Singles by Paul Weller’s The Style Council included sleeve notes from The Cappuccino Kid, who provided a witty commentary on the Council’s music, outlook, and development as a group – except Shout To The Top, when he was ‘regrettably on holiday’. When Record Mirror asked about these vignettes, Weller said “Some people take the sleeve notes I write really seriously. Which is great from my point of view. I read reviews which say how pretentious they are and laugh. That’s exactly what I set out to so, that’s the whole idea about a lot of the things we do – as long as it provokes some sort of reaction I don’t mind. At least people notice it.” The notes – short essays, extracts from supposedly forthcoming books or films, etc – were on all sorts of themes. “The other night one of my friends was trying to explain to me the basic principles of existentialism – I didn’t quite grasp it, but what I could gather was that each one of us are our own separate little entities and we can never really fully understand each other’s experience … it’s a bit above me, actually. I did think there was a glimmer of truth in some of that. I thought the sleeve notes to the Paris EP, there was something like that, how the real world doesn’t exist, only millions of tiny little ones – I thought there was a lot of truth in that. Someone pointed out that was a bit existentialist.”
The ‘Paris EP’ he referred to was The Style Council a Paris (1983), the first in a proposed series of EPs that would be influenced by, and recorded in, various countries. Why France for the first one? Because “French boys are the most beautiful in the world.” And if you’ll believe that was the reason for recording in France, you’ll believe this too: “Like the next one’s probably going to be done in Switzerland. The Style Council go Alpine! We’d like to incorporate some really good dance theme with yodelling on it and some Alpine horns. Just to make it different.” Nevertheless, Weller insisted that “we’re serious about making these EPs quite regularly in different parts of the world.”
The EP helped to satisfy fans while they waited for a new Weller album. There wasn’t one during the first year of The Style Council; some territories decided they couldn’t wait and a compilation called Introducing The Style Council appeared in countries such as Japan and Canada, but not the UK (although a Dutch import of it was widely available). The official first long-player finally appeared in March 1984, and here’s what The Cappuccino Kid had to say about it: “Named Café Bleu and featuring the widest selection you’re likely to have heard for some time. I don’t say that you will like all of it (though one lives in hope) but one thing is for sure – it will make you listen! The blue Café side is first and contains much mood and moody music, with songs you may want to play when you too get that way. Side two is more… upfull [sic], but not necessarily ‘Pop’. It contains none of the previous (or present) Council 45’s, this is an Album made especially that way. Its makers sick of the cheap con of instalement [sic] LP’s (those which come out in 7” form every two months when the bank balance drops). It has melody, rhythm, meaning, smiles and tears. And I ask you… why settle for anything less?”
The album was diverse, as The Kid had indicated, and featured several “Honorary Councillors” – guest and session musicians who were not full members, Weller and Mick Talbot being the only regular performers. Soul, smooth jazz and even rap informed the sound of Café Bleu and its 1985 follow-up Our Favourite Shop. While The Style Council seemed almost satirical at time, but the lyrics addressed some serious topics, in particular social injustice. Weller’s opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s administration was alluded to regularly and sometime overtly referenced; the full title to The Lodgers was The Lodgers (Or She Was Only A Shopkeeper’s Daughter). The photograph on the front cover of the single depicted “The Council ‘Taking Five’ while performing The Lodgers on Channel 4’s ‘Soul Train’.” It was their ninth single and their ninth Top 20 hit on the singles chart. Meanwhile Our Favourite Shop had made #1 on the albums chart.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Sep. 13
BOW WOW WOW Fools Rush In (EMI EMI5344)
The CURE (Robert Smith) Close To Me (Fiction FICS23)
The STYLE COUNCIL The Lodgers (Polydor TSC10)