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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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…..

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (12)

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There was a great deal of hype and expectation around the film adaptation of Absolute Beginners. The first piece of music to be released was the title track, courtesy of David Bowie, which was a #2 hit in April 1986. The film makers said this was just the first of many great bits of music that would make up the soundtrack, pointing out that there were to be new and original compositions by various singers and bands, including The Style Council.

Being a fanatic, I bought the soundtrack on its release as I thought it would be the only way to get my hands on this new TSC song. I was disappointed to find that it was just a new version of the track Everything To Lose that had been on the LP Our Favourite Shop and I felt as if I’d been ripped off as the album was quite expensive at the time of its release with no discounts on offer from any of the chain stores.

I was even more disappointed when two weeks later the track was released as a 45, in both 7″ and 12″ form with a new track available on the b-side. I didn’t buy it at the time but have since picked up a decent enough second-hand copy of the 12″ from which these are taken:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Have You Ever Had It Blue (uncut version)
mp3 : The Style Council – Gave You Ever Had It Blue (cut version)
mp3 : The Style Council – Mr Cool’s Dream

Thankfully, the new song turned out to be a bog standard Mick Talbot instrumental, so I didn’t really miss out on much.

The single reached #14 in the singles chart which was, at that point, the poorest showing by any 45 attributed to The Style Council.

Incidentally, the version which appears on the LP soundtrack is longer still than either of the versions on the single:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Have You Ever Had It Blue (soundtrack version)

While here’s the original from which the single was adapted:-

mp3 : The Style Council – With Everything To Lose

EXCEPT………………

it isn’t as proved by a great bit of detection work by Craig McAllister the blogger behind Plain Or Pan? (and author of the PJ Harvey ICA on these pages just 72 hours ago)

In a posting last December entitled The Steal Council, our Craig demonstrated that debut single Speak Like A Child was awfully similar to a track called Surrender To The Rhythm by 70s pop/rock band Brinsley Schwarz.

mp3 : Brinsley Schwarz – Surrender To The Rhythm

He then pointed out that Have You Ever Had It Blue had an awful lot in common with this…..

mp3 : Harper & Rowe – The Dweller

This dates back to 1967 and is, to quote Craig, a more obscure part of sunshine pop.

His full rather playful piece over at Plain or Pan? can be read here.

Enjoy.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (11)

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The success of Our Favourite Shop made the release of a third single somewhat inevitable, but to be fair to the band they tried to offer fans something a wee bit different.

Which is why album favourite The Lodgers was given a fresh recording while the live sound of the band was captured to a fair degree for the b-sides. All told, 23 minutes of music were made available on the 12″ version of the single which in effect was almost like half-an-LP:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Lodgers (extended version)
mp3 : The Style Council – The Big Boss Groove (live)
mp3 : The Style Council – Move On Up (live)
mp3 : The Style Council – Money Go Round/Soul Deep/Strength Of Your Nature medley (live)
mp3 : The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing (live)

I was quite excited at the prospect of the release, partly as the band had been an exciting force on the couple of occasions I’d caught them live. Sadly, it all turned out to be a bit flat. The re-worked version of the single wasn’t a patch on the album version while the live tracks, recorded in Liverpool and Manchester, just didn’t seem to capture the energy and force that I’d witnessed in Glasgow.

None of which stopped the single reaching a very respectable #13 in the UK singles charts in September 1985.

 

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (10)

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The second album from The Style Council had been released to a fair amount of critical acclaim in May 1985. Our Favourite Shop also proved popular with the record buying public and in fact reached the #1 spot, albeit for one week only. It was an incredibly diverse LP in terms of sound with elements of pop, soul, funk, rap, jazz and the spoken word all to the fore at various times. The credits for the record show that in addition the regular four Councillors, there were three other guest vocalists (including the comedian Lenny Henry) with eighteen other musicians receiving one or more performance credits.

It was an ambitious and sprawling work with not all that many really obvious candidates for radio-friendly singles, and therefore it was always going to be interesting to see what was going to be the follow-up to the catchy and splendid Walls Come Tumbling Down.

Very few of us would have put money on it being Come To Milton Keynes.

For starters, it’s a strange old tune with a number of changes in pace and tempo. There’s no killer chorus and there’s all sorts of different instrumentation on the record including what appears to be a harp over an incomprehensible spoken word section towards the end. The lyric is a bit garbled and there’s a few bad puns included, none of which would have made much sense to folks outwith the UK. Oh and there’s also the fact that a number of radio stations shied away from it as there was a bit of a media controversy over the title and the subject matter of the lyric.

mp3 : The Style Council – Come To Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes is synonymous with the sort of developments that Paul Weller had attacked during his days with The Jam via The Planner’s Dream Goes Wrong which appeared on The Gift. It was one of the few places that was economically booming in the early-mid 80s thanks to it being able to offer all sorts of economic incentives to businesses and industries, and almost as if it to rub other’s noses in it, the town fathers embarked on a marketing campaign that extolled many virtues under the slogan of ‘Come To Milton Keynes’.

The songwriter thought it was all based on a false premise and penned a lyric which basically said the town, far from being an idyllic spot, had more than its fair share of social problems which couldn’t be masked by lovely new houses and amenities. Indeed, the perceived intention of the strange tune was ‘to create a musical pastiche which matched the supposed artificiality of Milton Keynes itself.’

As is always the case when any sort of artist has an attack on a particular community, the local politicians and residents are whipped up into a frenzy by the media and the band was warned to stay away. In an effort to defuse things, Paul Weller used a BBC interview, when offered the opportunity to explain the song’s meaning, to say it was about much more than this particular corner of England:-

“It was more about the new towns, the fact we used Milton Keynes is neither here not there. They’re up in arms about it apparently, but big deal, you know. It’s more about the way Britain’s values are changing and us as a race are changing as well, I think, and the kind of materialistic values we seem to have adopted, quite American I think.”

All of which saw the song stall at #23, the first by the band (if you exclude The Council Collective effort) to not reach at least #11 in the singles charts.

It was released on 7” and 12”. The common b-side was a rather exquisite love song with a catchy and lovely tune that was tailor-made for daytime radio and would have made a fine single.  And yet, it hadn’t even made the cut for the album

mp3 : The Style Council – (When You) Call Me

It’s the 7” version of the single I have in the cupboard and so that’s all I can offer today.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (9)

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned that White Riot had been written as a call-to-arms for disaffected youth in the UK. Eight years on, and the disaffection was still there – indeed it was increasing all the while thanks to a government whose policies were not of the caring, sharing variety.  Paul Weller‘s increasing frustration with young people not willing to engage in the political process on the basis that ‘they’re all the same aren’t they?’ or ‘it’s only one vote for me and that ain’t gonna bring about change is it?’ led to him penning the lyrics to Walls Come Tumbling Down with such lines as

“Are you gonna realise the class war’s real and not mythologised?’

mp3 : The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down

It was released as a single in May 1985 and its jaunty radio-friendly tune, combined with a high-profile promotional campaign with appearances on all sorts of TV shows, helped it crash into the charts at #13 after which a TOTP appearance helped climb to its highest position of #6.  The fact that it dropped down the charts afterwards rather quickly was perhaps an indication that mixing pop and politics wasn’t helping the band find any new audiences.  But that didn’t stop the main man continuing to get on his soap box and promise that many of the songs that had been penned for inclusion on the second LP would further attack the unfairness of life under the Thatcher government.

As it turned out, the song’s lyrics became a bit of prophesy for what would happen over the next few years in Eastern Europe with the collapse of one totalitarian dictatorship after another and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Indeed, Annie Nightingale, in her final show of the decade which celebrated some of the best and most popular songs of the 80s dedicated it to everyone in Germany whose lives had clearly changed forever more.

There were three quite different songs on the b-side of the 12″

mp3 : The Style Council – Spin’ Drifting
mp3 : The Style Council – The Whole Point II
mp3 : The Style Council – Blood Sports

The first is by far the weakest of the tracks with a bland tune set to sixth-form lovelorn poetry while the last is an acoustic and angry attack on those who supported hunting in the UK countryside and provided further evidence of Weller’s willingness to pen political material of a very personal nature.

The Whole Point II however, is something really powerful and disturbing. The tune was first used on the Cafe Blue LP with a lyric that attacked the political classes in the UK. This updated and very sad version is from the perspective of someone who is contemplating suicide by jumping into the sea…….

The lyrics have undoubtedly aged Walls Come Tumbling Down, but it is a cracking tune that demands to be danced to.

Enjoy.

 

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (8)

(And so to the second posting of the day, held over from last week)

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Is it or isn’t it?

Technically, it’s a single by The Council Collective, but the a-side is a Weller/Talbot composition and it is in effect The Style Council supplemented by guest vocalists (Jimmy Ruffin, Junior Giscombe and Vaughan Toulouse) as well as guest musicians (Dizzi Heights and Leonardo Chignoli). Oh and Martin Ware was involved in the production and mixing.

As the rear of the sleeve explains:-

The aim of this record was to raise money for the Striking Miners and their families before Xmas but obviously in the light of the tragic and disgusting event in South Wales resulting in the murder of a Cab driver, some of the monies will also go now, to the widow of the man.

We do support the miners strike but we do not support violence. It helps no one and only creates further division amongst people.

This record is about Solidarity or more to the point – getting it back! If the miners lose the strike, the consequence will be felt by all the working classes. That is why it is so important to support it. But violence will only lead to defeat – as all violence ultimately does.

The single was released at the end of 1984 but proved to be the band’s poorest selling record thus far, stalling at #24 in the UK charts. This was likely down to a combination of it not getting as many radio plays as previous singles (the stations being disinclined to mix pop and politics….well for the time being!!), that some of the natural fan base weren’t as politically inclined as Paul Weller had thought and sadly, just the fact that it wasn’t all that good a song. But in 1984, reaching #24 in the singles chart would have meant tens of thousands of sales and so decent enough amounts of monies will have been raised:-

mp3 : The Council Collective – Soul Deep (12″ version)

Here’s the b-side:-

mp3 : The Council Collective – A Miner’s Point

It is a fascinating piece of social history. It is a near 17-minute long spoken piece in which Paulo Hewitt interviews two striking miners.  I say fascinating, but it is also very sad.  These two quietly spoken men are determined to see things through and firmly believe that they are going to win.  They articulate very well their reasons for taking such action and while critical of those who are still working, they hold out olive branches to all concerned.  That it didn’t work out as they hoped or anticipated makes it in fact that rare artefact – history as recounted by the eventual losers.

The b-side is also listed as a Weller/Talbot composition – I’m assuming this is as much to do with the payment and collection of royalties (and subsequent donations to the causes) as anything else.

 

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (7)

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Oh this seems to be a good way of lifting the black cloud that’s been hanging above this blog for a few days.

The next single from TSC to feature in this series was another well-deserved hit, reaching #6 in the charts in October 1984:-

mp3 : The Style Council – Shout To The Top

It was released in 7″ and 12″ (the respective sleeves are pictured above). It had all the hallmarks of an upbeat jaunty TSC single but this time with added strings.

The reverse of the sleeves indicated a few causes that the band thought were worth drawing attention to:-

– No! To the abolition of the GLC & local councils
– Yes! To the thrill of the romp
– Yes! To the Bengali Workers Association
– Yes! To a nuclear-free world
– Yes! To all involved ion animal rights
– Yes! To fanzines
– Yes! To Belief

The single came out in the midst of an ongoing and increasingly embittered national strike by the National Union of Miners with the UK becoming an increasingly polarised country in terms of politics and Paul Weller was firmly nailing his colours to the mast of those on the left of centre. The video for Shout To The Top featured paintings representing the strike and again left no viewer in doubt which side the band were on…

There’s no difference in the versions available on 7″ and 12″ and this was the common b-side:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Ghosts of Dachau

A haunting ballad about the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, it was as far removed from the jauntiness of the a-side as can be imagined.

There were two other tracks on the 12″

mp3 : The Style Council – Shout To The Top (instrumental)
mp3 : The Style Council – The Piccadilly Trail

The latter is a slow-paced number that was about as dull a b-side as the band had released up to this point in their career.

Enjoy.

THE STYLE COUNCIL SINGLES (6)

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Back in 1974, Gladys Knight & The Pips enjoyed what at the time was their biggest chart success in the UK with a soulful version of a country and western song called You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. Their cover was never off the radio for months on end and even now, more than 40 years on, despite me never owning a copy physically or digitally I can still very clearly recall the way that Gladys majestically soars across the sentimental message at the heart of the song while her backing vocalists do a killer job in driving it along at a perfect pace.

The thing is, if I can remember it that well from the perspective of an 11-year-old than I’m sure someone with a great interest in music such as the then 16-year old Paul Weller will have taken even more notice and in due course, as he himself falls head over heels, harnesses his talents into delivering something just as special. As indeed he would do with subsequent TSC singles….be patient and all will be revealed!!

And so it proved ten years on when once again radio stations up and down the country never got tired of playing this wonderful ballad:-

mp3 : The Style Council – You’re The Best Thing

It was certainly one of my songs of the summer of 1984. It was also one of the songs of the summer of my then girlfriend as we travelled across Europe on cheap student railcards visiting cities that previously had only been figments of our imagination including Paris, Nice, Monte Carlo, Milan, Florence and Venice where eventually the money ran out and we had to quickly re-adjust our plans and head home leaving the likes of Munich and Amsterdam for other times. Our relationship was a happy one for a decent enough time but sadly it turned sour before 1985 was over by which time we had been to see The Style Council in concert and enjoyed the experience of ‘our’ song beimg played live. I’ve always felt that particular ballad was all about that particular relationship and so even when I’ve been wooing subsequent girlfriends with compilation cassettes that showed off my musical tastes I never once included ‘Best Thing’ on any of them.

The single, which was released just before my 21st birthday, was in fact a double-A side but thinking back I don’t recall ever hearing the upbeat other half of the 45 ever aired on daytime radio:-

mp3 : The Style Council – The Big Boss Groove

It reached #5.  Little did we know that TSC wouldn’t ever get that high in the singles charts ever again……..(although they came close!)

Here’s the other track on the 12″ single:-

mp3 : The Style Council – You’re The Dub Thing

Enjoy