The Style Council Newcastle City Hall 19th March 1984
Paul Weller formed the Style Council in 1983, along with his friend and keyboardist Mick Talbot, who was formerly of Dexys Midnight Runners and The Merton Parkas. I saw them perform three times; at this headline concert in Newcastle City Hall in 1984, as part of the Red Wedge tour at the same venue, and at Live Aid in Wembley Stadium in 1985. For me, the Style Council were musically the least successful of Paul Weller’s incarnations, sandwiched between the wonderful Jam, and his later, excellent solo work. By March 1984, and the time of this concert, the Style Council had been in the UK singles charts on four occasions with “Speak Like a Child”, “Money Go Round (Part 1)”, “Long Hot Summer” and “A Solid Bond in Your Heart”. Their single “My Ever Changing Moods” was in the chart at the time, giving them their fifth UK chart success.
The ethic of The Style Council was sound and honourable, aiming to produce perfect blue-eyed soul, tinged with right-on politics and sharp, (sometimes too, and embarrassingly) cool style. “They were socialists, vegetarian, didn’t drink, wore cool rain macs, colourful knitwear, expensive footwear and made some of the most brilliant modernist music ever. They also spoke out against the corrosive issues of the day, even if it meant the threat of commercial suicide” (from the Paul Weller website). For me, musically, well I felt it just didn’t quite work. That was perhaps because I’d enjoyed seeing the Jam so much on several crazy occasions. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this 1984 concert at the City Hall, but I also missed the power and passion of Weller’s previous mod combo. Support came from post punk new mod Scottish hipsters The Questions.
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The Style Council Newcastle City Hall 19th March 1984
Live Aid Wembley Stadium 13th July 1985
I went with a couple of mates. We missed out on tickets when they went on sale and the only way we could get there was to buy tickets for a coach trip from Middlesbrough. So we were up at 4am, drove to Middlesbrough and joined a coach which left at 5am for London. We arrived well before noon, had a couple of drinks and entered the stadium, which was of course completely packed so we found a spot in the stands right at the back. A few minutes later Status Quo took to the stage with “Rockin’ All Over The World” and the day started. This was Quo reunited one year after the split, with Alan flying over from Oz to join Francis and Rick. Their short set also featured Caroline” and “Don’t Waste My Time”. A fitting start to the day. I have so many great memories of that day.
Queen’s performance is, of course, often rated as the greatest live performance by any band. Freddie certainly commanded the crowd the day and it propelled them to super stardom. Their well planned set was a medley with short sections of their anthems: “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga Ga”, “Hammer To Fall”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”. They had apparently been rehearsing their short set for days, to ensure perfection, and it showed, and worked. U2 weren’t far behind them, though, in terms of performance, with Bono showing how great a front man he was. U2 played two songs: “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and a lengthy version of “Bad” during which Bono dragged a girl from the rush down front to dance with him on stage, and which also included snippets from Lou Reed’s “Satellite of love” and “Walk On The Wild Side”, and The Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and “Sympathy for the Devil”. Electric.
For me, however. the highlights were The Who and David Bowie, as I was, and remain, a big fan of both acts. Bowie started with “TVC15” (a strange and poor choice I felt, and remember being disappointed on the day), “Rebel Rebel” (great, good choice), “Modern Love” (well, ok) and then “Heroes” (we all sag along and it was pure magic). I still feel that with a better choice of songs Bowie could have eclipsed Queen and U2.
The Who performed “My Generation”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Love Reign O’er Me” (another strange song choice given the magnitude of the event) and a blistering “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with much mike swinging by Daltrey and lots of arm twirling by Townshend.
Other memories: Elton and Kiki sang “Don’t go Breaking my Heart” (great!). Paul McCartney suffered from sound problems and we couldn’t hear him at all for much of “Let It Be” although I gather it was fine on TV. Geldof drew massive cheers every time he set foot on stage, and he deserved every one of them. The scheduling worked amazingly, with very few hitches. Seeing the cameras pick out Charles and Diana over in their enclosure. The amazingly camp Bowie and Jagger video. The awful, sad and moving video of starving children played to the Cars’ “Drive”. Phil Collins playing Wembley and JFK courtesy of Concorde (show off).
But the truly unforgettable moment came at the end, and will stay in my mind for ever. That was the finale, with the entire stadium singing along to “Do They Know It’s Christmas ?” with Bob Geldof leading us, and everyone else on stage. I’ve never seen, felt, or heard anything like it before or since. We walked out of that stadium to the coach park, all of us still singing…..”Feed The World”…..
Then it was a long coach ride back to Middlesbrough. We arrived back around 5 or 6am, then drove home. 24 hours with hardly any sleep, just an hour or so caught on the bus, but a day I will remember forever.
Line-up: Status Quo; The Style Council; The Boomtown Rats; Adam Ant; Ultravox; Spandau Ballet; Elvis Costello; Nik Kershaw; Sade; Sting; Phil Collins; Howard Jones; Bryan Ferry (with David Gilmour on guitar); Paul Young/Alison Moyet; U2; Dire Straits/Sting; Queen; Video “Dancing in the Streets” by David Bowie/Mick Jagger; David Bowie; The Who; Elton John (Kiki Dee and George Michael join Elton); Mercury and May; Paul McCartney; Finale
Red Wedge tour Newcastle City Hall 31st January 1986
The Red Wedge concert at Newcastle City Hall in January 1986 is one of the most memorable gigs I have been to. Red Wedge was a collective of musicians, fronted by Billy Bragg, who set out to engage young people with politics, and the Labour Party in particular, during the period leading up to the 1987 general election, in the hope of ousting the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Billy Bragg was joined in Red Wedge by Paul Weller and The Communards lead singer Jimmy Somerville. Red Wedge organised a number of major tours and concert. The first and most memorable, took place in January and February 1986, and featured Billy Bragg, Paul Weller’s band The Style Council, The Communards, Junior Giscombe, and Lorna Gee. The core touring acts were joined by other guest bands throughout the tour.
The City Hall concert featured Billy Bragg, Junior Giscombe, The Style Council, The Communards, with guests Prefab Sprout and, as a big and very welcome surprise, The Smiths. It is The Smiths who stole the show, and their performance that night sticks in my memory as one of the best I have ever seen, by any band.
All of the bands performed short sets; a few songs each. The Communards were impressive, Jimmy Somerville’s soaring vocals were amazing, and the Style Council were also good. I seem to recall D C Lee guested with them and sang “See The Day”. Local heroes Prefab Sprout also went down well. John Hardy recalls their two song set on his North East Music History Blog: “But topping the local talent was the accoustic Paddy McAloon. The quirky ‘Dublin’ – a nostalgic carol to lost Ireland – his carressing croon and lyrical magic came through on ‘Cruel’, aided by the sylph like Wendy”.
But it was The Smiths who stole the show. There were whispers around the hall that something special was going to happen. Without any real warning, The Smiths were announced and stormed straight into ‘Shakespeare’s Sister, followed by ‘I Want The one I Can’t Have’, ‘Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ and ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ (“our new single”). There is something about a short set; it allows a band to focus and to maintain a high level of energy and passion throughout. The Smiths were simply phenomenal that night; there was a buzz about them at the time, and everyone was delighted to see them perform. But it was more than that. It was as if they had decided to put everything into those four songs; the power, the intensity, and Morrissey and Marr’s performance were a step above anything I had seen them deliver before (or since) that night. It was as if they knew that they were simply the best band on the planet at the time, and they came out with the confidence and ability to deliver a word class, stunning performance. We sat there, feeling that we were witnessing something special. It was that good. It was the best time I saw The Smiths, and a performance that will stay with me for ever. Perfect rock ‘n’ roll in four songs and 20 or so short minutes.
Johnny Marr said afterwards: “The Red Wedge gig at Newcastle City Hall was one of the best things we ever did. Andy and I had done a couple of gigs already with Billy Bragg in Manchester and Birmingham the week before…I was telling Morrissey about it and he was fairly up for just doing an impromptu show. So we drove up to Newcastle, without telling anyone. I walked into the sound-check…the other bands were a little bit perplexed as to what we were doing there. We had no instruments, so we borrowed The Style Council’s equipment and just tore the roof off the place. In the middle of the set we just walked on to this announcement and the place went bananas.” Morrissey said (NME, 1986): “…that was why we made a very brief, but stormy appearance. When we took to the stage the audience reeled back in horror. They took their walkmans off and threw down their cardigans. Suddenly the place was alight, aflame with passion!”