After calling time on The Jam – arguably the most successful band in Britain at the time – Paul Weller unveiled his new group, The Style Council, on 19 February 1983. Weller wanted to incorporate more elements of soul, R&B, and jazz into his songwriting.
“It’s just me and Mick,” he revealed (‘Mick’ being ex-Merton Parkas and Dexy’s Midnight Runners organist Mick Talbot). “He shares a hatred of the rock myth and rock culture. People will have to learn to expect nothing and I’ll give as much in return as possible”. Other musicians were added according to what kind of music the duo was performing.
Released in March 1983, The Style Council’s first single, Speak Like A Child, became an immediate hit, reaching #4 on the British charts. Not all Weller’s fan were delighted by his new enthusiasm for tailoring, jazz and cappuccino, however, and at the group’s second live appearance – a CND festival at South London’s Brockwell Park on 7 May – they were pelted with mud.
Three months later, The Money-Go-Round peaked at #11 on the charts as the group was recording an EP, Paris, which appeared in August. The EP reached #3. Solid Bond in Your Heart became another hit in November, peaking at #11.
The Style Council released their first full-length album, Cafe Bleu, in March 1984. Two months later, a re-sequenced version of the record, re-titled My Ever Changing Moods, was released in America.
Cafe Bleu was Weller’s most stylistically ambitious album to date, drawing from jazz, soul, rap and pop. While it was musically all over the map, it was their most successful album, peaking at #5 in the UK and #56 in the US. My Ever Changing Moods became their first American hit, peaking at #29.
In the summer of 1985, The Style Council had another UK Top Ten hit with Walls Come Tumbling Down. The single was taken from their Our Favourite Shop LP, which reached #1 on the UK charts (the album was released as Internationalists in the US). A live album, Home and Abroad, was released in the spring of 1986 – it peaked at #8.
With The Style Council, the underlying intellectual pretensions that ran throughout Weller’s music came to the forefront, and although the music was rooted in American R&B and soul, it was performed slickly – complete with layers of synthesizers and drum machines – and filtered through European styles and attitudes.
Weller’s lyrics were typically earnest, but his leftist political leanings became more pronounced. His scathing criticisms of racism, unemployment, Margaret Thatcher and sexism sat uneasily beside his burgeoning obsession with high culture and continental style.
As his pretensions increased, the number of hits The Style Council had decreased, and by the end of the decade, the group was barely able to crack the British Top 40 and Weller had turned from a hero into a has-been.
The Style Council had its last Top Ten single with It Didn’t Matter in January 1987. The Cost of Loving, an album that featured a heavy emphasis on jazz-inspired soul, followed in February. Although it received reluctant reviews, the record peaked at #2 in the UK. That spring, Waiting became the group’s first single not to enter the British Top 40, signalling that their popularity was declining.
In July of 1988, The Style Council released their last album, Confessions of a Pop Group, which featured Weller’s most self-important and pompous music – the second side featured a ten-minute orchestral suite called The Gardener of Eden. The record charted fairly well but received terrible reviews.
In March 1989, the group released a compilation, The Singular Adventures of the Style Council, which reached number three on the charts. Later that year, Weller delivered a new Style Council album, which reflected his infatuation with house and club music. Polydor rejected the album and dropped both The Style Council and Weller from the label.
Paul Weller and Mick Talbot officially broke up The Style Council in 1990. In 1991, Weller launched a solo career which would return him to favour in the mid-’90s.