The Leisure List: Fire still burning for pop modfather
Published 05/05/2014 | 02:30
Paul Weller tells an instructive anecdote about being a very young child in Woking. His mother Ann, now in her seventies, took him when he was two-and-a-bit to see an Elvis film at the local picture house. Holding a little plastic guitar, the future modfather of Britpop stood in the aisles, strummed his tiny guitar and sang along to the king.
"Not that I'm claiming to be any child prodigy," Weller says. "But I've just got the music in me, I think. So I never question it. It'd be like comedians saying, 'Why am I funny?' You just are, so f**king get on with it.
"I was born to do music. I'm meant to do it and that's good enough for me. And I've no grand ambition outside of just being able to continue doing it as long as I live," adds the demi-god who'll turn 56 in a few weeks.
The perennially cool-haired singer-songwriter has more soul and passion in his little finger than most bands have in their entire career. I will warn you at the outset that my Weller myopia knows no bounds and that I grew up on his music.
I still remember listening to All Mod Cons – The Jam's third album – when I was 11 and being fascinated by the words Weller wrote. (Obviously bands like Oasis, Blur and, more recently, The Arctic Monkeys, listened to that album too).
Songs like English Rose, In The Crowd, and To Be Someone – and then songs like Eton Rifles and Little Boy Soldiers, Private Hell, Boy About Town and That's Entertainment and Scrape Away from later albums like Setting Sons (1979) and Sound Affects (1980) – were as powerful as anything I read in books in school.
Intriguingly, when I started reading Weller's interviews in New Musical Express banging on about the brilliance of George Orwell, William Blake and Shelley, I immediately sought out their works.
I think I cried when Weller split up The Jam in 1982. They were the biggest band in Britain since The Beatles and the break-up got Weller on the main evening news. (As Weller's mate Noel Gallagher likes to theorise, The Jam splitting up made way for The Smiths who in turn made way for The Stone Roses before allowing Oasis to take centre stage).
Although Weller's subsequent band The Style Council divided opinion, songs like A Man Of Great Promise and Headstart For Happiness still stand up there with his best work, even if Money Go Round and Walls Come Tumbling Down were like Yellowpack versions of Town Called Malice and Man In The Corner Shop.
For me, Weller's best solo albums are his self-titled return from the creative wilderness in 1992, his 1993 masterpiece Wild Wood – probably his best record ever – and then Stanley Road in 1995.
I kind of lost my way a bit in Weller's wild wood of solo albums ever since, but Wake Up The Nation (2010) and 2012's rather brilliant Sonik Kicks proved that the two-year-old who strummed along to Elvis at the movies hasn't lost that fire in his belly.
He's still the boy about town that you've heard of.
Paul Weller plays Royal Hospital Kilmainham on June 24. Special guest Tom Odel. Tickets are priced €44.50 including booking fee from ticketmaster outlets nationwide and online from: www.ticketmaster.ie
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