There has been so much written about Paul Weller that to attempt to tell his story in If You Were There’s short blog format seems futile. A key figure not just in pop in the 1980s but also in youth culture, his influence on people in their teens and early twenties during the decade extended beyond their record-buying habits and on to their politics and appreciation of the arts in general. So, here are some notable dates up to and including the release of Town Called Malice before his story is taken up in more detail in later entries in this blog:
SUNDAY 25TH MAY 1958 John William Weller born.
Weller (known by the name Paul from an early age) grew up near Woking in Surrey. He formed his band, The Jam, in 1972 with school friends including Rick Buckler. The three core members of the group were all in place the following year when Bruce Foxton joined, and by mid-1973 they had recorded some basic demos and started gigging. In 1975, they auditioned for the television talent show Opportunity Knocks but failed to be shortlisted.
TUESDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 1977 Signs with Polydor.
Weller was spotted by talent scout and producer Chris Parry at a gig at The Marquee in London in January 1977. With Weller’s father acting as their manager, Parry offered The Jam a one-album record deal with Polydor and a £6k advance to record it. This was quickly amended to a four-year deal after the single’s release and they were given a £20k advance for their next album. Ultimately, The Jam would remain with Polydor for all their recordings and Weller would go on to record for the label throughout the 1980s.
FRIDAY 29TH APRIL 1977 First single released.
The single made the Top 40 and gave Weller his first appearance on Top Of The Pops the following month.
THURSDAY 12TH MAY 1977 Talks politics.
The NME for the week ending 14th May 1977 contains an interview with Weller in which he states “I don’t see any point in going against your own country. All this ‘change the world’ thing is becoming a bit too trendy. I realize that we’re not going to change anything unless it’s on a national scale. We’ll be voting Conservative at the next election.” Shome mishtake, shurely? Weller’s bitterness about social inequality will become a recurrent them in later interviews; he famously supported Labour throughout the 1980s (he was a member of Red Wedge) and took part in a number of benefit activities to support sectors of society which appeared to be suffering under the policies of the Conservative government through the decade. In 1981, Weller’s documentary for BBC2’s Something Else strand saw him return to Surrey to follow the lives of three teenagers from different social backgrounds. This exploration of the nature of class in modern Britain was commissioned after Weller had written to the producers earlier in the year with some ideas.
FRIDAY 20TH MAY 1977 Releases album In The City.
In The City, with Vic Smith and Chris Parry producing, was recorded over 11 days in March 1977. Barring two cover versions, Weller is the sole songwriter.
SATURDAY 4TH JUNE 1977 Begins first tour as a headliner.
An impromptu gig in Soho Market in October 1976 had generated much press coverage and brought The Jam to the attention of The Clash, who duly invited Weller and the band to join them on their White Riot tour of the UK in spring the following year. However, they lasted just three dates before quitting over pay and conditions, in particular the inadequate quality of the sound equipment. Consequently, Weller’s first full national tour commenced in June, when The Jam were the headline act in their own right. The group’s first US tour followed in October.
FRIDAY 18TH NOVEMBER 1977 Releases album This Is The Modern World.
The second The Jam album was recorded at Basing Street Studios, again helmed by Vic Smith and Chris Parry. The sessions commenced on 25 August with London Traffic and In The Street Today and continued with Standards, Don’t Tell Them You’re Sane and Here Comes The Weekend on 26 August, and Life From A Window and Tonight At Noon on 29 August. The final tracks were recorded in September: The Combine on the 2nd and The Modern World, London Girl, I Need You (For Someone) and In The Midnight Hour on the 21st.
FRIDAY 3RD NOVEMBER 1978 Releases album All Mod Cons.
This album established as a key player in the ‘Mod revival’ and would go on to regularly feature in critics’ lists of the ‘greatest albums of all time’.
FRIDAY 16TH NOVEMBER 1979 Releases album Setting Sons.
Smash Hits gives this album 9 out of 10.
FRIDAY 25TH JANUARY 1980 Riot Stories is incorporated.
Riot Stories is The Jam’s publishing company. The following year Weller also bankrolls a new recording label, Jamming, and sets his own one up, Respond. He records for neither himself.
SATURDAY 22ND MARCH 1980 Single Going Underground enters chart at #1.
Although today a record entering the singles chart at #1 is commonplace, in 1980 it was a very rare occurrence. Such was the enthusiasm of fans by this stage in Weller’s career that the chart started to feature singles by The Jam that weren’t even released in the UK: two import singles sold in such numbers in 1981 that they had Top 40 hits with them. Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero? remains the best-selling import single in the UK to this day.
SATURDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER 1980 Single Start! reaches #1.
Weller’s second #1 single; he is yet to have a #1 album.
FRIDAY 28TH NOVEMBER 1980 Releases album Sound Affects.
Weller would later describe this as his favourite The Jam album.
FRIDAY 29TH JANUARY 1982 Releases single Town Called Malice.
Weller’s third #1 single. But it is the beginning of the end for The Jam.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 29
CHINA CRISIS African And White (Inevitable INEV011)
The FUN BOY THREE with BANANARAMA It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It (Chrysalis CHS2570)
The JAM Town Called Malice (Polydor POSP400)
SIMPLE MINDS (Jim Kerr) I Travel [Reissue] (Arista ARIST448)