Twenty Days of Bass

Twenty Days of Bass will be a series, running for twenty straight days, where individual pop songs are highlighted for their innovative, catchy or impressive use of the bass guitar. The series is dedicated to unheralded bass players everywhere, especially ones laying lines down on mint colored (bass) guitars. Enjoy

The Style Council was always a loose formation, in Paul Weller’s words, “I wanted to get away from the rigidity of having a set band. I needed someone to work off and Mick (keyboardist Mick Talbot) was the perfect person for that but I wanted to keep it open outside of that, I didn’t want it that the bass player always had to play bass on the track, the drummer always had to play drums. I wanted something looser so I could bring in the right person for the right track, which is pretty much what we did. We all hung out together too, we had a great time, it was a bit like the youth club the first few years of The Style Council.” So often nailing down a specific instrument to an individual track can become dicey. At the time Camille Hinds had settled in somewhat, and he was producing the majority of the bass heard on the records and his distant playing, both innovative and referential is consistent to the sound on ‘Come To Milton Keynes’.

The bass is a bouncy repetitive riff meant to counter point the sharpness of the repetition being done in the layered horns and keyboard riff. It all jives well with Weller’s impeccable blue-eyed soul falsetto, with lines often being sung in a lilting way as if to match the cascading edge the bass pins underneath.

The song reaches high drama by a lush horn orchestration build throughout, that reaches climax twice, with both times seeing low bass runs offer a strong counterpoint. Not to underscore the bass even further, but these are also marked with darker turns in the lyrics, at one point featuring Weller opening talking about ‘slitting his wrists’. It’s a dark song, in Weller’s words,

‘Come To Milton Keynes’, the album’s second single may only have reached Number 23 in July 1985 but it was, nevertheless, one of Weller’s most poetic and powerful social commentaries. “We used to chase dreams, now we chase the dragon,” he sings. Predictably it caused controversy – Paul had never stepped foot in Milton Keynes and its residents weren’t happy with his critique of their town.  

“I was reacting to all the new towns that were springing up,” says Paul. “There was an advert on TV, ‘Come to Milton Keynes’ yet the reality was totally different. Concrete shopping malls where kids would wander around aimlessly, smack was massive in the ’80s. It was never about just one town, but was concerned with the underlying soullessness, which had been covered up with a belief in monetarism, greed and selfishness and on the street smack. It was a metaphor for the general wearing down of society. Of course the city was up in arms, the local paper had a piece on the front page about it.”

That fact that it was a bouncy dance hit, no doubt to its wonderful bass line doesn’t diminish a speck of the songs power, and in many ways affords the track timeless urgency. As the story now goes, Weller is still yet to set foot in Milton Keynes, and when offered recently while on tour nearby again, could still manage the requisite “Fuck Off!”.

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