Paul Weller – Still Living The Dream
From The Shropshire Star
Rock legend Paul Weller plays live at the Birmingham NEC on November 21.
Having first appeared on the music scene with The Jam in the late 1970s, the singer-songwriter enjoyed a run of number ones until the band split in 1982, followed by a new direction with the soulful Style Council then a fresh career as a solo artist.
Now 50, his ninth studio album 22 Dreams has earned him some of the best reviews of his career, with critics praising the mixture of styles – both the Observer and Independent gave it five stars.
But the Woking-born singer remains something of an enigma, who can fluctuate between enthusiastic music fan to grumpy old man in interviews and public appearances.
One man who knows him better than most is author Paolo Hewitt, who was friends with Weller for 30 years. His book The Changing Man, a warts and all biography of the singer, was published in paperback last month. Hewitt, who grew up in Woking and was within the close knit Weller circle for three decades, says: “Some of these reviewers seem to be surprised that he can produce work like this. “Paul is a talented songwriter. He’s got a force of nature behind him. He will carry on regardless. “He is still creating music that’s getting people talking. It is testimony to his talent. He’s like a Bob Dylan or Van Morrison. “He will never put out a really awful record. He knows how to write a good song, he knows what works.”
Few of Weller’s contemporaries from the late 1970s have hit the consistent heights of his career, says Hewitt. “Out of all the punk scene, he is the one that has proved himself. Who would have thought he would be the one? He has an obsession with music. “You could never imagine Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler from the Jam allowing music to dominate their lives in the way it has shaped Paul’s life. “He would literally change his life around a record like he did with the Style Council. Paul has always concentrated on the music, not the lifestyle, which is why he has lasted so long.”
Although Hewitt and Weller’s friendship survived the various ups and downs in their careers and personal lives, they fell out in 2006 and have not spoken since. The author says he has not heard Weller’s latest album. “I’m not surprised not to hear from him. Paul makes his mind up and moves on.”
While The Changing Man gave Hewitt, who wrote the official Oasis biography Getting High, much praise, one writer compared Hewitt to Sir Paul McCartney’s ex-wife Heather Mills. “That’s ridiculous,” says Hewitt. “I saw it as a book about music, exploring how Paul behaves. I knew people would say you were just slagging him because you don’t like him. Most people felt it was a really balanced portrait. I didn’t have bitterness. If anything, it was written quite calmly but I believe emotion makes for powerful writing.”
Hewitt says 90 per cent of the people who contacted him about the book were positive. “They saw what I was trying to do. The structure of it was to build a portrait of the man around the records. The content is so unique because we were so close. I had about three or four nasty emails from the Paul Weller hardcore. Even if he went on a killing spree, these people would say he was right. But some of them made some good points – we had a good dialogue.”
Hewitt still admires Weller’s achievements. “My book paints him not as a good person or a bad person but as a person. Paul can be the devil and then an angel. He can be really spot on but equally he can be quite difficult. If you look at Dylan or Van Morrison you can imagine them having the same lifestyle. He’s a mystic poet wrapped up in a hooligan’s coat. He can be effing and blinding and then come out with these beautiful songs about rustic scenes.”