Top 10 Songs by: The Style Council

  • Someone said that you only really like a band if you have real trouble deciding what your top 10 songs of theirs are. Good point. It turns out that not as many acts meet that criterion as I would have thought. But when I remember one, I make up a playlist for it! These are my favourite Style Council songs, nothing more, nothing less. Very few people will have anything like the same top ten. That’s why music is so wonderful.

“The Style Council gave so much to my youth. Who am I kidding? Yes, and to my adulthood as well. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why they made such an impression on me. I guess in the time-honoured tradition of ‘pop’ being about form and content, they sure did bring both. Firstly, of course, the content: musically, The Style Council were way ahead of most of the opposition, as far as UK pop was concerned. The breadth of their ambition over the course of six-odd years was admirable: no two albums were alike certainly, but the same was true of the singles. To go from straight-ahead jazz to sweet soul, impressionistic classical to early UK rap, stripped-down acoustic to house, they covered more ground than your average top ten pop idol. Lyrically, they managed to stand out at a time when there were some very good writers around. Contrary to the subsequent prevailing myth, the 80s were about more than big hair and yachts. Jerry Dammers, Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, and a host of British reggae artists such as Aswad, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Steel Pulse were all writing material that overtly touched on social and political issues. None of these did it as sweetly and commercially as The Style Council. They were able to smuggle quite subversive stuff into the Top Of The Pops studio and Smash Hits magazine. And if politics wasn’t your thing, no matter. There were songs to uplift, songs to break your heart, and tunes you could hear in a club that only required you dance your ass off. Oh yeah, and they looked fantastic as well.” – Martin Freeman, GQ Magazine

10. You’re The Best Thing

“Up until the release of You Do Something To Me some 20 years later, You’re The Best Thing was the go-to Weller Wedding song of choice, with its beautiful glissando guitar line and Curtis falsetto; it remains one of his most complete all-round songs.” – Paperback Rioter,

9. Long Hot Summer

“Something I’ve been fascinated with lately is the dichotomy between “cheesy” and “touching”. There’s a very thin, subjective line separating a song from “lame as hell” and “awesomely poignant”, and it’s hard to end up on the right side. Some 80s bands (Prefab Sprout) were masters at this balancing act; although Style Council didn’t get it right most of the time, this single is a success.” – Bona Drag, RYM

8. Homebreakers

“The album’s opener provides the perfect vibe that sets the rest of the record. It’s five minutes of pure brilliance, featuring a defined soul in overall sound, substantiated by both the horn sections and Mick Talbot on Hammond organ that provide a great backing to Weller’s deep vocal.” – Reece Bithrey, Untitled Blog

7. My Ever Changing Moods

“While the song is clearly an anthem to clear thinking and action — don’t get “caught up in the dailies,” or your Facebook feed — it comes from an artist who, even in the 80s, clearly relished the opportunity to change directions at unexpected moments.” – Thomas McLean, Los Angeles Review of Books

6. Heavens Above

“Love intertwined with a small smattering of politics, barely noticeable. The push and pull of emotional love with a bit of sticking it to the Man. A time honored tradition of TSC but very muted in this particular case.” – Butch, Steve Hoffman Music Forums

5. Shout To The Top

“I first stumbled upon this gem as a teenager on an Indie disco dancefloor and my mind was instantly blown. So immediate and aggressive but such an out and out pop song at the same time. The more I learnt about the band, the more obsessed with the group’s finely dressed frontman, Paul Weller I became. This guy used to be in a Punk band? Now he’s in this awesomely camp, Soul/Jazz pop ensemble..? Brilliant!” – Kieran, Hunting For George

4. Headstart For Happiness

“A classic soul sound, but it was fresh as Weller and D.C. Lee traded vocals and updated the whole late 60s R’nB duet style. The lyrics were of personal and not political power. (You’ll find it can happen/You’ll find you’ve got the strength/You can move a mountain/You just need the confidence.) They were words I reminded myself whenever I would slip into the unworthy self doubt of my high school years. In fact, it became my senior quote four years later.” – Kevin Sedelmeier, Paul Weller News

3. The Paris Match

“This could have easily been on Everything But The Girl’s debut album Eden (1984). Everything from the vocals to the arrangements is perfection.” – Terry Nelson, Albumism

2. Walls Come Tumbling Down

“The lyrics to Walls Come Tumbling Down, with Weller’s rant toned down by the melodic contribution of … DC Lee, are an outraged dissection of the capitalist system, warning the British public to beware of the ‘donkey’s carrot’ of jobs that will turn you into a wage slave forever paying off debts for home electronics they can scarcely afford. We, the working class, are doomed to spend our lives ‘down in the dirt’, says Weller, unless we realise ‘the class war’s real and not mythologized’.” – Jon Ewing, Musicto

1. Have You Ever Had It Blue

“Perhaps the cleverest example from the Council years is the Gil Evans-powered Have You Ever Had It Blue (1986), itself a rewrite of an earlier (and angrier) song, With Everything to Lose (1985). The last stanza ruminates on that hopeless state, “When all the people you thought you knew are changing more and more.” It’s a melancholy observation about life — people change, and often there’s little we can do about it — but it’s also a keen observation about Weller’s own musical directions. More than a few diehard Jam fans must have heard that lyric with rue.” – Thomas McLean, Los Angeles Review of Books

All Top 10s in this series…