30 April 2012

THE WAY YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO

Here's another cluster of ads from our "Experience Creativity" campaign, from Image Comics titles on sale throughout April.

I love the fact that we start off with Ryan at his drawing board with his dog lying disinterested in the foreground, and then close the month out with John Layman's cat staring at whatever John's typing on his laptop. Unintentionally, these images underscore the differences between writing and drawing: Drawing requires long hours at the board and sometimes progress comes slowly, whereas the actual practice of writing can be fairly quick, even if the thought process that precedes it isn't. So you've got Ryan's dog looking kind of bored, because Ryan's been at it for a while there, but then John's cat is following the movement of the type as it appears on the computer screen, altogether more engaged.

Meanwhile, the photo of Landry Walker jotting something down into a notebook is really nice, because like the photo we ran last month with Brian K. Vaughan standing in a doorway thinking, collecting random thoughts and ideas into a notebook is a big part of writing. Even with the little creative writing I do in my own spare time, I have a drawer full of Moleskines full of story ideas, funny phrases, interesting song lyrics and overheard bits of conversation. There are writers I know with dozens of notebooks they've accumulated over the years, and though I'm guessing iPhones, iPads, Androids and whatever have changed the way notes are taken for some, collecting ideas on the fly is still an essential part of the creative process.

Everybody does things differently, though, and the photo Tim Seeley submitted was completely unlike all the rest, yet no less representative of the creative spirit. I've actually seen writers and artists alike do exactly what Tim is doing in his photo (and in fact, a similar situation resulted in Larry Marder suggesting to Rob Liefeld that he do a comic pitting Rob's Badrock against Todd McFarlane's Violator), and Tim's quote totally highlights why. There are plenty of jobs out there for anyone reluctant to let go of their childlike nature, but comics is undoubtedly one of the best.




29 April 2012

YOU'D BETTER BELIEVE IT

If you're at all familiar with UK music mag Mojo, you probably know the editors have over the years developed a habit of cycling through the same cover stars. The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Oasis, Pink Floyd – watch, rinse, repeat. I'm exaggerating just a bit, but casting an eye over their subscription ad in the May issue, I see Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Noel Gallagher, Mick and Keef, The Who and Pink Floyd on six of the last year's worth of covers.

But given that the last issue featured Small Faces' Steve Marriott on the cover, I'm willing to entertain the notion that Mojo's editors are actually trying to climb out of their rut. I mean, a Steve Marriott cover story in 2012? Under normal circumstances, I'd echo the words of the great man himself and say I'm only dreaming, but no, he's presently on newsstands everywhere in the States. I've even seen him in the checkout line at Whole Foods, his soulful gaze somehow more intense and arresting in that context. 

More arresting to me, anyway, because I've been a devout admirer of Steve Marriott and his Small Faces bandmates since I first discovered them, nearly two decades after their Swinging Sixties peak, in the early 1980s. Anyone else passing through a grocery store checkout aisle might be completely unaware how special it is to see the Ace Face of 1966 on the cover of a magazine in the United States, let alone at all, many long years after his sad and untimely death in April 1991.

The cover copy describes him as "rock's greatest singer," and that's not hyperbole in the least. Robert Plant clearly studied Steve's singing hard, because there's nothing he did in Led Zeppelin that little Stevie wasn't already doing. Marriott left Small Faces in early 1969 to form Humble Pie with The Herd's Peter Frampton, and it took both Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood to fill the gap. Thus was born Faces, but both with Small Faces and Humble Pie, Marriott fused rock and soul like no other. To this day, even after hearing some of these songs literally hundreds of times, the rawness of his voice can give me goosebumps. Likewise, the tragic fact that he died alone in a house fire after just as he and Frampton were preparing to reassemble Humble Pie, still makes me misty eyed, even though I've been familiar with that story since it originally broke.

The Mojo article is a nice introduction to Steve Marriott, Small Faces and Humble Pie, but if you're among the uninitiated and need some gentle convincing to go out and pick up a copy, here's the deal: Small Faces were formed in 1965, and whereas The Who were outfitted to appeal to Mods, Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Ian MacLagan and Kenny Jones were the real thing. Sartorial influences wax and wane, but Steve Marriott remains one of Mod's true icons. And just as I noted that Robert Plant took cues from his singing, the likes of Paul Weller were paying close attention to everything. Watch some Small Faces videos and then watch some by Weller or The Jam, if you don't buy it. Or check out Weller's hairstyle circa The Gift in 1982 and see if you can't spot the similarity to Steve Marriott's own barnet.

Small Faces only made three proper albums: Small Faces for Decca in 1966 and then Small Faces for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate in 1967 (There Are But Four Small Faces in the U.S.) and the psych pop classic Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake in 1968. Decca also rushed out a compilation of singles and unreleased material to compete with the band's Immediate debut in 1967, From the Beginning, and there was also a posthumous Immediate comp of various odds and ends, The Autumn Stone, in 1969. All are worth owning, but From the Beginning is perhaps the least essential. And luckily, since Faces and Small Faces alike are among 2012's inductees into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, the key albums are all being remastered and re-released this year.

As much as I love all the albums, some songs are better than others. These are my 10 favorites, starting with what is possibly my favorite song of all time. People talk about hearing a song over and over again until they're immune to its charms, but there is nothing about "Tin Soldier" I don't remain completely in love with, nearly 30 years after the first listen. Every time I hear it, no matter what I'm doing or how I'm feeling, I'm magically transported some place close to heaven. When I got last week's reissue of the 7" for Record Store Day, you can only imagine how I annoyed my neighbors...

1. "Tin Soldier," (single a-side, 1967)
2. "All or Nothing," (single a-side, 1966)
3. "What'cha Gonna Do About It," (Small Faces, 1966)
4. "E Too D," (Small Faces, 1967)
5. "Afterglow of Your Love," (Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, 1968)
6. "I Feel Much Better, (single b-side, "Tin Soldier," 1967)
7. "Understanding," (single b-side, "All or Nothing," 1966)
8. "My Way of Giving," (Small Faces, 1966)
9. "Itchycoo Park," (single a-side, 1967)
10. "The Autumn Stone," (The Autumn Stone, 1969)




28 April 2012

MOON

I'm a big fan of graphic designer Joe Stone. His blog is always full of cool stuff – like this poster design for Duncan Jones' excellent sci-fi film, Moon – and even if I'm working on something completely unrelated, browsing his site is always inspirational.

If you've not seen his work before, you should check it out.

JUPITER

Jupiter, 1995

27 April 2012

A LITTLE SOUL

...from San Francisco's own Nick Waterhouse:



More at nickwaterhouse.com.

25 April 2012

23 April 2012

TIGER

Tiger Lawyer, that is.

Go check it out here.

THE DEAL

For 20 years, Image Comics has operated on one key principle:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

Regardless who comes in the door, whether they're industry giants like, say, Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson doing Happy! as their first series at Image in 2012, or newcomers like Justin Jordan and Tradd  Moore doing The Strange Talent of Luther Strode as their first series at Image in 2011, the work they do is creator-owned. They own their work, not Image, and that has been the deal as long as Image Comics has existed.

Almost since the beginning, there have been variations on this deal at the imprints established by the company's founders: Rob Liefeld started Extreme Studios, and he hired writers and artists to develop concepts he created. Jim Lee set up Homage Studios, which later became WildStorm Productions, and he also hired writers and artists to develop concepts he created. A little later on, he also launched the Homage and Cliffhanger imprints so the could invite marquee talent to create and own their their own material while staying within the WildStorm family. Marc Silvestri created Top Cow, Todd McFarlane put together his own production studio, Todd McFarlane Productions, and Jim Valentino has ShadowLine. Robert Kirkman recently set up his own Skybound Entertainment. The deals the individual partners offer vary from one studio to the next.

Only Image Central, the arm of the company the partners established as separate from their own interests, has offered 100% creative ownership as its standard deal for the duration of its existence.

Image Central dabbled in the publication of licensed properties briefly, but I think most will agree it is Image Central's dedication to creative ownership that has distinguished Image Comics as the premiere publisher of new creator-owned material over the last 20 years.

It's such a simple deal – the creator owns 100% of the work – and you don't have to be a superstar to get it, you just have to be good. It's a deal extended to everyone we publish at Image, be it a first-time writer, a fan-favorite artist, or someone in-between. As long as there are writers and artists eager to create their own characters and tell their own stories, Image Comics exists so they can do just that, secure in the knowledge that they will retain complete control over their work.

For example: When Robert Kirkman pitched The Walking Dead to Image Comics in 2003, he was offered a deal in which he would own 100% of that property. Not just the comic book rights, but the media rights. Film, television, video games, you name it – those rights were his to keep, 100%.

Robert was far from a known commodity at the time. He was a struggling writer who had self-published a modestly successful comic called Battle Pope through his own Funk-O-Tron imprint. His initial work at Image – SuperPatriotTech Jacket and Invincible – had debuted to enthusiastic reviews, but middling numbers. Zombie comics were in no way a sure thing back then and as has been recounted numerous times over the last nine years or so, Image almost passed on the book specifically because it was a zombie comic. 

Whatever the case: In 2003, when we drafted the deal for The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman was not ROBERT KIRKMAN as he is regarded in 2012.

But ROBERT KIRKMAN of 2012 has the same contract that Robert Kirkman in 2003 was offered. Because Image Comics operates on one key principal:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

You can play mix and match with various creators, both established and new, but you get the same result every time:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

Do we tweak various deals to suit the projects? Absolutely.  The details of some contracts are different from the details of others, but regardless who the contract is with or what changes are made to that contract, there's one thing that doesn't change:

The creator owns 100% of the work.

That's the deal.

The same now as it was in 1992.

22 April 2012

YESTERDAY

...was Record Store Day 2012.

Small Faces - "Itchycoo Park" RSD Exclusive 7" (Charly, 2012)

Small Faces - "Tin Soldier" RSD Exclusive 7" (Charly, 2012)

Arctic Monkeys - "R U Mine?" RSD Exclusive 7" (Dominio, 2012)

The Byrds - "It's No Use" RSD Exclusive 7" (Columbia/Sundazed, 2012)

Gene Clark - "One Hundred" RSD Exclusive 7" (Sundazed, 2012)

The White Stripes - "Hand Springs" RSD Exclusive 7" (Third Man, 2012)

T. Rex - Electric Warrior RSD Exclusive 7" Box Set (Rhino, 2012)

Paul McCartney - "Another Day" RSD Exclusive 7" (MPL, 2012)

The Band - The Last Waltz (Warner Bros, 1978)

Cecil Taylor - Conquistador! (Blue Note, 1967)

Nico - The Marble Index (Elektra, 1968)

Ryan Adams - "Heartbreak a Stranger" RSD Exclusive 7" (Pax Am, 2012)

Jonathan Wilson - "Pity, Trials and Tomorrow's Child" RSD Exclusive 12" (Bella Union, 2012)

Paul Weller - "That Dangerous Age" RSD Exclusive 7" (Yep Roc, 2012)

Paul Weller - Days of Speed (Independiente, 2001)

The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Golden Greats No. 1 (Akashic, 2011)

The Paul Weller Movement - "Into Tomorrow" 7" (Freedom High, 1991)

The Beat - "Jeanette" 7" (Go Feet, 1982)

Supergrass - "Richard III" 7" (Parlophone, 1997)

Primal Scream - "(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind" 7" (Creation, 1994)

Humble Pie - Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore (A&M, 1971)

I only did four stores this year: Rasputin Berkeley, Amoeba Berkeley, 1-2-3-4 Go! in Oakland and Mod Lang in El Cerrito, and mainly focused on the vast array of exclusives that were produced this year. Missed out on mclusky Do Dallas, but otherwise found pretty much everything I was looking for. Last year, Amoeba had come into a beautiful collection of vintage jazz records that I gleefully partook in purchasing many of, but there wasn't anything like that. I'd been looking for Nico's The Marble Index for a while, though, and it seemed sadly fitting that a similar search, for a clean copy of The Last Waltz, concluded the day after Levon Helm passed away.

As with last year, every store I visited was teeming with people who love music, and while there were no doubt a few who equally love selling the exclusives on eBay rubbing shoulders with the genuine fans, it was still an amazing experience. I'll agree with anyone who says downloading music digitally is convenient, but there's nothing quite like the joy of stumbling across a record you've been trying to find for years, or bumping into someone you haven't seen in a while in the midst of your search.

SUNDAY'S PRETTY ICONS


Michael Caine and Natalie as photographed by Billy Ray circa 1966

19 April 2012

TONIGHT

HEROES ARE HARD TO FIND

One of my favorite new comics in the last few years has been Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's iZombie, published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. I've been a fan of Allred's since I first encountered Madman back in the '90s, but I wasn't at all familiar with Chris until I read iZombie #1. Which I loved. Not too long ago, he launched another series I like a lot, Memorial, through IDW with artist Rich Ellis, and I admired the fact he was so active in creating new comics.

Not too long after Memorial debuted, I got to meet Chris, at the annual ComicsPRO meeting in Dallas, and we got to talk about comics, about new creativity, and more than anything else, Alan Moore, Before Watchmen and the seemingly mad rush by some to abandon anything even resembling principles in favor of defending corporate interests. As I noted the other day, it's a puzzling time, when so many people are content to accept whatever shit is shoveled their way by shrugging and saying, "That's the just the way it is," and it was refreshing to learn Chris wasn't one of those types.

Even more refreshing to wake up and learn that Chris Roberson has decided to part with DC Comics, for ethical reasons, referencing David Brothers' recent Comics Alliance article about creator's rights.

It's more and more rare these days for someone to actually walk it like they talk it, but the people who do – whether they're writers, artists, musicians, actors, politicians, or just ordinary people willing to stand up for what they believe in – are genuine heroes if you ask me.

There aren't always great rewards for men and women of principle.Making a stand or telling it like it is hardly ever comes with much more than a pat on the back from those of like minds. More often than not, you get reactions like this one, from the comments section on Bleeding Cool:

"This is how people start to dislike companies. He tells us one side of the story and people go along with what he says. Maybe he's another Alan Moore; Crazy. We don't know because we don't know the full story; its just one person saying things about a company and because people like what the write has done, they side with him. In reality, DC hires these writers that gives these writers the attention that they needed to succeed in this industry. So... yeah..."

So... yeah, indeed.

The shameless and uninformed are always willing to peer out from their cloak of anonymity to cast aspersions on anyone willing to shake things up. Daring to denounce or challenge the corporate status quo is crazy. Wanting the companies we work for or support to have even the smallest shred of ethical decency is nuts. Having principles is insane.

Where are you from, the fucking Bizzaro World?

Chris Roberson is no more crazy than Alan Moore, and his actions are to be applauded. Knowing how he feels about things, for him to remain at DC would have been hypocritical, and I can only assume his decision to leave was for the sake of his own peace of mind.

I, for one, wish him all the best.

More like him, please.

18 April 2012

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Audrey Hepburn

17 April 2012

TONIGHT

TALENT

I'm a couple weeks behind on this, but as with previous months, I wanted to post Image's "Experience Creativity" ads from March all in one place. I like this particular batch of ads a lot, because it's just such a diverse range of creators – from relative newcomer Joe Keatinge to Brian K. Vaughan, who is now something of a comics veteran, with Jonathan Hickman and Fiona Staples covering the points in-between. The thing they have in common, though, the bonding agent, if you will, is their undeniable talent, and I love how these photos show them all exercising that talent in different ways.

Brian's ad features one of the few professionally taken photos we've used in this campaign, and when he first sent it in, I wasn't sure it was what we were looking for. As I explained to Brian, every other photo focused on writers and artists at work, and I thought it would be odd to show him just standing there, staring off into space. Brian was quick to reply, though, that he spends a good amount of his time doing exactly that – either sitting or standing or whatever, and thinking. Looking at the photo in that context, it quickly became one of my favorite ads, because it perfectly illustrated an almost invisible side of the creative process. Writers and artists alike do so much work within the space of their own minds, it's often mistaken as zoning out or daydreaming, but thinking is without a doubt one of the most essential components of creating anything. Brian's photo really drives that point home, but the photos Jonathan and Joe submitted go right along with that. Jonathan's not busy typing – he's examining what he's already written and thinking about it, thinking about what comes next.

Similarly, I really like that Fiona's ad focusing on her reading Brian's script, as opposed to drawing a page of Saga. We've done a number of ads showing artists at the drawing board – and that's a wholly accurate portrayal of the artist at work – but since a book like Saga is a collaboration, it struck me as really cool to kind of see that in action. Fiona looks like she's really studying the script, too, and thinking about what Brian has written, so it's a nice companion piece to Brian's ad.




16 April 2012

THE WAY IT IS

"Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Segal (sic) and Shuster. Worse was a lot of people."

That's J. Michael Straczynski essentially telling not just Alan Moore, but any creative person who believes  he or she should be dealt with honestly and treated fairly, to just accept that the world isn't like that.

Comics journalist David Brothers has done a fine job of tearing that statement apart over here, but the thing that really bothers me about that particular quote is that it's emblematic of a growing mood, not just in comics, but in our overall culture that no matter what is going wrong, we should just accept it. That's just the way it is, so deal with it, because nothing's ever going to change.

Considering every great thing that every happened in the history of the world was the result of someone looking at the status quo and then deciding there was a better way, I'm afraid I have to call bullshit on anyone cowardly enough to peddle the justification that, "that's just the way it is."

And the whole reason Alan Moore continues to be aggravated by the Watchmen situation is because he and Dave Gibbons were more or less duped into believing DC was actually interested in changing the way things were, when the contracts for Watchmen were drawn up.

Alan and Dave were told they'd get the rights back when the books went out of print – something DC was very proud about at the time, because it was a ground-breaking move in favor of creator's rights at a time when it was becoming a hot button issue – and then when the book wound up being more successful than anyone ever imagined, DC decided they wanted to hang onto the rights and that letting the trade paperback collection go out of print was not in their best interest.

In other words, when it came down to choosing between proudly making a stand for creator's rights, or happily making a killing on the continued success of Watchmen, principles be damned, DC chose the latter.

In hindsight, yes, Alan and Dave should have taken greater care to close the particular loophole that allowed DC to pull that stunt, by insisting that DC only had the right to do a single printing of the Watchmen trade paperback, at a print run of their approval. The thing is, though, just as there was no precedent for the kind of creator-ownership deal being structured between Alan, Dave and DC, there was also no precedent for the huge wave of consumer demand Watchmen was quickly swept up in. The market for trade paperback collections of periodical comics in the 1980s was nothing like it is today, and there was absolutely no reason for Alan or Dave to believe Watchmen would take on the kind of life it ultimately did.

So they trusted DC to do the right thing, and sadly, that trust proved to be their undoing.

As maddening as that is, what's worse is the fact there are people willing to excuse DC's actions, past, present and I presume, future, because "that's just the way it is." After all, DC put one over on Siegel and Shuster – why is Alan Moore getting so huffy? Marvel couldn't be bothered to do right by Jack Kirby – why does Alan Moore think he should be treated differently?

Indeed, why should any writer or artist in this business think they should ever be treated any differently?

I'll tell you why.

Because this business isn't like it was in the 1930s anymore. Times have changed.

And it's not like it was in the 1960s anymore, either. Those days are over.

The 1970s are gone, too, and so are the '80s and the '90s and '00s – all gone forever, and thankfully so, because one of the reasons I work for a company founded entirely on the notion of creative ownership is because the hope exists that things can always be better than they were.

Just ask anyone who ever changed the world: "The way it is" is – and always has been – up to us.

If we, the people, want to sit back and accept things as they are, then that's exactly what we get. Whether we're talking comics or politics or what's for dinner, things are the way they are only as long as we're unwilling to challenge them.

There are two kinds of people, really: The kind that are happy to sit back and say, "Well, that's just the way it is, I don't know why you're getting so worked up about it," and the kind that won't rest until they've made sure that's not the way it is, and that it's never like that again.

I think you can figure out for yourself which kind we could use more of.

15 April 2012

THE GIRL'S GOT IT


My friend Jamie draws cool stuff and she recently started her own blog. You can check it out here, plus she has stuff up at Deviant Art.

PERFECT 10

A few weeks back, I read a post on a blog called Mod Male in defense of The Style Council. Considering Paul Weller's second band has a permanent place in my own personal pantheon of favorites, I've always found it curious that even 20-some years on, Weller fans new and old remain so divided on the Council's value. 

As much as I like what Weller did before and after The Style Council, the music he made alongside Mick Talbot between 1983-1989 symbolizes a period of incredible growth, both as singer and a songwriter. You only have to listen to The Jam's "In the City" or "Going Underground" in the same sitting as "My Ever Changing Moods" or "You're the Best Thing" to hear the difference. And it's unthinkable that he could have made an album like 22 Dreams or the recent Sonik Kicks had he just jumped from The Jam into a solo career.

Did everything work? Of course not. Weller's enthusiasm for pushing his own musical boundaries made up for the Council's inevitable failings, though, and even if his stabs at jazz, funk and rap didn't quite reach their mark, they were almost always interesting enough to send his more studious listeners off in search of the real thing.

Beyond all that, though, The Style Council had some bloody great songs, and the main thing that struck as I first read that blog post back in March, was that I've never ranked those songs in a top 10 list. So, without further rambling: My top 10 favorite tracks by the band I still consider to be probably best the pop group in world...


1. "My Ever Changing Moods," (single a-side, 1984)
"The past is knowledge, the present our mistake, and the future we always leave too late..."
Originally released in March of 1984, this was more or less the sound of my summer that year, and still ranks as one of my all-time favorite songs. Lyrically, Weller was in the midst of a three-year-long purple patch, and this is perhaps the most potent example of his steadily growing powers as a songwriter following his decision to split up The Jam. In many ways, it's the quintessential Style Council song: There's a nod to the '60s by way of an old Classics IV riff, and it combines heavy brass, Latin-tinged percussion, a bouncy synthesized bass line and just the right touch of Merton Mick's Hammond organ to create a sound that was both classic and contemporary at the time and is pleasantly timeless now.


2. "A Man of Great Promise," (Our Favourite Shop, 1985)
Written about David Waller, a friend of Weller's taken down by drugs, this is another great lyric that, like many track on Our Favourite Shop, was set to a deceptively upbeat backing track. Soulful and poppy at the same time, there's something about this that brings to mind The Kinks – and no, it's not just they nicked the bells from the opening to "Big Black Smoke" – despite the fact its overall sound is fairly specific to The Style Council circa '85.


3. "The Piccadilly Trail," (single b-side, "Shout to the Top," 1984)
Man, I loved this whole record – "Shout to the Top," "Ghosts of Dachau," and best of all, this track, tucked away on the b-side of the 12". A seedy tale of Soho set to a lazy soul jazz groove, "The Piccadilly Trail" is one of a number of excellent b-sides that made me anticipate the release of each new TSC single as eagerly as the albums. In fact, counting non-album singles, Weller and Talbot laid down close to two dozen tracks between 1983 and 1985, in addition to 27 songs that comprised Café Blue and Our Favorite Shop.


4. "The Story of Someone's Shoe," (Confessions of a Pop Group, 1988)
This is Weller at his most mournful, as he tells the sad tale of a one-night stand in almost microscopic detail, with sublime vocal accompaniment by The Swingle Singers. Not everyone's cuppa, but I think Weller's growth as a singer is really apparent here. It seems odd today that Weller is congratulated for trying so many new and different styles on his most recent solo albums, when he was so harshly criticized for the same approach on Confessions of a Pop Group. To me, it's a great companion piece to Café Blue, especially when considering the two records are separated by only four years.


5. "Have You Ever Had it Blue?" (single a-side, 1986)
When it was announced that Julien Temple was directing a film adaptation of Colin MacInnes' Absolute Beginners – and a musical, no less – there was little doubt Paul Weller would be involved in some way. MacInnes' classic tale of life in late '50s London had already been name checked in the title of The Jam's 1981 single of the same name, and anyone familiar with the book would easily recognize the similarities between Weller's look circa '83/'84 and that of the character Dean Swift. As it turned out, this lovelorn piece of jazz pop – featuring an arrangement by the legendary Gil Evans – was his sole contribution, but even so, it was probably the last truly great Style Council single.


6. "You're the Best Thing," (Groovin' EP, 1984)
Originally available on Café Blue, but re-recorded with a slightly different arrangement for a single release, this is one of Weller's all-time finest love songs. What's more, lines like "I might shoot to win and commit the sin of wanting more than I've already got" also make it a near-perfect synthesis of political outlook and romance.


7. "Party Chambers," (À Paris EP, 1983)
Probably my favorite of Mick Talbot's Hammond-driven instrumentals, I had a hard time time choosing between this and "Long Hot Summer," the lead track on their À Paris EP. The almost complete overhaul of the arrangement on "Party Chambers" makes this the firmer favorite, though. Mick's Hammond really sings throughout, and it still sounds remarkably fresh no matter how many times I hear it.


8. "It Just Came to Pieces in My Hands," (single b-side, "A Solid Bond in Your Heart," 1983)
An ode to the pitfalls of rampant egotism, starkly executed on acoustic guitar with doo wop backing vocals, this is yet another example of the stellar material Weller was coming up with for the b-sides of the Council's early singles. Played live, it was given an almost gospel-esque treatment, with Mick's Hammond in place of Paul's guitar, but the original is still the greatest.


9. "Speak Like a Child," (single a-side, 1983)
In which The Style Council meet their public, or from another perspective, the first salvo in Paul Weller's war on the tried and true fan base that provided The Jam with so much of their success. A mighty blast of Hammond organ and Stax-like brass, there was no mistaking the line Weller was drawing in the sand with this soulful pop confection – but it still sounds sweet almost 30 years on.


10. "Fairy Tales," (The Cost of Loving, 1987)
Easily the most maligned TSC album, The Cost of Loving was Weller's attempt at crafting the kind of slickly produced soul sounds that were coming out of America in the mid-'80s. Not everything worked, but this brassy, Impressions-influenced track stands out as the best alongside the likes of "Heavens Above," "It Didn't Matter," and the title track. Mixed by Curtis Mayfield, the lyrics are yet another of Weller's broadsides at then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and one of the last full-on political songs he would ever pen.

13 April 2012

WAY BACK WHEN

There's another interview up, this one at brokenfrontier.com and more or less focused on my history with my history with Image Comics.

20 years does rush by in a hurry, doesn't it?

11 April 2012