Paul Weller’s 30 best songs

An all-star cast pick the Modfather's greatest work

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Paul Weller single (August 1996). Highest chart position: 5

A snarling update of The Who’s “I’m The Face”, with Weller sounding as pissed off as only a Mod approaching 40 can be. He was arrested for trashing a posh £400-a-night hotel room in Paris around the same time. Turn it up and imagine that Louis XIV furniture fly.

Carl Barât, Dirty Pretty Things: It’s the one I sang with him and forgot all the words! It was at the Roundhouse last year – I had the lyrics written out for me on the floor but I still couldn’t read them! I wasn’t sure which song to do initially, but [Dirty Pretty Things’ bassist] Didz told me that was a cool one to do. But I just couldn’t learn the words at all –and they’re great lyrics, too, and the guitars are so choppy and exhilarating. It’s great to play with Weller, though it can be a bit scary when he’s about. It’s grand, it’s Weller. It was funny, I tried to be clever and had some bullet points of the lyrics written out hoping theywould jog my memory, but my mind went completely blank… plus I knew Amy Winehouse was about to come onstage after me, so I was completely terrified. But it was OK in the end. After that we did “In The City” and we gave that quite a blazing, too.



The Jam single (May 1981). Highest chart position: 4
Dark days: the Russians had invaded Afghanistan, Reagan was in the White House and Haircut 100 were having hits. The solution? A pessimistic post-punk clatter built from an ad hoc jam driven by Foxton’s snaking bassline and an endless drum solo by Buckler.

Richard Hawley: My sister was – and is – a massive Weller and Jam fan. She’s younger than me, and through her I’ve heard a lot of his stuff over the years. There was only one record player in our house so you had to be very tolerant – we had to take turns to use it. So I’d be wanting to put on The Velvet Underground, which my sister and her friends absolutely hated. They were into The Small Faces, the full Mod monty! I was already in a different world completely. But every time they put on The Jam’s greatest hits album, I loved “Funeral Pyre”. I would secretly wait for it to come on, even though I pretended I didn’t like it. I think it’s absolutely stunning. Great bassline; and it’s got these really heavy drums on it, just really crazed. It reminds me of “The Ox” by The Who. I don’t know if that track influenced them at all in the making of it, but it’s got that same kind of spirit.


It sounded like nothing else. Still doesn’t. He’s been consistently good ever since. He can write a tune can Mr Weller. I’ve never met him, but I nodded to him once at a festival! He always comes across as someone who’s totally sorted.


Paul Weller single (July 1993). Highest chart placing: 16
A shaggy, psychedelic exocet built around what would become trademark influences – deep soul, Traffic, Humble Pie – “Sunflower” delighted those who always preferred the man wired and restless.

Philip Glenister, actor: I first became aware of The Jam around the time of “Eton Rifles”, when I was 14 or 15. My brother was in the National Youth Theatre and I remember going to see him in plays by Tony Marchant and Barry O’Keefe – young playwrights who had been affected by punk and were writing plays infused with the same spirit. One play was even called Thick As Thieves. It made me realise you could bring those attitudes into acting. I lost track of him for a while after The Jam. I saw a video of The Style Council in boating blazers, punting down The Thames [The Cam, actually – Pedantic Ed] in the “Long Hot Summer” video and, honestly, I didn’t get it. But when he came back in the ’90s it was great – a total re-invention. I saw him on Jools Holland doing “Wild Wood” and I brought the album straight away. I loved it, especially “Sunflower”. It’s got one of those riffs that send a shiver down my spine every time I hear it.

Funnily enough, I always think of it when I hear the music for the World Snooker Championship. There’s a great bit halfway through where [Weller cohort] Steve White does a drum roll that’s out of this world. Me and my mate have played along to that on drunken evenings many times. Forget Air Guitar, I’m an Air Drummer!


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