Just as Danny, the prophetic drug dealer in Withnail & I, had foreseen the end of flower power with the statement: "They're selling hippie wigs in Woolworth's, man!", The Jam splitting up was, for me, a sign that things had to change.
I'd known Paul throughout The Jam years (first interviewing him for my punk fanzine back in early 1977) and was aware of the constraint he felt, bolted behind his Rickenbacker as The Spokesman of a Generation. You could hear the mould cracking on the last few Jam singles when horn sections, Hammond organ and backing vocals started to appear.
The Style Council were exactly what their name suggested. Less of a traditional band but more of an outlet for Paul's love of clothes, films, literature, music, political views and Sixties fashion. When I first saw the artwork for the debut single "Speak Like a Child", it opened up a new world - a cosmopolitan world of French cafés and bars, smoky jazz clubs and endless cups of cappuccino coffee. Paris seemed half a world away on that cold March morning in 1983. With friend and keyboard player Mick Talbot by his side, Paul had clearly bucked firmly against the trappings of The Jam and opened an exclusive club that only the coolest cats could join. The club encouraged you to listen to all genres of music, read more books, stand up for your rights and explore the world around you. I signed up straight away.
With backing singer DC Lee and jazz drummer Steve White also regulars at the Council meetings, the band not only proved popular with the record-buying public, but also gave a leg up to their chart contemporaries. Undoubtedly, the popularity of The Style Council brought attention to others in the New Jazz movement which included Animal Nightlife, Working Week, Everything But the Girl, Sade and The Blow Monkeys to name but a few. It's hardly surprising then that with this new-found power Paul once again found himself a Spokesperson for a Generation - the same generation but now, like him, older, wiser and with the power to vote.
It wasn't long before the band's strong political colours began to show. They supported the miners, formed Red Wedge with Billy Bragg, supported CND and Artists Against Apartheid. It's hard to find a comparable figure these days who highlights issues and encourages the youth to get involved.
At best, The Style Council produced genre-crushing, soulful, intelligent music, and along the way inspired and informed people to act, protest, vote etc. Punk may have brought revolution to the masses but The Style Council gave them the information to construct a relevant argument for the revolution.
At worst, they eventually confused and infuriated their fans to the point of apathy. There is such a thing as having too much choice and maybe there were too many ideas (the disastrous film JerUSAlem), too many departures and possibly too many views for the politically fatigued public to keep up with by the time the curtain closed on the Eighties.
When Polydor refused to release The Style Council's album of house-orientated dance music, the game was up. Some have said the band were ahead of their time. Some have said they were taking the piss to see how much the fans would put up with. For me The Style Council remind me that we have a choice both musically and in our everyday lives. And if there was ever a time for our voices to be heard then surely it's now. As the song goes... "You don't have to take this crap!".
And you still don't.Reuse content