I Know As Much As The Day I Was Born

In the 1980s Paul Weller’s decision to keep moving and jump several steps ahead of where his audience were (and his band) led to The Style Council. Out went parkas, targets and guitar- drums- bass post- punk/mod rock, in came jazz and soul and funk, Dee C Lee and Mick Talbot. Looking back at Weller’s writing in The Style Council a lot of the lyrics that shows the same concerns- The Style Council’s love songs are more lovey (Headstart For Happiness and Long Hot Summer for instance) and debut single Speak Like A Child was brilliant soul pop in a way that The Jam could never have been. Weller never avoided politics in his Style Council songs, if anything he was more overtly political than he had been in The Jam. Second single Money Go Round is as powerful as The Eton Rifles but its sung over 70s wah wah funk instead of driving post punk. And as relevant today as it was in 1983.

‘Too much money in too few places
Only puts a smile on particular faces
Said too much power in not enough hands
Makes me think “get rich quick; take all I can”
They’re too busy spending on the means of destruction
To ever spend a penny on some real construction’

Or how about this one, The Internationalists, from 1985’s Our Favourite Shop?

‘If you believe you have an equal share
In the whole wide world and all it bears
And that your share is no less or more than
Your fellow sisters and brother man
Then take this knowledge and with it insist
Declare yourself, an internationalist
If your eyes see deeper than the colour of skin
Then you must also see we are the same within
And the rights you expect are the rights of all
Now it’s up to you to lead the call
That liberty must come at the top of the list
Stand proud as an internationalist’
Walls Come Tumbling Down- governments crack and systems fall/Cause unity is powerful- goes without saying. If anything, these songs go further than Weller ever did with The Jam, overtly socialist and calling for change.
On Saturday night a friend had a spare for a gig by The Style Councillors at Gorilla, a nine piece band playing the songs of Weller’s second band. I never saw The Style Council back in the day so was hearing many of these songs live for the first time, loud and up close in front of an enthusiastic audience. The political songs mentioned above were all played, the words cutting through from the mid- 80s to 2019 and a world where Johnson, Rees Mogg, Farage et al are all at a top people’s health farm and pulling the wool over people’s eyes. This one, a 1986 single, Weller’s own brand of self- realisation and positive thinking…
Have You Ever Had It Blue? was a single in 1986 but first appeared on the soundtrack to the film Absolute Beginners, Julian Temple’s much maligned attempt at Colin MacInnes’ 1950 novel. The soundtrack version of the song has an extended jazz intro before Weller comes in.

Kosmos

Back in November as part of the Monday Long Song thing he kicked off earlier this year Drew posted the nine minute version of Morning Wonder by The Earlies, a wonderful piece of music, sort of psychedelic folk with krauty rhythms. You can find it here with the download link still intact. In places it reminds me of this still amazing sounding Brendan Lynch remix of Paul Weller from 1993, Weller sent twisting around the kosmos by producer Brendan Lynch, on a dub- jazz- electronic mayhem trip.

Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)

Only a few years earlier The Style Council had their last hit single and Top Of The Pops appearance with their cover of Joe Smooth’s house classic Promised Land. Everything about this clip is great- Weller and Mick Talbot on twin pianos, Dee’s performance at the front, Mick’s beard, the fun they all seem to be having.

The Place I Love

Forty years old this year, this song dropped back into my life recently, a young Paul Weller’s rumination on place, identity, home and belonging. Tucked away in the middle of side two of All Mod Cons it can easily be overshadowed by its surroundings- A Bomb In Wardour Street and Down In The Tube Station At Midnight follow it- but its one of those songs which seems quintessentially Weller. Ray Davies is there in the lyrics and Motown in the music but no one else could have written these words at that point. It’s also one of the few songs on All Mod Cons that is written in the first person (most of the songs on All Mod Cons are third person and observational). Home and place are topics he’s come back to throughout his career but in some ways he said it all here and best in 1978, in two minutes fifty-four.

The Place I Love

Unity Is Powerful

Who could be fail to be moved by a call to arms set against some very funky mid-80s pop, railing against reactionary regimes and economic policies that keep people poor (with a slightly po-faced pop at Frankie Goes To Hollywood)? Who? Boris Johnson maybe. David Davis? Theresa May. The complete disintegration of the Conservative Party over Europe is a lovely idea. Long may it continue.

The Style Council’s 1985 single Walls Come Tumbling Down is ace and their appearance on Top Of The Pops to promote it is proper time capsule stuff, Weller centre stage looking sharp with wedge haircut, blue shirt, white jeans and Rickenbacker bass. But, let’s be honest, Dee C Lee upstages him, in black top and jeans with yellow cardigan combo, dancing non-stop, hotter than hot.

Headstart For Happiness is another Style Council gem, but personal rather than political and proof Weller could do wide eyed optimism when he wanted to. This is the version that closed Cafe Bleu, a delicious guitar riff and vocals shared between Mick, Dee and Paul, a song about being in love with being in love.

Headstart For Happiness

Mother Ethiopia

There are records that come along and surprise you sometimes, songs that show a change of direction, new influences, time spent with other musicians a willingness to experiment with new ideas and new sounds. And then there are the new 12″ single from Paul Weller.

There are three new songs, all out now digitally with a 12″ to follow in September, all titled Mother Ethiopia, recorded with soul band The Stone Foundation. This one is part 3, subtitled No Tribe No Colour and done with London based Ethiopian three-piece Krar Collective, with the vocals sung in Amharic by singer Genet Assefa. This is super loose and super funky Afrobeat and it’s likely to cause a certain amount of shuffling of feet and shaking of arses. The more conservative elements of Weller’s audience may be slightly perplexed by this and rush off home to put on Going Underground again- but make no mistake, this is really, really good.

Days Of Speed And Slow Time Mondays

That’s Entertainment always strikes me as a bank holiday song, easily singable in a beer garden on a rare early May Day of sunshine, pub jukebox cutting through the TV sport and noise. Paul Weller admits to writing it drunk, home from the pub, in half an hour and it’s easy to picture- once a couple of lines of the lyric came to him and the rhythm was there in his head, it must have just poured out. He even manages to make the ‘two lovers missing the tranquillity of solitude’ line work in among the urban and suburban poetry. Each line could describe a British bank holiday too from the screaming siren of the police car to feeding the ducks while wishing you were far away, from a kick in the balls to cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume. Weller and The Jam at their best, although the demo version off Snap! always sounds better than the re-recorded one on Sound Affects.

That’s Entertainment (Demo Version)

Into The Cosmos

If you’re at a loose end and want something to soundtrack ninety minutes of your life you could do worse than this mix from the Quiet Storm family, a blogmind compilation expertly sequenced by Mark. This one took suggestions of songs inspired by the cosmos, the moon and the stars. It opens with William Shatner, takes in a wide cast of stargazers including Prefab Sprout, Billy Preston, AR Kane, The Upsetters, David Sylvian, Chilly Gonzales, Billy Bragg, Declan O’Rourke, Stereolab, I Am Kloot, Mayer Hawthorne, Sandy Denny and Labelle and finishes with Rutger Hauer and the ‘tears in rain’ scene from Bladerunner. See if you can guess what I suggested.

And this didn’t occur to me at the time but it could have been a fine addition to the mix, Paul Weller dubbed out and spaced out by Brendan Lynch back in 1993.

Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)

Things Can Only Get…

Election day, 7th May 2015. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to vote. In almost of the elections I’ve voted in since turning eighteen in 1988 I’ve voted Labour. Like many people the Labour party haven’t endeared themselves to me quite as much in recent times. I’m pretty envious of our Scottish friends who have an actual, meaningful alternative to voting Labour in the shape of the SNP, and the same is true in Wales. I would like to vote for a left wing political party- a party who put social justice above narrow personal self interest, who aren’t contributing to paranoid, stoked up fears about immigration, who will fund the NHS and who will support those less well off. You could suggest at this point that this option does exist for me and that I should vote Green. Which has crossed my mind. However I think when I go to the polling booth tonight I shall mark my cross against the name of the Labour party candidate. The bottom line, to my mind, has to be to get rid of the Tories, to vote this shower of shits out of office and I think that voting Labour is the most effective way to do that.

That brings up the dangerous question of voting Lib Dem tactically (and we can all see where that got us last time- the Lib Dems propping up a nasty right wing clique of bankers and ex-public school boys). Fortunately not a problem round here, the Lib Dems trail well off in third but some people may have to make that choice.

In 1997 after nearly twenty years of Conservative government the Labour party had the wind behind them and optimism in front of them. They appropriated D Ream’s pop-house anthem Things Can Only Get Better. I quite liked it until that point. Right now, I’m not sure if things can only get better but if we get five more years of what we’ve just had then things will get a lot worse.

David Cameron (part time punk, Eton mod and class warrior) has stated before that The Eton Rifles is one of his favourite songs. Eton Rifles is a bile-fuelled invective against public school boys (from Cameron’s old school) spitting and jeering at unemployed miners marching from Jarrow to London set to a piledriving post punk tune. As Paul Weller said ‘which part of it didn’t he get?’

Live on Something Else in 1979 (the same episode Joy Division were on).

Brand New Toy

Paul Weller put out a 7″ only single for Record Shop Day last year and then got pissed off with the whole thing when scalpers stuck copies up on ebay immediately and said he wouldn’t do it again.  The song itself was an unholy mash of piano, Small Faces, a dash of Lionel Bart, a touch of Bowie and a borrowed line or two from T-Rex. And rather good.

Brand New Toy

Puts Up The Closed Sign Does The Man In The Corner Shop

Man In The Corner Shop was on side two of The Jam’s 1980 album Sound Affects although I should think I heard it first on Snap! The lyrics had a deep impact on me, possibly the first time I kind of understood that pop songs could be about something important. Paul Weller’s ‘Marxism for beginners in three minutes’ still affect me today, even though I know them off by heart.

Puts up the closed sign does the man in the corner shop 
Serves his last and says goodbye to him 
He knows it is a hard life 
But it’s nice to be your own boss really 
Walks off home does the last customer 
He is jealous of the man in the corner shop 
He is sick of working at the factory 
Says it must be nice to be your own boss (really) 
Sells cigars to the boss from the factory 
He is jealous is the man in the corner shop 
He is sick of struggling so hard 
He says “It must be nice to own a factory” 
Go to church do the people from the area 
All shapes and classes sit and pray together 
For here they are all one 
For God created all men equal

Man In The Corner Shop

It’s a song that stands out musically on Sound Affects, with a chiming intro, 60s chords and middle eight, and powerful finish. I listened to the full album the other day. I’m not sure it’s a ‘great album’, more a collection of songs recorded at the same time. Many of them are good but too similar in tone,Weller moving on from All Mod Cons and trying to absorb Gang Of Four’s clipped guitars, while the rhythm section stretch out a bit. That’s Entertainment and Start! are both career defining. There’s some experimental pop-art. But Man In The Corner Shop (and That’s Entertainment as well) seem to be the moral and human heart of the record.