Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 25 May '58, Woking, Surrey) Singer, songwriter, guitarist. Began performing in Woking '72, formed new wave trio the Jam '74 with bassist Bruce Foxton (b 1 Sep. '55, Woking), drummer Rick Buckler (b 6 Dec. '55), heavily infl. by mod sounds of Small Faces and the Who, Tamla/Motown and R&B. Seen as neo-conservatives at early gigs, performing against Union Jack; they disabused any notions of extreme-right affiliation, but Weller said 'Vote Tory'. Early albums In The City and This Is The Modern World (both '77) were bracing, strident and timely, displayed little of the subtlety that would later characterize Weller's work. Every album till '80 incl. covers, revealing Weller's penchant for Wilson Pickett, the Kinks, Martha and the Vandellas etc. They earned grudging punk credibility, but also broke through commercially: 'All Around The World', 'Strange Town', 'When You're Young' were all UK top 20 hits. All Mod Cons '78 was best work to date, incl. chilling 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight', hit cover of Ray Davies's 'David Watts'; Setting Sons '79 was transitional, emphasizing Weller's growing writing skill with acerbic 'Eton Rifles', 'Little Boy Soldiers', sympathetic 'Saturday's Kids'. Their stature was confirmed when 'Going Underground' '80 was the first single in seven years to enter the chart at no. 1: all three of their number ones did it, among 19 UK chart hits (not counting many re-entries); other chart-toppers were 'Town Called Malice' and 'Beat Surrender' in '82. Sound Affects '80 incl. perhaps Weller's best song, the bitter, acoustic 'That's Entertainment' (apparently not considered hit material: its first chart entry at no. 21 was as an import), as well as 'Man In The Corner Shop', 'Set The House Ablaze', Beatles-infl. 'Start'. The Gift '82 incl. 'Town Called Malice', 'The Planner's Dream Gone Wrong': that year Weller thought they should quit while they were ahead before they got stale, and folded what was regarded as the most important band in the country. Dig The New Breed '82 was an exemplary live LP, tracks culled from shows '77--82; Snap '83 a definitive two-disc compilation (edited version Compact Snap on CD); The Jam: A Beat Concerto '83 by Paolo Hewitt was the definitive book. Weller formed Style Council,

Buckler went to Time UK; Foxton went solo, formed band 100 Men '86; Weller's first appearance onstage after disbanding was with jazzy Everything But The Girl '83, indicating a new direction to be taken with pop duo Style Council, with keyboardist Mick Talbot (b 11 Sep. '59; ex-'New Mod' band Merton Parkas '79, briefly Dexy's Midnight Runners). Their debut single was the funky 'Speak Like A Child' (no. 4 UK '80) which followed the direction Jam was pursuing with their last single 'The Beat Surrender', itself a step away from their former militancy. Through '84 Weller and Talbot served up a tasty array of singles: 'Money Go Round', 'Solid Bond In Your Heart', 'Long Hit Summer', displaying Weller's writing ability and picking up a following from Jam days. Their album debut Cafe Bleu '84 was a bossa-nova mixture with hits 'My Ever Changing Moods' and 'You're The Best Thing'. Some tracks were instrumentals, showing off Talbot's skill; guest vocalists incl. Tracey Thorn and D. C. Lee. My Favourite Shop '85 incl. 'Welcome To Milton Keynes' and 'Walls Came Tumbling Down'. Weller appeared on Band Aid singles '85, other charity records for striking miners and victims of sickle cell anaemia; Style Council contributed to soundtrack of Absolute Beginners '86; live album and video Home And Abroad '86 was an effective souvenir; album The Cost Of Living '87 featured Curtis Mayfield; they made short film Jerusalem '87, album Confessions Of A Pop Group '88.

Then Weller folded his second successful pop group and went solo. Staying with Polydor labels (solo albums on Go! Discs and/or London in the USA), Paul Weller '92, Wild Wood '94 and Stanley Road '95 (with guests Noel Gallagher and Steve Winwood) have been warmly reviewed by critics and happily received by more than one generation of fans. On Stanley Road, 'The Changingman' was co-written with co-prod. Brendan Lynch; the only cover was Dr John's 'Walk On Gilded Splinters'; the other ten tunes were all Weller's in more ways than one: with decades of pop tricks at his disposal, they all come out sounding like him. Forget Britpop; Weller is British pop all by himself. Heavy Soul was next, mostly just as good.