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HSBG Preview: Paul Weller 

Wednesday, Sep 30 2015

"Clothes make the man," goes the old adage, but that wisdom didn't hit home for Paul Weller until this summer. That's when he previewed "The Jam: About the Young Idea," an exhibit at Britain's Somerset House gallery that chronicled the history of Weller's fashion-conscious, Mod-influenced punk combo The Jam. With original bassist Bruce Foxton in tow, Weller strolled through the halls, gaping at the vintage pictures and razor-sharp stage outfits unearthed by the team of curators (including his sister Nicky Weller).

"It was amazing, really," he recalls. "I was just blown away by the photographs they found — a lot of my family, loads of things I'd never seen before, loads of us with the group."

"About the Young Idea" also inspired an eponymous greatest hits CD compiled by Universal, along with a book, Growing Up With...The Jam, that summarizes the trio's Clash-inspired sociopolitical significance for a generation of youth disillusioned by '70s Britain.

"I think, ultimately, it just kind of struck me how long ago it all was, because it didn't seem like 30 years or more had elapsed," Weller says of the show. "That's the thing that really hit me most, like, 'Wow. The passage of time.'"

After The Jam disbanded in 1982, Weller — long ago christened The Modfather — formed the jazzier, more politically overt The Style Council, before issuing a dozen solo albums, the latest of which is the Northern Soul-steeped Saturns Pattern on which he played almost every instrument himself.

The singer, now 57, was recently voted one of the 50 best-dressed celebrities over 50 by UK newspaper The Guardian. And he felt suitably honored. "I just love clothes, man," he explains. "I guess I'm the product of the time I grew up — my formative years were the mid-'60s onwards, into the '70s, and clothes and music were far more entwined at that time. And the clothes reflected a certain attitude, and another kind of mindset, as well." He pauses, then adds, "So that way of thinking and that kind of culture? It's never really left me, and I still think of it the very same way."

Weller has one cardinal fashion rule: "Always wear your trousers!" Does the UPS driver ever catch him off guard, in a T-shirt and sweatpants? Weller cackles, "You'd only catch me like that if you followed me to the gym. I'm a Mod, I've always been a Mod, and I always will be."

He adds, "I guess there is a certain dress code, and then that code can be dismantled and rearranged as I see fit. But then again, I don't sit around at home in some three-piece suit, either!"

Still, Weller isn't stuck in the Mod-revivalist past. Sure, he's kept the same shag haircut over the years — later adopted by his friends (and fans) Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis — but he's always managed to stay relevant, from trailblazing solo albums such as "Stanley Road" in 1995, to the expansive double-record experiment "22 Dreams" in 2008. Along the way, he picked up four Brit Awards in his homeland, including a 2006 award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. "I would like my music to always be contemporary, because it isn't nostalgia — it isn't me just going out and playing my greatest hits," he says. "And I hope "Saturns Pattern" reflects a bit of R&B and soul, because that was the intention — that type of music always cuts through for me."

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About The Author

Tom Lanham


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