By Jose Carlos Rodrigo Breto
trad. by Elena Martínez Sáenz
*Originally posted in spanish in achtungmag.com
*Originally posted in spanish in achtungmag.com
Paul Weller will offer two concerts in Spain during this month of September. On the 14th he will play in Barcelona and in the 15th he will do so in Madrid. On the occasion of this visit, ACHTUNG! will offer you a series of specials about the musician. In this first instalment, we will go over his career in a global way, dividing it in three stages: with The Jam, with The Style Council and solo.
Paul Weller was born in Woking, about 37km away from London, city that belongs to the county of Surrey which, before becoming famous due to the British artist’s compositions, was known for being the place of residence of the science fiction writer H. G. Wells, whose novels The Time Machine, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man and The War Of The Worlds meant great successes of their time.
And it will be precisely in The War Of The Worlds, when Woking will be forever immortalized: the author will choose it as one of the landing places for the extraterrestrial ships that will initiate the invasion.
That was in 1898. Many years later, in 1958, another Martian was born in Woking. This time it was John William Weller, known in the music world as Paul Weller; and a Martian, yes, because of his portentous talent when composing songs full of life, catchy and with impeccable constructions, circumstance that has led him to be one of the better known English artists, capital figure of the British culture.
The young Paul always showed himself inclined towards music, specially the one of The Beatles and The Who. Although his parents belonged to a modest background, they didn’t doubt in making all kind of sacrifices to support the young boy, they even bought him one of his first guitars. It was such the confidence they had in him, that the father, John Weller, became his manager from the first moment, and continued to be so, until his death in 2009.
After some halting starts, the definite formation of Weller’s first important group, The Jam, would crystallise in 1976, and barely a year later, the band’s first record would appear in the market under the auspices of the stamp Polydor: In the City. The debut’s reception was very positive, and some of the album’s songs quickly became hymns of the tumultuous and rebellious punk panorama that had been triggered in the United Kingdom. Aside from the song that gives its name to the record, Away From The Numbers or Art School showed the road the band would follow, at least those first years.
After a second work, This Is The Modern World, still rooted in punk, but with a much more rested tone than In The City, the band signed All Mod Cons, the record that consecrated them, partially thanks to themes such as Down At The Tube Station At Midnight, where Weller proved his capacity to tell everyday stories in his songs.
However, and after three successful records like Setting Sons, Sound Affects and The Gift were, riddled with songs that have become classics, Weller understood that the band had reached its ceiling, that the project was worn out, and it was time to experiment with new musical ways that would confirm his evolution.
What Paul Weller was looking for was a group that would allow him more freedom when composing themes that included soul, funk or even a touch of jazz, For this, he founded The Style Council, along with the keyboardist Mick Talbot and the drummer Steve White. The group, that relayed solidly in the musical virtuosity of its members and in a complex and laborious image duty, was able to bring out a reputation inside the sophisticated pop and the Pop Art, thanks to compositions that united funk basses, soft electric guitars, bossa novas rhythms, and all of it splashed by jazz, soul and some disco rhythms too.
As a result, many unforgettable songs: Shout To The Top, The Lodgers, Walls Come Tumbling Down!, My Ever Changing Moods or Long Hot Summer. After five records, where Our Favourite Shop was their masterpiece, Weller’s drift towards house music drove him towards a confrontation with the Polydor discography, which turned down what should’ve been the next group’s record. That was the moment to dissolve The Style Council and, boarding his independent stamps, initiate his solo career.
This solitary career will be Paul Weller’s longest and most productive period, despite everything he had already achieved. His debut record, that has his own name, is a masterpiece where you can still find echoes of The Style Council, but also a bet on a more jazzy style.
However, it will be his second and third solo works, leaded again by the path of genius, the ones that will consecrate him as a solo artist that will now be often compared with Neil Young, Steve Winwood and Van Morrison, because of the quality of his records and his extensive career, his quality composing and his fidelity and honesty in his approaches.
That way, Wild Wood, Stanley Road and Heavy Soul, will mark the definite direction of Weller’s music. Complex compositions with electric guitars that drift towards powerful rock, as if music was slowly turning rawer. The critic’s and public’s success will ratify Paul as one of the most important composers of popular English music, which is a lot to say, and he continues to add solo works to his discography.
The first decade of the 2000s will see the birth of nine more records of Paul Weller. Some of them are dazzling, like Saturns Pattern and the most recent, A Kind Revolution. The list of unforgettable songs is huge: From The Floorboards Up, I’m Where I Should Be, White Sky, and the most recent ones Woo Sé Mama or Long Long Road. Also, Weller performs numerous concerts and tours, going across practically the whole world. His direct shows are an electric present, raddled with strength and accompanied by an outstanding band.
The never-ending career of this musician doesn’t seem to weaken. After two legendary bands and an overwhelming solo phase, he has just signed the soundtrack for the movie Jawbond, where his star song, The Balad Of Jimmy McCabbe, may be one of Weller’s best compositions. Something that tells us that the future will be, perhaps, only the musical history start of this rock Martian.