Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Clandestine Classic LI - Blood Sports (live)

The fifty-first post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Last time I did one of these, I lamented the fact that it's hard to feature the most influential, most pivotal, most important acts in my personal musical history. How, I mused, was it possible to come up with a clandestine classic from The Smiths/The Jam/REM when 90% or more of this blog's readership is already very familiar with The Smiths/The Jam/REM? Not easily. But I did resolve to address this problem in future posts, and that change starts here. For today's post comes from quite early on in the second phase of Paul Weller's career, when his fans were still bellowing for Jam tracks but he was moving on. Yes - tonight Matthew, I will be featuring The Style Council.

The year is 1985. The Style Council are still riding the bow wave of a run of Top 20 singles, are about to release Our Favourite Shop (which will become their only chart-topping album) and have yet to completely deter all their old Mod fans with the arty stuff (The Cappuccino Kid liner notes, fey videos), or sidetrack into Red Wedge territory. It's a good time to be a Councillor. The first single from Our Favourite Shop is chosen, and it's the excellent, rabble-rousing, quite-possible-to-imagine-The-Jam-performing Walls Come Tumbling Down. Everyone is happy.

One of that single's B-sides is today's classic: a lyrical, almost pastoral in places, critique of the lunacy of hunting animals for pleasure, and the hideousness of those who do so, Blood Sports is a song that would do Morrissey proud. As musically apart from its A-side as a B-side can be, here is a song that shows a band at the peak of their powers daring to do something a bit different (again), and not being afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

On the off-chance that choosing a B-side still isn't enough to make this song clandestine enough for you, let's feature a live rendition. The video featured here is a clip from an 80's television programme called Worldwise, in which the band are introduced (and later interviewed) by Sarah Greene. Weller gets away with singing the line "Who gets a hard-on with blood on their hands?" too, which must have given someone at the Beeb kittens. Some might say Mick's keyboard solo is a bit "of its time", and that's generous, but he's trying to emulate a different sound, the pan-pipe sound of the recorded version. Anyway, give them a break and instead concentrate on the lyrics, Weller's delivery and, at a time when he wasn't playing much guitar, watch those chords - easy to play and tailor-made to be adopted by the cause... (except it wasn't - a shame).

There are a plethora of greatest hits and compilations from TSC out there, but choose carefully. If you want to pick up the studio version of Blood Sports you can find it on The Collection (choose even more carefully here, as there are several compilations called The Collection or variations thereon) or Here's Some That Got Away, both of which are excellent, and both of which also feature The Ghosts Of Dachau, a slice of haunting brilliance that I almost chose for today's classic. Or why not just treat yourself, and splash out on The Complete Adventures box set, a steal at under £30.

Until then, here's that live TV performance from 1985. Who'd have thought, 32 years later and in a supposedly more enlightened time, that this subject would still be an issue, with Theresa's shade of blue looking to repeal the foxhunting ban? In that context, it would be nice to see Paul reprise this at his live shows this year. On that note, over to Sarah Greene.


  1. Liked that a lot. Never been the biggest SC fan. They don't grab me in the same way The Jam did, or even the best of Weller's solo material. I suspect that's because they rather passed me by at the time and their sound (being very mid-80s) had to be loved then to still love now. If that makes sense. I also think I had a bit of a subconscious reaction at the time to the name Style Council. Not the Council bit, but around that time I think I was very anti-style.

    1. It's great, isn't it? If you've never been a huge TSC fan, I'd really recommend picking up The Collection I linked to in the post - it's only about £2 on Amazon, and offers a surprisingly balanced, diverse selection of their finer moments.

      A lot of hardened Jam fans felt Weller disappeared further and further up his own behind during the Council years, but that's harsh in my view. No, they could never follow The Jam and yes, Weller made some poor choices - I'm not just talking about letting politics get in the way of the music (Weller's words, not mine) but come on, wearing all-white double-denim whilst performing at a mud-soaked Glastonbury? You're just asking to get pelted, aren't you? And The Cost Of Loving album? Whatever the cost, it was too high...

      Having said all that, the best of TSC holds up very well indeed, I'd say.

  2. I was completely unaware of this until now, so thank you! (Clandestine classic - great theme) Superb lyrics (oh god yes, we need to hear them again now, can't bear the thought that we could go backwards in that respect) and a compelling, nicely understated, performance. I was never a Style Council fan, having really liked early Jam but then drifted away from them. But this clip is a treat.

    1. Great, isn't it? The Style Council became a bit, well, easy to dislike, I think, for largely non-musical reasons. A shame, as they had some cracking tunes.