As 1982 began drawing to a close, Paul Weller was in full stride. Aged 24, he had called a somewhat abrupt end to The Jam and was already plotting and scheming his next moves. There had been plenty of clues to the restless nature of the Woking Wonder, as the sound of the band gradually evolved circa 1981. A more soul tinged feel began creeping in, and that bore fruit on ‘The Gift,’ the last studio album, by The Jam in March 1982. 

Looking back with hindsight (wonderful thing that) and with many years in between, ‘what Paul did next’  all looks mapped out and thought through, and sure, we know he had the basic outline of what was to come in his mind, but the joy of it from the end of 1982 with the single ‘Beat Surrender’ going into early 1983, was that it was obvious to those who slavishly followed him (yes M’lud, I’m guilty as charged) was to expect, the unexpected.

His next line up, The Style Council hit the ground running and of course,  that has been well documented over the past couple of years, so today I’m going to look at Mr Weller’s attempt to build ‘a new Motown’ with his own label, namely Respond Records.  It was actually up and running in 1981 and by the time it ceased to be in 1986, there had been over 21 singles & 3 albums released worldwide.  When you look at those numbers, they add up to  a fairly impressive back catalogue, and thinking back, without really delving into YouTube to revive my fading memory, there were enough moments to have made it a valid exercise overall and for me, produced some fine singles.

The concept behind it was to promote new, fresh, teenage talent, who had a soulful vibe going on. Mainstay of the label and its biggest ‘act’ was Tracie Young, who Paul discovered after advertising for singers in Smash Hits pop magazine. One of the cassettes that landed on the doormat at 45/53 Sinclair Road, London W14, was from the then 17-year-old Tracie, who subsequently passed the audition went on to sing on ‘Beat Surrender’ of course.

Tracie – ‘That was just after I moved from Chelmsford to Hereford and I was unemployed and really bored. When I saw the advert, I couldn’t believe it: it was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.’

The concept was also about giving youth an opportunity and a ‘shot at the title’ with the full backing of  seasoned pros like Weller, and Mick Talbot, the other half of the Style Council, who were more often than not in the writing and/or production chairs.

Within a short time, more names had joined the roster, such as ‘The Questions’, from Edinburgh (who had supported The Jam) ‘A Craze,’ and the late and much lamented, Vaughan Toulouse.

When I finally listened back to the overall output on YouTube, as I compiled this, it quickly became an interesting experience to say the least. Some tunes have stood the test of time pretty well, whilst others have dated dreadfully. For a kick-off,  I’m not a big fan of the overblown and blousy, synthetic ‘plastic’ production on songs, like ‘House That jack Built ‘ by Tracie for example, which I’ve read subsequently she herself argued about with her ‘boss’ at the time.

For me, her voice worked much better, once all the ‘fluff’ had been stripped away, such as on the likes of (I Love You) ‘When You Sleep’ – lyrics by Elvis Costello – her version of ‘Spring Summer Autumn’ ‘Thank You’  and the curious ‘Boy Hairdresser.’

The song writing chops of Paul Barry was always evident in his group ‘The Questions’ (he went on to have major success, writing ‘Believe’ for Cher) and tunes like ‘Someone’s Got to Lose ‘ ‘Tuesday Sunshine’ ‘The Learning Tree’ ‘Tear Soup’ Work ‘n’ Play’ and  ‘The Vital Spark’ hold up today.

Other gems, for me anyway, would be the mighty ‘Never Stop’ by M.E.F.F. which I remember buying at the time and still own, ‘Fickle Public Speakin’ by the Main T Possee, with Vaughan on lead vocal, ‘A Craze’ hitting the spot nicely with ‘Wearing Your Jumper’ and ‘She is So’ and ‘Been Teen’ by  Dolly Mixture, which was ‘RESP1’ the very first release on the label.

Overall, sales were patchy at best, despite decent air play from supportive DJs, and gradually Weller began to lose interest in the idea,  and it was all over by 1986.

A resurgence of interest in the music in the late 1990s, saw the Japanese label ‘Trattoria’ release pretty much everything that Respond had in their vaults, on CD,  including unheard bonus tracks.

I guess looking back, the label, though an admirable idea with solid intentions, never really caught fire. Having said that, I know many of the punters on my social media feed, still think fondly of it all.

I guess, if it only produced one or two lovely moments, like ‘Never Stop’ by the Mighty Eltham Funk Federation for example, then who am I to argue.


The Mumper of SE5



THE SPEAKEASY Volume Two by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Rhoda Dakar

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THE SPEAKEASY Volume One by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)

Illustrations by Lewis Wharton

Foreword by Gary Crowley




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