Paul Weller: The Changing Man (Paolo Hewitt, 2007)

So. I kinda have this thing for Paul Weller.

(See previous post about my Post-Olympic Depression and “My Ever Changing Moods.” See also my phone log for the past month; you’ll notice multiple calls to the local Barnes and Noble, asking if they have stocked the latest Uncut Special featuring Paul Weller, Paul Weller, and then some more Paul Weller. Still waiting. Still clawing my face daily in anticipation. To quote Bob Wiley, “Gimme, gimme, gimme! I need! I need! I need!”)

But I’ve never read a book about Weller. I’ve listened to his music obsessively. I’ve devoured his interviews. I’ve watched the video for “My Ever Changing Moods”…a lot. And for most people, that’s probably normal–the whole not reading a book about one of your favorite musicians, not the watching the “My Ever Changing Moods” video at least once a day, every day. That’s not normal. I’ve accepted that.

Anyway.

It’s not normal for me to not read countless books about my favorite musicians. I make a goal every year to read more fiction, but I always fail miserably. Biographies and nonfiction dominate my bookshelf. One year, I was particularly obsessive and kept track of how many books I read about the Beatles–just the Beatles: I read 30. So not reading a book about Paul Weller is abnormal behavior.   

Paolo Hewitt & Paul Weller

I contemplated reading Paolo Hewitt’s book about Weller since…forever, basically. But I resisted because my whole world view is based on the fact that Paul Weller is the most wonderful human being, and I thought that reading Hewitt’s book would shatter that belief. Hewitt was one of Weller’s closest friends for twenty plus years, until they fell out previous to the publication of The Changing Man. I had read the book painted Weller in an unflattering light and that Hewitt’s vision was tainted by the hurt he felt from the loss of his friendship with Weller, who denounced the book as recently as May of this year, saying, “The Paolo Hewitt of 1979 would definitely hate the one who wrote that book.” (Hewitt states a few times that the Paul Weller of the ’70s/’80s would hate the Paul Weller of today in his book.)

So I equated reading Hewitt’s book with going over to the dark side.

But…last month, I ordered it from Amazon. I went over to the dark side. And it is not even that dark.

Hewitt shapes his portrait of Weller through his music, inspired by Weller’s declaration that interviews were pointless because “all the answers are in my songs.” He takes a song and discusses a facet of Weller’s personality/life in relation to the song. For example, he extracts these lines from “Above the Clouds” (one of my faaaaaaaves): “As my anger shouts/At my own self doubt/So a sadness creeps/Into my dreams/When you’re scared of living/But afraid to die/I get scared of giving/And I must find the faith to beat it.” He then describes Weller and anger, relating various incidents he witnessed throughout his friendship with Weller.

What emerges is neither a flattering or unflattering portrait of Weller but a very human portrait. Weller is verbally abusive, yet generous. Hewitt recalls how Weller told him he had written “Wild Wood” with him and his tortured childhood in mind. (Hewitt pays tribute to the power of the song by recalling how after years of listening to nothing but Oasis while researching his first book on the band, he chose to listen to “Wild Wood.”) Weller is constantly looking forward, musically at least, yet he vehemently hates technology. One of my favorite anecdotes included in the book was Hewitt’s admission that he often told Weller, who was notorious for being slow to return borrowed items, that VHS tapes of rare performances by bands just weren’t compatible with Weller’s machine. And he believed it. Weller is meticulous and obsessive. Hewitt talks about Weller’s love of the Beatles, whose popularity resurged in the ’90s with The Beatles Anthology, resulting in more magazine articles and books about the band, which irritated Weller who believed everything had already been said or written about the band. Then Hewitt found one of the recent magazines amidst Weller’s belongings and reminded him of his criticism of such magazines, to which Weller replied, “Well, I’m a fan, aren’t I?” He is attracted to violence, while it also repulses him.

The book reminded me of one of my favorite Beatles books, Beatlesongs, which I’m just gonna tell you right now: if you ever want to come close to beating me at Beatles Trivial Pursuit, you have to read this book. (As a side note: I first read this book in fifth grade. I rented it from the library. I used one of my Beatles cards as a bookmark. I returned the book and checked the book out again because this is not a book that you just read once to find that I had left my Beatles card in the book. And no one had noticed. What kind of world do we live in that an obsessive ten-year-old is the only person renting Beatlesongs from the library? Really? Come on.) Beatlesongs tells you pretty much every thing you want to know about each Beatles song–authorship, recording details, quotes from the Beatles and others. The Changing Man doesn’t provide every detail about every Weller song (that would be awesome), but it reminds me of Beatlesongs in that it tells a little bit about the Weller song in question and then augments the reader’s understanding of the song and Weller through Hewitt’s personal friendship with Weller. I’m glad I read it.

Probably only the most blindly devout fans would find fault with The Changing Man and its implications that Weller is not perfect. It is an honest, balanced portrait of Weller. It didn’t shatter my world view that Paul Weller is the most wonderful human being.

Key word being human.

See, even Paul Weller drools.

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My 21 Favorite Things About Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop

Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop is not a comprehensive study of ’90s British pop music or the culture and politics surrounding it. I mean, it discusses Suede for all of thirty seconds. But it is highly entertaining. The interviews, featuring the Gallagher brothers, Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, and some other people (including members of an Oasis tribute band where the bass player looks NOTHING like Guigsy, ummm–OUTRAGE!!), are witty and insightful. It’s worth a watch, if only for the 21 following quotes…my favorite things about this little documentary.

1. Liam Gallagher’s heroes 

Did you have heroes growing up?
Incredible Hulk was probably one of ’em. Evil Knievil. That’s about it.
What was it you liked about the Incredible Hulk?
His greenness.

2. Damon Albarn on media images of Blur and Oasis 

Blur were suddenly the inauthentic middle-class pop band and Oasis were the real, gritty, working class heroes. How did you feel about all that?
That was a very intelligent observation by whoever made that, wasn’t it?

3. Jarvis Cocker on mariginalized turds: “You were kind of used to being this marginal piece of turd and then, suddenly, the piece of turd was moved into center stage. That felt exciting.”

(P.S. FINGERS.)

4. Noel Gallagher on Definitely Maybe versus (What’s the Story) Morning Glory: “I personally think Definitely Maybe is a far better album. And it’s for the life of me that I can’t understand why in this country in particular when people were going to buy Morning Glory they didn’t buy Definitely Maybe, and I’d just like to say: Where do you get off on that? When you go into HMV to buy a copy of Morning Glory, you don’t buy Definitely Maybe. What’s that all about? Just do it to piss me off? I could sit and think about that for hours. [To interviewer] Have you got Definitely Maybe? And Morning Glory? See, I can understand that. People are weird.”

5. Liam on why he wouldn’t want to interview John Lennon: “Because you ask him one question and it just go into anything…and before you know it, I’d end up licking his face. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

6. Noel on Liam believing he is John Lennon reincarnated: “Liam started believing everything that was written in the NME about him. It was a good couple of weeks that he was talking in a Scouse accent. Now I’m all for madness in rock music, and I’m all for surrealism, but he was trying to convince me that I should call him John.”

7. Damon playing his ukulele instead of answering questions. 

8. Liam on his hobbies and interests growing up

Didn’t like music then. Just played football and come in late for me tea and knocked  on people’s doors and run off. Run through people’s back gardens and pinch things.
What sort of things would you pinch?
Clothes off the washing line if I thought they looked pretty cool, I thought, ‘I’ll have that.’ Mountain bikes. Anything. Lawn mowers.
You used to pick lawn mowers?
Mmm. And sell ’em. For weed.

9. Jarvis on “Common People” 

That song you did, “Common People,” I heard it described as the perfect encapsulation of the Britpop aesthetic. 
Oh dear. Right.

(Just as a side note: still trying to wrap my head around the interview locations. Noel looks like he’s in a spare room of Buckingham Palace, and then we see Jarvis in squalor. Okay.)

10. Noel on Knebworth

Were you aware at the time that you were making history? 
If we would have sat down and calculated that we were going to make history…I certainly would have worn a better outfit, let’s put it that way.

11. Liam on Knebworth 

Biggest freestanding gig in history.
Very proud of that.
What do you remember of that?
Nothing. Not a lot, really. I remember forgetting…I thought we were only doing one night and then we done the second, so I got really drunk after the first night and can’t remember anything else.

12. Jarvis on drugs

I was just a mess.
Why? 
Well, taking drugs doesn’t help. That never helps in a situation. You don’t often hear people saying, ‘Oooh, since he’s been taking them drugs he’s such a nice person. He’s really come out of his shell, he’s really nice. He’s blossomed.’

13. Liam attempts to understand the word “androgyny” 

What does that mean?
You have a feminine quality about you as well. 
I have a what?
A feminine quality about you. 
What does that mean?
Well, you’re not just some…
I’m a bird?
No, I’m not saying you’re a bird, but…
What does that mean?
Well, you’re not some fifteen stone hog, you have that kind of–a bit of femininity in your masculinity. 
Have I? Explain.
I suppose just in your looks. 
I’m a pretty boy, yeah. Yeah, I’m pretty good-looking. I take care of me hair. Bit obsessed with me hair. You gotta have a decent haircut if you’re a frontman.

14. Noel on Liam’s Vanity Fair cover: “I thought he looked like an absolute idiot. ‘Cos they wanted me and Liam to do it, and I remember taking the phone call and somebody saying, ‘Well, if you don’t do it, Blur will do it.’ To which I laughed and handed the phone to Liam. I was like, ‘Oh, well, I better do it, then.’ Y’know what I mean? And Liam ends up on the cover with a nipple on his head looking like a baby’s bottle with his missus. In a Union Jack bed, that’s the one. Topless—oooh! Rubbish.”

(Just trying to imagine the Noel/Liam version of this…)

15. Jarvis on the side effects of cocaine: “Well, all around that time was people taking loads of coke…It’s a very self-congratulatory kind of drug, you know. ‘Yes, we’re inventing the future!'”

16. Damon’s demonic glow when questioned whether “Beetlebum” is about heroin: “Does it matter? I mean, obviously, Head and Shoulders, whoever used it on their advert, didn’t think so.”

17. Noel on Be Here Now: “It’s the sound of a bunch of guys on coke in the studio not giving a f***. There’s no bass to it at all. I don’t know what happened to that. And all the songs are really long. And all the lyrics are s***. And for every millisecond Liam is not saying a word, there’s a guitar riff in there in a Wayne’s World styley. Air guitar gone mental. But Liam thinks it f***ing rocks.”

18. Noel on the value of Be Here Now (and how to increase it): “People can b**** about it the rest of their lives, but y’know, sell it. Get four or five quid, I would imagine. Come ’round my house and I’ll sign it for you. Probably get a tenner then.”

19. Noel on visitors to the studio while mixing “The Hindu Times”: “Actually, we were mixing ‘The Hindu Times’ in Olympic Studios in London and where the room is where we’re doing this mixing is like a conservatory type thing and there was all these kids doing their dancing thing. And Liam and Andy Bell walked in. And I went, ‘See all them kids out there?’ And they went, ‘Oh, you mean Junior S Club 7?’ And it took me twenty minutes to realize, ‘How the f*** do you know what they’re called? I thought they were just some kids from a special needs school who were hanging out in the studio for a day ‘cos it was free food or something.’ And they knew their names.”

 

20. Liam on Junior S Club 7: “I don’t mind S Club Juniors…Good little kids, man.”

(Just imagining him listening to this does my head in. I don’t know. Perfect human being.)

21. Noel on choreographers: “And where did all this come from? What does this mean? I don’t get that at all. The choreographers are taking over the world, man. Everything’s choreographed now, isn’t it? It’s rubbish.”

…And that’s excluding Noel’s impersonation of Damon Albarn (which is a bit dated, seeing as they’ve reconciled), talk of Afghan clowns, and Liam Gallagher being Liam Gallagher. Oh, Britpop. You’re too much fun.

Fifteen Oasis Tracks You Probably Haven’t Heard But Should Before You Die

Or else, you know, your life will be incomplete.

Oasis is often a polarizing group. I’ve read every criticism of this band (Beatles tribute band! One song! One eyebrow!), and I’d love to sit and refute every single one of them…but I figured this little list might be a bit more time efficient. Basic criteria for this list:

  • No A-side Singles, obviously. (Not only are these more instantly recognizable, thus negating the list’s purpose, but allowing these would have made this list impossible to narrow down to a reasonable number.)
  • Favoring of lesser-known B-sides. This basically translates to excluding anything found on The Masterplan compilation. Ya’ll should have that track-listing tattooed on your hearts already anyway. Again, using this criterion is the only way I could narrow this list down.
  • No more than one non-single, album track per album. This was pretty easy to follow–eat that, all ya’ll who say Oasis suck after the first two albums! Ya’ll dumb. And deaf.
  • No demo/alternate/live versions!! I’d be here all day. Have you heard the ’92 “Live Forever” demo? No? You call what you’re living LIFE? Get out. P.S. Listen to it.

I think that’s about it. I had an initial list of about 50 songs, before halving it using the above criteria. Finally, after moaning in pain and rolling around the floor screaming “I don’t wanna live in a world where I have to choose!” for about twenty minutes, I cropped the list at 15. It was kinda hard, if the moaning and rolling around the floor bit didn’t give that away. Let’s go!

Honorable Mention: “Bonehead’s Bankhead Holiday” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Vinyl-Only Bonus Track, 1995]

“Don’t ya know, I shoulda stayed in England
On my polluted beach with all my special friends?
Don’t ya know, I shoulda stayed in England
With me big house and me big car and all me friends there at the bar, la la la…” 

Hahaha, like I really narrowed it down to 15 songs. Fooled ya’ll. I couldn’t cut out this track–not because it is anywhere near the standard of the other songs included in this list (and omitted from this list) but because I think it’s one of those songs that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s just a fun track. Let’s all just take a moment, though, to appreciate the fact that Bonehead chickened out of singing this. Can you imagine? Love you Bonehead but…no.

15. “Born on a Different Cloud” (Heathen Chemistry, 2002)

“Talking to myself again,
This time I think I’m getting through.” 

Remember when Liam started writing songs and everyone laughed? “Live for your toys, even though they make noise” and all that. Well, that was pretty lame, not gonna lie, but when Noel proclaimed his younger brother a songwriting genius whose songs “make me cry ‘cos they’re better than mine,” he really wasn’t employing too much hyperbole. (Well, maybe a little bit. But not too much.) This track can easily be written off as a mere Lennon imitation (à la “Working Class Hero”), but you know what? I think Lennon would like this. And I reckon he’d like that cocky little lead singer, too. That voice!

14. “My Big Mouth” (Be Here Now, 1997) 

“I ain’t never spoke to God
And I ain’t never been to heaven
But you assumed I knew the way
Even though the map was given
And as you look into the eyes
Of a bloody cold assassin
It’s only then you’ll realize
With who’s life you have been messing.”

Remember when this was part of Oasis’ set list for the first time since their Be Here Now tour in ’08? And then Noel decided to drop it before I saw Oasis later that year because the set list was “too long”? And then he briefly re-added after I saw them? And then I wallowed in tears and crappy fan videos of the song from that tour (see above)? No? Well, it was pretty disappointing. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

13. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” (Liam Vocals) [No Official Release; 2005]

“I’m tired and I’m sick
Got a habit that I can’t, won’t lick
I feel hungover and I’m all in love
Let the lights go down, 
Me and you are gonna shoot ’em all.”

Um, I think I broke one of my rules by including this. Oh well. They were dumb rules anyway. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” was a released as a stand-alone (and primarily digital download only) single in 2007, taken from the rockumentary of the same. The released version features Noel on lead vocals, but this song has Liam Gallagher’s name written all over it. This rough mix was obviously never properly produced, but you can still hear how much more awesome this song is when Liam sings it.

12. “Pass Me Down the Wine” (“The Importance of Being Idle,” 2005)

“To all my sisters: yeah, you’re looking pretty fine
And to all my brothers: bet you’re feeling kinda high
And to all the mothers: well, come on now, don’t be shy
And to all the fathers who are sick and f***ing tired.” 

Confession: Don’t Believe the Truth is my least favorite Oasis album. I know, it was a supposed “return to form,” “creative rebirth,” etc. for the band, but I think it’s their weakest album. There’s only a handful of tracks I would take with me to a desert island. But this is a great B-side, written again by Liam, who has always struggled with lyrics and so I have subsequently have no idea what this song is actually about, but it sounds really, really cool. I just googled the lyrics, and the last line is: (Liam screeching). Oh yeah. Mad fer it.

11. “It’s Better People” (“Roll With It,” 1995)

“It’s better people love one another
‘Cos living your life can be tough.” 

Life is hard. But it’s easy listening to this song. On repeat. All day. Every day.

10. “Idler’s Dream” (“The Hindu Times,” 2002) 

“I never did say and I wish I could
I never could pray ‘cos it’s just no good
I hope you don’t break my heart of stone
I don’t wanna scream out loud
And wake up on my own.”

Two words: breathtakingly beautiful. That is all.

09. “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?” (“Shakermaker,” 1994) 

“You got how many bills to pay and how many kids
And you’ve forgotten about the things that we did
This town where we’re living has made you a man
And all of your dreams are washed away in the sand.”

Who can’t relate to this song? The remembrance of what you once wanted to be–say, a spaceman–before reality caught up with you? And forgetting about feeling down, forgetting about life in this town, while you remember that dream? And thinking for a moment–just for a moment–it’s still not too late to be a spaceman? Totally.

08. “Fade Away” (“Cigarettes & Alcohol,” 1994; War Child Version–“Don’t Go Away,” 1998) 

“Now my life has turned
Another corner
I think it’s only best
That I should warn you
Dream it while you can
Maybe someday I’ll make you understand.”

This song deals with some of the same themes found in “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman.” My favorite thing about this song is that we have two official versions that allow us to see Liam’s Yin to Noel’s Yang. The version sung by Liam, found on the flip side of “Cigarettes and Alcohol” as well as The Masterplan compilation (there I go, breaking those rules again), is, of course, nothing but pure rock ‘n’ roll, while the Noel-sung version, recorded for the War Child Charity, is gentle and lulling. Which do I prefer? That is the eternal question.

07. “Let’s All Make Believe” (“Go Let It Out,” 2000)

“So let’s all make believe
We’re still friends and we like each other
Let’s all make believe
In the end we’ll need each other
Let’s all make believe
That all mankind’s gonna feed our brother.”

I just wanna know: what other band relegates a song like this to a B-side? (Beatles exempted.) Seriously, I wanna know.

06. “Sad Song” (“Don’t Go Away,” 1998; also included on the Japanese and vinyl editions of Definitely Maybe

“We as people, are just walking ’round
Our heads are firmly fixed in the ground
What we don’t see, well it can’t be real
What we don’t touch we cannot feel.” 

OK, bending the rules again because this could be considered an album track (and I’m going to choose another track from Definitely Maybe in a bit), but it’s not on most releases so…Basically, if you’ve ever wondered what an angel might sound like, you should listen to this song and find out. ‘Cos Noel Gallagher’s voice is otherworldly…seriously.

05. “Waiting for the Rapture” (Dig Out Your Soul, 2008) 

“She said, I’m tiiiiiiiiired
Come get me off the merry-go-round
I’m wiiiiiiiiiiiiired
Well, heaven must sent ya to save me for the rapture.”

Yeah, the Doors’ “Five to One” and all that, who cares? This song is so much better anyway (in your face, Jim Morrison!), and I didn’t even realize how good it was until I saw Oasis play it live. Annnnnnd you should hear the alternate version, too. Per-fec-tion.

04. “Angel Child” (“D’You Know What I Mean,” 1997)

“When you find out
When you find out who you are you know you’ll be free
To see your own ability
But there’ll be no eyes
No eyes that see such beauty could lose their sight
And there’ll be no lies
No lies that you could tell me to make things right.” 

Okay. So I’m breaking my rules again because this is technically a demo. WHATEVER. That rule has to be broken because this song is so amazing. Remember a few weeks ago how Liam Gallagher was the star of the Olympics Closing Ceremony as he and Beady Eye performed “Wonderwall”? Well, the next day, his beautiful older brother decided to play this song at a radio session for the first time since he recorded it. Way to induce a heart attack, Noel. Thanks.

03. “Cast No Shadow” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory, 1995]

“Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
As he faced the sun he cast no shadow
As they took his soul they stole his pride.” 

Initially dedicated to Richard Ashcroft to bolster his spirits following the first (what are we on now, third? Fourth?) breakup of The Verve, Noel once explained “cast no shadow” was not a reference to Ashcroft’s skinny frame but actually means that one would be invisible. Duh. I think it’s a beautiful tribute (reflection?) to songwriters actually–Noel himself included.

02. “Slide Away” (Definitely Maybe, 1994) 

I don’t know
I don’t care
All I know is you can take me there
Take me there, take me there, take me there…
WHAT FOR?

I know it’s required listening in Oasis 101 and all, but this song had to be on this list. ‘Cos I said so. I don’t know that there are any words in the English language to describe this song. Paul McCartney said it was his favorite Oasis song. Once. He’s kind of busy talking about writing “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” to mention it more than once, y’know. But he said it at least once–and that’s just another indication of his good taste and this song’s genius.

01. “Gas Panic!” (Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, 2000)

“What tongueless ghost of sin crept through my curtains?
Sailing on a sea of sweat on a stormy night
I think he don’t got a name but I can’t be certain
And in me he starts to confide 
That my family don’t seem so familiar
And my enemies all know my name
And if you hear me tap on your window
Better get on your knees and pray panic is on the way.”

Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is the worst Oasis album. Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Oasis lyrics lack meaning. Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Oasis’ sound has never evolved, not even a little bit. Listen to this song and then try to tell me that Oasis is a talentless, unoriginal band. Guess what? You can’t do it, poopstains.

Best.

Song.

Ever.

(Well, one of them anyway.)

This list is far from perfect. I feel physically ill thinking of all the songs omitted. It probably would have been easier to list my most-loathed Oasis tracks. Regardless, the point is that Oasis was a really great band with so many fantastic songs often overlooked. And you should listen to them before…you know…you die. ‘Cos you probably ain’t gonna live forever.

But they will.