The Style Council released Shout To The Top in 1984. I bought a 7 – with silver “injected” labels. I`d been a big fan of The Jam – and similarly, what Weller did next. It was impossible not to be taken by Paul’s fire back then. A working class hero with head and heart fixed on convincing the country’s dead-end kids that they were alright, Weller was a man incensed, driven near insane by inane tabloid headlines, and public ignorance and apathy. Practically on his knees testifying, pleading, begging for revolution and resistance. With orchestral strings and racing piano, set to a northern soul tempo, to say the song`s stirring is a definite understatement.
“When you’re knocked on your back, and your life’s a flop,
And when you’re down on the bottom, there’s nothing else but to shout to the top”
was a call, a secular prayer, of encouragement to and for the disaffected youth of Thatcher’s Britain. A repeat-until-you’re-hoarse chorus of don’t fucking give up, with the “WE`RE gonna” – i.e. together – being key.
The artwork featured photographs of hip young things leaping what look like Parisian steps. The camera capturing them in mid-flight. Cool, clipped, positive, left-leaning prose from the “Cappuccino Kid” printed on the reverse. Redefining “Mod” minutes before Red Wedge and Acid Jazz. Legend has it – I think – that Shout To The Top was one of the tunes in the carrier bag full of records that Andrew Weatherall played during his debut at Shoom – down on the farm. I couldn’t swear to it though, as like pogoing to The Pistols at The 100 Club, as much as I`d have loved to have been there – I wasn’t. In an effort to compensate for missing the boat, for being a “Ted”, I became a balearic obsessive, subsequently seeking out the slightly beefier US 12.
Nudge forward to 1998, and Mr. Weatherall`s Boy`s Own compadre, Terry Farley teamed with another ex-Shoom DJ, Pete Heller, as Fire Island, in a session with dynamite disco diva, Loleatta Holloway, remade STTT for a new generation. According to Discogs this was – under that moniker – the duo’s parting shot. In the daze of the DJ promo vinyl double-pack, for the lucky, it came as triple – completed by a Frankie Knuckles rework, with David Morales on percussion. Organ and live bass softening Farley and Heller`s Sound Factory-esque tribal tonking. Loleatta`s more church reading of the lyric, breathless in places. The second half sent stratospheric by her super vamp. Frankie characteristically, classily, calming the drama, building the tension, moving from dark to light to dark again.
In 2020 HiFi Sean remixed the Fire Island cover, and the results are being kept under tight wraps. I think it`s important to point out here that sometime, onetime, BMX Bandit, Sean`s former “C86 / Shambling” band, The Soup Dragons, were the true pioneers of indie-dance. Having recorded their update of The Stones` I’m Free months before Weatherall “totally destroyed” Primal Scream`s Loaded*. Sean`s House Mix of STTP rearranges Ms. Holloway`s rap over tech-y futuristic funk – harbouring a heavy 4 / 4, huge handclaps and crazy, Candido-esque congas. The HiFi hombre`s other take is like more a pumped-up version of The Council’s `80s pop OG. Bass-line bumping, jumping, packing a powerful punch of much needed, irresistible, optimism. Returning to a time when the message was in the (house) music. My guess is that if synced with the lifting of lockdowns this’ll have unchained party people raising the roof. In these days when “there’s nothing certain” its hymn of hope, its motivational mantra, quite possibly crossing over to all quarters.
Growing up, I drew my personal code from books and songs. “I promise myself each and every day” still resonates.
HiFi Sean`s remixes of Fire Island`s cover of The Style Council’s Shout To The Top are due, pandemic permitting, on Sean`s Plastique Recordings imprint.
*Do yourself a favour and watch Grant McPhee`s brilliant documentary, Teenage Superstars.