The musical moments that s shaped Paul Weller’s life.
In The Beginning, There Was The Beatles…
“Watching The Beatles on the Royal Variety Performance… I can still see it now, that little screen at home. That was it for me, from then on. I loved everything they did. Wherever their heads were at, they were trying to take us with them. And it wasn’t just the music; they opened up my mind to a life outside of who I was and where I lived. It made me see what the other possibilities were, for which I’m eternally grateful. It was only through touring that I ever travelled. The first time I flew was to play a festival. The furthest I’d been before that was fucking Wales to visit a relative. Not just materialistically, but everything I’ve got has all come from music. It’s opened my mind to different possibilities and I might not have had that. When you come from a normal suburban working-class background, you’re lucky if you see beyond the city walls or the inside of a pub. It all came from music.”
The Birth Of The Modfather
“I dipped out of the whole suedehead thing around ’ 72, ’ 73. I’d started the band by that time, so I kind of lost track of all that scene. But it was a few years later, 1975, when I got my scooter. I bought a [ Lambretta] GP 150 and that was it for me. I bought a K-Tel record, which is a little cheapo label that used to do compilations, it was the soundtrack to some film and there were a couple of Who tracks on it. I’d never heard them in the ’ 60s, I don’t know why, and it just blew my head away. I hadn’t really heard that sort of thing. Then I managed to get My Generation the album, which I thought was the best thing I’d ever heard… and then proceeded to rewrite it all for our first album – sorry Pete! I caught the flavour of it and that was it really. I was the only mod in Woking, driving around on my scooter with my parka on with ‘Mod Class A’ written in chalk on the back. People thought I was mad, but in my mind I was the only person in England that was doing this. I probably wasn’t, but it just caught my imagination. From that point on it’s been the starting point for everything I do. Back then, what football team you supported,
what music you listened to and how you dressed defined who you were. It’s still the same for me and will always be the same for me. Whatever fucking age I am.”
The Boy Looked At Johnny
“Even though I was old enough to appreciate the music of the ’ 60s, I was too young to participate in it so we felt like we missed the boat. Even into the mid-’ 70s there was still that hangover from the ’ 60s. I went to a lot of gigs and people were still sat on the floor in denim, smoking dope with long hair and all that stuff, and it just seemed a bit anachronistic. There was nothing I could relate to. So to see the Sex Pistols was a breath of fresh air, like, ‘Now is our time.’ And they were fucking great. That whole thing that they couldn’t play was bullshit. They were all great players and their sound was great. I was 17 and pilled-up when I first saw them at the old Lyceum, it was fucking brilliant. It was like a massive flare going pkoooorrrr! across the sky. At the two-day punk festival at the 100 Club in ’ 76, I can distinctly remember walking down the stairs, thinking, ‘Wow, this is fucking amazing. It’s like all the stories I’ve read about people going to clubs in the ’ 60s’, but it was our time.”
“I went to Italy, Sorrento maybe, with my girlfriend at the time. That was when I kind of made my mind up that I was going to leave The Jam. Reading Absolute Beginners, Colin MacInnes’s book, which really is the roots of the whole modernist thing, it sent me off even further into the mod thing, like a kind of mod purist. I just wanted to make music that would match that. I’d also had enough as well. The thought of being in the same band for the rest of my life scared me. I take my hat off to people who have kept their bands together, it’s not an easy thing to do to, but I didn’t fancy that at all. I was only young as well. I just thought, ‘What else is happening?’ I’d been in this band for 10 years and I wanted to stretch myself, to see where else I could go with it, what else I could do. I don’t think we would’ve all gone to the place I wanted to go to together. Mick [ Talbot] had played with us a couple of times. I kind of vaguely knew him and really liked his playing. And he knew his shit, he’s a proper clothes head like me as well. We had a lot of things in common and he was up for trying whatever. Towards the end of ’ 82, I was already making plans. It wasn’t long after, early ’ 83, that we were in the studio doing the first [ Style Council] single.”
Finding His Mojo
“A while after The Style Council had split my old man said, ‘We’ve got to go back on the road.’ I was really low and I didn’t miss it whatsoever so I reluctantly went back to earn some dosh. I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t a house husband, I was just at home doing fuck all. It was a shock to find myself at 32 and everything was all over. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life: ‘I’m not a musician any more, I don’t write any more, I don’t play any more and I’m not good at anything else. I’ve got no fucking chance of getting another sort of job.’ I wasn’t skint, but I wasn’t a multimillionaire either. At 32, what do you do for the rest of your life? Fuck knows. Especially coming out of that experience of being in The Jam and all the rest of it. So that was kind of weird, to say the least. I was fucking useless as a band leader because I had no idea what I was doing. We floundered and managed to get through a few tours – we did one in Europe playing to a handful of people, then came back to England to do small places. I remember at Chippenham Golddiggers there was maybe 200 people there. It’s only now with the benefit of hindsight that I think that was a good lesson for me. It brought me back down to earth. It was only through working and touring that I found myself and found my muse and got back into it and started writing again for that first [ solo] album. We went through quite a few different line-ups just trying to find it, trying to find my mojo. It took a while though, fucking hell.”
“I was in a rut prior to 22 Dreams [ sleeve, below]. We did an awful lot of touring and we got great as a live band, but I could see how we could just carry on doing the same thing if we weren’t careful. I needed to liven things up a little bit. Just smash the picture and rearrange it a bit. I was surprised at how well [ 22 Dreams] was received. I wasn’t making it for that reason, it was just pure indulgence. I thought it was a present to myself as I came up to my 50th to do exactly what I wanted. The fact that people really warmed to that record was really encouraging and helped spur me on to try other things. But there’s also a natural questing spirit, to try different things and see what works and what doesn’t work. You have to go with what feels natural and if the songs are flowing you go with them. If the songs come knocking at your door, you have to go and fucking answer it. Because you never know when that might stop. There might be another time when you don’t feel like that.”
“I was 17 when I first saw the Sex Pistols, pilled-up at the old Lyceum. It was fucking brilliant.”
“They opened up my mind...” The Beatles at the Royal Variety Performance, London, 1963.
“It was our time...” Sex Pistols set the world alight in 1976.