Jun 302008

Quick, Townspeople! Who among us most firmly believes that rock and roll started losing its mind when bands began obsessing about albums, rather than finely crafted singles? Answer: E. Pluribus Gergely! Who’s the guy who thinks the Venn Diagram intersection of tradition, groove and melody is where the best pop music has always lived? E. Pluribus Gergely! Who’s the guy who thinks Paul Weller‘s greatest shortcoming as an artist was his unwillingness to put his heart on his sleeve and sing about his *feelings*? E. Pluribus Gergely!

For all these reasons and more, I’m happy to report that E. Pluribus Gergely — whether he knows it or not — loves the Style Council!

Now, let’s be clear: I have no illusions about our dear, beloved Plurbie and his willingness to open up even one small, wrinkled fold of his fevered brain to consider this overlooked phase in Paul Weller’s career. But I know, deep in my heart, that he should.

When Paul Weller shit-canned the Jam (one of the great, classy moves in rock history, as far as I’m concerned), his stated intention was to launch a loosely knit “band” — more of a collective, really — whose primary aim would be to produce killer singles (*not* albums!), loosely fashioned after the 45s that had brought meaning to his life as a youngster.

With that in mind, check out this vuh-deo, for the Style Council’s fourth single, “A Solid Bond In Your Heart.” Talk about an explicit blueprint for action! Weller wanted to bring back dancing, community, style, and general freedom from bullshit when he started this band. Mr. Mod may tamp his pipe and complain about the Weller “four on the floor” beat that he incorrectly perceives as being central to every Weller tune ever written — and I’m just waiting for the snarky observations about how Mick Talbot is the only guy in this video who’s actually chasing after a girl — but, hell. The tune still churns up the dancefloor, Paul’s heart is clearly in the right place, and there’s some positivity on display. As the band plowed through its first couple of years, Weller would open up even further.

I’ll tell you one thing Plurbie got right about the Jam: they weren’t a very happy band. I can’t tell you how much I loved them as a college dick, but that was probably because I wanted to feel angry — oh, wait: *righteously angry* — about something. Anything! Cue “Going Underground”! Cue “Little Boy Soldiers”! Cue 90% of that whole band’s output, for crying out loud!

Well, I’m pretty much grown up now, and I — like E. Pluribus Gergely — can now see that Paul Weller’s Jam-era songwriting was largely devoid of any kind of real human emotion. Other than “English Rose,” and maybe a few other tunes I’ve forgotten, where were the love songs? Where were the songs about longing, about passion, about sex? We all had to wait until that final “Beat Surrender” EP (basically a trial run for the Council) to see a collection of material that took an earnest look at the stuff that makes us all human.

The Style Council was different. Here are a couple of videos that help illustrate this. The first, “Headstart for Happiness,” is a bright, joyful celebration of possibility, a song that slams the door on the wrinkled nose of the asshole who wrote songs like “Burning Sky.” And check this out: it’s a song about LOVE!

Next, more music about ell-oh-vee-ee LOVE. This time, “You’re the Best Thing,” also an early single. I suspect few of you will be able to look past the synth bass, and (it must be said) the overambitious vocal, but, if you can, consider yourselves rewarded. Once again, Weller does what Plurbie says he doesn’t: he sings his heart out while it sits there palpitating on his sleeve.

Which is not to say that Paul stopped writing angry songs about the political condition. But in the early going, the songs were hopeful, Mayfield-ian and written from Weller’s inside out. Check out the following tune, the closest the band came to a US hit: “My Everchanging Moods.” What on Earth is there not to like about this number, beyond the incredibly retarded video?

Look, I’ll admit that after the first year or two of this band’s existence, Paul Weller totally lost the plot and became a strident, irritating album-monger. But, MAN, in the early going, Paul was doing E. Pluribus Gergely’s bidding! Face it, Plurbie: You love the Style Council, ca. 1983-1984!



  24 Responses to “E. Pluribus Gergely Loves the Style Council!”

  1. HVB, I can’t tell if you’re being tongue-in-cheek or really believe S.C. are better than The Jam. I have no love at all for The Counc., but still legitimately dig The Jam. (AndyR and I knew a guy who honestly liked solo Lennon more than his output with the Beatles. You’re closely skirting that heresy to me)

    Fogerty (John not Tom) never wrote about love either unless you count his love for a Sweet Hitchhiker. I have no bones about his output either. You think the world would have had enough of silly love songs.

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Who said anything about “better”? For the record, I think the Jam were:

    – a good album-centric band, though
    – not as good as I thought they were in college

    … whereas the Style Council were:

    – a good singles-centric band, and
    – much better than I thought they were in college.

    I was just saying that E. Pluribus needs to either reformulate the specific reasons why he thinks Paul Weller writes crappy music, or take a long, hard look at the Style Council. All the things he claims to like in pop music — and all the things he specifically stated are missing in Weller’s output — are right there, front and center.


    p.s.: and, folks, remember: E. Pluribus Gergley is still okay in *my* book. He’s got his shit *down*.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    HVB, do you really want my input on this as well, or are you going to try to dismiss my thoughts with otherwise apt pipe-smoking references? I dread having to watch these videes, just as I’ve dreaded – FOR ONE YEAR – actually writing about a Style Council mix CD that SallyC made me last year. I’ve listened to that mix CD about 6 times, by the way, and it gives me the willies. Anyhow, if you’re interested in my thoughts on this matter, I’ll make some time to clear my mind, consider this stuff, and chime in. Thanks!

  4. the prophet

    HVB, whoever you be, I have two words for you – The Gift. I defy you to find anything The Style Council did that comes close to anything on that album, either albumcentric, singlecentric or mojocentric. That album is, as Snoop would say, the bizomb. And please, don’t get chickenfrank started on Tenille without the Captain. He’ll go Liddy on your ass.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Of COURSE I want your thoughts, Mod! Open that origami mind of yours and opine, my friend!

    And Townsman Prophet: uh… “The Gift.” Well, I’ll say this about that: it’s about as consistent as any Style Council LP. Seriously, it, too, has some astonishing highs: “Town Called Malice,” “Carnation,” “Running On the Spot,” and a few more. But, like all those basically mediocre TSC albums, its stinkers are truly fly-blown, water-level-cresting, peanut-studded corn logs of the turdliest order: “The Planner’s Dream…,” “Just Who Is the Five O’clock Hero,” etc. What’s next, big revisionist ups for “Modern World”?

    Love ya man, and welcome aboard, but come ON,


  6. Prophet – You know HVB. You lived across the street from him in DC.

  7. Mr. Moderator


    I’m going to try to focus my thoughts on your specific case, which I admire you taking the time to clearly state. I GET what you’re saying, and it’s a humble claim. I also think its right that you hold Plurbs’ feet to the fire.

    “A Solid Bond in Your Heart” isn’t a bad song in the way those Curtom singles by Curtis Mayfield you love and I’m lukewarm on are not bad. Where the SINGLE fails miserably, even by ’80s standards, is the entry of the Saturday Night Live takeout-theme sax. You know there’s some blond guy with a ponytail and shades with cherry red frames playing that part. THAT ALONE is reason to toss the SINGLE.

    “Headstart for Happiness” is a song I want to like as it gets underway, even as the cheesy, Madness-style horn part enters (and I’ll do my best in sharing my thoughts to say nothing regarding issues of Look, because the strength of an E. Pluribus Gergely-approved SINGLE should not be dependent on the Look of the artist – at least as the 45 is spinning on the turntable – a great Look is key, and these Style Council videos do not do anyone, especially the women of the UK, any favors.

    The EXACT moment where this SINGLE fails is at the 00:57 mark. Beside the fact that the response line is not sung in a way that benefits the listening experience and beside the fact that response lines are usually a bad idea (no matter how irresistable they can be), what’s really wrong in terms of EPG-approved HITMAKING is that they go to this device way too early in the song.

    This premature response line opens the door too early for too many other cheesy devices that lovers of SINGLES are usually incapable of resisting at some point in their career. In the case of this song, they do the extended middle eighth (middle sixteenth?), at least one key change up, an “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” talking part by the backup singer followed by a handoff of the lead vocals to her. Oh my, the 3-singer relay approach to a song is enough to sink almost any SINGLE, except maybe during the middle eighth on this one:


    Granted, I may be the only Townsperson to dig “The Sad Bag of Shaky Jane”, but I think it illustrates how moderately high the bar is set and how far Style Council misses the mark on this song.

    BUT THAT’S NOT ALL that’s wrong with “Headstart for Happiness”. At the end of the backing singer’s verse, at 2:46, the band exits the relay with a little chromatic George Benson move. Come on, Hrrundi! You’ve been listening to those Prince outtakes for too many years. Coupled with all the wisdom and sensitivity that life has sincerely dealt you, those Prince outtakes have made your senses go to mush.

    By the way, does Talbot actually sing the first verse on that SINGLE? His voice sounds good, and seeing him at least lip sync helps his look. Suddenly, he’s got Joseph Cotten appeal – which I consider an excellent Look.

    For reasons of fairness, I cannot begin to look at this “You’re the Best Thing” video. I considered taking a Pass on passing judgment on the song’s strength as a SINGLE solely based on the prejudices I felt looking at the still from the video, but I’ll carry on without looking.

    I remember this song. If I were assessing an ABC song or a Peabo Bryson single from the early ’80s, I might be able to admire it a little more based on lowered expectations. As it is, it’s OK. Again, though, it’s so wrapped in formalities. He brings nothing special to his form of mainstream pop music. I think about what Bryan Ferry might have injected into this single, either through a late-period Roxy Music or a solo album. I think of what Boy George or even the ABC guy would have brought to the song. They all wound have brought something. Weller and company perform this song with so much reverance for the works of Peabo Bryson that I’m left wishin Roberta Flack had been called in.

    As a SINGLE it sounds like something that may have been used in a Goldie Hawn-Chevy Chase movie soundtrack. Come on, Hrrundi, I cut up on Weller as much as anyone, but I LOVE so much of what the guy did in The Jam. I’m now reduced – not to making joking comparisons to another artist I love and love to poke fun at, John Fogerty – but to to thinking about Peabo Bryson. That ain’t right.

    Onto your next sample…

    I wish you had warned me about Talbot’s calf stroking at the beginning of that video. It gave me the willies. But I also remember this song well. There was a time, beginning around 1975 through 1978, after ’70s ROCK had run its course and right before AOR hit in a big, bad way (eg, the ascension of Journey, Styx, et al) when bands I usually didn’t like turned out some smooth, Quiet Storm-influenced rock SINGLES. Those songs I kind of love by Jefferson Starship, “Miracles” and “Count on Me”; decent radio hits by Pablo Cruise’s “Love Will Find a Way”; that big Boz Scaggs album; the Doobie Brothers’ Minute by Minute… Anyhow, this Style Council SINGLE might have been that kind of song for me if I were 5 years younger and if, like the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Scaggs, and the Doobies I’d never really cared about the artists in the first place. But we’re talking Paul Weller of The Jam, Hrrundi. The man behind “Going Underground”, “That’s Entertainment”, “But I’m Different Now”, “In the Crowd”, “Boy About Town”, “Absolute Beginners”, and just about all of the US-sequenced version of Setting Sons! (And more.) Paul Weller as Marty Balin ain’t cutting it for me, Hrrundi.

    As a friend, I’m telling you: you’ve gotta get off those Prince outtakes! Plurbs will not be buying what you’re selling. You’ll appreciate how kind I’ve been if we can ever stir him from his slumber again.

  8. To be fair, the original version of “Headstart For Happiness” (from the INTRODUCING… EP from ’83) squashes that one like a grape.

    My position on the Style Council is well known, adn in fact, HVB basically reiterates it above. But I’ll just say this, which I say every time the topic comes up:

    If you gathered every Paul Weller single between “Absolute Beginners” and “Have You Ever Had It Blue?” (the last Weller song worth a tin shit, except for the dead cat bounce of “How She Threw It All Away” a year or so later) and played it for someone who did not know the material, that person would not be able to tell that these were nominally two different bands, and if you asked them to tell you where one band ended and the other started, they could not tell you.

    And seriously, The Prophet: THE GIFT is as much the first Style Council album as it is the last Jam album. That you’d pick that album as the pinnacle of Jammitude is truly bizarre.

  9. BigSteve

    I loved that first Style Council mini-LP — especially Long Hot Summer, but Headstart and Speak Like a Child coming right after it, it made a powerful statement. But then something happened, I don’t know what, and it all just dribbled away.

    The 80s were not a good time for a lot of us. And I think it’s fair to judge these guys on the basis of Look, when they obviously put so much emphasis on it themselves.

    And what’s up with Weller’s dancing in the Solid Bond video? You’d think that the guy who never misses the opportunity to bemoan Rick Buckler’s lack of swing would not dance like he’s made of wood. But he does.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    If E. Pluribus Gergely actually checks in on this post regarding his unconscious love for the Style Council, I hope he takes a minute to conisder this late-period Jam clip – a song I really love but a video that never fails to make me laugh:


  11. saturnismine

    Weller runs like a 70 year old woman in need of a hip replacement in that video.

    I definitely don’t prefer the Style Council to the Jam, but I like them both. It’s an apples / oranges comparison, but HVB’s point, that the SC possesses qualities that Gergley would like is true enough.

    To be fair to to The Prophet, you guys, he doesn’t say that “the Gift” is the pinnacle of anything. He just says he thinks it’s better than the Style Council’s releases. As has been pointed out, it’s a bridge from the Jam to the Style Council, and I don’t think it’s a leap at all for someone to like it better than the Style Council’s releases.

  12. saturnismine

    Forgot to add: there was nothing ‘classy’ about the way weller ended the jam and started the SC.

    check the jam dvd box set: he’s right there on the tv show ‘the tube’, before the jam’s final tv performance, unable to look all of england in the eye because his response to the interviewer’s question “do you have any musical plans for after the jam?” is a lie. he says ‘no’, and looks around nervously, because he had already begun getting the SC together.


  13. Hey Hrundi,

    I’m down here in Maryland, the land of pleasant living. The land of pleasant living has rewarded me with a massive hangover thanks to multiple cans of National Bohemian Beer and incredibly bizarre nightmares thanks to the 10 or so jumbo crabs that accompanied the booze. Being hit with your Style Council post did nothing to alleviate the nausea.

    I knew all this was coming. I’ve been told by my many that you’re a huge Weller fan. I’m not going to bother with any kind of analysis dissing the Style Council because any sane person knows they suck. I’m not about to revisit “A Solid Bond in Your Heart” for the same reasons I’m not going to revisit “A Whisper to a Scream” by Icicle Works.

    For some reason or another, you have a strong appreciation for very white forms of music. Even the black stuff you like is the stuff that’s appreciated by your basic college educated whitey who likes to be known as the campus music expert but really doesn’t know a whole hell of a lot. We’re talking about those clods who had a lot of George Clinton nonsense and other comparable slop -stuff that was bad, and truth be told, never really listened to anyway.

    Nothing would make me happier if you’d just throw in the towel along with the plastic watermelon and fried chicken and just say, “You know what? I’m gonna just step up to the plate and take a real good honest swing and let the whole world know that I’m the world’s greatest Billy Joel fan.” If you’d let it all hang out, serious discourse might actually take place at this shithole of a website.

    And just for the record, you’re not going to get anywhere by trying to bait me. The whole thing just isn’t all that important anymore. I hardly ever listen to music these days. I’m done with the research. The hidden gems are not out there, and I have a right to say that because I’ve searched for them more than anyone on this godawful turd. Again, it all more or less died in 1981 when Costello decided to partake of the same purple cool aid you’ve been downing since day one, the stuff that screws up your brain and makes you appreciate craft, mechanics, and math over soul and animality. Granted, all are necessary for decent slabs of wax, but one side of the scale should be heavier than the other.

    At this stage of the game, something’s definitely not right if you feel the need to give up a chunk of your life to proclaim the good news of Weller and the Style Council. You may blast your horn, my friend, but I for one will not be there to listen. Two weeks ago, I was stuck at a party where someone felt the need to correct my incredibly bad taste and explain the magic of Seinfeld via re-enactments of choice “incredibly funny” scenes. We’ve all been there. What’s celebrated is bad, and the recollected presentations are even ten times worse. And that’s more or less what you’ve one with your Style Council workout.

    Enough is enough. Know that I’ll be a receptive audience when you want to confess your sins.

    May the Lord bless you and cover you with his precious blood,
    E. Pluribus

    P.S. Creedence and The Jam have yet one more thing in common. Neither have ever put out a totally solid LP. Both were definitely better at cranking out singles.

  14. A friend of mine has been trying to turn me on to the Jam for years. To me, they (and XTC) epitomize all that’s wrong (or lackluster) with British rock/pop when it isn’t trying to ape American music: it’s all head and no heart. “In the City” is about the only Jam song that I can enthusiastically get behind. It’s disappointing really that the music never matched the Look. I don’t know that much about the Style Council but I’ll take “Ever Changing Moods” or “Walls Come Tumbling Down” over the Jam any day.

  15. BigSteve


  16. Mr. Moderator

    Lord, how I’ve missed discussions of animality on Rock Town Hall!

  17. sammymaudlin

    If anyone’s interested I know a couple of seriously hardcore animality sites. Email me offlist.

  18. To all,

    I apologize to each and everyone of the 11 RTH members for hastily choosing the term “animality”.

    Again, to all 11 members, my apologies.

    E. Pluribus

  19. Now that’s how to be Hater! Don’t worry, I looked it up in the urban dictionary, so I’m pretty sure I’m using the word correctly. E, ask some of your ghetto friends if there are alternative spellings. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure Whitey is the only one of us that actually lived in Africa.

    Which isn’t to say the Style Council don’t suck. I think I quit riding a bicycle for 3 months for fear of looking as fey as Weller on his.

  20. general slocum

    Gergles, what the hell is a sage old gent like yourself doing downing Natty Bo’ all of the sudden, like a Frat Flashback Party gone horribly awry? I kind of like your whole crotchety routine, and it is done flawlessly. No one would ever guess your genuine cuddly demeanor! If this web site were a show, like, say, Hee Haw, you would have your own little shack off to one side, where once every episode or three, someone would mention one of the old saws sure to get your goat. The sound of spitting and cussing would commence, while the little shed rattles until the door flies open, and your marionette self comes out to set the record straight, while tearing the show, and everyone on it, a new one.

    I like it, I say! And I can’t see giving a crap about Weller one way or another. I like that one Jam record, with the demo of That’s Entertainment on it.

    Clinton, though? Crap? I just got that Osmium record the other week and thought it rocked. Fun stuff, and all the more so when you realize into what climate it was being released. I [WHITE MALE] like Parliament/Funkadelic a lot. And aren’t you the big drum beater for Motown, the squeakiest clean of all of Rhythm & Blues’ progeny?

    In any case nice to hear from you. And go easy on beverages not indigenous to your geography, culture, age, or relative economic status.

  21. BigSteve

    I thought Animality was one of those late-period Eric Burdon albums.

    Seriously though, I was drawing attention to that term to illustrate that epg was making a snap judgment, I thought, based on certain criteria that may not have been in play in the minds (or bodies) of those making the music in question.

    I think hvb was trying to demonstrate that criteria epg generally is in favor of — conciseness, liveliness, melodiousness, shapeliness — are in play on Style Council singles. But epg says no; he needs “animality [what some might call earthiness] and soul.”

    I have two problems with this. Those are very slippery terms, hard to define and hard to exemplify. I know I’ve accused artists or records of lacking soul, and it’s a hard charge to defend against.

    More importantly the Style Council are obviously not even attempting to introduce animality into their music. They have that very British sense of fashion and obsession with youth subcultures that is concerned more with surface and, yes, style.

    Plus to say something lacks animality and soul is one way of saying it lacks blackness, and the Style Council, despite some references to soul music stylings, were obviously drawn to a more European slant on things.

    Anyway, it’s one thing to say that you only like music that has these characteristics, but quite another to demonstrate exactly how and why they don’t them. And to say that all good music must have those characteristics, or that all music made after a certain date cannot possibly have those characteristics, strikes me as either vague or foolish.

  22. Fun reading, folks.

    Back in my high school days, my sister’s (then) boyfriend – an anarchist punk dude who squatted in West Philly and hung out at the “wooden shoe” – came into my room and picked up a cassette tape I had made. On one side of the tape was the Style Council, “My Ever Changing Moods”. The other side was the Dead Kennedys’ “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables”. He read the writing on the spine, paused and then stared at me for a moment before issuing his verdict: “You’re an asshole”.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    That’s funny, Cher!

  24. Hey Che,

    I appreciate anyone that can me laugh out loud via the written word. A few of my older brother’s friends were of your sister’s boyfriend’s ilk as well.

    Have a good one,
    E. Pluribs

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