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Becoming the Modfather: The Evolution of Paul Weller

Tuesday, 02 April 2024 Written by Huw Baines

The recent buzz surrounding Paul Weller’s new record and accompanying autumn tour only served to underscore the Modfather’s reputation six decades into his career. Not only is he still finding fresh sonic avenues to wander along, his shows have become winding journeys into a past studded with some of the most important, exciting songs in British music history.

With ‘66’ set to arrive in May, following a spring UK run and ahead of some massive outdoor summer dates and the aforementioned shows throughout October and November, here we take a look back at some of the pivotal stages in his creative evolution. 

In just five moves we can jump from his early days as a mod-punk through to chart-topping stardom, socially conscious soul, his reinvention as a Britpop grandee and late-career experimentalism. 

In The City (The Jam, ‘In The City’, 1977)

If you’re talking about the best debut singles of all time then this deserves to be in the conversation. Rattling around with a classic, snotty punk riff, this is all hooks and youthful exuberance, with Weller and Bruce Foxton immediately establishing their give-and-take approach to guitar and bass melodies. Along with the album of the same name this started The Jam’s rapid rise to pop prominence, with its follow-up ‘This is the Modern World’ released only months later in the autumn of 1977. In fact, by the time ‘The Gift’ became their first number one in 1982 they’d released five albums in six years.

Going Underground (The Jam, non-album single, 1980)

A second ago we were talking about debut singles, but if we’re talking about the best singles of all time period then this deserves to be in the conversation. Released as The Jam crested a creative wave between ‘Setting Sons’ and ‘Sound Affects’, Going Underground fused their fury at the Thatcher government with looming terror at nuclear war and a hard-charging, ceaselessly-melodic backbone. There is something massive about this song and, with the benefit of hindsight, it feels like it was always destined to hit number one. The three chart-toppers that would follow — Start!, A Town Called Malice and Beat Surrender — openly signalled Weller’s shifting priorities towards soul and jazz-inflected, high-gloss pop. Which leads us to…

Walls Come Tumbling Down! (The Style Council, ‘Our Favourite Shop’, 1985)

Emerging from The Jam’s shadow with singles that immediately confirmed another expansive creative shift, The Style Council found Weller and keyboardist Mick Talbot leaping from the languid synth-popper Long Hot Summer, the band’s biggest hit, to the arch sophisti-pop of My Ever Changing Moods, which placed them in the same ballpark as the Blue Nile. They soon spun off into rollicking northern soul with this barn-burner from 1985’s ‘Our Favourite Shop’. Weller pinballs between showy brass and the supreme vocals of Dee C. Lee, his class war-driven lyrics picking up the baton from his earlier rebranding as the Council Collective, which was founded to raise money for striking miners.

The Changingman (Paul Weller, ‘Stanley Road’, 1995)

‘Stanley Road’ landed at a time when Weller’s influence on British music was pronounced. Featuring collaborations with Noel Gallagher and with Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock in his backing band, Weller graduated to Modfather as Britpop became a cultural phenomenon. The album went to number one — his first since ‘Our Favourite Shop’ a decade earlier — and the ever sharply-tailored Weller enjoyed leaning into the guitar-driven, bluesy revivalism of songs such as The Changingman.

Earth Beat (Paul Weller, ‘On Sunset’, 2020)

As his solo career has rolled on, Weller has displayed the same restlessness that led him to leave The Jam all those years ago. It’s kept him sharp and interesting even as he has hovered over the heritage act sinkhole, refusing to settle for churning out the hits. Released in 2020, Earth Beat showed his ongoing fascination with textures and new modes of expression. A skipping riff on a synth curio — Belbury Poly’s The Willows — it draws on a supine verse from Col3trane and grand string arrangements to create something that might have been dreamed up by anyone from Glass Animals to Ghostpoet.

Paul Weller Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue April 02 2024 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Thu April 04 2024 - POOLE Lighthouse
Fri April 05 2024 - BRISTOL Bristol Beacon
Sat April 06 2024 - NEWPORT ICC Wales
Mon April 08 2024 - SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
Tue April 09 2024 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Thu April 11 2024 - SHEFFIELD Sheffield City Hall
Fri April 12 2024 - STOKE Victoria Hall
Sat April 13 2024 - STOCKTON Stockton Globe
Mon April 15 2024 - DUNFERMLINE Alhambra Theatre
Tue April 16 2024 - BLACKBURN King Georges Hall
Wed April 17 2024 - YORK York Barbican
Fri April 19 2024 - LINCOLN Engine Shed
Sat April 20 2024 - AYLESBURY Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Sun April 21 2024 - CAMBRIDGE Corn exchange
Wed July 03 2024 - LIMERICK King Johns Castle
Thu July 04 2024 - DUBLIN Trinity College
Sun July 07 2024 - SCARBOROUGH Open Air Theatre
Sat July 13 2024 - EDINBURGH Edinburgh Castle
Sun July 21 2024 - BUCKINGHAMSHIRE Big Park
Thu October 17 2024 - CHELTENHAM Centaur
Fri October 18 2024 - PORTSMOUTH Guildhall
Sat October 19 2024 - BRIGHTON Centre
Mon October 21 2024 - NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall
Tue October 22 2024 - WOLVERHAMPTON Civic At Halls
Thu October 24 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Fri October 25 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Sun October 27 2024 - DUNDEE Caird Hall
Mon October 28 2024 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Tue October 29 2024 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Thu October 31 2024 - HULL Connexin Live
Fri November 01 2024 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat November 02 2024 - LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru
Mon November 04 2024 - LIVERPOOL Liverpool Olympia
Tue November 05 2024 - BRADFORD St George's Hall
Thu November 07 2024 - OXFORD New Theatre
Fri November 08 2024 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Sat November 09 2024 - LONDON Eventim Apollo

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