What a weekend! It was Homecoming Weekend up at the alma mater. I didn’t go due to my pain issues, but the Cardinals got completely thumped 58 to 9, so I was glad that I was not there. It’s been a long season for Ball State. Hopefully, basketball will go better. The highlight was meeting up with several of my Beta Sigma Psi fraternity brothers, many of whom I haven’t seen in over thirty years. It was fantastic to have to opportunity to catch up with them. None of my brothers were surprised to hear that I was writing a music blog today, since I had to give an album review each month at our house meetings. Plus, while in college, my album collection was somewhere between 150 and 200. When the guys heard that, one of the brothers offered to purchase my 200th album. During the Spring of 1984, I reached that threshold, and Scott Brown purchased Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps for me as my 200th album in my collection. It was so fun to remember those care-free days: the theme parties, competing in Bike-A-Thon, our version of IU’s Little 500, the Air Jam competitions, the 4th of July 1982 party that devolved into a bottle rocket fight in the House, you know, the usual shenanigans of young men in their late-teens and early-twenties. The best information that I heard was that some of the guys still have my party mixtapes I made for them on their birthdays. Sounds like they were gifts that kept on giving!
All of that nostalgia got me thinking back to those days of my junior year at Ball State, back when I was still preparing to go to Medical School, only to stop the proceedings, and alter my degree plans in order to become a medical technologist with a microbiology degree and a chemistry minor. During that crazy year of 1983-1984, I got to the Paul Weller party late. The Jam had announced that they were breaking up at the end of 1982. So, I purchased my first album by The Jam called Snap!, a double album full of their hits and B-sides. I love that album to this day. But, all that album did was make me want to follow the career of a man who would never reach star status here in the States, although he is held in high regard in his native Great Britain.
When I heard that Weller had started in a new band called The Style Council, I finally purchased their 1983 debut EP called Introducing the Style Council AND 1984’s My Ever Changing Moods, known as Café Bleu across the “pond”. I loved those albums so much that the covers show the wear. Plus, those albums were what hooked my wife on The Style Council, thus allowing me to slowly expose her to The Jam as well. As the Eighties continued, The Style Council was one of the few artists I followed. But, as the Eighties wore on, The Style Council ran out of juice. Finally, in the early Nineties, Paul Weller, the leader of both The Jam and The Style Council struck out on his own for a solo career. And, that career has been musically satisfying as I could listen to an artist who was initially influenced by all my favorite artists such as early Who, The Kinks and Motown music, first used those influences to channel his anger through The Jam’s take on punk through a mod’s eye. Then, as he matured as a person, his music became so sophisticated that he needed to stretch beyond The Jam’s power trio to create a sophisticated version of Europop with The Style Council. And, then as the creative force began to wane within the confines of The Style Council, it was time for Mr. Weller to go solo in order to fully realize his vision of the very same influences within a maturing adult rocker. And, thus, his solo career continues to see and hear Weller battle his ideals within the context of what the public wants.
Personally, I wish more Americans were familiar with his great music. The Jam’s punk rock transcended the usual punk rhetoric of the UK’s punk bands by integrating the Sixties mod sound up to his late album, A Kind Revolution, where you can hear him taking those very same influences into his sixth decade of life. Few rock artists can honestly say they are as vital today as they were in their late-teens. And, unfortunately, his music has fallen on mainly deaf ears here. So, if you are interested in hearing the man, you should begin with his solo great hits packages, Modern Classics and More Modern Classics. Then, grab The Jam’s Young Ideals and The Style Council’s Singular Adventures of the Style Council to gain the full picture of his career. Or, you could drop $50 or so for his career-spanning four-CD box set entitled Hit Parade for an overview that goes up to 2007, thus missing the past decade of what I consider to be his strongest work to date.
Today, Weller is known as the Modfather in his native Great Britain, for his musical take on the R&B-influenced music of the early Who and Small Faces during the punk era and beyond. His bands’ and solo influence can be felt throughout the whole indie rock scene of the Eighties popularized by such artists as The Smiths and the Housemartins AND the Britpop movement of the Nineties of which Oasis, Blur, Pulp The Verve, Elastica, The La’s and so many others were part of. Now, you can hear his musical influence on a whole new generation of British indie artists, most of whom are more familiar with his solo career. Unfortunately, his true contributions to rock music have gone unnoticed by the voters for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Ideally, one day he will get in either with The Jam, or at least as a solo artist. Preferably, I would love to see him inducted as both a member of The Jam, since their success and influence are undeniable. I used to hear remnants of their sound in the early days of Green Day’s music. And, his solo career continues to be so vital and influential that it may take decades for us to fully realize just how big his shadow truly has been. As far as The Style Council is concerned, I do not see them as worthy of induction, but they do play an important role in the musical development of Weller that can be celebrated with his induction as a solo artist.
As you know, I am a fan of Motown, Philly soul and Stax R&B, in addition to the punk energy, sophisticated pop and flat-out rock all of which are rolled up in the musical career of Paul Weller. And, then you throw in his thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics which espouse many politics which are also foreign to Americans. To me, Paul Weller has been one of the greatest rock artists of any era. So, today, I would like to honor him with a Top 25 of my favorite songs of his, through all three incarnations he has taken: The Jam, The Style Council and solo Paul Weller. So, now, on with the countdown!
25. “In the City” – The Jam (1977)
24. “She Moves with the Fayre” – Paul Weller (2017)
23. “The Eton Rifles” – The Jam (1979)
22. “Start!” – The Jam (1980)
21. “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” – The Jam (1978)
20. “That Dangerous Age” – Paul Weller (2012)
19. “Peacock Suit” – Paul Weller (1997)
18. “How She Threw It All Away” – The Style Council (1988)
17. “A Solid Bond in Your Heart” – The Style Council (1983)
16. “That’s Entertainment” – The Jam (1980)
15. “Absolute Beginnings” – The Jam (1981)
14. “Headstart for Happiness” – The Style Council (1983)
13. “Shout to the Top” – The Style Council (1986)
12. “All I Wanna Do (Is Be with You)” – Paul Weller (2008)
11. “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)” – The Jam (1982)
10. “Walls Come Tumblin’ Down” – The Style Council (1986)
9. “Long Hot Summer” – The Style Council (1983)
8. “Beat Surrender” – The Jam (1982)
7. “You Do Something to Me” – Paul Weller (1995)
6. “Wake Up the Nation” – Paul Weller (2010)
5. “Town Called Malice” – The Jam (1982)
4. “Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea” – Paul Weller (2000)
3. “You’re the Best Thing” – The Style Council (1984)
2. “Going Underground” – The Jam (1980)
1. “My Ever Changing Moods” – The Style Council (1984)
That’s it! My 25 Favorite Songs by Paul Weller. I hope you will check him out if you are not familiar with his music. I confident you will like him! By the way, I could have done a Top 50 songs, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you.
So, until tomorrow, keep on rockin’ in the free world!