Classic LPs; Our Favourite Shop by The Style Council

Our Favourite Shop

Our Favourite Shop

In 1982 I stood in a Liverpool theatre watching the Jam as they performed in Liverpool on their farewell tour. They were not my favourite group, I loved some of the lyrics but that concert confirmed my prejudices. I was surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of young men in parkas and Fred Perry shirts. There were hardly any women there and it was like being at a football match. At the end of the concert, as Paul Weller said goodbye, a collective moan came from the young men who then ran out of the concert hall.

In 1983 Weller formed the Style Council with Mick Talbot and Steve White and DC Lee. Like Dexys Midnight Runners their music reflected my music tastes, the sound of the urban poor of Manchester, who loved Curtis Mayfield, Harold Melvin and Chic.

Style Council wore their politics with pride, echoing the lives of many young people in the 1980s and that generation of people who hated Thatcher and went out on the streets, joined the picket lines and flocked into the concert halls to demand political change.

The 1980s were about people fighting back against injustice; in the Miners Strike, in the campaign against the National Front, and fighting a Tory government intent on pushing us back to the ’30s….sounds familiar??

The 80s were summed up in the popular single by Billy Bragg; Which Side Are You On? Not written by him, by the way, but Florence Reece in 1931. She was the wife of a union organiser, Sam Reece. He was active in the United Mine Workers in Kentucky who were involved in a bitter and violent struggle with the mine owners which became known as the Harlan County War.

which side are you on

This government had an idea
And parliament made it law
It seems like it’s illegal
To fight for the union any more

Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?

The Style Council brought out their own single to support the Miners called Soul Deep and the proceeds from sales went to the Women Against Pit Closures and to the widow of a miner killed during the strike.

I love their second LP My Favourite Shop because it showed how many of the issues were linked together. The Miners Strike showed how working class people were being chucked out of their jobs to destroy a strong trade union movement.

Tracks such as All Gone Away expressed the sadness felt by young people who had to leave their communities to find work…..

Come take a walk upon these hills
And see how monetarism kills-

In A Stones Throw Away the role of the police during the Miners Strike is commented upon…

For liberty there is a cost – in broken skulls and the leather cosh
From the boys in uniform – now you know whose side their on

And 30 years later, through campaigns such as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, we are finding out more about the illegal behaviour of the police and the government.

In The Stand Up Comics Instructions Weller showed the insidiousness of racism in what passed for comedy, both on TV and in the club scene…….

Tell Irish jokes and you can’t miss
Do the building site one and how they are all thick

And the 80s saw a revulsion against this hatred in campaigns that we ran in Irish in Britain Representation Group against anti-Irish racism in all its forms as well in the popular Rock against Racism movement.

The album finishes with a call to action in Walls Come Tumbling Down….

You don’t have to take this crap
You don’t have to sit back and relax
You can actually try changing it

Looking back Weller says about this time; It wasn’t a time to be non partisan…It was too serious a time, too extreme. I wasn’t waving the Labour party flag but the socialist red flag that’s for sure. In The Jam I didn’t want to be a part of any movement. But this was different. Thatcher got into power in 1979, and from the Falklands war onwards, that was her wielding her power, the trade unions were being worn down, we had the miners strike, there was mass unemployment, there were all these issues, you had to care and if you didn’t you had your head in the sand or didn’t give a fuck about anyone but yourself. You couldn’t sit on the fence. It was very black and white then. Thatcher was a tyrant, a dictator see

In 2014 this record seems more relevant than ever although we have no organised left to challenge the Con Dem government and a Labour Party that thinks it is acceptable to vote for a ceiling on welfare payments! Opposition today is more diverse, fragmented and lacks an ideology that attack capitalism in a meaningful way for the majority of people.

Tony Benn in 1984 is quoted on the album sleeve and his comments are just as relevant today;

But as history teaches us, time and time again, it is not enough to speak or write, or compose songs or poems, about freedom if there are not enough people who are ready to devote to their lives to make it all come true.

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About lipstick socialist

I am an activist and writer. My interests include women, class, culture and history. From an Irish in Britain background I am a republican and socialist. All my life I have been involved in community and trade union politics and I believe it is only through grass roots politics that we will get a better society. This is reflected in my writing, in my book Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women and my involvement in the Mary Quaile Club. .If you want to contact me please use my gmail which is lipsticksocialist636
This entry was posted in anti-cuts, human rights, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, music, Socialism, trade unions, women, young people and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Classic LPs; Our Favourite Shop by The Style Council

  1. Pingback: Council Minutes   | Leaf Collecting

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