Long Hot Summers – The Story of the Style Council – now there was a treat of a title that jumped out of the TV Times to warm my cold, pandemic-battered heart.
Nearly fell off my kitchen chair, where I was reading said mag with a frothy coffee and a resigned air of another long, Lockdown weekend, when I saw this musical delight.
And nearly two long hot hours of it too – happy days.
I might have mentioned, just once or twice, that Mr Weller – or Paul as I now call him since we shared a kiss on Bristol Train Station, is one of my main musical men.
He wrote the soundtrack to my life as I grew up with the punk poet of The Jam, swung smoothly with the more soulful man of the Style Council, and then wandered into the wildly-diverse discs from his illustrious solo career.
We all know The Jam was all about the young idea and, after six albums in six years, I admired Paul’s courage and confidence in taking such different musical direction with the Style Council.
So as many die-hard fans were watching The Jam’s back-catalogue re-charting after their bitter break up, I was waiting patiently clad in my Parka outside Christopher’s Records in High Street, desperate to get my hands on the Style Council’s first single, Speak Like a Child.
And it didn’t disappoint, I loved it, along with the back of the bus video that saw a more play-like Paul stylishly dancing around the scree rather than snarling suited and booted into a moody microphone.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored The Jam, and often pop to see bass maestro Bruce Foxton in his semi tribute group just to hear their tunage, but in 1983, I was mad for the Modfather and his new found sense of sound.
The Style Council was, as the Long Hot Summer documentary stated so sagely, Paul as a pop star, growing in style, stature, and soul music experimentation.
Sky Arts on that Saturday night showed us that, and the band’s story in all it’s glory. Paul ditching the ‘angry young man’ image to become more subtle, more cosmopolitan, and more charming, alongside a brilliant band of like-minded souls who joined him for that decade long ride.
The key quartet were Weller, Merton Parkas Mick Talbot, then teenage drummer Steve White and ex-Wham! and Central Line songstress Dee C Lee – who later married, and divorced, Mr Weller.
This retrospective treat told us all we needed to know. The excitement and the experimentation, the politics and the price of the Red Wedge tour, the music and its make up plus the fame and the fun.
Café Bleu, their official debut album, released in 1984 following the compilation Introducing The Style Council, will remain forever one of my favourite albums. To be honest, it was sitting right at the front on my vinyl revival record even before Sky Arts pulled this documentary out of the bag.
For me, amid all the instrumentals and ideas, there are two songs that really stand out. Love the lyrics, the sentiment and the soul of Paris Match which, for me, is a heart-string song that resonates rather more than the album’s popular people’s choice, You’re The Best Thing.
As for My Ever Changing Moods, well I just know Weller was writing about me – pure soundtrack of my life stuff. I love the slow version, I love the fast version, and I loved the version belted out at Cardiff Castle on that sultry Summer night last year,
The Style Council’s most commercially successful album, Our Favourite Shop, came next, and I like it, not just for its top tunage charts but also because it knocked the dire Dire Straits off the top of the charts in 1985.
Walls Come Tumbling Down, the powerful political punch-packing anthem, and the later added, fabulous, fun, floor filler Shout To the Top, make my top two tracks list here.
And as we move through the times and the tunes, my preference moves to the slower sounds of the low-key Waiting from the Cost of Loving, and the haunting It’s Very Deep Sea from Confessions of a Pop Group – must have been a phase I was going through.
I soon get over though, and embraced house come garage sound of their final album Modernism: A New Decade. No real massive stand out tracks for me, I just love the vibe that came at the fag end of their journey but, in my view, was way ahead of its time.
So there was the Story of the Style Council enjoyed snugly on the sofa on a Saturday night…or so we thought until along came a very fitting finale from the original four.
Paul, Mike, Steve and Dee C Lee together once again with a rousing rendition of Deep Blue Sea. Wow, it brought a warmth to my heart, and a tear to my tear.
The Style Council, I salute you.
Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.
Gig Girl Reviews is where she shows that the world is wider than just our town by writing about the gigs, the films, the theatre, the exhibitions, and all things arty – all through the eyes of a local girl done good.