Paul Weller’s 30 best songs

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

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10 DOWN IN THE TUBE STATION AT MIDNIGHT
The Jam single (August 1978). Highest chart position: 18

Described by its author as a “TV play in a three minute pop song”, “Tube Station” transfers
A Clockwork Orange to the Central Line, as Weller vividly recounts a neon-lit tale of (possible) rape and murder.

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Richard Archer, Hard-Fi: “Beat Surrender” was my first experience of The Jam and I loved it. But my favourite song is “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight”. I did a gig with him last year and he said, “You can do a couple of numbers.” So I said: “Let’s play “Tube Station”,’ and he was like “Ohhh I haven’t played that for years!” [laughs]. It was for the BBC proms, but he had a think about it and then said, “We’ll do that one last.” So I had to sit there for an hour and a half shitting my pants trying to remember the words. I printed them out and learnt them all!

It’s an amazing song. Paul describes the situation so well. The sounds, the smells. It’s just brilliant, though it just tells a story of being “somewhere else”. Plus the music fits the lyrics. It’s brutal – he gets it all in there.

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9 WILD WOOD
Paul Weller single (August 2003). Highest chart position: 12
For his third career re-invention, Weller created a mellow, melancholic fusion of rock, folk and homegrown soul, a style that peaks on this languid, laid-back pastoral groove.

Andy Rourke, ex The Smiths: I’d always been a big fan of The Jam. The first singles I remember buying were “David Watts” and “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight”. When Weller went solo, “Wild Wood” was a completely new sound for him and very unexpected. It was the start of a new direction and made him look a lot cooler in a lot of people’s eyes. He’s always been a snappy dresser with his own sense of style, but he’d started growing his hair a bit by then and looking like he was starting anew. I don’t think a lot of people really got The Style Council and he’d taken a little while to get his solo career going properly, but he seemed to really find his feet with “Wild Wood”. It’s a very easy, kicking-back sort of song.

I think he went up in a lot of people’s estimations when he brought that out. He’s massively important for what he’s done for British music. He’s inspired a whole lot of musicians, including myself. We’re pretty good mates now. I’ve been out with him a few times now. The man still likes a good night out!

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8 IN THE CITY
The Jam single (April 1977). Highest chart position: 40
Rock’n’roll as adrenalin. A killer riff – later and a lyric oozing late adolescence certainty, dedicated to “those golden faces under 25”. The young idea, crystallised.

Dr John: I first heard The Jam way back in the late-’70s. I was in London and everywhere I went I’d hear people talking about this band – “Jam this… Jam that.” Anyways, one day I was rehearsing with Chris Barber in this little rundown studio, and The Jam were next door. I definitely remember hearing that tune, “In The City”. It sounded ragged. When I say ragged I mean it was good; that’s New Orleans talk. Even through the walls I could tell that shit was good. It had a funky edgy to it – you could tell they’d listened to music that leaned that way, towards funk and soul. Musically speaking, most of those punk bands were too locked in, the music couldn’t breathe, but The Jam was different.

Years later I heard about this guy Paul Weller who was playing “Walk On Gilded Splinters” at his shows. I saw him do it at a festival somewhere and I was impressed – that shit was swinging. Then I remembered it was the guy from The Jam, and it all made sense. We got to collaborate when I was recording Anutha Zone. When I met him he was how I expected – fresh, up for trying different things. He helped me take the song into a different zone, that’s what you’ve always got to aim for.

Paul cracked me up, too. His spirit reminds me of New Orleans shit. You’ve got these old timers down there who pass the music down to the youngsters, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s still a youngster himself, but he’s got that vibe. It’s a natural thing he’s doing. He’s the sort of person who’s out there helping music, when so many people are trying to destroy it. I’m happy to sing his praises. His shit is real.

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