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So... I don't know much about music, but I do know a lot about Paul Weller. I'm expecting a mixed reaction (if any reaction at all) from the dosboderati, but this is going to be a completely self-indulgent thread charting his career from the beginning and sharing some of what i consider to be his more important songs.

So to start at the beginning: 'In the City' was The Jam's first album. Weller was only 17 and the album is very immature, raw and clunky, it wouldn't get a record deal these days, never mind anywhere near the charts, but that was then. Anyway, the title track is good and was their first charting single, but there's a couple of songs on the album that have always stood out to me and they're tracks I hold very dearly (this will be a common theme in the thread, I did say it was self-indulgent :D).

They're both around themes that recur strongly in Weller's best work, mainly about his favourite topic: Paul Weller. Both are quite introspective and revolve around his innate belief that he's escaped his upbringing and is destined for bigger things. Bearing in mind he'd barely left school at this point it's obvious he's got a very high opinion of himself and his destiny. What Ilove about them is that despite the fact that they're quite clunky songs, and not particularly good, his influences are revealed and his skill as a songwriter who can use his influences to shape a song are present. As a kid who grew up without a pot to piss in I really identify with them both.

The first is the obviously Motown influenced "I got by in time". "I was young/this was serious/and to me she was the world/I thought I'd never live without her but/I got by in time". Hmmm... Paul, you're barely out of nappies and already talking about a lost love. Anyway.

The second is the very 60s Mod influenced (intro could have been ripped directly off 'The Who') "away from the numbers". "I was the type who laughed at old men/who together at tables sit and drink beer/then I saw that I was really the same/so this links breaking away from the chain". He's not even old enough to legally drink in a pub at this point.

Next up is the total clusterfuck, difficult second album "The Modern World". But that can wait for another day.

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The concept of a thread devoted to a particular artist's work is a great one. Show us what they can do..

My musical preferences are rooted in dance music (as if nobody had noticed) - what I grew up with - but in recent years that has expanded thanks to having a variety of music thrown at me by others (one in particular). Try something new and different. It's nice to be introduced by someone who can explain why they like things and what it does for them. Sometimes, that can provide a way in - even when the music may well be the last thing you'd have thought you'd like.

I own a Jam LP and a Weller CD - and admire him, I know the big hits ("Going Underground" was one of the best of the decade), but I don't know the history very well - waiting for the next instalment..

 

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Posted (edited)

Life is a funny thing, it all happens at the margins. Random chances and things that fell one way when they could just have easily fallen another. Weller's career has spanned 5 decades, dozens of albums that have received critical and commercial success, but 6 months after 'In the City' was released came 'The Modern World'. An album so laughably bad Polydor almost dropped them and Weller would have ended up on 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks' in the old guy who used to be famous round.

In between the two albums there was a single 'All Around the World', which isn't bad. But the only track on the album of any note is the title track: 'The Modern World'. Weller really struggled with writers block in this period, aswell as struggling to find an identity outside of a punk scene that was already on shaky ground. The only track I'll post off this album is one that shows just how thin Weller's material was for this album. The Bruce Foxton penned 'London Traffic' made it onto the album, a song which sounds like it's straight out of a 6th form refectory band practice.

No one knows the answer/no one seems to care/take a look at our city/take your traffic elsewhere

errr... OK

 

Edited by Roger_Mellie

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So, here's where it gets interesting. Weller knew The Modern World was shit, this was the first of a few periods in his career where he hit a spin and had to refocus. And like all those periods, he got his act together, worked it out and came out swinging. After the first set of songs had been recorded and he'd been told that he had to come up with something else or he was done, he got his shit together.  

So after 2 albums in 6 months of 1977 it took another 12 months for the 3rd to be released. November 1978 saw the release of what is probably the real Jam brekout album 'All Mod Cons'.

From the opening title track it's obvious that this is a different band. The punk pretence has gone, this is an album firmly rooted in The Who, The Kinks (David Watts is covered on the album) and The Small Faces. Weller's voice has changed, now he's singing. Foxton's bass is higher in the mix. Weller's class politics are starting to become much more visible. The album gets more critical acclaim than I think it deserves (it regularly ranks amongst the greatest albums of all time in journalist polls), but it is bloody good.

It's hard to pick stand outs from this, but a couple of tracks have really stood the test of time. English Rose is  one he still plays live. A beautiful, very English, ballad, straight out of the Waterloo Sunset playbook.

The other album track I would recommend as a stand out... a toss up between the class politics of Mr. Clean (one of my favourites) or the introspection of 'To Be someone'. To be someone, I think is a great song. A cautionary tale of the dangers of getting too far up your own arse, one that Weller forgets periodically throughout his career, probably more on this later. But it's worth bearing in mind that at this point they're only 18 months into their career. One of the things that strikes me is the distance he's covered in such a short time.No one really does this anymore, the release cycle and record company demands means that bands either don't change, or take a long time over it. Cold play evolved over a few labums, but have been in stasis ever since. but I digress. Here's 'To Be Someone':

Final track off the album is 'Tube Station'. A great track, released as a single, didn't do that well commercially, but an important song to all Jam fans. Told from the first person, a story about a man getting a beating at the hands of some right wing thugs. In my view this is Weller's first song that I would consider to be brilliant. To go back to my point about the margins, Weller didn't like it and it only ended up on the album because Vic Coppersmith (producer) did like it and insisted on giving it another go and changing the arrangement.

 

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Posted (edited)

So that brings us on to 'Setting Sons', the other album with what I would consider to be the classic Jam sound. Initially intended to be a concept album about a group of kids who grow up and go their different ways, but Weller gave up on that idea. It's probably my favourite Jam album and there's a few sons on there that I really love, from a personal perspective.

Thick as thieves is about really bonding with your mates as kids then realising in your teens that it's not going to last. I remember being sat in the pub when I was 17 explaining this to  a very good friend of mine, we were on different paths. We'd had some great times getting up to all kinds of no good but I was done, I wasn't interested in the same stuff anymore. I was leaving home and never coming back. he wasn't particularly upset, he'd begun to think I was a tosser anyway :D

The next song on I would reccomend off the album is probably one of the most famous Jam songs - Eton rifles. Got some great lines in there, at this point Weller is really finding his voice both in sound and style. He's also starting to look pretty good at this point.

'Sup up your beer and collect your fags, there's a row going on down in slough'

'Thought that you were smart when you took them on/but you didn't take a peep in their artillery room/all that rugby puts hairs on your chest/what chance have you got against a tie and a crest?'

 

The other one off the album really worth listening to is 'Little boy soldiers', another one that shows Weller's political voice really starting to come to the forefront of his writing.

Take your shots and drop down dead then, we'll send you home in a pine overcoat, with a letter to your mum, saying find enclosed one son one, medal and a note to say 'we won'

 

Edited by Roger_Mellie

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