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.
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.