30 Years Ago: The Style Council Learns ‘The Cost of Loving’
British rock fans felt betrayed by Paul Weller – not only for putting an end to the Jam in 1982, but for forsaking rock entirely to embark on the R&B/jazz odyssey that was his next group, the Style Council. But if fans were hoping that Weller would bring more edge to the soulful pop band as it progressed, they were sorely disappointed by the time the Style Council released its third album, The Cost of Loving, on Feb. 7, 1987.
Feeling uninspired by rock, Weller began the new group with former Dexy’s Midnight Runner Mick Talbot in 1983. If many Jam devotees were sneering, other listeners took to the Style Council’s sleek blend of genres, which resulted in a bevy of early hits – even a couple in the U.S., where the charts had previously been anathema to Weller’s music. In the Style Council, which also featured drummer Steve White and singer Dee C. Lee, Weller could now greater explore his love of African American music beyond the revved-up soul covers that filled out the Jam's first two albums.
“As far as we’re concerned, rock music’s dead,” Weller said in a 1987 interview with Italian TV. “And all that rock music stands for, and its culture is dead. So we don’t really feel any kind of affinity towards it any more or want to be involved in it.”
Weller’s stance was clear from the music featured on The Cost of Loving. The music was inspired by contemporary R&B, with slick and gauzy arrangements reminiscent of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ work in the ’80s. Even those in the music press and people in the public who had enjoyed earlier Style Council releases were less enthusiastic about this one, released as a double EP with only a couple songs per side for reasons that remain unclear.
The music was distasteful enough to Geffen Records (the band’s American label), that it dropped the band after hearing the new tracks. Critics were just as harsh, not only bashing the sound of the album, but also Weller’s “under-developed” songwriting and even the release’s bright orange cover (which was switched out for a band photo for the U.S. release).
Watch the Video for "It Didn't Matter"
Although The Cost of Loving went gold and managed the No. 9 U.K. hit “It Didn’t Matter,” it would be the last time the Style Council glimpsed the Top 10. Weller married Lee later in the year (they divorced about a decade later) and the group continued to diminishing commercial returns. The frontman disbanded the Council in 1989.
In time, Weller would return to rock music – while still incorporating other genres – in his solo career, at which point his opinion on rock, and on The Cost of Loving, had changed.
“It was done well, but there wasn’t enough passion in the performances to pull it off,” he told Uncut in 1998. “And the songs weren’t up to scratch. I could always hear what it should be like, but I couldn’t transfer it physically. ‘Waiting’ and ‘The Cost of Loving’ are good, though.”
“In ’86, I saw the Smiths at Newcastle, and the power ... as soon as they went onstage, it was like the Jam, really. You didn’t get that with the Style Council at all,” he explained. “By that time, it didn't have that same fire.”
25 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs