Friday, May 30, 2008

TVD's Weekend Shots

Ten tracks found within the import section from the years when I toiled at the aforementioned Record World in the Seaview Square Mall in Ocean, NJ. See ya' at the food court.

Robert Wyatt - The Wind Of Change (Mp3)
Love & Rockets - Ball Of Confusion (Mp3)
The Fall - Cruiser's Creek (Mp3)
Billy Bragg - New England (Mp3)
Woodentops - It Will Come (Mp3)
Red Guitars - Be With Me (Mp3)
The Men They Couldn't Hang - Ironmasters (Mp3)
Blue Aeroplanes - Action Paintings (Mp3)
The Loft - Up The Hill And Down The Slope (Mp3)
Rain Parade - You Are My Rriend (Mp3)

TVD | Friday @ Random

It probably won't come as much of a surprise to TVD readers to learn that yours truly worked in a record store back in the day--actually two record stores to be exact. Both were among the chain of corporate record stores known as Record World--not the mom-and-pop variety mind you, but nevertheless I learned the biz first hand. First was the Record World in Seaview Square Mall in Ocean, NJ and the second was in the Georgetown Park Mall here in DC. Both don't exist any longer--the Georgetown branch having been replaced by a candy store. (Which is sort of the same thing, in a way.)

Both Record Worlds were hubs of activity and thrived on daily musical conversation and debate, which in some way I hope to have carried over to here. I like to think of TVD as sort of the virtual record store where anyone could pop in, have a listen, chime in on some topic of conversation, drop an F-bomb or six, then return the following day. Just like it was back in the mall where the doors were wide open and you couldn't imagine who'd pop in. Why, in the Georgetown Record World alone I met Madonna (in her conical breasts, 'Who's That Girl?' era, Yoko Ono (in her, I'm selling John's lithos era), fitness guru Denise Austin (in her rock-hard abs era--which they were and probably still are), Frank Langella (in his Dracula era) and Bryan Adams (who, trust me - might be the nicest guy on the planet...era.)

All of this to say to TVD's readership--and you're a global one, you are--where do you go in your neighborhood to flip through the records and shoot the breeze on all things: music? TVD starts a brand new feature right here and now where you're invited to send in pics and links of your friendly local record store/haunt. Witty anecdotes are a plus. So, get on it guys. Pay tribute to the lone hold-outs riding the crest of the new, old wave. We'll post 'em as we get 'em.

To wit: Neal over at Som Records has been and continues to be a fine supporter of this blog's mission and he's also an ardent supporter of all things vinyl. And he's just up the block from TVD HQ. How lucky are we?

Take 5 USA visits Som Records DC

From some recent Som purchases:
The Chameleons - Don't Fall (Mp3)
The Raspberries - Go All The Way (Mp3)
Small Faces - Itchycoo Park (Mp3)
The Stooges - Loose (Mp3)
Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth (Mp3)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Submarines and TVD. Now, that's a night out...

...and we're giving away two FREE tickets...

Spin said: L.A. couple's garage pop mishmash sounds like Nina from the Cardigans singing karaoke atop your favorite '80s and '90s vinyl. Blake Hazard's button-cute voice is the duo's favorite weapon, whether layered atop xylophones and electric piano on "Swimming Pool" or Morcheeba-esque, dubbed-out trip hop on "1940."

Pop Culture Madness said: "Honeysuckle Weeks" is a glorious collage of the duo's wide-ranging influences, from old-school dub (most evident in tracks like "1940" and "Fern Beard") to intricately layered electronica (as in the psychedelic-classical "Submarine Symphonika" and "The Thorny Thicket") to vintage pop (as on "Swimming Pool" and the Santaria-inspired "Xavia").

Upon the success of Declare A New State!, which Filter described as "beautiful, sparkling tunes immersed in optimism, yet never lacking depth" and LA Weekly called "remarkable... soul-baring lyrics set to buzzy, hooky indie-pop." The Submarines spent most of 2006 on the road in the US and Europe as both headliners and support for bands like Ladytron, Nouvelle Vague, El Perro del Mar and more. Along with multiple television syncs, the band was asked to record a version of "Little Boxes," the theme song to the Showtime Emmy-nominated series Weeds, in the shows second season. The year culminated when Ryan Murphy. creator of the FX hit series nip/tuck, discovered The Submarines while listening to NPR on KCRW in Los Angeles. He approached the band about featuring the track "Brighter Discontent" in a pivotal scene in the season four finale where cast members lip-synched to the song in its entirety; the scene has since been the subject of some well-traveled nip/tuck fan renditions! on YouTube.

We say: We've got two tickets for The Submarines this Sunday night (6/1) at the Black Cat! Express your fondest desire to go in the comments section, and perhaps your wishes shall ring true. We'll choose a winner by Noon on Friday.

The Submarines - You, Me, & The Bourgeoise (Mp3)

Official Website
Official Myspace

TVD Shuffle Bored | May 29, 2008

The Grays - Nothing Between Us (Mp3)
Radiohead - House Of Cards (Mp3)
Pat Travers - I La La La Love You (Mp3)
Neil Finn - Addicted (Mp3)
Marshall Crenshaw - Our Town (Mp3)

...and now you've just shared today's walk to work with me. (Nice day, huh?)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TVD Shuffle Bored | May 28, 2008

I'm starting to think that this is how radio should be programmed -- invite the DJ's to show up with their iPods and let 'er rip. At random. The way it actually USED to be, right? (Right.)

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass (Mp3)
Todd Rundgren - The Ballad (Denny & Jean) (Mp3)
Blonde Redhead - Water (Mp3)
The Cars - You're All I've Got Tonight (Mp3)
Joe Jackson - It's Different For Girls (Live '79) (Mp3)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TVD Shuffle Bored | May 27, 2008

Y'know - I missed this feature on the blog. With all the planning for theme weeks and the like, there's little surprise here at TVD HQ as to what will be posted for any number of days. So, I'd like to turn it on its head over the new few and in turn be surprised with what the iPod shuffle play will reveal. And you too can play along at home, TVD reader. What are the first randomly selected tunes the iPod coughs up? Let us know...

Manic Street Preachers - Crucifix Kiss (Mp3)
Big Star - The Ballad Of El Goodo (Mp3)
Fossil - Fall (Mp3)
Shudder to Think Feat. Nina Persson - Appalachian Lullaby (Mp3)
Jellyfish - The King Is Half Undressed (Live) (Mp3)

Friday, May 23, 2008

TVD's Wellerweekend Shots

Guest blogger Noah has some, ...well, parting Shots:

"The hardest part about reviewing Paul Weller's career this past week was only being able to select 5 songs per day for download. 25 songs from some artists would be more than enough, but with Weller it is only just scratching the surface. So, here's a few more to enjoy over the long weekend."

The Jam - Away From The Numbers (Mp3)

The Jam - Thick As Thieves (Mp3)
The Jam - Running On The Spot (Mp3)
The Style Council - The Paris Match (Mp3)
The Style Council - The Lodgers (Or She Was Only A Shopkeepers Daughter) (Mp3)
The Style Council - Have You Ever Had It Blue (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Time Passes (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Mermaids (Mp3)
Paul Weller - The Loved (Mp3)
Paul Weller - I Didn't Mean To Hurt You (Mp3)

TVD | Friday @ Random

I can't sing the praises of TVD's guest blogger this week any louder -- Noah, you've done a hell of a job here over the past five days and you're to be commended. And if the traffic stats and the Mp3 downloads are any indication, I'm not alone in this assessment. Cheers Noah! | Watch this space next week for some free weekend tix to the Black Cat! | TVD will return after the Memorial Day holiday on Tuesday. Til then, here are some tracks for your New Wave BBQ this weekend...

The Fixx - You Don't Have To Prove Yourself (Mp3)
Julian Cope - Charlotte Anne (Mp3)
Blanket of Secrecy - Love Me Too (Mp3)
Fiction Factory - Time is Right (Mp3)
ABC - Ocean Blue (Pacific Mix) (Mp3)

TVD's Wellerweek | Day Five

With the mega-hit Stanley Road, Paul Weller had made three number 1 albums with three different bands, each featuring a unique sound while capturing the zeitgeist of its particular era. Extraordinary really. After touring Europe and the UK for the better part of October through December 1995, Paul Weller had a relatively quiet 1996 musically. Divorcing his wife Dee C Lee, drinking heavily, and imbibing a number of substances, Weller once again returned to Woking to try to sort himself out. Looking back on that period, he recently said, “It was like having my mid-life crisis early on, to get it out the way. And I'm not moaning - apart from the emotional thing, which was pretty awful, I had a brilliant time in other ways. I just didn't want to do it for ever more.”

1997 saw the release of his fourth solo LP, Heavy Soul, on June 23 (Go! Discs). Heavy Soul should have been Weller’s second straight chart topping album – it actually outsold Radiohead’s OK Computer – but a number of records were disqualified from the count because they contained too many free postcards. Consequently, Heavy Soul peaked at number 2 on the UK charts. A much rougher record than the previous one and loaded with loud guitars, Heavy Soul shows that approaching 40, Paul Weller was still the angry – if not so young anymore – man. This point is illustrated by the quote on the back of the cd booklet: “To all my people, you know and so do I. To anyone whosoever slated me – fu-k you.” Personally, if I was forced to choose my favorite Weller solo record it would be this one. I’m not saying it is a better overall LP than Stanley Road, but I really dig the raw guitars and, yes, the heaviness of this album. It is probably the one I play the most. I don’t think there is a bad song on this record, though “Brushed” is almost too loud and droning for me. The title track, selected below, starts off the record and is a good introduction to the overriding tone of the album. I’ve always loved the song’s defiant lyrics, which I think sum up Weller’s position after 20 years in the music business – That I can’t be beaten and I can’t be bought. The Heavy Soul tour made it to America and I saw the gig at the Warfield in San Francisco. The four piece band featuring Matt Deighton on guitar, Yolanda Charles on bass, and of course Steve White on drums was smoking.

There was a long wait for Weller’s next studio album, Heliocentric, which came out on April 10, 2000, on Island Records. This record reached number 2 on the UK charts probably due to Paul Weller’s reputation and fiercely loyal fan base rather than the actual merit of the music. It is my least favorite of his solo efforts, though there are some songs I like a lot. “He’s The Keeper,” Weller’s tribute to Ronnie Lane, the bass player in The Small Faces/Faces, is one song from this LP that I go back to often. I also enjoy the pacing and drums of “Back In The Fire,” selected below. The lyrical stanza – Not handcuffed to same wanker/who doesn’t know me/And doesn’t see that our lives are made/On all the efforts of the masses/And all the people who deserve a better fate – is pretty good too.

When Heliocentric was released there was much talk about how it would be Paul Weller’s last album. Nevertheless, he did tour extensively in 2000 and 2001, the latter dates solo and acoustically. Of course, the rumors proved false with the release of Illumination on the Independiente label on September 16, 2002. Really, what else would Paul Weller do then write and play music – he’s never had any other job! Illumination returned Weller to the top of the UK charts with his second solo number 1 LP. While Illumination is a much stronger album than Heliocentric, in my opinion it does not rate with Weller’s other number 1, Stanley Road. A nice collection of songs, Illumination doesn’t capture and sum up an era the way Stanley Road did. That said, I’ve got great memories of this album. I was living in Amsterdam when it came out and “One X One,” selected below and featuring Noel Gallagher on drums and bass and Gem Archer playing acoustic guitar, reminds me of riding around the damp, cold city at night on my bicycle that fall. “All Good Books,” also selected below is Weller’s post-9/11 song about religious fanaticism and features sweet backing vocals from Carleen Anderson and Jocelyn Brown and guitar from ex-Stone Roses player Aziz Ibrahim. I was fortunate enough to see the Illumination Tour in Berlin and Amsterdam that year as well as in NYC the following February.

In September 2004, Paul Weller next released a collection of cover songs called Studio 150 after the music studio in Amsterdam where they were recorded. Studio 150 reached number 2 in the UK charts and contains excellent versions of “Wishing On A Star,” originally by Rose Royce, “Birds” by Neil Young, and believe it or not “Close To You,” which was made famous by The Carpenters. All things considered, however, this album was Paul Weller biding his time until his latest bout of writer’s block passed and he had a new batch of his own tunes to record.

The new songs did come and they were released by V2 on October 10, 2005. As Is Now was hailed as a return to form for Weller, but it only climbed to number 4 in the UK charts. A solid LP, As Is Now has got a little of everything for Weller fans: some all-out rocking stompers, such as “From The Floorboards Up,” “Blink And You’ll Miss It,” and “Come On/Let’s Go,” the return of Jacko Peake and horns, a string section, and some funk on the aptly titled “Bring Back The Funk (Parts 1 and 2).” “Savages,” selected below, is about the Beslan school massacre in Russia. I tend to think As Is Now is a bit overrated, but maybe I’ve come to expect greatness from Paul Weller, and I don’t think this record is up there with his 90s output.

So, as we await the new double album 22 Dreams, which is getting excellent reviews in England, I can’t help but wonder what it is going to be like. Is it going to be simply good, on a level with As Is Now, or will Paul Weller deliver another transcendent record on par with Stanley Road? If I had to bet, I’d say he is due for another amazing, career-defining moment. Either way, it is going to be nice to have a new batch of Weller songs to listen to.

It certainly has been fun breaking out all the old records this past week, revisiting his incredible body of work with The Jam, The Style Council, and as a solo artist. Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane – hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Paul Weller - Heavy Soul, Pt. 1 (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Back In The Fire (Mp3)
Paul Weller - One X One (Mp3)
Paul Weller - All Good Books (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Savages (Mp3)

From the forthcoming 22 Dreams (Universal Records), on June 2nd (Yep Roc on July 22nd in the US).

(Dates, stats, and quotes for this section of Wellerweek derived from Shout To The Top: The Jam And Paul Weller and )

Thursday, May 22, 2008

TVD's Wellerweek | Day Four

After the release of the disappointing Confessions of A Pop Group, The Style Council –without drummer Steve White – returned to the studio to work on another album. Paul and Mick had been getting into House music and the sound and energy of this scene completely influenced what they recorded. Described variously as Garage or House (I’m not versed in the nuanced differences of these styles to know the difference) Modernism: A New Decade was delivered to the record company in early 1989. The executives at Polydor were shocked by what they heard and sensing they had a commercial bomb on their hands activated a clause in Paul Weller’s million pound per album contract. Stating Modernism did not have two singles on it, which was required of every LP, they rejected the record. Weller was livid, stating, “I’ve made all those fu-kers millions of pounds.” It would now be up to the attorneys to sort out the termination of his contract with Polydor.

The expression the British use is that Weller had “lost the plot” by this point. As I listen to Modernism now (the album was included as part of The Council’s 1998 box set), I don’t think it is THAT bad. The songs have a groove and you can definitely imagine dancing to it in a club (if that’s the sort of thing you got up to 18 or 19 years ago). But, I can understand why Polydor refused to release it and do agree to a certain extent with the view that Weller had lost his way. While you have to respect his commitment to continuing to experiment and explore different musical styles, the lyrics to Modernism’s songs are Paul Weller’s weakest. The Council did a few Japanese gigs in the early summer, and then on July 4, 1989, they played their final concert at the Royal Albert Hall. They officially called it quits in August.

By all accounts the demise of The Style Council left Paul Weller in a major depression. Without a band for the first time in his adult life, no record contract, unable to come up with any new material, and unsure of what direction to go, Weller spent most of his time at home with Dee and their two young children. In late 1990, after about a year and a half of doing nothing musically, Weller was finally able to write a couple of new songs. The Paul Weller Movement originally released “Into Tomorrow,” selected below, in 1991. One of the first things noticeable about “Into Tomorrow,” compared with the songs on Modernism, is the prominence of the guitar. Weller had finally gotten over his hang up about being considered a guitar hero. Instead, he returned to playing the instrument that had always been one of his strengths and this, along with the return of Steve White to the drums, helps to give this record a raw feel that had certainly been lacking in later era Council.

Late 1990 and 1991 saw Weller hit the road to test out his new songs and to recapture his feel for playing live again. I remember seeing The Paul Weller Movement at the Ritz in New York City in December 1991. Since he didn’t have enough new material he also dipped into his back catalogue of songs from The Jam and The Style Council. At the end of “That’s Entertainment” Weller mockingly reeled off a few lines from The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” as Morrissey had just covered the classic Jam song.

By the following spring Paul Weller had enough new songs to record an album. The eponymous named LP was released by Go! Discs on August 31, 1992. Paul Weller reached number 8 on the UK charts. Like the old days with The Jam, Paul Weller was back out on the road touring the new album extensively, playing Japan, America, Europe, and the UK (in contrast The Style Council played just 4 shows total in the USA: 2 each in LA and NYC). “Above The Clouds,” selected below from the album, is one of my all-time favorite Weller compositions. A song about self-doubt, it has got a great sound with flute from Jacko Peake and jazzy guitar playing from Weller. Overall, Paul Weller’s first solo album has a coherence and really cool vibe that I’m sure has much to do with co-producer Brendan Lynch’s touch as well as the talented musicians and vocalists, who included Steve White, Marco Nelson, Camelle Hinds, Dr. Robert (of The Blow Monkeys), Carleen Anderson, and Dee C Lee.

After the relative success of his debut solo record, Paul Weller returned to the studio to make another album. In 1993, the songs were really starting to flow again – marking the beginning of another incredible period of creativity for Weller. Wild Wood was recorded at The Manor in Oxfordshire with much of the same personnel from the previous sessions – Steve White, Marco Nelson, Jacko Peake, and Brendan Lynch. Steve Cradock, who would subsequently become a regular member of Paul Weller’s band, made his first appearance on the song “Shadow Of The Sun.” Wild Wood also features a Style Council reunion of sorts with Mick Talbot and Dee C Lee joining Steve White and Weller on “5th Season.” Released by Go! Discs on September 6, 1993, Wild Wood rose to number 2 in the charts and is considered by some to be Paul Weller’s finest solo record. It is an earthy album with fantastic lyrics and tremendously cool sounds courtesy of the Mellotron, Moog, and mini-Moog keyboards. Selecting just one song from this LP for a download is tough, but I’m going with “All The Pictures On The Wall” for the lyrics: There was a time I really loved you/But when that was I just can’t say. I saw him touring Wild Wood at Lupo’s Heart Break Hotel in Providence, RI in December 1993 and it was amazing.

Wild Wood was a critical success as well. Weller won best British Male Solo Artist at the 1994 Brits, but declined to pick up the prize. He was also awarded an Ivor Novello Award for outstanding song writing. Additionally, this was the period when Britpop ruled the airwaves and everyone was naming Paul Weller and The Jam as major influences. It was fashionable again to be Paul Weller and he was dubbed the Modfather at this time.

Weller returned to The Manor to record his follow up to Wild Wood. Stanley Road, named for the street he grew up on in Woking (it was actually Walton Road), became his biggest selling record ever – surpassing anything ever put out by The Jam or The Style Council. Going straight to number 1 on the charts after its May 15, 1995 release, Stanley Road made Paul Weller absolutely huge again in the UK. And rightly so! Stanley Road is a brilliant LP. There are so many great songs on this record, beginning with the first single, “The Changingman.” “Out Of The Sinking, ” selected below, is Weller’s song for London and the Thames. As he has said, “I wanted to write my ultimate mod-soul love song… the middle eight is pure Small Faces but I’m really proud of it. It’s a great love song and a London love song for me.” The other song from Stanley Road below is “Broken Stones,” which features Weller on a Hammond joined by Mick Talbot on a Fender Rhodes. “Broken Stones” has been a regular in his live sets ever since it came out in 1995. I love the opening lyrics, Like pebbles on a beach/Kicked around, displaced by feet/Like broken stones – all trying to get home. The album cover is also fun to study, featuring artwork by Peter Blake. If you don’t own it already, head to your local record store immediately. Stanley Road is a must for any record collection.

Paul Weller - Into Tomorrow (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Above The Clouds (Mp3)
Paul Weller - All The Pictures On The Wall (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Out Of The Sinking (Mp3)
Paul Weller - Broken Stones (Mp3)

(Dates, stats, and quotes for this section of Wellerweek derived from The Complete Adventures of The Style Council, Shout To The Top: The Jam And Paul Weller, and Stanley Road Deluxe Edition)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

TVD's Wellerweek | Day Three

People thought Paul Weller was crazy for walking away from The Jam just as the band had reached a commercial zenith. Indeed, some people apparently have never forgiven him for it. Yet, as Pete Townshend wrote about Weller, “I have never come across another artist or writer so afraid of appearing hypocritical.” Accordingly, Weller stated “anything that is good must come to an end if it wishes to remain good.” He was not about to continue just for the sake of commercial success. He had other avenues he wanted to explore and felt limited by The Jam’s image and Bruce and Rick musically.

Liberated from the pressures of The Jam (17 singles, 6 studio albums, over 500 gigs in 6 years), Paul Weller re-signed with Polydor as a solo artist and formed a publishing company called Stylist Music in early 1983. He recruited keyboardist Mick Talbot, previously of Merton Parkas and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, to join him in a loose pop collective. Talbot had been on The Jam’s cover of “Heat Wave” and Weller loved his Hammond playing, which reminded him of The Small Faces’ sound.

Whereas The Jam had been British to the core, Weller wanted The Style Council to project a European sensibility. Hence the photo shoots in France, liner notes from the Cappuccino Kid, café imagery, and European mod tailoring. Furthermore, Weller did not want to be in a band like The Jam again. Aside from himself and Talbot, the lineup of The Style Council was supposed to be flexible, picking up players to meet the musical needs of each particular song. This way, Weller envisioned The Style Council being able to be much more experimental than The Jam could ever have been. Finally, Paul Weller wanted to deconstruct his serious image and the idea of him as a spokesman for his generation. Therefore, early promo material for The Council often had Weller flitting about with Talbot, smiling, seemingly having fun and generally acting silly.

Despite these grand ideas, The Style Council did become more or less a regular band for most of its existence with the addition of Steve White on drums and Dee C Lee on backing vocals. Additionally, with Thatcherism’s destruction of the British working class proceeding at full speed during the early to mid-80s, Weller could not help but get involved in protest. Along with Billy Bragg, The Council formed the Red Wedge tour to campaign for socialist causes, while during the coal miner’s strike in 1984, they recorded “Soul Deep,” donating all the proceeds to the miners. Overall, The Style Council was a political group to a much greater extent than The Jam had ever been – and pretty damn serious too! During the mid-80s, Weller had once again become the spokesman for protest and change in England. The one original guiding idea that Weller was able to realize during The Council’s existence was his commitment to musical experimentation. Each new Style Council album was markedly different than the previous one.

I think I must be one of the few Americans who can admit this, but for a long period of time The Style Council was my favorite band. I could not wait for their next single – traveling down to the little record store in Bridgeport, CT to pick up the import 12-inch. The artwork was always great and studying the latest missive from the Cappuccino Kid was educational. Plus, Weller gave you great value for your money. The 12-inch singles always had extra non-album tracks that were usually killer (May 1985’s “Walls Come Tumbling Down” comes to mind with “Spin’ Drifting,” “The Whole Point II,” and “Blood Sports” comprising the b-side!).

The first song selected for download below is “The Whole Point of No Return” from The Style Council’s debut LP Café Blue (released March 1984, #2 in the UK charts [a mini-LP Introducing The Style Council had come out in September 1983]). Café Blue is one of the most eclectic albums ever, featuring political rap, jazz, four instrumentals, a re-working of “The Paris Match” with Tracey Thorn on vocals instead of Weller, and some great pop, including “Headstart For Happiness” and “Here’s One That Got Away.” “The Whole Point” is Weller solo on guitar singing about class inequalities and suggesting how easy it would be to rise up and expropriate what rightly belongs to the masses.

“Walls Come Tumbling Down,” selected below is from The Style Council’s second LP Our Favourite Shop. “Walls Come Tumbling Down” has everything that made The Council great – a brief Hammond intro from Talbot joined quickly by a horn section and Steve White’s drums to get the song off to a feverish start. Then Weller comes in with the vocals: You don’t have to take this crap/You don’t have to sit back and relax/You can actually try changing it. A brilliant pop song with a “call to arms” message and Dee’s great backing vocals! Our Favourite Shop was released on June 1, 1985 and went to number 1 on the British charts. In my opinion this is the best album from the mid-80s – nothing even comes close as far as I’m concerned. A coherent set of well-crafted pop songs with an overtly political tone Our Favourite Shop was an important statement by The Style Council. Reflecting on the album and the times, Weller has said recently, “You couldn’t sit on the fence. It was very black and white then. Thatcher was a tyrant, a dictator.” “A Man of Great Promise” also selected below from this album is one of the few non-political songs. Instead it is a deeply personal tribute by Weller to his friend, Dave Waller, who had died of a heroin overdose.

The next Style Council album, The Cost of Loving was released on February 7, 1987. It went to number 2 in the UK charts. I have a very specific memory of purchasing the US version of this LP at Tower Records in DC when it was released domestically in April. This was The Style Council’s R&B, soul, and funk album and critics did not like it. I remember being a bit disappointed too, but nowadays I enjoy most of it. The title track is selected below and features the sweet intertwined vocals of Paul and Dee C and Mick on a Rhodes synthesizer instead of his trademark Hammond.

The last song today comes from The Style Council’s next LP, Confessions Of A Pop Group (released June 25, 1988, reaching only number 15 in the charts). “Changing Of The Guard” is a beautiful Weller and Dee C Lee duet (at this point the two had now become husband and wife). Confessions is not a great album. Recorded as he was approaching 30, this was the period when Weller, one of the great guitarists of his generation, refused to play guitar in public. Indeed he plays much more piano on this record than guitar. There is 3-part classical suite that misses the mark and a heavy use of drum machines instead of the brilliant Steve White. Many of the lyrics, however, are as profound as ever and still deeply powerful. Confessions Of A Pop Group also has “It’s A Very Deep Sea” on it, one of Paul Weller’s all-time great songs. Seeing him play it last year in New York City was a major highlight of that 3-night residency.

The Style Council - The Whole Point Of No Return (Mp3)
The Style Council - Walls Come Tumbling Down (Mp3)
The Style Council - A Man Of Great Promise (Mp3)
The Style Council - The Cost Of Loving (Mp3)
The Style Council - Changing Of The Guard (Mp3)

(Dates, stats, and quotes for this section of Wellerweek derived from The Complete Adventures of The Style Council and

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TVD's Wellerweek | Day Two

After the success of All Mod Cons, The Jam toured Europe early in 1979 and the US in the spring. They returned to the studio in the summer to record their next album. This time, Weller wrote many of the songs at night in the studio, introducing them to the rest of the band to work out the next day. In October, The Jam released a single, posted below, called “The Eton Rifles,” which broke through the Top Ten all the way to number 3 on the charts. Inspired by news coverage of Eton students jeering left wing Right To Work marchers, the song’s lyrics illustrate Weller’s class sensibilities, while musically the song highlights The Jam firing on all cylinders – especially the fierce drumming of Rick Buckler. An anthemic song, Weller has returned to playing “The Eton Rifles” this spring for the first time in over a quarter century, saying, "the time is right again... I thought I'd never play that song again, but it's just as powerful now, just as relevant, as it was in 1979." Setting Sons, their fourth LP, came out in late-November 1979. Setting Sons rose to 4 in the charts and The Jam closed out the year on an extensive 30-day tour of the UK.

The end of February and early March 1980, The Jam was back in the US playing a string of dates including a sold-out Palladium in New York City. The tour was cut short when, in Los Angeles, news reached the band that their latest single, “Going Underground” entered the UK charts at number 1. They returned to England to celebrate. A few dates in spring and early summer, followed by a tour of Japan in July and then the band was back in the studio to record their next album, Sound Affects. After which, they embarked on a 40-plus UK and European tour from late October to early December to support the new album. I provide this info to show just how relentless their schedule was in those days – tour, record an album, and go back on the road to support it. Weller has called Sound Affects a cross-between The Beatles’ Revolver and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. It reached number 2 in the British charts and featured “That’s Entertainment” and a groovy selection of psychedelic pop songs. My favorite from this album, posted below, is “Man In The Corner Shop.” Seeing Weller play this last year during his three-night residency at Irving Plaza in New York was amazing - everyone singing along. Brilliant!

Another series of European, Japanese, American/Canadian, and English tours during the first half of 1981 for The Jam. Two number 4 singles and benefit gigs for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) with Gang of Four, Fun Boy Three, and Bananarama later in the year. Weller’s political views (especially his disgust for what Thatcherism was doing to Britain) were coming to the fore and he was quoted in the press practically daily. At 23 he was being hailed as the spokesman for his generation. Musically, his interest in soul and funk informed his decision to add a horn section to The Jam’s CND shows. The release of the chart-topping single, “Town Called Malice” on January 29, 1982, illustrates where Weller was at in 1982. Posted below, “Malice” is a Motown-inspired swinger, with lyrics about unemployment in a working class town.

The Gift, The Jam’s sixth album was released in March 1982 and reached number 1 on the charts. Of course, a world tour followed. Upon his return from a July vacation, Weller let the others know he had had enough. He wanted to leave The Jam. While Bruce and Rick were devastated, The Jam was committed to a new single for September and a tour of England and Western Europe. Maybe they also hoped Paul would change his mind. In any event, the band recorded “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)” on July 16 and the song reached number 2 after its release on September 10. Posted below, I confess to loving everything about this song, especially the strings and backing vocals.

“Shopping,” also selected below, was recorded in October 1982, and turned out to be one of the last songs made by the band. Its breezy jazz-infused stylings foreshadow the musical direction Weller would head in The Style Council. Still, as evidenced on “Shopping,” Rick and Bruce continued to make great contributions to the sound. The bass playing on this song is fantastic. Indeed, while Paul Weller is justifiably remembered as the driving force of The Jam, Rick and Bruce were also so vital and obviously extremely talented.

The rumors that the band was splitting were confirmed with a public statement on October 30, 1982. Nevertheless, the band gave their fans a chance to say goodbye with a brief farewell jaunt around the UK in late November and early December. Dubbed the Beat Surrender Tour (after their final single "Beat Surrender," which entered the charts straight in at number 1) it culminated in an emotional finale on Saturday, December 11, 1982, at the Conference Centre in Brighton. Then it was over. The biggest band in Britain was no more.

The Jam - The Eton Rifles (Mp3)
The Jam - Man In The Corner Shop (Mp3)
The Jam - Town Called Malice (Mp3)
The Jam - The Bitterest Pill (Mp3)
The Jam - Shopping (Mp3)

(Release dates, chart positions, and tour info from The Jam’s Direction, Reaction, Creation)

Monday, May 19, 2008

TVD's Wellerweek | Day One

Rarely does a day go by without an email from my pal Noah with the day's Paul Weller news and updates. As the emails came in heralding Weller's 50th birthday, I wrote him back, "Y'know...I have thought..." And a theme week was born. So, take it away, Noah:

Paul Weller turns 50 on May 25th. To honor the man, known by many as the Modfather, The Vinyl District is devoting the entire week to celebrating the extraordinary oeuvre of this music legend. Over the course of a 31-year recording career Weller has been the creative force behind two of the most important bands in British history, The Jam and The Style Council, while as a solo artist, his albums have topped the UK charts twice. The range and diversity of styles in his musical output is simply staggering – from punk to funk, jazz to rock, new wave to folk, and everything in between – making it impossible to categorize or classify Weller. Nevertheless, as a songwriter, Paul Weller ranks among the greatest in British history, while his voice has gotten deeper and more soulful with age. Indeed, no less a figure than Joe Strummer called Paul Weller “Britain’s number one soul singer.” As we look back and listen to selections from his body of work this week, we also look forward with anticipation to the release of his twenty-first studio album, a double LP, titled 22 Dreams (Universal Records), on June 2nd (Yep Roc on July 22nd in the US). Described as his most eclectic and accomplished record to date, Weller has stated that he wanted make something really special, “an album to be listened to in one sitting, in the same way that Pet Sounds or Sgt Pepper were.” Can hardly wait!

Born in working-class Woking, Surrey, England, Paul Weller formed The Jam with his school mate Steve Brookes in 1972. By October 1976, when The Jam famously set up their equipment in London’s Soho Market on a Saturday morning to play to a crowd, who included The Clash, the band had become a three-piece featuring Weller on guitar, Bruce Foxton on bass, and Rick Buckler on drums. Polydor signed The Jam to a contract in early 1977 and they recorded their first album that spring. A blend of R&B and punk, In The City was released on May 20, 1977. The title track selected below bursts with a raw energy, infectious drum beat, and lyrical content celebrating youth, delivered with a searing vocal by the 19-year old Weller. I get pumped up every time I hear this 2 minute-20 second gem.

Of course in those days bands weren’t given a year or two to develop follow up material to their debut records. Polydor wanted another album right away. As the band’s primary lyricist, Weller was hard pressed to come up with songs for The Jam’s hastily recorded second album, This Is The Modern World, released in November 1977. At the time the music press generally criticized the album and it stalled at number 22 on the UK charts, but in retrospect, This Is The Modern World is much better than its initial appraisal, despite some shoddy production values. Below we have “Life From A Window” from this album. I dig the lyrics: Up here I can see the world
/Ooh, sometimes it don't look nice - That's OK. Musically, I also think the sound of the song signals the direction in which The Jam would subsequently move. All things considered, 1977 was a pretty amazing year for Paul Weller. Two albums out at the age of 19! The Jam also played over 115 shows that year, getting kicked off or quitting The Clash’s White Riot Tour after only 3 gigs and touring the US for the first time.

1978. Another series of live dates in London and a spring tour of America supporting Blue Oyster Cult, of all bands. A disaster, as BOC fans booed The Jam off the stage. Then Polydor wanted another album. The problem, however, was that Paul Weller was suffering from a bout of writer’s block. The band delivered the demos for third album All Mod Cons with most of the songs written by bassist Bruce Foxton. The company rejected these songs. To clear his head, Weller moved back home to Woking. This would turn into something of a pattern for Weller in the years to come. Whenever he went through creative droughts or experienced prolonged periods of self-doubt he would return to his roots to draw inspiration from working-class Woking or the pastoral landscape of the Surrey countryside. Thus rejuvenated and inspired, Weller came back with his best batch of songs to date. Released on November 3, 1978, All Mod Cons soared to number 6 on the UK charts and was a critical triumph for the band and Weller. Tapping into the style of one of his heroes and major influences, Ray Davies, the songs are English to the core with sharp, insightful lyrics that show maturity well beyond his 20 years. Indeed, in my opinion, All Mod Cons is The Jam’s masterpiece, comparable with The Clash’s London Calling as the best album of the era. Choosing just three songs to represent this LP is difficult. “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” tells the story of a guy being attacked in the London Underground by thugs and is Weller’s critique of the rise of right wing movements and escalation of violence in late-70s Britain. It was released as a single and went to number 15. “In The Crowd” sees Weller commenting on the apathy of the masses and the stupefying nature of the modern world, suggesting there is a media and government conspiracy to keep everyone from enacting change. The song’s got a great psychedelic ending with backwards guitar sounds and Weller softly chanting “Away From The Numbers” a song from their first album. A few years ago “In The Crowd” returned to Paul Weller’s live sets – to the delight of everyone in the crowd! The final track selected from All Mod Cons is Weller’s first acoustic ballad, “English Rose.” The lyrics to this song were left off the album’s sleeve as Weller felt the words did not stand up without the music. A beautiful track, “English Rose” occasionally also gets a live airing by Weller these days.

The Jam - In The City (Mp3)
The Jam - Life From A Window (Mp3)
The Jam - English Rose (Mp3)
The Jam - In The Crowd (Mp3)
The Jam - Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (Mp3)

(Release dates, chart positions, and tour info gathered from The Jam's Direction, Reaction, Creation)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

...or, how TVD spent the weekend.

Just down the road from here, with all due respect.

Friday, May 16, 2008

TVD's Weekend Shots

I had a Ska theme all lined up for this Weekend's Shots...but y'know, let's stick with the New Wave thing because even with 5 days of posts, we barely scratched the surface. So, some free-form blogging, folks...

Yazoo - Situation (Mp3)
The Assembly - Never Never (Mp3)
Wall of Voodoo - Mexican Radio (Mp3)
Prefab Sprout - The Devil Has All The Best Tunes (Mp3)
Go-Betweens - Cattle And Cane (Mp3)
The Icicle Works - Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) (Mp3)
New Order - Blue Monday (Mp3)
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts (Mp3)
Shriekback - Lined Up (Mp3)
Cabaret Voltaire - Yashar (Mp3)

By the way, this still is your forum, TVD reader. Ten tracks and some tricks? We'd love to hear 'em... It's simple - send us a note...

TVD | Friday @ Random

So, I heard from Rick over at Orpheus Records this week and despite what that big ol' ad says over there to the left, he'll be open through June but hours during the month will be a little less standard. Give them a call first if you plan to head over there next month. TVD was there last week and grabbed quite a tall stack of LP's for just $114.44. And Rick noted, all but three had just hit the floor over the past few days which bodes well as he sells off all of the good stuff that's been hidden in the back for years. | Watch this space for more ticket giveaways...we've got shows lined up for the Black Cat and 9:30 in the coming weeks--and they're bands you know, TVD reader. | Thanks to everyone who wrote in for Uh Huh Her tickets this week. BYT has an awesome set of photos and a great recap of the show this morning. | For next week's theme week, we've called in an expert on the topic. Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to reading my own blog and grabbing the downloads for myself. Hint: which UK icon turns 50 this month? | Yesterday I was thinking that 'I Ran' was possibly the quintessential New Wave track. But I was wrong. It's 'Turning Japanese'...

The Korgis - Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime (Mp3)
Ultravox - All Stood Still (Mp3)
Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (Mp3)
The Knack - My Sharona (Mp3)
Billy Idol - Hot In The City (Mp3)
XTC - Dear God (Mp3)
Talking Heads - Slippery People (Live) (Mp3)
The Mobiles - Drowning In Berlin (Mp3)
Thomas Dolby - Hyperactive (Mp3)
The Vapors - Turning Japanese (Mp3)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

TVD's Daily Wax

Regarding A Flock of Seagulls' 'I Ran' posted on Monday, I'm thinking that it is perhaps is THE quintessential New Wave song. All the ingredients are there...a detached, chilly aura, heavy reliance on (simple) keys and the effects-heavy guitar sound, a plastic, spacey alienation, a gem of a hook and a so-bad-it's-good video on nearly constant rotation. Then there's the hair thing. (Ahem.) Is it just me? Are there other candidates?

Penetration - Don't Dictate (Mp3)
A Flock Of Seagulls - Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) (Mp3)
Killing Joke - Love Like Blood (Mp3)
Stiff Little Fingers - Love Of The Common People (Mp3)
Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Mp3)