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The Style Council’s Mick Talbot: 10 records that changed my life

Mick Talbot
(Image credit: Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

A co-founder of The Style Council, keyboard player Mick Talbot has also been a member of Dexys Midnight Runners and The Power Station, and has toured with Candi Staton.

It’s for his work with Paul Weller, Dee C Lee and Steve White that he’s best-known, though; The Style Council were formed in 1983, a year after the demise of Weller’s previous band, The Jam. With their quintessentially ‘80s pop/soul stylings, The Style Council were cut from decidedly different cloth, and went on to release four albums and 17 singles. Now, more than 30 years after their demise, we have a new career anthology to enjoy.

Named (almost) after their biggest hit, Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council is available now in 2-CD and 3-LP vinyl packages. Compiled with the help of Weller himself, it also features the likes of Speak Like A Child, You’re The Best Thing, Ever Changing Moods and Shout To The Top.

To mark the occasion, we asked Mick Talbot to look back even further: to the 10 records that changed his life.

1. Liquidator - Harry J. All Stars

“One of the first reggae records that I would have been familiar with. When it first came out in 1969 it was taken up by Chelsea Football Club as their run-out music and is still used to this day. It features Winston Wright on organ, who along with Jackie Mittoo was one of the early organ pioneers of Jamaican music.

“Years before Bob Marley had spread the word on reggae to America, this record was a major inspiration for the musicians of Muscle Shoals in Alabama. They took the rhythmic groove and bassline as a template for their recording of The Staples Singers song I'll Take You There. So in a way it's two for the price of one with the same bassline being at the core of two of my favourite records.”

2. This Here - The Cannonball Adderley Quintet

“This is my favourite type of Jazz. That which has strong gospel roots. It was written by the band's pianist Bobby Timmons who also wrote Moanin', which is probably more well known.

“This record helped me to make a connection from soul music, which I was more familiar with than Jazz. It also led me to a later Cannonball line up that included Joe Zawinul on electric piano on his own compositions like Mercy Mercy Mercy and Country Preacher. A short while later I found The Crusaders who I felt took the Cannonball type Soul Jazz into a new era.”

3. Tin Soldier - The Small Faces

“I think I first heard this round a friend’s house when his elder brother had it. It's such an all round dynamic performance from everyone concerned.

“From my point of view as a keyboard player, Ian McLagan's contribution is central to the whole tune. The sound of the Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond organ and acoustic piano all work so well together, but it's not crowded or flashy; everything has its place and works to build the song to its climax and ending. Probably their finest song in my estimation.”

4. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You - Aretha Franklin

“This was the lead track on Aretha's first album for the Atlantic label. It heralded a golden run of great albums over the next seven or eight years.

“Her voice and the whole arrangement work so well. The riff played on the Wurlitzer electric piano, right from the intro onwards, ties the whole thing together. As a youngster I needed to find out what that instrument was and who played it. It turned out it was Spooner Oldham and I was happy to pursue and find anything that he played on.

“Many years later I was fortunate enough to meet him when he was doing gigs with his old friend and co-writer Dan Penn. He was humble, modest and just as warm as the keyboard parts he played that have endlessly inspired and informed me.”

5. Our Prayer - The Beach Boys

“Vocal harmony has always fascinated me and it's key to all The Beach Boys’ great output. So I was really pleased when I first found this track on their 20/20 album.

“It's just the voices on their own, only about a minute long and no lyrics to speak of. Just sounds like ‘Ahh’, ‘Ooh’ and ‘Mmm’. Yet it is deeply spiritual and highlights the essence of The Beach Boys’ unique sound. The fact that I find it moving without lyrical content or any musical accompaniment makes it even more enchanting to me.”

6. Invitation To The Blues -  Tom Waits

“For me, a lot of music is about creating an atmosphere, grabbing people's imagination and creating pictures in their minds.

“Tom Waits does all this and more. This is from his Small Change album where he embraces influences from Kerouac, Ginsberg, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Billy Wilder and Louis Armstrong, amongst many others. It feels like a musical monologue from a hard-boiled protagonist in a classic film noir with equal amounts of wit, grit and sentimentality in its delivery.

“Redolent of a lost song from the classic Bogart film Casablanca, I can give it no higher praise.”

7. I Want To Take You Higher - Sly And The Family Stone

“This is from the Stand! album which embraces many styles of music and is very hard to pigeonhole. It's got blues harmonica, psychedelic fuzz bass, funky drums and guitar, gospel organ and soul horns. It's the song that stole the show at Woodstock.

“Sly's influence was very far reaching. People as diverse as The Jackson 5 and Herbie Hancock all expressed their admiration. Every track on the album is a gem, and subsequent releases like There's A Riot Going On and Fresh are both full of riches, but this is where it all began for me with Sly.”

8. Finders Keepers -  Chairmen Of The Board

When the hit Motown writers and producers Holland, Dozier and Holland left Berry Gordy to set up the Invictus label the stars of their roster were Chairmen Of The Board. They had such a strong run of singles in the early ‘70s and this one was my favourite.

“Part of the engine that keeps this song grooving is the rolling Clavinet part played by Bernie Worrell. The Clavinet is a keyboard instrument that I find very infectious to play and it seems almost like harmonic bongos in a setting like this. Bernie went on to be more well-known for his part in George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic setups, but I was sold on his playing from this moment on.”

9. Love And Happiness - Al Green

“When Al Green went to Memphis and met the producer Willie Mitchell they both seemed to bring out the best in each other. Willie teamed Al up with Al Jackson Jnr on drums and the three Hodges brothers on guitar, bass and organ.

“Quite apart from Al Green's celestial voice, I was equally enamoured with the Hammond organ playing of Charles Hodges. The Hammond is such an emotional and versatile instrument. Charles has a very mellow yet funky sound with lots of swoops and smears in his playing He definitely has his own signature and is a very big part of the appeal of Al's records to me, none more so than Love And Happiness.”

10. I've Been Loving You Too Long - Otis Redding

“This is the standout track from Otis's best album, Otis Blue. The definitive southern soul ballad. The triple pulse arpeggios and vamping of the piano and guitar set it all up for a dramatic and raw performance from the voice and horns.

“It was said that Otis didn't like backing vocals and preferred to use horns where others may have had vocals. With a sound as distinctive as that of The Memphis Horns that's hardly surprising. Theirs is a sound that has often been emulated but never equalled.”