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Music

Paul Weller names the only three songs he ever perfected

@SamWKemp

Paul Weller knows a thing or two about songwriting. As the angsty, socially-conscious frontman of The Jam, he bought working-class narratives to the forefront of British popular music, using his wry wit and powers of consicion to craft some of the most enduring anthems of the new wave era. ‘That’s Entertainment,’ ‘Town Called Malice’, ‘Going Underground’, ‘Eton Rifles’: I could go on and on and on. It says a lot, then, that of the tracks he named as his own favourites, only three of them were “perfect” and only one of them was from his time with The Jam.

Speaking to The Guardian about his life and career, Weller named the Jam’s ‘Strange Town,’ as the only track he ever perfected with the group. Underpinned by an offbeat ska groove, this single was released between two of The Jam’s biggest hits, ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ and ‘When You’re Young’. But where those songs are through-and-through new wave chest-beaters, ‘Strange Town’ is something of a chimaera, blending punk riffage with downbeat ambient passages before exploding into a climactic spray of Television-esque guitar lines, over which Weller can be heard wheezing ‘Break it up, break it up.”

Two solo records also made Weller’s list, including ‘Wings of Speed’ from his third solo album Stanley Road. None of Weller’s original fans could have imagined that the singer would so readily embrace Elton John-style piano balladry. And yet, ‘Wings of Speed’ is exactly that. His cockney drawl is replaced by a faux American accent, his guitar by a piano, his band by the duel vocals of Carleen Anderson and Jhelisa Anderson.

Lastly, Weller chose ‘Going My Way’ from his 2015 album Saturn’s Pattern, which, again, sees the musician embrace the less cynical side of his personality, something that once threatened to define his artistic life. But it seems that with age Weller has softened a little. He told The Guardian that while he still carries a lot of bitterness, he’s never felt cynical about the stuff that really matters: “The only things I’m not cynical about are love, and family and good people. And nature, I suppose. You wake up in the morning and you see a blue sky, and all the trees have started coming out again, you think, ‘The world is beautiful, actually.'”

Speaking about the album at the time, Weller said that songs such as ‘Going My Way’ were a testament to moving forward and not getting bogged down in nostalgia. “I am just trying to push myself forward and see where else I can go with music after all these years,” said, adding that he’d never reform either The Style council or The Jam. “Not enough money in the world to do that…I like now. I like today. I don’t want to spend my time trying to recapture something that can’t be recaptured.”