Paul Weller is a musical chameleon. First there was The Jam, a 1970’s English band that followed in the tradition of the early Who: loud and angry.
In England at the time, the music scene was teeming with would-be groups lashing out at society, culture, the establishment and bad English cooking. The electric guitar and a microphone were the tools. Weller’s song lyrics were both self-reflective and outward social commentary. One difference between Weller and his contemporaries was his lyrics were thoughtful and provided depth. Instead of rejecting music of the prior generation, which many brash musicians were doing, Weller embraced it. Ray Davies and Pete Townsend were influences.
Weller knew more than three chords, and in time, his songs developed more distinction. He wanted to grow an audience so he had to write memorable songs and give The Jam a unique sound. He was also borrowing sounds from other genres including American R&B.
The Jam has a great run but they reached the end, so in the early 1980’s, Weller created The Style Council, an R&B-pop band with horns and jazzy arrangements.
Weller was growing as a songwriter, he had a lot to say, and The Style Council gave him a larger canvass to create complex compositions. The Style Council also incorporated keyboards which gave them another tool.
The Style Council would release five albums in the 1980’s before they ran out of gas. In those days you were expected to produce albums regularly and get songs in the chart. Even Weller admitted they should have broken up sooner.
Weller began a solo and has been a solo artist ever since. Weller is a decidedly English artist, his music has reflected his country and roots, which is often difficult for American audiences to embrace. He has a respected following in America following The Jam and The Style Council, but his large audience is in his home country.
Weller will often change style from album to album, and he incorporates influences from other musicians, and borrows from his own past projects. He’s had albums that have sold a million copies and high charting singles in England, even at age 60. In his country he is nicknamed “Modfather” because of his days as a “mod” instead of a “rocker” as musicians were categorized.
Weller is not a musician afraid to take chances or pursue a specific vision. While he isn’t well-known in America, musicians know and respect his talent, and like Davies and Townsend, he’s become a patriarch of his generation and musical styles.