Paul Weller’s ability to never stay in the same place too long and to always move on to new ventures before things get stale is unparalleled. Weller, famously, started with The Jam, in which he injected all of his youthful angst and became one of the voices of a generation. When the band were at the height of their fame and the peak of their powers, Weller then radically decided to change things up and move into the neo-soul world with The Style Council. It should be no surprise that he’s gone on to have such a stellar career, considering the first album he ever bought was an early sign that he was destined for greatness.
The 62-year-old’s career has been the definition of diverse. The Modfather is a master at mixing things up as his career has progressed over the years. Never resorting to the safe option, his creative bravery is often reflected within his music taste. Weller respects artists who have always been the innovators, rather than the replicators, in the music scene. Weller’s music taste has always been faultless. Even as a child, he knew what was right and wrong, musically. The icon of British music grew up admiring a specific band in the same way that the likes of Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Libertines and any other band with an ounce of grit to them, grew up idolising him.
Speaking to BBC 6 Music, Weller revealed: “The first single that was actually mine, that I bought with my own saved-up money was ‘Wonderboy’ by The Kinks, that was in 1968 when I was 10. I was a huge, huge Kinks fan – I still am – and that was the first single of theirs I could afford.
Weller reiterates, “I was a huge, huge Kinks fan, I’d have saved up pocket money or got it off my mum and dad,” he continued. “My mum used to have singles too and I’d play her stuff. She had a few early Beatles singles, she loved stuff like that. And on the radiogram – which for the younger folk was a big bit of furniture with a drinks cabinet in one side and a lid you could lift up and under that was a deck – you could stack records on that so they’d play one after each other. So I would do that with the A-sides, then the B-Sides, then I’d borrow singles off my mum’s friends for a few days to listen to. I’ve always loved records from the earliest time I can remember.”
There are clear parallels between The Godfather of Britpop, Ray Davies and Weller. The Kinks frontman and the former Jam leader’s early work is full of similarities, mainly from a lyrical perspective. There’s a raw realism that cuts through both men’s work, making their lyrics easy to connect with on a visceral level. The duo also shares an earnest approach to music and their collective nous for a drop-dead gorgeous melody.
“When I think of pop music, I think of people like The Kinks,” Weller said to The Guardian in 2015. “People making very popular music, but are still pushing the boundaries,” he explained. “I don’t know how to describe it, really. Their tunes are very popular but have an experimental side to them as well.”
He also told The Quietus in 2015 of Ray Davies: “What a writer, I can’t say how much influence [Ray Davies] has had on me. The artistry of condensing all those ideas into a little three-minute song is just fantastic. I’m always still knocked out by that.”
Suppose he hadn’t bought ‘Wonderboy’ by The Kinks at the age of ten; who knows if Weller’s love affair with music would have gone in a different direction if the Davies brothers didn’t infect him that day. Weller would, of course, go on to spearhead a Mod revival with The Jam and spread the word of The Kinks to a whole new generation, which helped the band receive the attention they duly deserved.
What was your first record? We bet it wasn’t as good as Paul Weller’s.