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Council Meeting: Tootal Talks To Mick Talbot About The Style Council LPs

The earliest TSC songs are almost 35 years old. Why do you think they have endured?

Partly because of the strong songs, partly because they didn’t follow production trends of the era. Plus we were in Solid Bond Studios. They had been the old Philips recording studios. Paul really liked them so when they came on the market John Weller enquired about them and Paul ended up buying them. It meant the meter wasn’t running, we were less phased by being in the studio and we could relax a bit.

You always gave the impression that it was hugely enjoyable. What’s your lasting memory of it now?

It WAS hugely enjoyable. There was a nice mood about the place. Particularly in the early days it was a liberation for Paul, and that trickled down to the rest of us. Plus we tried to treat it like a job, going in Monday to Friday. People were waiting for Paul to be spokesman for a generation but he just wanted to relax and enjoy making music.

Do you recall your feelings when you learnt that ‘Modernism: A New Decade’ had been turned down by your record company?

It was hugely disappointing. We believed in it, we’d put a lot into it but it didn’t get its chance in the world. Listening to it now it’s like a diary of where we were at that time. We had always planned to call it a day after that album but we thought we had another 18 months. We were going to tour the album, perhaps put a few more singles out but the record company decision accelerated the process.

The 5 TSC studio LPS, plus the ‘Introducing’ compilation, are reissued on coloured vinyl.

These latest reissues are coloured vinyl only, and proving hugely popular with The Style Council fanbase. Are you a vinyl enthusiast?

My brother-in-law recently gave us an old Dansette style record player. It’s only mono but the sound is so different. Back in the Sixties when they were recording some of those classic soul albums they thought Stereo was a passing phase and the stereo mix of an album would just be an afterthought.

I can’t say I play vinyl every day but I’ve certainly played more this year than in the last 8 or 9 years.

20 odd singles and 5 albums in six years, and each one seemed to arrive with a new wardrobe. An obvious question but did style go hand in hand with the music?

Yes it did. When we first got together Paul and I had a lot of lengthy conversations about clothes, art, architecture, based on our common past. We were born in the same year, so we talked about things that had influenced us as kids, sartorially speaking.

Did you ever look around the group and think “what is he / she wearing?!”

There were a couple of occasions when the video required us to wear something a bit different, just to support our silly story. I know some people made a fuss about our clothes at that last gig but we were open-minded. I think Paul called it his Acid Surf Mod look. I was wearing shorts with braces but I was embracing a certain era. There was still a bit of Ivy League in that look.

Do you recall the first time you were allowed to buy your own clothes?

I think I do. I’d saved up for a pair of Chelsea Boots, either from Freeman Hardy & Willis or Saxone, one of those two. Around the same time I had a pair of loafers from Saxone called something like Wee Gee ‘Uns, obviously for copyright purposes.

My Grandad gave me my first Tootal. It was a mustard paisley. What’s great about them is they look equally good on a coal miner or someone going to a ball. They don’t look out of place on the terraces.

Paul Weller (L) and Mick Talbot, The Style Council, 1986.

You’ve worked with some fantastic, talented musicians across your career. Is there anyone on a wish list you’d really like to work with?

I’ve been fortunate in the last couple of years, I got to work with Roger Daltrey and more recently with Ray Davies. I got to play with a couple of The Faces – Ron Wood when I was playing with Jools Holland band, and Kenny Jones on a Small Faces tribute album.

When we played one of our first gigs at Brockwell Park [May, 1983] we had a bit of a hostile reception from a small section of the crowd, so we did a runner. I was told later that Ronnie Lane was watching from the wings but I never got to meet him.

Back in 1999, I was part of the house band for the National Lottery Show, Lulu was the presenter. One particular week Paul McCartney was the special guest but because he had just made a “back to basics” album of rock n’ roll songs he decided he only wanted an extra guitarist so I missed out again.

I’ve worked in pick up bands, backing American soul singers when they come to tour the UK. I’ve backed The Velvelettes, Brenda Holloway, Candi Staton, Gwen McRae, Martha Reeves… even before I was in the Merton Parkas I can flashback to trying to play ‘Nowhere To Run’ at the Two Brewers pub in Clapham, and there I am years later playing with the woman who actually recorded it. Bizarre and enchanting.

When I was working with Wilko Johnson [2014] we were recording in a residential studio, trying to get the album done in five days. At breakfast one morning I told Wilko that one of my all time favourite gigs was the Dr. Feelgood Christmas gig at Hammersmith Palais in 1976. Wilko told me that was his last gig with the band.

According to website Discogs.com you played on a Janet Jackson single. Is that right?

It was a remix actually. I used to do some work with a DJ called C J Mackintosh, who along with Dave Dorrell, was really big on the House Music scene back in the late Eighties / early Nineties. I worked on a Janet Jackson / Luther Vandross duet as well. I don’t think I always got credited. We’d do the graveyard shift at places like SARM East Studios. Go in after everyone else had finished, work ‘til six in the morning, then take my son to school.

Mick Talbot, Soho, London 2017

I believe the only time you’ve ever released a record as ‘Mick Talbot’ is a great instrumental ‘That Guy Called Pumpkin’, from 1990. Any particular reason for that?

I’m not a singer, I just love great songs and great arrangements. When I worked with Candi Staton it was a real joy. I love all those old Fame Studio recordings. You listen to the arrangements on those old soul records and you imagine they are going to be very complicated but they are actually really simple, just very clever.

What are you up to now?

I’ve been working on a new Roger Daltery solo album. He’s doing that and an autobiography though he told The Guardian newspaper neither of them might see the light of day.

Hopefully there will be a new Wilko Johnson solo album soon. Jeremy Stacey has asked me to get involved in a new project he’s working on; he used to be drummer with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It will be in a residential studio again, which I really enjoy as it’s a chance to get to know people.

Our Favourite Shop and The Cost of Loving are available on Limited Edition coloured vinyl from 18 August.

Confessions Of A Pop Group and Modernism: A New Decade are available from 15 September.

For more details visit www. http://shop.virginemi.com/paulweller/The-Style-Council/

Thanks to Mick Talbot, Johnny Chandler at Universal Music and Bar Italia.