From Little Richard to The Kinks: 16 songs that influenced Paul Weller
Paul Weller’s ability to never stay in the same place so long and to always move on to ventures new before things get stale is unparalleled. Weller, of course, started off 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 at the peak of their powers, Weller then radically decided to change things up and move into the world of neo-soul with The Style Council.
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 followed a similar path to him and always been the innovators, rather than the replicators in the music scene. Weller’s music taste is vintage and pays homage to the true creators, a group of whom he looks up to so greatly. The icon of British music admires a collection of artists in the same way that the likes of Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Libertines and countless others looked up to him.
In 2003, Weller took part in the compilation series Under The Influence. The series saw him open up about his inspirations, as well as featuring the likes of Carl Barat, Paul Heaton, Ian Brown, Morrissey and Super Furry Animals. For the series, each artist picked out a selection of songs which influenced the artist they are.
Weller isn’t known for being a nostalgic person, famously he is always eyeing up the next project and rarely looks back at his wild career in a reflective manner. The former leader of The Jam has always kept his ears to the ground to stay alert of the brightest new sounds, a factor which is why this list is so fascinating as Weller is forced to name the artists that shaped him. Unsurprisingly, the compilation features a track by The Kinks in the form of ‘Big Black Smoke’. There are clear parallels between Ray Davies and Weller such as the themes of realism that they both sing about, the way they approach music as well as their nous for a 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: “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.”
Marvin Gaye’s ‘Pretty Little Baby’ also features on the list, Gaye was an artist who was a looming influence on the second chapter of Weller’s career as he stepped into soul with The Style Council. This is the one track which means the most to Weller out of anything that Gaye produced but it doesn’t feature on his favourite album by the soul legend. “What’s Going On is a symphonic concept album and Marvin Gaye the greatest singer of all time,” Weller professed to The Guardian in 2008. “His range and control over his voice is amazing. He raised the bar for me when I wanted to stretch out musically. Records this good take years to be properly appreciated.”
Another artist who Weller paid tribute to was Little Richard with the former Style Council singer starting the compilation euphorically with Richard’s ‘Slippin & Slidin’. The late American rock ‘n’ roller was a musician that was constantly playing in the house when Weller was growing up and those precious memories have stuck with him forever. Weller recalled to Uncut in 2014: “At least every Christmas everyone would have a few glasses of pop and Little Richard would be put on the record player and my mum and dad would be jiving round the living room. That’s their music and it always will be.”
The way that Weller has managed to weave through so many eclectic sounds and genres throughout his lengthy career becomes even more clear when looking at his myriad of influences. He was gifted with a top-class musical education by his parents, who raised him on the likes of The Kinks, Marvin Gaye and Little Richard made the budding musician want to explore as many different sounds that he loves as possible — while always adding in that distinct Weller touch.
Check out the 16 songs that influenced Paul Weller, below.