjunction with Bloodfire Comics as a giveaway at the July 2011 Comic-Con International in San Diego, with artwork by Lee Kohse.
As for Manual Scan, an early 2006 reunion concert and a few subsequent shows indicated that band may re-form as Mendoza's other main musical mission. In 2011, more reunion shows happened, including an August Casbah gig opening for the reunited Penetrators.
A new band, Bart Mendoza and True Stories, debuted June 13 at Eleven, with David Fleminger (keys, guitar, vocals), Danny Cress (drums, vocals), and Billy Fritz (bass, vocals). “We’ll be playing music from my entire career, and some new ones,” Mendoza told the Reader.
He and True Stories appeared at the La Jolla Athenaeum on October 19, 2012 with a one time-only instrumentation lineup, including David Fleminger on grand piano, Danny Cress on toy drums, a cello player, and more. The mix of music and live interviews included performances by Cory Wilkins and Chris Zach.
An EP with his band True Stories, Comet's Tomorrow, was recorded by Alan Sanderson (Rolling Stones, etc.) at Analog Chew and released in June, 2013. The release party at Soda Bar included a one-off reunion set from Static Halo, their first show since 2008, plus Los Angeles resident Adam Marsland, who amongst other things was in the reformed Standells.
In 2014, he formed a new acoustic trio with Normandie Wilson and David Fleminger called Casino Royale, set to play their first gig in late September. Over the next few years, he also played with Los Fantasmas (with Diana Death) and Elements (with David Fleminger), as well as a reunited Manual Scan.
In 2017, Spain's SNAP! Records issued a limited edition 14-track collection, Paris Yesterday/Demos 1996 - 2007. Made for publishing/inter band use, a few copies were made available for sale to the public. Recorded as templates for full band recordings, they are raw, unpolished acoustic guitar and voice recordings capturing Mendoza's songs in intimate newly minted form. All tracks are studio recordings, though sound varies from track to track, as the recordings were made at various studios over an eleven year period. The album includes demos of four songs later recorded by True Stories and one covered by Los Angeles band the Andersons, as well as co-writes with Cindy Lee Berryhill, Mark Decerbo, and Anna Troy.
His writing appears in the first book from Burger Records, The Scooter Chronicles, released in 2018 and covering the early 1980s Southern California mod scene, with name checks for area bands like the Crawdaddys, the Odds, Tell Tale Hearts, and more.
His first official solo EP 66/68 dropped in November 2021 via local Pacific Records and European label Snap!! Records. Mendoza covers four classic songs that originally hit the airwaves between 1966 and 1968. The tracks were recorded over the last two decades for various projects which never came to fruition, including "Different Drum" (inspired by the Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys version), the Turtles' "Happy Together," "Beechwood Park" by the Zombies, and "Sunny," originally by Bobby Herb.
(Photo courtesy Pacific Records)