Grab Bag, Round 3

It was recently brought to my attention that I had not updated this blog since December 6. I am not going to say it has been because I have not had anything to write about, but I really have not felt compelled to write or made the time to write for publication a priority. I am not going to say it has been because I’ve been too preoccupied (not “busy” — too many people are reportedly “busy,” and I am not one of them) becoming 1% fluent in French, devoting a lot of memory space to what cat treats my cats prefer (is this a warning sign for dementia?), and just generally loving my job and life and cats.

Oh, let’s be honest: I have not had anything to write about. And I can hear one of my writing professors tearing this sad, rambling excuse of an introduction apart. Get to the point! Where is there a kernel of truth in this? So sorry….but I really do remember what cat treats I buy my cats and which ones they prefer! Sigh. Without any further ado or anything in particular to write about…Allons-y! 

I’m glad Casey Affleck won the Oscar for Best Actor. Like really, really glad. 

The Oscars are not perfect because in case you have not noticed the world is not a perfect, fair place. Some of my favorite actors have never been awarded Oscars–some unjustly so (cough, cough Montgomery Clift!!!! cough, cough), some understandably so (Cary Grant was just so effortlessly good, everyone despised Robert Redford for being so good-looking and talented, and I need someone to explain why Richard Burton never won one to me actually)–and so it’s easy for me to be dismissive of the award and to say it doesn’t really matter. But at the same time, The Oscars are a recognition of the finest acting and do occasionally get it right. See: Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis…and, this year’s winner, Casey Affleck.

Affleck’s win is being reported as controversial because of the sexual harassment allegations made against him. I do not know if the allegations are true. I’m not condoning that behavior, but I do know that his acting in Manchester By the Sea is of the highest caliber. I saw this film in the theater in January, and it has been a long time since I have been so moved and utterly captivated by a performance. He inhabits the role so heartbreakingly completely, it really is hard to believe that he is just acting. His character hardly ever cracks, rarely lets us in, yet Affleck did a phenomenal job of making him real. Pure artistry. So he deserved the award. The award is for acting, not being a perfect human being. End of discussion.

(But can we discuss how it is even possible that he is related to Ben Affleck? Really?! Guess who stole all the acting genes?!!)

While we’re on the subject of actors…

This line was read out of a book I purchased recently: “Leonardo DiCaprio is to Titanic what Clark Gable is to Gone with the Wind.” I’ve been thinking about that sentence a lot. It’s a dumb sentence. Of course Leonardo DiCaprio is to Titanic what Clark Gable is to Gone with the Wind: they’re both the lead actors. Unless the sentence is implying that Titanic and Gone with the Wind are somehow in the same class of movies or that Leonardo DiCaprio and Clark Gable are in the same class of actors, which is an ugly can of worms I do not want to open. Hadn’t Leo’s career kind of peaked with Growing Pains?  Luke Brower, man!! Classic.

And while we’re on the subject of Growing Pains

Maybe I stopped updating this blog because 2016 was so darn depressing. (Jimmy Fallon’s assessment of Manchester By the Sea was so spot-on: the only thing more depressing than 2016.) We lost Mrs. Brady, Dr. Jason Seaver, George Martin, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and George Michael–on Christmas day, no less–to name a few off the top of my head. Really, when George Michael died, I felt like I’d been knifed. (Quick, which actor told Hedda Hopper the story of his life in one sentence was “I’ve been knifed”? Quick now!) I could not listen to his music for a few days because I just felt so inexplicably sad and his music had always made me happy. I’m over that now–YAY!!–but what a loss. CHOOSE LIFE!

So how was your last Christmas?   

Besides George Michael dying, my Christmas holiday was quite enjoyable. I did not ask for any books for Christmas this year because even though I am a firm believer that you can never really have enough books, my shelf space is trying to challenge that belief. Still, I received two absolutely beautiful books — a stunning annotated edition of Little Women and The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, a never-before-published story by Beatrix Potter, freshly illustrated by Quentin Blake. I love them both (even though it will probably take me the whole year to fully digest the annotated Little Women)–so much so that I felt compelled to write my first Barnes and Noble review of The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots because apparently, there are people in the world who do not appreciate Quentin Blake’s talent as an illustrator aka people who have no taste. Ugh.

That reminds me of how I used to pollute the internet with my Paul Weller obsession…

And how recently, I watched the Showtime documentary about my almost favorite band aka The Jam, About the Young Idea. It was so great and totally re-awakened my love for all things Paul Weller. Once upon a time, Paul Weller was all I cared about. Like really. He stole my soul, and I’m not 1000% sure that he has given it back, but I have stopped stalking him obsessively. It probably helps that I was banned from Tumblr, my main outlet for expressing my Paul Weller obsession (because hey, no one in my vicinity cares about Paul Weller). But I wasn’t banned for being obsessed with Paul Weller. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was the only person on that website who cared about Paul Weller. I was banned for posting pictures of Morrissey. Yep. Steven Patrick Morrissey. You’re the one for me, fatty–you’re the one I really, really love… We should talk about that song sometime. It’s great.

Anyway.

I’ve been listening to The Jam and The Style Council and Paul Weller a lot lately after not listening to him extensively for a couple years anyway, and I still remember every line, every beat. That’s kind of alarming but also comforting. Is there a study on this phenomenon? I love to listen to The Jam when I am angry or frustrated or just have a lot of energy or am just breathing because I really, really love The Jam. Like, can “Going Underground” be my wedding song? And the public wants what the public gets, 
But I don’t get what this society wants! Paul Weller was–IS–an amazing lyricist, and I don’t know if enough people realize that. That guy could pack so much into just one line. Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude. The world is your oyster, but your future’s a clam. And oh, who could pick just one line from “Town Called Malice”?

And then there’s The Style Council. Oh, The Style Council. More great lyrics, even better videos with Paul Weller’s often questionable haircuts and lamentable lack of dance moves. Really, that man should never have been without a guitar on stage. I could probably devote an entire blog entry to every Style Council video. But I doubt anyone would want to read that. Or would you?

Anyway, I love Paul Weller. Like a lot. And I just recently have been reminded of how much.

Remember when I told you this was my favorite picture of Paul Weller?

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Yup. Love this guy. He’s actually really talented and sometimes charming.

I still love Ellery Queen.

And I’m still sad there was only one season of the Jim Hutton series. But I still imagine Jim Hutton as Ellery when I read the Ellery Queen novels (which are a lot of fun to read), and I still watch the episodes over and over again, even though I know how they’re going to end. Why? Because Ellery has an expression for every emotion I’m feeling. Take a look…

I come home to find my cat has poop on her butt…again.

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I tell my ten blog readers that I’m going to start posting analysis and discussion of Style Council videos: 

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I see Marlon Brando in a Rolex commercial: 

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I need a sassy comeback, but can only muster a Melville reference: 

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Did I put deodorant on this morning?

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I realize it is 12:30 in the morning; I am always in bed by nine!

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Me currently:

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I told you I didn’t really have anything to write about. Well, didn’t I? All right. That’s all, folks.

 

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Five Favorites I Would Induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In 2006, it was announced that the Sex Pistols would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In response, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) faxed a handwritten letter to the institution, politely declining the honor. He described the hall of fame as a “piss stain” and “urine in wine”, and he also raised some legitimate criticisms of the institution–the fact that it is a non-profit organization lacking transparency as to where exactly its funds go (you have to exit the actual museum via the gift shop, y’know), the anonymity of the nominating committee, and the vagueness of their criteria. It is a great letter, full of sneering Rotten-isms and grammatical errors, and it addresses many of the things I dislike about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But most of the time I don’t care about the Rock and Roll of Fame, whom it inducts and whom it snubs. Except last night the 2013 induction ceremony was on television. It was vapid and tasteless, and it reminded me of all the things I hate about the Hall of Fame–its elitism, its inconsistency, its unpredictability. Why are some genres (er, prog rock) so underrepresented? Why is a performer’s induction so dependent upon commercial success in the United States? And why oh why is Randy Newman an inductee but not the Zombies? Odessey and Oracle, hello! It’s not rocket science, people.

The value and meaning of an artist’s music isn’t found for me in recognition from a board of anonymous weenies. A band or artist is going to mean the same to me whether they’re in the Hall of Fame or not. But because I’m in a contradictory sort of mood, let’s discuss five (out of many) of my favorite artists currently eligible for induction that I think deserve a spot in the Hall of the Fame.

 5. Pulp

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Eligible Since: 2008
Nominated In: Never
Essential Albums: His ‘n’ Hers (1994), Different Class (1995), This Is Hardcore (1998)

Pulp was a band that was always slightly out of step with the rest of the world. Fifteen-year-old Jarvis Cocker formed the band in 1978, they released their first record in 1983, and, after many lineup changes but with Cocker still at the forefront, they finally achieved mainstream success with 1995’s Different Class–in the UK, at least. And that, more than anything, is what is  going to bar their entrance into the Hall of Fame. Because, you see, a band has to have HUGE SUCCESS in the United States to have any credibility for the Hall of Fame. It’s ridiculous. It’s especially ridiculous in the case of Pulp because Jarvis Cocker is one of the greatest songwriters and lyricists. He writes about the mundane, the seedy, and the misfits with warmth and disgust and humor and the keenest details. There is no one in the world like him, and I was intent on marrying him all through college.

Actually, I still would.

Britpop is one of those genres and musical movements that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is probably going to ignore as long as possible. Which is stupid as it produced some of the best music of the 1990s.

4. The Monkees

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“I got a chandelier!”

Eligible Since: 1991
Nominated In: NEVER!!
Essential Albums: The Monkees (1966), More of the Monkees (1967), Headquarters (1967), Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. (1967). Also you have to watch both seasons of their television show because it is fun, funny, zany, and did I mention FUN? Also John Lennon watched it and loved it.

The Monkees are a tricky one. There’s still some confusion as to whether they were a real band because apparently all those albums they made without Don Kirshner playing puppet master isn’t enough proof. Yes, they were initially a manufactured band, but they went on to write and perform their own material. And even when they weren’t writing and playing ALL the instruments on those first two albums, they were still, you know, singing. Other groups used session musicians and performed the work of other songwriters. Other groups who are currently in the Hall of Fame. So, what’s the deal, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Oh yeah, I forgot, y’all are elitist wieners. The Monkees had some great songs, written for them and by them, and they are a unique cultural phenomenon.

3. The Smiths

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Eligible Since: 2008
Nominated In: Never
Essential Albums: The Smiths (1984), Meat Is Murder (1985), The Queen Is Dead (1986), Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

Johnny Marr’s guitar playing. Morrissey’s morose, biting, hilarious lyrics, sung somberly and gloomily as only Morrissey can. Does a more perfect musical marriage exist? Nope. Their influence is palpable, and the fact that all of their studio albums (and you also have to listen to the singles compilations, of course!) are essential listening speaks volumes.

But in order for Morrissey to attend the ceremony (which would be a major long shot anyway), there would probably have to be no meat within 50 miles of the venue because, you know, meat is murder, and he does not tolerate your alternate views.

2. T. Rex

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Eligible Since: 1993
Nominated In: NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Essential Albums: Electric Warrior (1971), The Slider (1972). I also really love Futuristic Dragon (1976), but, y’know, it ain’t for everyone.

I had forgotten that T. Rex has never been inducted–or even nominated!–into the Hall of Fame, and I suddenly got very, very, very mad because that is absolutely ridiculous. Bolan (the man I wanted to marry before Jarvis, sigh) and T. Rex may have not had been able to sustain the same level of commercial success as their contemporary David Bowie but their influence is incredible. My suspicion is that the Hall of Fame is wary of inducting them because they are so closely linked with “glam” rock, although Bolan did experiment with other genres (soul and R&B, notably), and that’s embarrassing for some reason. Fact is, Bolan wrote some great rock ‘n’ roll songs. Some of the best. Summer is heaven in ’77! 

“I can’t cleverly theorize about Marc,” Morrissey once wrote. “I just loved him.” Me too, Mozzer. Me too.

1. The Jam 

Photo of Rick BUCKLER and JAM and Bruce FOXTON and Paul WELLER

Eligible Since: 2002
Nominated In: Never, because, once again, the nominating committee are actually shareholders in Oscar Mayer. (Translation: They’re WEENIES!!)
Essential Albums: In the City (1977), All Mod Cons (1978), Setting Sons (1979), Sound Affects (1980), The Gift (1982). I just listed all of their studio albums, save one. OOPS!!

In case I haven’t made it clear here before…I worship Paul Weller. I mean, I really have it bad for this guy. I think he is the world’s most wonderful human being and a stunning lyricist and songwriter with unquenchable passion for and belief in what he does. And wham bam, long live The Jam! I would induct Weller into the Hall of Fame in all of his incarnations–with The Jam, The Style Council, and as a solo artist, but The Jam probably holds the most value as far as influence and a solid, cohesive body of work. It still blows my mind that the group produced six albums in five years, with so many great songs, and they broke up at their commercial and critical peak. What guts 24-year-old Paul Weller had! Love that guy. But The Jam never really achieved any kind of success in the United States, which is commonly explained by their being “too British.” (And the Kinks were…?) Yes, because the stream of images painted in “That’s Entertainment” are only relatable and vivid if you are British: “Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight/Two lovers missing the tranquillity of solitude/Getting a cab and travelling on buses/Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs/I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.”

Name me a songwriter in the hall of fame who can write lyrics like THAT. I can probably count ’em on one hand.

The Jam, A Gift…

The year 1981 was a relatively quiet one for The Jam, a group who had released five albums and 11 top 40 singles (including two consecutive number ones), many of which were exclusive to the 45 format and featured similarly exclusive b-sides, in the space of just three years. With no new album and only three singles (including a release of “That’s Entertainment”, taken from Sound Affects) issued in 1981, it may have appeared that they were slowing down. Yet they were still touring the globe furiously, and chief songwriter, Paul Weller, was writing songs just as furiously for the group’s next album, an album he hoped would be the perfect album.

It didn’t quite turn out that way, as Weller himself readily admits in the foreword to the beautiful book that accompanies the Super Deluxe Edition of the recently reissued album, The Gift: “I think apart from a couple of turkeys (not gonna say which–you work it out!) it’s a great album.”

Yes, 2012 meant many different things to different people, but for fans of The Jam, it marked the thirtieth anniversary of the band’s split–and the thirtieth anniversary of what turned out to be the band’s final album, The Gift. Universal, thankfully, also remembered and repackaged the album as both a double-disc deluxe edition and a Super Deluxe Edition, which includes the original album, non-album singles and b-sides, a disc of previously unreleased demos and alternate takes, the full audio of the band’s December 3 show at Wembley Arena, a DVD of performances and promo clips, a replica of the original tour program and postcards, and an absolutely stunning 72-page hardcover book, featuring new interviews with Paul Weller and an insightful essay on the album by John Harris.

Unfortunately, the latter edition was also considerably more expensive–overpriced, even, some might say. But I bought it anyway. ‘Cos, in case you forgot, Paul Weller has stolen my soul, and I’m never, ever serious about the New Year’s resolution where I resolve to finally get it back from him.

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Is this not the most beautiful sight your precious little eyes have ever beheld (excepting Paul Weller himself, of course)? It’s even more beautiful than I could have ever possibly imagined. Definitely justified my drooling excessively at the thought of it every single day for the past six months.

There is nothing new on the first disc, all the non-album singles and b-sides previously made available elsewhere, but there are a few treasures on the demo and alternate takes disc, notably the demos of “Running on the Spot” and “Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero?”, which I fell in love with on first listen when it accompanied the November issue of MOJO. The live show offers proof of the band’s passion and power, as do the clips provided on the DVD, exempting Top of the Pops, where Weller half-heartedly mimes along. (Too bad the full Birmingham show isn’t included, though. Every Jam fans know it exists! Come on, Universal.) My favorite part about this package, though, has to be the 72-page hardcover book, which is skillfully written and designed. The pages are not only filled with striking designs and fresh analysis but also facsimiles of original press clippings and memorabilia. My favorite has to be the “See Bruce Jump” craft taken from the NME. You can create your own pop-up of Bruce Foxton jumping around like a fox terrier! Oh, and there’s also this photo:

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Oh yeah. Look at this pin-up. This adorable, blind pin-up.

Anyway. Moving on.

The album itself unleashes mixed emotions. I don’t think it’s really anyone’s favorite Jam album (Sound Affects or go home, ya’ll). Tainted by the group’s split and a few “turkeys,” as Weller calls them, it is not the perfect album he aimed to create, yet it still contains some of Weller’s finest and (sadly still) most relevant lyrics. In his essay about the album, John Harris details the social and historical context of the album, specifically the rise of Margaret Thatcher and how, by the winter of 1981, unemployment in Britain was nearing three million, manufacturing had lost a fifth of its capacity, and the nation itself was becoming quite literally a series of ghost towns, hence the rise of The Specials’ “Ghost Town” to the top of the charts in 1981. Weller vented his feelings about the state of the nation in his new compositions.

“I was trying to capture a sense of the anger that I felt–that a lot of people felt–about Thatcherism and the way that she and the Tory party were trying to dismantle the communities and the working classes. Attacks on the trade unions, small businesses disappearing, and so many of aspects of English life being closed down to people…I was trying to reflect the frustration and despair that sprang out of all that,” says Weller in the accompanying book.

Yet, Harris is apt to point out, these were not the finger-pointin’ songs of Bob Dylan. Oh, no. (But don’t worry, The Style Council, replete with explicit attacks on Margaret Thatcher and, of course, aesthetically offensive haircuts, is coming!) These were songs that “ran the gamut of feelings and emotions, sounding notes by turns sad, angry, wistful, and sometimes almost desperate. They key point was that it never let go of a perspective that is focused on people rather than the cold stuff of ideology, something reflected in both its eye for everyday detail and the sense that most of its songs were actually less about any political problems than the human condition.”

Take, for instance, “Town Called Malice”: “Better stop dreaming of the quiet life–‘cos it’s the one we’ll never know/And quit running for that runaway bus–‘cos those rosey days are few/And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done/’Cos time is short and life is cruel–but it’s up to us to change/This town called malice.” Or “Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero?”, an earnest, straightforward ode to the working man: “Alright then love so I’ll be off now/It’s back to the lunchbox and worker-management rows/There’s gotta be more to this old life than this/Scrimping and saving and cross off lists.”

The album’s most enduring sentiments are found in “Running On the Spot,” a song Weller has recently reinstated into his set lists. It is a song, as its title indicates, about halted progress (if there ever was any to begin with), and this idea is fittingly reflected in how its sentiments and statements are still relevant, depressingly so: “I was hoping we’d make real progress/But it seems we have lost the power/Any tiny step of advancement/Is like a raindrop falling into the ocean/We’re running on the spot–always have–always will/We’re just the next generation of emotionally crippled.”

Not every song on the album is politically charged, however. “Happy Together” and “Precious” are intense and complex love songs, each expressing an overwhelming need to be with the singer’s loved one and brimming with the energy so closely associated with The Jam, epitomized by bass player Bruce Foxton’s desperate scream at the start of “Happy Together”: “Baaaaaaby!”

The album’s crowning moment, though, has to be “Ghosts.” Or at least it has to be for me. This is quite possibly my favorite song in the entire world, barring none except perhaps The Beatles. John Harris describes the song as two minutes of “near-perfection” in his essay. He’s wrong. This is two minutes (and ten seconds!) of absolute perfection. Weller often introduced the song in concerts as a song about “the power inside you”: “Why are you frightened–can’t you see that it’s you?/That ain’t no ghost–it’s a reflection of you/Why do you turn away–an’ keep it out of sight?/Oh, don’t live up to your given roles/There’s more inside you that you won’t show.” Uplifting and lyrically flawless, I could listen to nothing but this song every day for the rest of my life. (Unfortunately, we only get an instrumental demo of this song on the demos disc. I really, really, really hope no one is hoarding any demos or alternate takes of this song from me.)

In stark contrast to “Ghosts” stands “Carnation,” a song equal to “Ghosts” in its lyrical power and imagery. The song depicts the coldness of someone’s–indeed, anyone’s–heart, perfectly reflected in the image of the crushed petals of a carnation: “If you gave me a fresh carnation/I would only crush its tender petals.” If “Ghosts” describes the “good” power inside you, then “Carnation” paints quite the opposite: “And if you’re wondering by now who I am/Look no further than the mirror/Because I am the Greed and Fear/And every ounce of Hate in you.” Liam Gallagher once uttered the most succinct and perfect description of the song, with a flash of what I can only presume was intended to be devil horns: “It’s proper Lucifer, innit?” (Watch the brief interview and cover of “Carnation” here. Cute keyboard player, by the way!)

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“He looks younger than me in that thing. I look terrible! Really massive bags under me eyes.” — Paul Weller

Weller worked incredibly hard on the album, so hard that he contracted shingles, a rare illness for a 23-year-old, and had a mini-panic attack, both induced by stress. He also met Paul McCartney, resulting in the above photo snapped by McCartney’s wife, Linda. Weller later recalled: “We was in the same studio, right, in Air. We was in Number One and he was in Number Two or something. They just started talking to us. They knew all about us. Linda really liked The Jam, knew most of the songs, and he’d heard some of the new stuff, which was The Gift at the time. If I’d met him 12 years ago I would have been really knocked out–‘cos I used to really like him then–but now he just seems like a really ordinary geezer. Seemed really nice and straight. She had, like, a backdrop set up in the studio and she was taking photos all day of, like, him and the kids and she just got me in there and sat me down and done it. He looks younger than me in that thing. I look terrible! Really massive bags under me eyes.”

Terrible? Someone obviously forgot about THIS photo:

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Yeah. This picture alone was worth the price of admission.

With so much hard work and so many outstanding songs, Weller was still disappointed with the results, writing in the tour program, “Cracking up over The Gift LP, I wanted it perfect, but settled for good, oh well!” Oh, if only more bands could release “good” albums like The Gift!

Seven months following the album’s release, Weller announced the split of the group. With the band at the height of their commercial and, arguably, critical peak, it was a bold move. At the time, Weller stated, “The longer a group continues, the more frightening the thought of ever ending it becomes. That’s why so many of them carry on until they become meaningless.”

This was not to be the case for The Jam, a band whose meaning has, if anything, only increased with time, uncontaminated by mediocrity and nostalgic reunion tours. Their honesty, passion, fire and skill still resonate, as they did so brilliantly on The Gift, which we are allowed to re-experience in this remarkable, if slightly overpriced, Super Deluxe Box Set.

P.S.

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Yeah, this will never get old.   

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.

The Olympics, Depression, Bradley Wiggins, and “My Ever Changing Moods”

Because the Olympics is almost over, which makes me sad, and this video is my preferred anti-depressant…

Because Bradley Wiggins, cheered on by the Modfather himself, became the first British Cyclist to win the Tour de France and subsequently earned a gold medal in the cycling timed trial and then–to top it all off–hung out with his hero (at a Stone Roses gig, no less), sparking conversation about this infamous video…

But mostly because the video for “My Ever Changing Moods” by The Style Council is one of my favorite things in the world…I’m going to devote an entire post to it. Because I can.

In case you have not yet sold your soul to the star of this video, Paul Weller (I’ve forgotten what that feels like–do you actually do things because you want to, instead of thinking, “What would Paul Weller do?”, “Would Paul Weller approve?”, etc.), let me improve the quality of your life and tell you a little bit about him. Paul Weller was 13 when he formed the Jam, he was 18 when the band had its first top 40 hit in England with “In the City,” and by October 30, 1982, the day he announced the Jam’s disbandment, the group had recorded six studio albums, scored 18 consecutive top 40 singles in the UK (including four number one hits–well, okay, “Beat Surrender” was still a few weeks shy of release at the time of the announcement), and become one of the defining bands of their era. Oh, and he was 24–24! Lennon turned 24 amidst Beatlemania; Weller could have left the music industry at the end of the Jam and his status as a seminal songwriter still would have been secure. Instead he formed the Style Council.

The Jam had always been on the fringes of punk. They wore well-tailored suits. They loved the Beatles. And Tamla Motown. And the Sex Pistols. But the Jam was still very much a punk rock band; the Style Council, however, were once described by Weller as a “musical kama sutra.” The Style Council explored and indulged Weller’s love of soul music (as well as funk, synthpop, house…the man loves everything), only hinted at during the Jam’s tenure, and alienated much of his former fan base.

More alienating perhaps than the music, though, were their videos. The world at large had only known Weller as the dour leader of the Jam; the Style Council exposed another side of Weller rarely seen during the Jam’s heyday–a side with a sense of humor. A sense of humor many people didn’t quite understand. A sense of humor fully exploited in the Style Council’s divinely silly videos. Which is what makes them my favorite things in the world.

Which brings us back to the “My Ever Changing Moods” video (my personal favorite). And Bradley Wiggins. And the Olympics. And me being depressed because the Olympics are ending soon. And me watching this video an unhealthy number of times to combat that depression.

The video begins with Weller preparing for a cycling race (we’ll meet his competitor in a moment) by kissing some inanimate object. I have no idea what it is (I ain’t no cyclist fanatic, people). I only wish it were me. Remember, I said this was unhealthy. Very, very, very, very, very unhealthy.

This is Weller’s competition, rubbing Bengay on his legs or something. His name’s Mick Talbot, aka keyboardist and co-founder of The Style Council. Can you say NERD? (Don’t get me wrong, I still love Mick. He is great.)

This is seriously intense. The race is about to begin, and while Mick is super cool and collected, Weller grits his teeth. I can really see where the press got that angry young man image.

And they’re off! I really like the camerawork here.

Of course Mick is waving at people because it’s the first time he’s been out in public in a few days. Here’s a little tip for ya, Mick: waving at strangers is going to slow you down and make you lose this race. (Yeah, I know, Weller did the exact same thing two seconds earlier, but he looked waaaaaaay cooler.)

So they’re going along, racing and singing, “The cool before the warm, the calm after the storm.” And nobody thinks this is totally weird for a music video or anything.

But then, Paul and Mick decide to take a little snack break. And Weller is really excited about that. He just can’t wait to see what Mick has packed. Neither can I.

Mick packed a banana for Weller. How thoughtful. But then Mick sees some girls across the field dancing and nudges Weller. This is Weller’s reaction. He’s pretty much my favorite human being.

The boys leave in a rush because girls are scary. That thermos looks lonely.

Annnnnd back to the race. Time to kick things into high gear here ‘cos that finish line is near. Whatever Mick ate didn’t really sit too well with him.

Whoa, finish line just ahead! My money’s on Weller. He’s got some wiry little legs.

WHAT? WHAT? I can’t believe it–and, apparently, Mick can’t either. This is probably the first time he’s beaten Weller at anything. Ever.

Weller, classy act that he is, is a good sport about it, though.

Mick even gets a trophy! Weller is a downright adorable loser, though, ain’t he? Well, I’d say.

Party time! Weller is a good, super adorable friend and opens a bottle of champagne to help Mick celebrate. Weller isn’t about to spoil Mick’s fun and tell him that he didn’t exactly just win the Tour de France. How incredibly sweet.

And at the end of the video, they’re still friends. And that marks the end of this utterly ridiculous and wonderful video.

But why do I love it so much? Besides the obvious fact that Paul Weller is wearing biking gear, I think it has a lot to do with the song itself. “My Ever Changing Moods” is my favorite song by the Style Council, bar none (even though it only has 285 plays in my music library). The Jam was a much more consistent band, but the Style Council contains some of Weller’s finest pieces of writing, “My Ever Changing Moods” among them. Weller was also at his most overtly political during the Style Council, and “My Ever Changing Moods” is a song that aches for change, yet the overriding emotion of the song is hope. It’s downright euphoric–not unlike winning the Tour de France and a Gold Medal in a matter of weeks, I’d imagine.