Paul Weller’s reluctance to reform The Jam despite the numerous lucrative offers thrown his way is a lesson in artistic integrity. If he was to get the band back together, it would be for the wrong reasons, and that attitude has kept the group’s legacy intact.
Remarkably, Weller was only 24-years-old when the group split. It wasn’t an amicable break-up with his bandmates, however, and Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler descended into a state of shock upon the news. They had no inclination that Weller wanted out, despite his head turning months before informing his colleagues. That alone partly explains why he thought it was time for a new venture.
Since that brave decision, Weller has never once glanced over his shoulder during his career. Instead, he’s remained focussed on whatever the task at hand presented to him and, never once considering a moment of regret at his bold manoeuvre.
Over the last five decades, while his ex-bandmates cling to the anthems he wrote during their youth, Weller has continued to prove why he’s ‘The Changingman’ with his shapeshifting activities. “I don’t know if I could pinpoint it to a specific time,” he explained regarding his decision to call a day on the group to Billboard in 2007. “I just knew generally toward the last sort of year or so. Before the Jam split up, I just felt it was time for me to move on, just artistically and creatively. I needed to find something different and different kind of avenues to make music, and a different way of making music.
“Even though the Jam only made records for, I don’t know, five years, or whatever it was, we were actually together for more like 10 years,” he added. “We spent four or five trying to make it, so it was an awful long time as well. So whether it was a selfish move or not, for me, I just knew, instinctively, it was time to move on. The other things I wanted to try I couldn’t have tried within the framework of the Jam. It had to be something different, or something looser”.
Weller would immediately thrust himself into The Style Council and took the first of many left-turns in his career. This exercise immediately alienated many fans of The Jam, who were unhappy with the musician as he began experimenting in a new sonic territory.
While preaching to the choir that worshipped him during young adulthood would have been the more straightforward road, it wouldn’t have sat well with Weller, and becoming a pastiche of his former self is something he’s tried to avoid at all costs. “It was the right thing to do,” he told NME in 2008. “It was an artistic decision, without sounding poncey. I didn’t want to be in the same set up for the rest of my life. I like to change and move on.”
Weller added: “Do I miss it? No, not particularly. I quite like what today is. It was a lot of pressure, being that kind of spokesman for a generation. Whether it was my own fault for setting myself up or not, I don’t know, but it was a lot of pressure for a young man. I certainly didn’t miss that.”
Weller putting dignity ahead of financial rewards is commendable, and it remains a decision that allowed him to create a body of work that he can look back on without any regrets. When reunions occur for the wrong reasons, it often shows. Although from the outside looking in, he ended The Jam prematurely, Weller knew the timing was right, and he was proven correct.