Paul Weller’s 30 best songs

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

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16 YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME
Paul Weller single (July 1995). Highest chart position: 9

He may have had an army of admirers and a reservoir of goodwill, but it took this plaintive ballad to win over festival waverers…

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Steve Jordan, chairman, Crystal Palace FC: Stanley Road is a brilliant album. It’s the sound of a songwriter going back to his roots in Woking, taking 25 years of experiences and putting it all to music. He had written love songs before, but this touches people because it’s from the heart. He’s a very serious man, he doesn’t like things to be frivolous. He deliberately keeps his distance from the music industry. I thought it was great when he didn’t accept his BRIT for Stanley Road. That’s why I think ‘The Modfather’ tag is a bit of a misnomer. He started off being influenced by the Mod thing but he surpassed that influence a long time ago. I still listen to his music all the time. I’ve got about 15 cars, and there’s a copy of Snap! in all of them!

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15 WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN
Style Council single (May 1985). Highest chart position: 6
Motivated by The Miners’ Strike, Red Wedge and Frankie Goes To Hollywood (“You don’t have to sit back and relax!”), Weller fought back with this uplifting Northern Soul anthem.

Billy Bragg: The first time I met Paul, we were doing a gig for the Young Socialists on a tiny stage on the South Bank, where the London Eye is now. It must have been 1984 . Later, he invited me to open for The Style Council on one of their early tours. The gigs weren’t dour and political at all, they were a celebration, like the Stax/Volt revue. The sensibility of using music to put across political ideas was one thing Paul carried over from The Jam. “Walls Comes Tumbling Down” best summed up what we were trying to do in the mid-’80s. All of us were very inspired by the civil rights-era in American soul music. The Paul I knew then was very political, supporting the likes of the Young Socialists and Youth CND. I thought it was worth trying to work with the Labour Party. I’d done a Jobs For Youth tour in early 1985 that was kind of like a dry run for Red Wedge. We started having meetings at their HQ in Elephant & Castle with the likes of Peter Mandelson, Charles Clarke and Patricia Hewitt. Paul was crucial – he was such as big star that people took us seriously. Paul’s presence drew the crowds, allowed us to play bigger venues and pulled in other artists, so his commitment was key. He had a broad audience – he was the only person to do Live Aid and Red Wedge.

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14 LIZA RADLEY
B-side to The Jam single “Start” (August 1980). Highest chart position: 1
Exquisite, Syd Barrett-style portrait of a girl prone to “creeping ’cross summer lawns at midnight” lent added poignancy by a brisk acoustic backing and Bruce Foxton’s accordion.

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Devendra Banhart: As a young kid growing up here and there, it was a song about freedom, about not being understood, about everybody in this town saying she’s not quite right, she don’t fit in. But then the beautiful part is that the narrator, singing about this free spirit, this girl that he’s in love with, asks at the end: “Liza Radley would you take me with you, take me when you go?” And that’s how I felt about every girl I fell in love with. And that’s something that’s really appealing, because I didn’t want to live where I was living, I wanted to be free, I wanted to go off, run off with that wild-eyed, painter chick. You want to be free to be with the weird chick. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

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