Monday, August 9, 2010

How I Learned Not To Love The Style Council: Chapter Two

PART FOUR:Soul Redemption

With late 1983's " A Solid Bond In Your Heart" bounced The Style Council back from the rap/synth hell and back to the logical progression The Jam might've charted had they not gone bust.  The A-side was soulful, had some decent horns (albeit that dreadful "Saturday Night Live" house band sax solo), great vocals, no synths and dig Paul & Mick on the back of the 45 sleeve! All kitted out in matching mod three button suits with tapered trou, narrow lapels, loafers, slim ties and Mick's even wearing a porkpie looking like they're leaving the end of a fantastic DJ night in my mind (albeit in the daylight by the looks of the window).  No more shirtless Cam punting here!  Interestingly enough I did not see the entire video until now and it's pretty freaking cool, far cooler than any Jam video.  I find it odd that for a guy who repeatedly wanted to distance himself from the "mod" thing everything about this video is "mod".  He's even got his mom in it, which is pretty cool if you like your mom. I know I don't think I'd have mine in a video, not that she'd have any of that mind you!

After complaints of their set not being "Northern Soul" Mick and Paul walked out of an un-named soul night never to return to their tables again. ......

Yes kids it looked like TSC were back on the mod track.  Luckily in case it all went bust I'd also just copped Squire's fantastic new LP "Get Smart!" so there was "contemporary mod hope" in the air. 

PART FIVE: On Yer Bike...literally and figuratively...

The first TSC single of 1984 was "My Ever Changing Moods", in my estimation the last good Style Council single ever. True it had those elements that I couldn't and can't abide by (synth's, a bass synth and that dire Whitney Houston backing keyboard effect which none of you has been so kind to hip me to it's moniker) BUT it had a great melody, great lyrics and a decent groove. On top of it all it's Weller at his most soulful. Sleeve wise Weller did not look cool with his cancer stick in hand, even at 17 I knew cigarettes were for losers and my heroes Dexy's Midnight Runners had pulled the wool watch cap thing off before.  I'm assuming he needed a few fags to catch his breath after all that cycling he did in the stupid promo video (it was the 80's everybody's videos were stupid because everyone and their brother thought they were Julien Temple).

Instead of that stupid bike gear video here's a spot from a U.K. kiddies TV show!

There's something about it that appealed to a 17 year old soon to be thrust out into a cold hard reality flat on his cynical little face when graduation from high school beckoned. My rose tinted memory of this number is tooling around in a Triumph sports car in stripey button down collared shirts and tasseled loafers feeling optimistic about leaving school with this track blasting away. It actually was a sizable U.S. hit (and once again it was years before I actually saw the video with them in their bike racing gear, spawning a brief awful fad among mods for bike clobber). On the flip was Mick Talbot's almost brilliant Hammond instrumental "Mick's Company" sadly ruined by those dreaded synths again!

PART SIX: Just Say "No" To Cafe Armchair Socialism

Enter "My Ever Changing Moods" ("Cafe Bleu" in the U.K.), the band's debut long player packed with lots of alienating stuff in the spring of 1984. Some of it is brilliant (especially my personal fingers up statement to my graduating class "Here's One That Got Away" (sounding a bit like "Too Rye Aye" era Dexy's), a re-recording of "Headstart For Happiness" and the poignant "The Whole Point Of No Return"). But I didn't get the rest of it, from the DREADFUL rap-crap of "A Gospel" to the plastic feux jazz (that was more Kenny G. than Kenny Burrell in retrospect to my more now jazz educated ears) to what would be their next single "You're The Best Thing" (May 1984) it was all one big mod train wreck in my brain and I'd wanted off. I'd already absorbed "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" into my bloodstream as well as The Move and John's Children and wanted no part of this plastic (contemporary) soul boy bullsh*t with all of it's "modern" recording trappings. Thank god "Nuggets" and "Rubble" were just around the corner to provide refuge, salvation and sanity! Living in Ronald Reagen era America I was increasingly sick of ne'er do well pop stars spouting politics at me and Weller's naive socialist leanings were not my cup of tea. There was no longer a reason to follow Paul Weller with blind musical devotion pushing me into what amounted to a cool looking guy who wanted so desperately to sound like a white Lionel Ritchie. No thank you, as a 17 year old American I had the real thing up to my ears in 1984, white mac and cool hair were no excuse for the M.O.R. soul abortion that was "You're The Best Thing"  from its synth to it's "smooth jazz" George Benson guitar solo to its "urban contemporary" radio friendly demeanor it was a mess.


"You're The Best Thing" was launched at the same time TSC came to the U.S. to do shows in NYC and LA. I caught their first night in the Big Apple, a Thursday night at The Savoy in May 11, 1984, one month shy of my emancipation from high school forever. Some poor bastard named Tommy Keene opened the show to what amounted to massive indifference. To my recollection TSC were quite amazing, mainly because there was very little synth, Mick played a Hammond and Fender Rhodes, Weller even strapped on a jazzy Gibson (no Rickys!) for a few numbers and they played pretty much everything I liked by them, opening with what I later found out was their current single's B-side, a number called "The Big Boss Grove" (which I later went out and purchased just for it's flip on a 12" E.P. that featured Paul looking very slimy with greasy crap slicked back in his hair). For the gig Paul and Mick were smartly kitted out in the same gear as on the "Solid Bond...." 45 sleeve, Mick in a pork pie, Paul with a nice French crew and they played for what seemed like an eternity to a sold out venue. Mick even took a few "solo" spots doing a few instrumentals (with or without drummer Steve white ...I honestly can't remember) wailing away on his B-3. School beckoned the next day and my mother was so happy with my late return home in some typically childish way of hers she messed with something under my car's hood necessitating me to walk to school the next day and all through the good 3-4 mile trot I sang "Here's One That Got Away" to myself and stopped off at the local municipal park which I cut through to carve "here's one that got away 5/12/84" on the railing of a gazebo in honor of my semi religious experience the night before and the final hurdle I was about to bound over in less than a month.

I recently found photos from the gig, Paul is NOT sporting a French crew nor is he wearing the cool suit from the "Solid Bond" video...see below and to top it off seems to be playing way too many Yamaha guitars, possibly endorsed by them as my pal K.P. suggested?). 

Paul Weller onstage at The Savoy, NYC, NY, USA May 11, 1984


I went back and played the LP several times again after the live TSC gig hoping I'd maybe come around, but there was no hope and it got to the point that all of it, even the tracks I'd previously liked were not doing it for me. "You're The Best Thing" climbed the charts and was played to death on all the local "urban contemporary" radio stations amidst garbage like Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and their ilk. I was in England during the release of their next one ("Shout To the Top" October 1984) and I could care less as I was happily snatched up current 45's by The Scene, Long Tall Shorty and catching up on some old '79 mod 45's.

Essentially this was the beginning of a life long backwards musical spiral that did not include The Style Council.  Once in awhile I'd see their pictures or LP's and thought they looked like Whaaam or some other contemporary garbage thanks to make up and dyed hair (to me then and now the antithesis of "mod") . I can't say I saw very much impact of TSC on the U.S. mod scene on the East Coast after 1984, nearly 3/4's of the mods I knew disowned them around the same time I did.  I did see lots of photos of Californian mods with dreadful wedge haircuts and cabana boy type get ups (stripey jumpers, sweaters over shoulders, white trousers too tight/short, sock less etc...) like Paul and Mick (complete with the most inexcusable of all fashion apparel items: a lengthy gold rope chain around the neck). I would not pay Paul Weller any attention until 7 years later when as a recently de-activated soldier without a clue what was going on in the outside world, my friend Dave Woj played me "Into Tomorrow".............

Council meetin' CANCELLED.......

After we parted ways TSC begin looking like a bunch
of douche bag Casuals....


Tombeatster said...

I stuck it out through "Our Favorite Shop" and I still like a good bit of that lp but I gave up with "Cost of Loving" where the cover had them in the white outfits, sockless loafers, and blonde doos. Awful looking and the record itself was third rate Lionel Ritchie. I recall I wrote Weller a teenaged letter of anger.

Tombeatster said...

I stuck it out through "Our Favorite Shop" and I still like a good bit of that lp but I gave up with "Cost of Loving" where the cover had them in the white outfits, sockless loafers, and blonde doos. Awful looking and the record itself was third rate Lionel Ritchie. I recall I wrote Weller a teenaged letter of anger.

diskojoe said...

I enjoyed reading about your disenchantment w/the Style Council. I have the Weller DVD compilation & while the Jam & the post 1992 solo videos are great to watch, those Style Council videos in the middle are, ahem, interesting. Also, the reason why "A Solid Bond In Your Heart" sounded like the Jam was that the Jam did record a version which was in consideration to be the final single & later appeared in the Extras album.

Mayne82 said...

Brilliant! The best thing I've read about The Style Council. Loads to agree and disagree with. Loved Long Hot Summer and cycling tops (check out the gear in old Ready Steady Go! clips). Spot on about the Dexy's hat!! I ever twigged til I read it here; took me longer to twig the smokes too. And all tied in with what you're all wrapped up in yerself when this is your soundtrack. rising from your slumbers and all that jazz. JP Satre doesn't say it on the back of Cafe Bleu or whatever yous knew it as so I'll say it instead, 'Chapeau'

Mayne82 said...

Best thing I've read about TSC
Same generation
Different continents
Could add
Could argue
Couldn't improve