"That’s Entertainment" only reached 21 in the UK charts but for many it is quintessential Paul Weller. A sour and ironic retort on the state of Thatcher’s Britain showcasing Weller's poetic skills and the simple but effective pop nouse that kept them at the top for so long.
Paul Weller’s catalogue of British life had a very quick birth. He had come home after a nightout drinking and was on a London bus when inspiration struck. It didn't take long for the words to roll off his pen.
The song is driven by the lyrics which range across a tableau of images giving “slice of life” pictures of British society. Less storytelling more a collage effect and though some of the images are distinctly British there is universal experience here too, such as "breathing in petrol," and “a freezing cold flat and damp on the walls." But just as it is getting grittier and harder the edge is softened with a startlingly lyrical image "two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude." His interest in poets both old and new was having an effect.
"I remember being really taken by this poem that had been sent in"
The tune came later, and was kept simple. As Paul said "it doesn't hide the lyrics and it works well". "That's Entertainment" made a lasting impression on Noel Gallagher when he first heard it in the early eighties:
"Not a clue what it meant - but it just sounded absolutely beautiful"
The song reached 21 in the UK charts on it's release in 1981. But it would return twice more. Once after the band split and 13 tracks hit the charts in the same weeks and ten years after the first release when it reached #60.
As Noel Gallagher recalls when he sang it with Weller for the first time it was part of his musical memory:
"I suddenly realised I'd never played That's Entertainment on a guitar, ever."
Verses blast over a Sixties Mecca dance-hall beat, cycling the tonic Bb major with its relative minor, G. Any glimmer of uplift suggested by the rise at the chorus is dashed by an ambiguous Ab chord on "Entertainment" and the bitter, falling vocal. Compared to the rangey Arthur Schwartz classic from which this song takes its title, the two note do/re tune of the chorus certainly reflects the poverty of choice of which it complains. Dominic King
The song remains one of the strongest songs Paul has written and is apparently about to get a new lease of life by boy-band Busted.
A snapshot of the England Paul Weller was seeing and hearing at the time