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I’ll try to do my best to hit you where it counts.

January 26, 2010

“Where’s Paul gone off to?” I hear you all wondering. I do. I hear you wondering. It’s an inner ear problem I’ve had for ages…

Well life gets busy and sometimes you have to spend days working on work and weekends working on projects for relatives and when all this adds up, you know, it gets very difficult to talk about music. No, never mind. I can always talk about music. But writing about it, ah… that becomes more difficult.

Anyway, I’ve been remiss this month in not offering up a “Vs.” contribution to the three of my monthly series, but I plan on rectifying that today with a guy who’s taken himself (and others) on in previous “Vs.” posts — the Modfather, Paul Weller.

Last week, I was perusing the Onion’s AV Club fine “Gateways to Geekery” essay on Northern Soul music, which did a positive service for people everywhere by ending the meditation with the video for the Style Council’s 1983 single, “A Solid Bond in Your Heart.”

As a longtime Weller fan (and avid Style Council defender), this heartened me. But it was weird, because “A Solid Bond in Your Heart” was just one song that I never really cottoned on to. It’s not to say I hated it — it just never seeped into my appreciation the way “Speak Like a Child” or “How She Threw it All Away” did. I suppose part of it was the fact that I was trying to get into the Style Council when I was a high schooler. That was probably hard enough in the 1980s (once I interviewed Old 97’s guitarist Ken Bethea, and when talk veered from Oasis into Paul Weller, he confided he’s never liked Paul Weller because when he was in high school, a certain breed of people liked the Style Council — and it was those people), but trying that group on in 2000 and 2001… let’s just say there weren’t many people at Willowbrook High School at the time to talk in depth about the 12″ version of “Long Hot Summer.” In fact, one of my best friends still gives me guff for liking the Style Council.

But as Weller has proved time and time (and time and time) again since splitting the Style Council, you strip away the abominable ’80s production and you have some of the finest songs he’s ever composed. And even with that production, I think the stuff still works. It admittedly took me a few years to gain a full appreciation, but the Style Council kicked a lot of ass. And Confessions of a Pop Group is one of the finest albums of Weller’s or anybody’s career — “Life at a Top Peoples Health Farm” and all.

Nevertheless, “Solid Bond” just never got back around to stirring me up. Still a bit too young to appreciate the Style Council with few music snob gusto, I reverted to the Jam in my high school days, and soon learned that Weller had actually composed the song as a contender for the group’s farewell single in 1982.

When Paul Weller split the Jam in 1982, he shocked tons of his more ardent supporters. Not only was he walking away from a group still in their prime (six albums and each one getting progressively better, Weller was only about 22 years of age), but to turn it around the very next year as part of a 1980s mod jazz duo with a bit too heavy of a leaning on French imagery was tantamount to pissing all over the moped and parka culture.

But it’s also fair to say that the people who didn’t get the jump might not have been as interested in the songwriting as they were the image. In rock and roll, certainly that’s important… but I ask you: What of the two lasts longer?

Would “Solid Bond” have been a more appropriate sendoff for the Jam than “Beat Surrender”? There are a lot of people who think so. In John Reed’s biography of Paul Weller, My Ever Changing Moods, a DJ tells the story of Weller not being able to decide on the two:

“I remember sitting down with Paul in a hotel room in Weymouth and he played me two songs,” remembers DJ Tony Rounce. “He said, ‘I dunno, whatcha reckon for the next single? It’s really between these two, whaddaya think?’ I said, ‘Solid Bond’ is far and away the single. He said, ‘Well, I’m saving that.’ I thought, ‘Who are you saving it for!? Somebody on Respond? A rainy day? For Christmas?'”

Actually, he was saving it for a damn fine edition to the Style Council’s early output.

The version the Jam recorded has a nice punch to it, and has a far more rhythmic base to it, but the Style Council’s version (even with the flamboyant hits of saxophone) MOVES. It’s got life. It’s got verve. It sounds hopeful and sunny. It’s the kind of thing that makes you go, “Oh yeah, this is why music affects so many people…”

Something about seeing the video last week made me dive right into my CD collection for the Style Council disc I’d bought all those years ago when I was in high school. I put on “A Solid Bond in Your Heart” and put it on repeat for the next 45 minutes. I recommend starting your day with it, actually. Really hard to spoil things afterward…

But that’s just my take… I can think of a few people who would say the Jam version pisses all over it. What say you?

The Jam vs. The Style Council
“A Solid Bond in Your Heart”

The Jam – A Solid Bond in Your Heart

The Style Council – A Solid Bond in Your Heart

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