Paul Weller’s 30 best songs

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

Trending Now

22 CHANGING OF THE GUARD
From the Style Council album, Confessions Of A Pop Group (released June 1988)

On The Style Council’s swansong album, and amid arched eyebrows, sharp suits, and nods to Satie, Bacharach and French soundtrack composer Francis Lai , Weller delivers a moving plea for redemption, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye.

Advertisement

Robert Wyatt: I really empathised with The Style Council. I know some people think of it as Paul’s period in the wilderness, but the wilderness is a very underestimated place. Sometimes the most important part of what you do comes out of the moments when you sidestep the main road. I thought that it was a brave and truthful move, and he came up with some real bits of gold, of which “Changing Of The Guard” was one.

It’s a duet with Dee C Lee, a righteous take on one of those black soul duets, the kind of thing that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell might have done. What I always like about Paul is he’s so English, but part of being English is that we’re saturated with black American music. It’s a nice paradox and it sits naturally with him.

I love the fact that he was working with the Swingle Singers, and all these jazz and classical types who were completely outside the rock tradition. That’s an enormously progressive and liberating idea. When he plays on my records, we sit around chatting and it all seems very casual. Then he’ll say, “Right, let’s do it,” and it turns out he’s been listening to the track really hard. He gets up and he nails it in just a few takes, he comes up with something that’s appropriate to what I’m doing. Because he’s listened to much more than what he plays, and we all have, that’s why it’s nice sometimes to be stretched.

_______________________

21 GHOSTS
From The Jam album, The Gift (released March 1982)
Tiring of the trademark Jam sound, Weller cleared the decks with “Ghosts”, a Motown-inspired ballad sprinkled with typical carpe diem philosophy: “One day you’ll walk right out of this life/And then you’ll wonder why you didn’t try.

Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers: There are lots of Weller tracks I like, but “Ghosts” is one I still play. Whenever I’m travelling up to London it’s always one of the first songs on my iPod. The Jam’s sloganeering never offended me. The way he used to cram so many lyrics into one song, like on “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight”, was quite an inspiration for me and Richey. There are so many words he’s out of breath. But “Ghosts” seemed to signify a change. I think he’s one of the greatest soul singers Britain’s ever had, and he starts to realise that himself on “Ghosts”. There’s such richness to his voice. You can almost hear him exploding, but he reins himself in from bursting. I saw him perform it for the first time on The Tube and it had a big impression on me.

Advertisement

_______________________

20 LONG HOT SUMMER
From the “Style Council A Paris” EP (August 1983). Highest chart position: 3
Shimmering Philly Soul homage that coalesces into a heady electro-pop classic, helped into Top 20 by a risqué video, with much canoodling…

Mick Talbot, Style Council: I met Paul in ’79. I was in a band called The Merton Parkas. There was talk of Paul producing us but that never happened. By the time he contacted me in August ’82, saying he was going to wrap up The Jam, I hadn’t seen him for quite a while. But he already knew what he wanted to do and asked if I wanted to be involved. He was conscious of wanting to work outside the restrictions of a standard band line-up – to the point where there are quite a few early instrumental tracks on which Paul might not even be playing. He was overseeing things, more like a film director.

On “Long Hot Summer”, we wanted to combine very contemporary synth sounds with Hammonds and electric pianos. We were both into close-harmony groups and in our minds we’d have liked to have The Delfonics cover “Long Hot Summer”. The video was us punting down the Cam as if we were Cambridge dons, with echoes of Brideshead Revisited. Tim Pope was directing and said, “If you lie down I can get both your heads in shot,” so we were getting closer and closer and we thought it funny to stroke each others’ ears. There was a hoo-ha at the record company and the video was leaked to the press. Next thing you know, we’re both out the closet!

Advertisement

Latest Issue

Advertisement

Features

Advertisement