Sunday, May 25, 2008

Just Who Is The Fifty Year Old Hero?

What sort of wannabe music blogger would I be if I didn't mention that Paul Weller turned 50 today.

Many an hour spent in blissful contentment listening to his music down the years, and one of my major pop kid regrets is that because I was otherwise musically disposed, The Jam only properly crossed my musical consciousness when they were announcing their break up on The Tube. How's that for bastard bad luck? I had to get into Weller thru' Style Council - I'm not complaining too much - and work my way backwards.

Whilst I'm on the subject of missing out on The Jam first time round, is it too sacrilegious to admit that for many years, 'Snap' was my favourite Jam album? I would state for the record that I'm referring to the double vinyl LP version of 'Snap'. (Don't sell yourself short with 'Compact Snap'.) The vinyl version still adds up to my all time favourite compilation album.

Like many of his fans he fell off my radar with Style Council's 'Confessions of a Pop Group' (the late eighties had to a lot to answer for), but as soon as I heard the opening bars of 'Into Tomorrow' by the unfortunately named 'Paul Weller Movement' on the radio one evening* in '91, I knew that the original commie curmudgeon still had it. I've loved his stuff anew ever since (though Heavy Soul was heavy going) and, to bring you up to speed, his last album, 'As Is Now', had more bite and incandescent anger than any other album released in 2005.

As I keep reminding myself, this is only a wannabe music blog so my bare arsed laziness coupled with yet another prematurely busted bandwidth month means that I'm not in a position to post any Wellersque *samples* for your delectation but proper music blog, The Vinyl District, has been doing sterling work this past week combing through Weller's back catalogue with accompanying biographical bits tagged on for good measure. I can't in all good conscious say I would have picked the same tracks album by album and year by year, but as it was Noah who got his finger out and did all the hard work, who am I to carp?

Individual links are as follows for Vinyl District's 'Wellerweek':

  • Wellerweek: Day One (Best track featured, in my humble opinion, is 'Down in the Tube Station at Midnight'.)
  • Wellerweek: Day Two (Again, favoured track for me is the rather obvious 'Town Called Malice'.)
  • Wellerweek: Day Three (Moving into Weller's "blue coffee" with a red wedge on the side period, the best track featured is 'Walls Come Tumbling Down'. Pause a minute to think of Dee C Lee in the video *sigh*.)
  • Wellerweek: Day Four (Weller's back from the wilderness. Fast forward through unfortunate band names - the aforementioned PWM - . . . . blistering live performances on Late Night With Jools Holland, which had the hairs on the back my kneecaps standing to attention . . . . the Dad Rock accusations . . . and the mid-life crisis. Fav track by the whisker of his wispy 15 minute moustache? 'Above The Clouds'. Controversial winner but I didn't get to pick the original nominees.)
  • Wellerweek: Day Five (Weller's latter solo career. 'Fraid Noah's selection for day five is the weakest of the batch. If you put a water pistol to my head, I'd have to opt for 'Savages' but that thing better be loaded.)
  • Wellerweek: Saturday Kidz (Noah's inner voice gets the better of him and he does an extra shift on the Saturday to post a fresh selection of Weller tracks that cover his whole career. Hard going picking just the one track but as you're still waving that water pistol around, I cave in and scream 'Away From The Numbers'. Arguably the track that more than any other in the early days of The Jam sign posted the latter greatness of Weller.)
  • One last add on before I wrap up this post in anticipation of tomorrow's birthday anniversary tribute to Britain's original axe wielding musical hero on the blog.

    Will Rubbish sent me the link to this Paul Weller interview a few weeks back and I meant to post it on the blog before now but never got round to it. Nice piece that can only contribute to you warming to the bloke further. I think one of things that I've always liked about him is that, for all the passion and seeming intensity, he appears to be self-aware of the ridiculousness of life and to have a finely attuned bullshit detector. Couple of quotes from the interview only seem to confirm this:

    [On his involvement with Red Wedge.]: "All the artists involved had the best intentions. But meeting the politicians it was like, f***ing hell - I wouldn't be seen dead with these people, let alone drinking with them. They were from a different planet, and their agendas were totally different from ours. They behaved like stars in their own right. On the tour bus there was no hint of ego - it was only when we turned up at gigs or meetings that we'd see these other people who definitely did have the egos."

    [On mixing pop with politics.]: "The final death-knell of his political activism was sounded at a press conference in Sweden, where the Style Council were appearing at a festival, 'and every single question was about politics, nothing about music whatsoever.' He shakes his head. 'That's when I thought, maybe I've led myself into this position and its my own fault, but either way I don't like it. Because first and foremost I just write songs and play music. So that really put me off all that."

    Of course, what with song such as 'Eton Rifles' and 'Walls Come Tumbling Down', many people have picked up from the interview that he has privately educated his kids and, therefore, knocked him as a hypocrite or a sell out. I'm more disappointed that this interesting interview has appeared in the pages of the Daily Torygraph. All your childhood heroes have feet of clay. Get over it.

    'The past is our knowledge - the present our mistake

    And the future we always leave too late.'


    harpymarx said...

    Ha! I too got the Snap! double vinyl compilation. I got it for my 13th birthday at the end of 1982..

    And similar in views as well as I thought later Style Council was ...well shite.

    And listening to "Into Tomorrow" made me remember why I liked Paul Weller (I saw him live in the summer of '91 and people kept shouting, "sing Town Called Malice"...and so on when Weller wanted to showcase his new stuff...)

    But least we forget Red Wedge. I was gonna bunk off school to see them but, rightly, decided double-maths was preferable!

    Darren said...

    Aye, one of my enduring regrets is giving all my vinyl away to Oxfam a few years back. I had some cracking albums, and pride of place was Snap.

    Yeah, he seemed to lose interest towards the end of Style Council, but 'Introducing the Style Council', 'Cafe Bleu' & 'Our Favourite Shop' (all of which were also in my vinyl cull) were all superb albums. Patchy in places, but then so were The Jam albums at times.

    Red Wedge? Thing is, I don't necessarily want to forget about Red Wedge. I'd love to read up on it afresh after all these years. My memories of it are a haze of live concert reviews and featured articles in the pages of NME and Record Mirror.

    I was a snot nosed political kid-junkie in the mid-eighties (Kinnock's anti-Militant Tendency speech was one of the things that kicked it all off) but I never really got the full handle on Red Wedge.

    Loved to see what they were all about. I guess I'll have to trawl through all those PDFs of Marxism Today that are now online to see if they do any features of Red Wedge. I'm sure any article will be snarky.

    Highlander said...

    The fact that 'Man In The Corner Shop' was chopped off Compact Snap! is unforgiveable.