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Music

Paul Weller picks his favourite song from every decade

Affectionately known by his adoring fans as ‘The Modfather’, Paul Weller has had an envious career in the music industry. Weller is primarily an English star rather than an international one, seeing as most of his writing finds its roots in the ways of English society.

Weller constantly evolved his sound, beginning his career in punk/mod/new wave legends The Jam. The Jam ran for ten years until 1982 and were championed early on by fellow punk rockers, The Clash, who took them on tour.

However, towards the end of The Jam’s existence as a band, Weller grew restless with playing punk tunes and wanted to expand his repertoire into a more soulful and melodic style of music. He felt that the other members of the Jam would not be able to play songs with a broader instrumentation, so he got together with Mick Talbot, formed The Style Council, and wrote songs with a poppier R&B-influenced sound.

Weller also went on to have a respectable solo career after The Style Council split up, following their drifting popularity in the UK, in which he played both Jam and Style Council tunes, as well as a variety of new songs written in the 1990s onwards. 

As Weller experienced the ever-changing trends of music throughout the decades first-hand, he has an enviable knowledge of the history of popular and contemporary music. Last year, Weller sat down with DJ Danielle Perry to reveal his favourite songs from across the previous six decades. We have compiled them here.

Paul Weller’s favourite songs from every decade:

1960s: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ – The Beatles

Weller picks the final track of the Beatles‘ Revolver album (1966) as his favourite tune of the 1960s. It was a departure for the band from their previous sound, focusing for the first time on the power of the recording studio rather than what the result might sound like in a concert.

“It was for me, and still is, the most forward-looking track, not only that they’ve done, but I think just generally. It sounds like the ’60s, and has a lot of ’60s influence in it, but it also sounds really fresh and points away to lots of things as well. It sounds like it’s beamed in from another dimension or something.”

1970s: ‘She Does It Right’ – Dr Feelgood

An early sign of what was yet to come in the shape of punk music from the Essex pub rock outfit. ‘She Does It Right’ was featured on Dr. Feelgood’s debut album Down by the Jetty (1975). It was later released as a single but failed to reach the charts.

“The song I’ve picked precedes punk, really. Dr Feelgood were the first band for me in the middle of the ’70s that meant something to me,” Weller explained. “Wilko Johnson was the guitarist, and he was the first real guitar hero of the ’70s for me. They were just incredible and incredible live.”

1980s: ‘Ain’t Nobody’ – Rufus and Chaka Khan

One of those tracks that pretty much everybody knows, regardless of their age. ‘Ain’t Nobody’ was one of four studio tracks released on Chaka Khan‘s live album Stompin’ at the Savoy (1983). The band’s label wanted to re-release the song after it gained widespread popularity and threatened to give the track to Michael Jackson if they did not agree to re-release it.

“This one probably means the most to me,” The Jam man proclaimed. “I don’t know why. It was just a big tune that year. ’84, I think it came out, and it was just everywhere clubs, everywhere you went. I suppose it’s more for the memories it holds for me. Just that time when The Style Council were out on the road by that time, and just fun, good fun.”

1990s: ‘Luck of Lucien’ – A Tribe Called Quest

Taken from the hip-hop group’s first studio album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990). The song was dedicated to the French hip-hop artist Lucien Revolucien, an influential figure in popularising hip-hop in France in the 1990s.

“Similar to what I said about the Beatles,” elucidated Weller, “I thought the sound of a lot of hip-hop of that time was great, just really futuristic sounding. The way they used samples. A lot of hip-hop from that time made me backtrack and find where the samples came from, and I learned a lot of music doing that, finding out who the original artists were. The whole sound on this Tribe album was just very forward-looking.” 

2000s: ‘Last Nite’ – The Strokes

Arguably one of the biggest hits of the 2000s, following the decade’s indie revival, which brought about a wave of guitar bands in the UK and the US. ‘Last Nite’ was the second single from The Strokes‘ debut album Is This It (2001), which helped propel the band to stardom.

Like almost everyone who enjoyed any form of rock and roll, The Stroke invigorated something in Weller: “It was the first time for a long time that a guitar band sounded really exciting, something familiar to you, but also felt really new. I thought it was a really exciting record. And there wasn’t too much else going on around before that time, you know. Exciting to hear some good guitar music again.

2010s: ‘I Saw The Dead’ – Villagers

The second track from the indie-folk band Villager’s debut album, Becoming a Jackal (2010). Villagers is the long-term project of Dublin-based singer-songwriter Conor O’Brien. Becoming a Jackal was released to critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the 2010 Mercury Prize for its production and thoughtful and moving lyricism.

“I think he’s a genius personally, and I’ve loved pretty much everything he’s done.” Big words from such an icon, Weller continued: “He just gets better and better for me, Conor O’Brien. He’s a really special artist, and hopefully, he gets that recognition as well. Again, I think what he’s doing sonically is really different, and he’s really pushing boundaries I think. I saw him in recent years, and he was amazing.”