Paul Weller is the last remaining figure from the roll-call of those ’70s heroes. Joe Strummer is a spent force, Mick Jones is a sick man, John Lydon is a surfing LA airhead and Pete Shelley… well, he’s back in the Buzzcocks. Punk was supposed to be the most creative movement of them all, but we still ended up with Tina, Phil and Elton as our role models. It’s tragic. Considering the sorry state Weller was in four years ago, what’s kept him going?
“Talent, old-fashioned talent, writing good songs,” he says, clichéd but true. “I think it’s a bit of a sad state with regards to my generation of songwriters, y’know. They were really harsh on all those ’60s bands because they were pioneers, those geezers, they were bound to make loads of mistakes. And at the end of the day, I don’t know whether we were as good as them. I don’t think we were. They were better singers, better players, better songwriters.
“The amount of times The Jam got slagged off in the fanzines for tuning in between numbers! But we came from a different background. All I wanted to do from the age of 12 was be in a group. When I was 14 I eventually got round to learning the guitar and I started going out doing gigs in pubs and clubs, playing Chuck Berry or whatever else had three chords. That’s the end of the story, really. Twenty years on, that’s what I’m still doing. I know I’ve done it in a roundabout way and I’ve been some people’s spokesman – some people’s this and some people’s that. It’s all bullshit, really, and people who have grown up with me will realise that. There are people out there the same as me – 35 years old with two kids, who met their wife in ’79 or whatever. We’ve all grown up together and been through a lot. As long as it doesn’t get too nostalgic or too sentimental, I’m happy.
“It took me a while to realise you don’t have to give up. I looked around and realised nothing else interests me. It was just a question of having the time to readjust, and I feel different now – if anything, I’m more obsessed by music than ever. You worry sometimes. Although it sounds a bit melodramatic, it’s almost like a curse because that’s all I can do in life. I was only 30 at the time The Style Council split and you don’t pack it in then if you really care about what you do.”
Look at Neil Young and you see one of the most influential rock’n’roll figures of our age. Nearly 50, packing them in like never before, setting the standards by which all other performers will be judged. Listening to Wild Wood, or watching his astonishingly sinewy live performance, you can see Weller turning into a Young-esque icon for another generation. God knows, we need him for a while yet.
Paul Weller and The Jam are on the cover of Uncut’s History Of Rock 1979 edition, in stores now or available to buy online.
The November 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on The Specials, plus Bon Iver, Bob Weir, Shirley Collins, Conor Oberst, Peter Hook, Bad Company, Leonard Cohen, Muscle Shoals, Will Oldham, Oasis, Lou Reed, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Frank Ocean, Michael Kiwanuka and more plus 140 reviews and our free 15-track CD