PAUL WELLER is one of the most prolific and respected British songwriters of all time, with 91 Top 40 singles to his credit.
Music journalist Ian Snowball tells Murray Scougall the Honest Truth about his new book, which celebrates Weller’s 40 years as a recording artist.
What is your background?
I was born in Maidstone, Kent, and grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, spending much of my early teens in a local youth club.
The part of town I grew up in had a strong Mod presence. This meant we wore the same clothes, listened to the same music, shared the same attitudes and kept our eyes peeled for other roaming tribes such as Punks, Skinheads and Soul Boys.
Teenage culture back then was very tribal and I loved it.
Some 30 years later I started to write about it.
What is your first memory of Paul Weller’s music?
One school summer holiday I hung around with two mates and we spent the entire time listening to Setting Sons by Weller’s band, The Jam.
I was hooked.
Have you always been a fan?
I got some money for my 11th birthday and marched into Woolies and bought The Jam’s That’s Entertainment single.
From there on, I bought everything by The Jam.
Why did you write the book?
I was aware 2017 would be Paul’s 40th year of recording so I wanted to celebrate that.
Also, one day I found myself reading some sleeve notes from a Paul solo album.
His dedications and thank yous got me interested in reading his other sleeve notes.
Reading them I sort of built up a picture across four decades of what Paul was into, listening to and the people influencing his life.
They told a story and I used this information to structure my book.
Who were some of the people you interviewed?
Rick Buckler, Mick Talbot, Noel Gallagher, Steve Cradock, family members and a range of studio hands and sleeve designers.
You also interviewed Paul. Has he been supportive of the project?
I think Paul liked my angle, which was about the studio process and the people who have helped him make those records.
I think he appreciated this and saw it as being a fresh and perhaps uncovered part of his history.
Any good stories you discovered?
Noel Gallagher told me that Paul asked him to narrate a spoken word track called God, but Noel said no because he wasn’t in any way into God.
Paul gave him loads of reasons why he should do it but still Noel refused.
Paul instead asked Manchester guitarist Aziz Ibrahim to narrate the track, telling him: “I think God is a Manc”.
When Noel found this out, he said he would have done it if Paul had simply told him that he thought God was a Mancunian!
What is the biggest public misconception about Paul?
That he’s miserable and has no sense of humour.
What do you believe will be Paul’s legacy?
There’s plenty more songs in him, of that I am certain, so ask me in another 10 years.
But a good song will always be a good song and Paul has plenty of them.
What is your favourite Paul Weller album and song – and why?
There are albums that do find their way into my car stereo more than others.
These include Setting Sons, Sound Affects, Café Bleu, Our Favourite Shop, Heavy Soul, Stanley Road and I love his most recent, A Kind Revolution.
It’s a superb album which I feel has taken Paul to another, more mature level.
I really like One Tear, which he brought Boy George in on.
It’s a brilliant song and their vocals sound amazing.
Paul Weller: Sounds From the Studio is out now from Red Planet Publishing.