AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #217 : THE STYLE COUNCIL

The Style Council previously featured in a 19-part series looking at the singles back in 2015/16, and as such I wondered whether adding an ICA, albeit a few years down the line, would amount to overkill. But it’s too late babies……..

SIDE ONE

1. Mick’s Blessings (from the album Café Bleu, 1984)

It’s quite remarkable that TSC released five singles before issuing the debut album. Just as remarkably, none of those singles, certainly in the form in which they had been originally released, made it on to the debut album. Most remarkable of all, however, is the audacity of Side One of said debut, Café Bleu, which offered up seven tracks, four of which were instrumentals while another had an ‘Honorary Councillor’ on lead vocals, meaning that Paul Weller, the central and essential figure for so many fans of the band, provided just two lead vocals, one of which was a completely different version of a previous hit single. It was a bold, brave and potentially career-ruining move, throwing down a challenge his listeners and fan base and offering evidence that his new band was about the collective and not the individual.

The opening track of the album open this ICA….and a vehicle for Mick Talbot to showcase his talents and provide conclusive evidence that his contributions were going to be an essential part of the sound of TSC…and nobody really cared what hard core and appalled fans of The Jam were thinking! This jaunty and short number, running to just 75 seconds in length, has jazz, blues and pop influences to the fore and offered a great foot-stomping, hand-clapping opener, not just to the album but to the live gigs that the band were embarking on.

2. The Whole Point II (from the single Walls Come Tumbling Down, 1985)

The Whole Point of No Return was the second track on the debut album. It was a piano ballad in which was clothed a revolutionary call to arms for the working classes to rise up against the privileged few who formed the aristocracy and not to be afraid to use violence if necessary. It was an idealistic number with its sentiments totally at odds with the tune.

Much more effective was the revisit of the tune the following year. The Whole Point II is a really disturbing song from the perspective of someone who is contemplating suicide by jumping into the seas and letting the waves wash over them. There’s more than a hint of sadness tinged with understanding in the vocal delivery and I have to be honest and say that, as I become increasingly aware of the number of young people, and particularly men, who take their own lives each year on account of mental illness, it’s a song that hits home time and time again. It might be good to talk…..but it’s even better to listen.

3. Long Hot Summer (12” version) (from the a Paris EP, 1983)

It’s a hard task to find something on the ICA to follow on from the previous track without it being too trite…..it’s about trying to avoid a situation akin to that which drove Morrissey to pen the lyric to Panic, which was seemingly to express his disgust that a lengthy doom-laden news bulletin on a pop station would be followed immediately by a piece of music that was so disposable and meaningless that the listener would instantly forget what they had been listening to during the news.

I think I’ve managed it with this, possibly the best-known and best-loved of the entire TSC canon. The one in which the previously angry young man showed he could not only pen the dreamiest and lushest of love-songs but he could sing them in a way that didn’t grate on your nerves. The shooby-doo-up section of this song was the soundtrack of my life in the scorching summer of 1983 as I prepared to move out of the family home and into my first student flat.

4. My Ever Changing Moods (12” single, 1984)

Catchy, jaunty and splendid to listen to, this captured the essence of what would become the recognisable male trio in the band with the drumming and percussion skills of the precocious 18-year Steve White very much in evidence (most of the early TSC songs had featured the very different drumming style of Zeke Manyika, a real talent in his own right but not quite having the finesse that Paul and Mick would require as the band evolved into a jazz/funk/pop combo of equal measures.

5. It Didn’t Matter (7” single, 1987)

As I’ve said repeatedly, ICAs aren’t about a band’s ‘best’ or most-loved songs, but about finding a damn near-perfect running order. It Didn’t Matter is a good pop song, not a great one and it has a production that can now be seen to be very much of its time. It was the band’s 13th single (and their last ever Top 10 hit); it was the curtain raiser for what would become their third album – The Cost of Loving – which is now widely regarded as the release where it all began to unravel and an extended period in the wilderness for Mr Weller. It’s one I hadn’t listened to in a while in advance of compiling the series looking back at all the singles, but found myself enjoying it far more than I had remembered.

6. The Paris Match (from the album Café Bleu, 1984)

Don’t shout at me for breaking my own rule of ICAs ideally being 5 tracks per side…..the opening two songs on this effort came to a little more than four minutes in length, leaving loads of time and space for a sixth track….and I can’t think of a better way to close Side One than calling on the talents of the Honorary Councillors Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. The original, which had appeared on a Paris, was more than decent….but this version took it a whole new level. Almost made me a jazz fan……

SIDE TWO

1. Shout To The Top (12” single, 1984)

TSC really were at the top of their game in the year that Orwell predicted would be all doom and gloom. Hit singles and an album that had led to critics re-assessing their view of the band, fully realising now that Weller’s new band was the real thing and a revival of The Jam was never going to happen.

The first post-LP single arrived in October 84 and almost 35 (!!!!!!) years on still sounds fresh, energetic and timeless. The use of strings was yet another new development for the group and the vocal interplay between Paul and DC Lee is quite superb.

2. Speak Like A Child (7” single, 1983)

I’ve previously posted that the release of the debut single by TSC was a mere 15 weeks after the final single by The Jam. The 19 year-old me hadn’t fallen for the charms of Beat Surrender as it wasn’t new-wave enough and it was always going to be associated with the break-up of the world’s most important band. I was a bit nervous about what was to come next.

The first few notes of Speak Like A Child removed any doubts. It still is a great sounding piece of music that gets me up on the dancefloor every time and having it on constant rotation back in the day helped me go back and make the connection with the dying days of The Jam and appreciate that their ending had been very fitting and, although it would take me a while to realise it, extremely timely as the legacy would never be tarnished.

3. Money Go Round (12” single, 1983)

As I wrote in the piece looking at this as a single, my introduction to the song came via a live performance (to a backing track) on a TV show and it kind of filled me with dread as it confirmed the circulating rumours that that the backing singer of Wham! was now part of Paul Weller’s new band – it felt like heresy. This was a time when I recorded all sorts of TV appearances onto VHS tape as additions to the record collection and it didn’t take me long to fall for this one in a big way. It’s a big song in every aspect – the best part of eight minutes long, Paul’s pulpit sermon is given added nuance thanks to D.C’s breathless backing efforts while Mick hits the keyboards as if he’s determined to land the next big solo on a song by The The; there are pounding drums, lashings of bass slaps and the best use of a trombone/trumpet combination outside of 2 Tone. It’s still, for me, one of the best moments in all of the Modfather’s lengthy career.

4. You’re The Best Thing (12” single 1984)

You can see where this side of the ICA is going can’t you? It’s hopefully a reminder of the quality of radio-friendly 45s the group were coming up with in 83/84. The Jam had enjoyed fantastic acclaim for their singles and TSC were now proving that, despite a sound that was a million miles away from new wave/post-punk/updated mod, they deserved similar levels of praise.

You’re The Best Thing was the sixth single but the first to be lifted from the debut album – indeed it was only released two months after Café Bleu had hit the shops and it had the desired effect of giving the album a second wind and keeping riding high in the charts. As I said in the piece for the singles series, this song is one that I will always associate with turning 21 years of age in the summer of 84 and one particular intense, and for a decent enough period, a happy relationship. The girl involved bought me Café Bleu for said birthday and there’s a handwritten note inside the accompanying booklet that will always remind me of her. We both thought, at the time, that we were the best things that had ever happened to one another…..but we didn’t last and it’s not well over 30 years since we were last in the same room. I’ve had an occasional notion to make a search on social media to see what’s happened to her since, but I’ve resisted as it’s best that bygones be exactly that.

5. The Boy Who Cried Wolf (from the album Our Favourite Shop, 1985)

This sort of keeps the singles run going as this track, from the second album, Our Favourite Shop, was issued as a 45 in some countries outside of the UK, and indeed charted in Australia and New Zealand.

The previous song on the ICA is the one that best reminds me of a relationship from decades ago – this is the one that reminds me of the ensuing break-up. It’s a wonderfully crafted number, an upbeat and uplifting tune masking a very sad and sentimental lyric, packed with regret and more than an element of self-loathing. It’s a break-up song that I’ve long regarded this as the yin to the yang of The Bitterest Pill, one of the most underrated singles released by The Jam, which looked at the ending of a relationship where the blame was attached entirely to the other person….

6. Walls Come Tumbling Down! (7″ single, 1985)

There was anger and optimism in this one in equal measures. The political call to arms about the class war being real and not mythologised. The hope that the young and disaffected would cotton onto the fact that they could really make a difference if they wakened up to the fact that politics was not an abstract or boring concept. Sadly, not enough of us did and things would remain bleak for a very long time.

Walls Come Tumbling Down is a floor-filling, pounding effort that, like many of the best TSC numbers, remains very listenable many decades later. It’s the perfect way to end this ICA….it’ll surely make you want to walk over to your turntable and flip the vinyl back to the other side and listen to the whole damn thing again.

JC

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (18 & 19)

R-789761-1241507545.jpegR-537616-1294627425.jpegI don’t own any of the final two TSC singles that were released in 1989. What I have done is fish around other sites for various tracks and convert them to mp3s to wrap things up. But I can’t make the claim that they are from the 7″, 12″ or CD singles. What I can provide is factual info and a wee bit of commentary.

It was February 1989 when the 18th single was released.

It was a cover.

 

 

Not only was it a cover, but it was a cover of a house tune and The Style Council sounded like they’d never sounded before, especially on the extended mixes.

Promised Land was the work of Joe Smooth, a Chicago-based songwriter. It had been a minor hit under his name (although the vocal was delivered by Anthony Thomas, another member of the Chicago house scene) but had made such an impact on Paul Weller that he wanted to issue his own version.

mp3 : The Style Council – Promised Land (7″ version)

It was a hit in the clubs and of course there were still TSC fans who would buy the records, all of which helped it reach #27 in the singles chart and an appearance on Top of The Pops. The b-side and the alternative mixes are totally different from anything else that has appeared beforehand in this series:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Promised Land (12″ mix)
mp3 : The Style Council – Promised Land (Joe Smooth’s Alternate Club Mix)
mp3 : The Style Council – Can You Still Love Me (Club Vocal)
mp3 : The Style Council – Can You Still Love Me? (12 O’Clock Dub)

And here’s the original:-

mp3 : Joe Smooth – Promised Land

Promised Land is hugely popular among many fans of the band and I can see why given just how different it is from anything else they ever did.  It also introduced them to a new and more diverse audience, those from the dance/club scene.  And there’s no denying that the tunes provide an uplifting and very happy few minutes, akin at times to New Order, especially via the 12″ version and club versions.

The following month saw the release of The Singular Adventures Of The Style Council (Volume 1) which, as these things invariably do, became a bit of a success story with a Top 3 appearance in the album charts. In order to maintain the momentum, the label re-released the best known song in a re-mixed format, together with a new b-side. Given that it was only a few years after the original (and that it’s a far inferior version), it’s no surprise that it didn’t light up the charts, stalling at #48.  What’s an ever bigger insult however to fans, is that the mix is identical to that which had been made available less than a year earlier on the 1234 EP

The b-side, was another house tune and was rumoured to be typical of the material that the band, thoroughly determined to quash those break-up rumours of late 1988, were working up for a new album.

mp3 : The Style Council – Everybody’s On The Run

In July 1989, on the back of the success of the greatest hits chart success, the band announced a one-off gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Fans snapped up tickets eager to hear all the old classics linked in with maybe a few new songs – what they got was a 21-song set, much of which was not yet released, with just one single and even that was Promised Land.  There were loads of guest vocalists used on the night which only added the confusion. The band was booed off the stage. This was the set list:-

1. Can You Still Love Me?
2. Move (Dance All Night)
3. Promised Land
4. Sure Is Sure
5. Everybody’s On The Run
6. Tender Love
7. It’s A Very Deep Sea
8. I Can’t Deny Myself
9. Fine
10. Little Boy In A Castle
11. Mick’s Blessings
12. A Woman’s Song
13. Now You’re Gone
14. Mick’s Company
15. Cost Of Loving
16. Waiting On A Connection
17. Depth Charge
18. Like A Gun
19. Changing Of The Guard
20. You’ll Find Love
21. That Spiritual Feeling

I’m still not sure if was deliberate sabotage or a total misjudgment on the part of Paul Weller. The record label felt the signals were that the fan base would not buy into the new sound and when the band presented the fruits of their labours – entitled ModernismPolydor Records rejected it.

This was a mere 12 years after In The City and it was unthinkable that things had completely broken down. Paul Weller was upset and angry…he was proved to be right in respect of house music soon becoming part of mainstream radio and moving out of the clubs. He genuinely felt he could make good house music and that it was a natural progression for him and his band and this act was the final straw. The Style Council broke up before the end of the year. The Royal Albert Hall had been the last gig.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey; as I mentioned at the start of the series, it made sense to have if follow on immediately after the The Jam singles given how short a gap there was between the end of the old band and the beginning of the new one.

Addendum…….

The comment from Neil after the previous posting in this series about how he was hoping I would be featuring a single called Like A Gun intrigued me as it wasn’t one I knew anything about.  So it was research time and this is what I found….

In February 1989, the Acid Jazz label pressed up copies of a single called Like A Gun  by an act called King Truman.  It was a 12″ single with four versions of the title track.  It soon became clear that the band were The Style Council masquerading under a different name and before too long the bigwigs at Polydor were threatening all sorts of action against the indie label.  The single was very hastily withdrawn with only a few hundred copies making it into shops.  If you want a copy nowadays, then there’s currently nine for sale on Discogs, none of which are from UK sellers, and the lowest asking price is approx £50 plus shipping.  Needless to say, I didn’t pursue things further.  But I have managed to track down an mp3:-

mp3 : King Truman – Like A Gun

And with that. I’ll sign off by saying that next up in the Singles series will not be Paul’s solo stuff. I haven’t liked anything other than Wild Wood…..

Stay tuned.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (17)

R-555515-1241505445.jpeg

One month after the release of Confessions Of A Pop Group, a second single was lifted from it. It was in fact a four-track EP, with the songs made available in 7″,12″ and CD format, albeit the versions on each of them were identical.

It was known as the 1234 EP and consisted of a rather forgettable track from the new album, an even more forgettable* piece of latino jazz for a new b-side, a just about bearable remix of what many were now fondly recalling as being the career highlight and a Mick Talbot instrumental which on the record is attributed to an imaginary group called The Mixed Companions. It’s saying a lot about the quality of the EP that the instrumental is the highlight….always thought it would make a great theme tune for some sort of daytime telly show….

mp3 : The Style Council – How She Threw It All Away
mp3 : The Style Council – Love The First Time
mp3 : The Style Council – Long Hot Summer (Tom Mix)
mp3 : The Style Council – I Do Like To Be B-Side The A-Side

It didn’t bother the higher echelons of the charts, hitting #41. And that, for many people, was expected to be the end of The Style Council.

Dee C Lee had just had a baby and there was no prospect of them touring. The record label were far from happy having been delivered two sub-par and poor selling LPs in a row. The media were totally against Paul Weller with the word pretentious now being applied more and more.  Indeed in late 1988 there were press reports that the band had broken up but these were vehemently denied.  But that wasn’t quite the case and the two singles from 1989 will wrap up the series in one sitting next week..

*personal opinion!!  There are many fine people with excellent taste in music who swear by this particular period in the history of TSC….

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (16)

R-1093287-1255056441.jpeg

This is part of my ‘lost’ period when it comes to The Style Council.  As mentioned in the last posting, I hadn’t bought Wanted at the time of release and nor did I seek out any of the three EPs that came out in late 1987/early 1988:-

EP1 : Cafe Bleu : Headstart For Happiness; Here’s One That Got Away; Blue Café; Strength Of Your Nature

EP2 : The Birds and The Bees : Piccadilly Trail; It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands; Spin’ Drifting; Spring, Summer, Autumn

EP3 : Mick Talbot Is Agent 88 : Mick’s Up; Party Chambers; Mick’s Blessings; Mick’s Company

In May 1988, a new single was released, followed by the fourth studio LP the following month. I will be honest and say that up until a couple of years back, I had never heard Life At A Top People’s Health Farm as I’ve never been tempted to own a copy of the parent album, Confessions Of A Pop Group. The reviews were savage and this time I decided, having been bitten once by the contents of The Cost Of Loving, it was a case of twice shy. I’ve now got a 7″ copy, courtesy of a charity shop, and given I paid 25p for it I can’t grumble about there being a slight jump near the end, nor the fact that it is rather nondescript:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Life At A Top People’s Health Farm
mp3 : The Style Council – Sweet Loving Ways

The b-side is decent enough as a b-side but only for the jazzy guitar sound that was used to great effect on the debut album as the vocal delivery/arrangement is just soppy and clichéd.

It reached #28 in the charts which is evidence that I wasn’t alone in being a long-time fan who’d fallen out of love in a big way. The picture used on the sleeve however, would indicate that neither Paul or Mick really cared about any of that.

Enjoy.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (15)

R-2221630-1272166505.jpeg

So we come to the first single that I made no effort to buy at the time of its release in November 1987.

To be fair, this was a period in my life when I wasn’t listening to much music at all. I was going through a bit of an upheaval trying to sort myself out in some ways that involved a bit of a change in lifestyle including looking to get married and settle down. The Style Council didn’t seem important anymore. And judging from what I was able to pick up from the media I wasn’t missing much as Wanted received a bit of a pasting. Paul Weller had come in for bit of stick and times over the previous ten years but the extent to which this was now prolonged and indeed the venom involved was unprecedented.

So I didn’t help Wanted on its way to #20 in the singles chart. It was a song that neither moved nor annoyed me. It was something I heard occasionally on the radio or caught via a TV appearance as the band worked hard to give it some exposure. It did better than the unlamented Waiting but it was still one of the poorest performing singles thus far, which in a sense is a back-handed compliment given we are dealing here with a Top 20 single – the twelfth to achieve that feat…….and as it turned out, the last:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Wanted

It’s not awful.  But it’s not great.  It just doesn’t seem to be worthy of the great stuff Paul Weller had been churning out in what had seemed that an effortless way the previous ten years.

Two tracks were on the b-side of the 7″ single – the same song but one with a vocal.

Indeed, it was a re-tread of the title song from The Cost Of Loving album released some nine months earlier, but where the original had been lumpy and uninspiring, the new version harked back to the sort of music that the band had made in and around the era of the debut album some three years back. Having said that, I only discovered this when I picked up a second-hand copy as recently as 2013…..

mp3 : The Style Council – The Cost
mp3 : The Style Council – The Cost Of Loving

It was a pleasant surprise to hear something this decent on the b-side more than quarter of a century on.

I’ve since learned that The Cost was a piece of music composed as the theme tune to a film entitled Business As Usual that had been released in 1987. I’ve no recollection of the film despite it being described as an anti-Thatcher film with high-profile stars in John Thaw, Glenda Jackson and Cathy Tyson.

Enjoy.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (14)

R-2603732-1294355442.jpeg
The band’s popularity at the beginning of 1987 was such that their third studio LP, The Cost Of Loving would hit #2 in the charts on the first week of its release, despite it being almost universally panned by critics in the music press.

I’m guessing that many fans were like me, thinking that the criticism was over the top and unjustified, and was in fact only being levelled at Paul Weller and The Style Council as some felt he needed taken down a peg or two.  Sadly, it turned out that the album was indeed a stinker, full of bland, occasionally clunky and instantly forgettable songs.

The proof of the pudding came four weeks after the album had been released when the second single lifted from it entered the charts at #52…..and dropped down a place the following week before disappearing altogether. This was unprecedented for a TSC single but in all honesty it was exactly what it deserved:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Waiting

I picked up the 7″ of the single for 20p in a bargain bin not long after its release, more for the sake of completeness than anything else but hoping I’d find a gem of a b-side.  Instead it was a strange and rather pretentious sounding strings-laden ballad that I think I played once and hadn’t listened to in nearly 30 years until resurrecting it for this series:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Francoise

Maybe I was a bit harsh or maybe my tastes have broadened a bit but it’s not quite as awful as I remember at the time.  But that is damning something with very faint praise.

It was at this point I turned my back on TSC, and indeed the remainder of the singles that will feature in this series have only been picked up over the past few years since I started up the blog and re-kindled an interest in vinyl.  As such, they will be viewed from a 21st century perspective rather than from the late 80s.

 

 

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (13)

R-770769-1247151388.jpeg

The music press had reported in Autumn 1986 that the band had been busy in the studio writing and recording what would be their third studio album with plans in place for everything to appear in early 87.  Indeed, it was the second week of January that saw the release of a new 45 which, given that Have You Ever Had It Blue? was a re-recording of an old song, meant it was the first new material in almost two years – almost unheard of with Paul Weller given how prolific he’d been his entire career.

It Didn’t Matter was a catchy enough pop single to merit attention from fans and critics alike, not to mention radio DJs desperate for something other than Christmas song after Christmas song.  Maybe not the greatest Weller single thus far but not the worst. It entered the charts at #15 and then climbed up to #9, giving the band their seventh Top Ten success.  Little did any of us know it would be their last:-

mp3 : The Style Council – It Didn’t Matter

Slightly concerning was the lack of material for b-sides, which as you’ll have seen from most of the previous singles featured in the series wasn’t ever a problem.  The 12″ had an instrumental version of the a-side together with this which was also common to the 7″:-

mp3 : The Style Council – All Year Round

A tune that bore than a passing resemblance to The Big Boss Groove, the song that had been the double-A release with You’re The Best Thing.  Maybe the great man was running out of ideas…..