English singer-songwriter and musician John William “Paul” Weller, Jr. was born 25 May 1958 in Woking, Surrey, England. Weller attended Maybury County First School in 1963. His love of music began with The Beatles, then The Who and Small Faces. By the time Weller was eleven and moving up to Sheerwater County Secondary school, music was the biggest part of his life, and he had started playing the guitar.
After seeing Status Quo in concert in 1972 Weller formed the first incarnation of The punk rock/new wave/mod revival band The Jam playing bass guitar with his best friends Steve Brookes (lead guitar) and Dave Waller (rhythm guitar). Weller’s father, acting as their manager, began booking the band into local working men’s clubs. Joined by Rick Buckler on drums, and with Bruce Foxton soon replacing Waller on rhythm guitar, the four-piece band began to forge a local reputation, playing a mixture of Beatles covers and a number of compositions written by Weller and Brookes. Brookes left the band in 1976, and Weller and Foxton decided they would swap guitar roles, with Weller now the guitarist. Although The Jam emerged at the same time as punk rock bands such as The Clash, The Damned, and The Sex Pistols, The Jam better fit the mould of the new wave bands who came later, and being from just outside London rather than the city itself, they were never really part of the tightly-knit punk clique. Nonetheless, it was The Clash who emerged as one of the leading early advocates of the band, and were sufficiently impressed by The Jam to take them along as the support act on their White Riot tour of 1977.
The Jam’s first single, “In the City” took them into the UK Top 40 in May 1977. Although every subsequent single had a placing within the Top 40, it was not until the band released the political “The Eton Rifles” that they would break into the Top 10, hitting the No. 3 spot in November 1979. The increasing popularity of their blend of Weller’s barbed lyrics with pop melodies eventually led to their first number one single, “Going Underground”, in March 1980. This was followed by t”Town Called Malice”,”Precious” “That’s Entertainment” and “Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero?”. Despite the band’s popularity Weller became restless and wanted to explore a more soulful, melodic style of music with a broader instrumentation, and in consequence in 1982 he announced that The Jam would disband at the end of that year. The action came as a surprise to Foxton and Buckler who both felt that the band was still a creative formation with scope to develop further professionally, but Weller was determined to end the band and move on. Their final single, “Beat Surrender”, became their fourth UK chart topper, going straight to No. 1 in its first week. Their farewell concerts at Wembley Arena were multiple sell-outs; their final concert took place at the Brighton Centre on 11 December 1982. After which The Jam split.
Weller had further success with the blue-eyed soul music of The Style Council (1983–89), At the beginning of 1983, Weller teamed up with keyboard player Mick Talbot to form a new group called The Style Council. Weller brought in Steve White to play drums, as well as singer Dee C. Lee, who had previously been a backing singer with Wham! Free of the limited musical styles he felt imposed by The Jam, under the collective of The Style Council, Weller was able to experiment with a wide range of music, from pop and jazz to Soul/R&B, house and folk-styled ballads. The band was at the vanguard of a jazz/pop revival that would continue with the emergence of bands like Matt Bianco, Sade, and Everything but the Girl, whose members Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt contributed vocals and guitar to the 1984 The Style Council song “Paris Match”.
Many of The Style Council’s early singles such as My Ever Changing Moods” “You’re The Best Thing”. And “Shout to the Top” were very popular Weller appeared on 1984’s Band Aid record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and was called upon to mime the absent Bono’s lyrics on Top of the Pops. The Style Council were the second act to appear in the British half of Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985. In December 1984, Weller put together his own charity ensemble called The Council Collective to make a record, “Soul Deep”, to raise money for striking miners, and the family of David Wilkie. The record featured The Style Council plus a number of other performers, notably Jimmy Ruffin and Junior Giscombe and included lyrics
such as “We can’t afford to let the government win / It means death to the trade unions”. Unfortunately The Style Council’s popularity in the UK waned, an The Style Council’s death knell was sounded in 1989 when their record company refused to release their fifth and final studio album, the house-influenced Modernism: A New Decade so Weller announced that The Style Council had split, although the final album did have a limited vinyl run, it was not until the 1998 retrospective CD box set The Complete Adventures of The Style Council that the album would be widely available.
In 1989, Weller found himself without a band and without a recording deal for the first time since he was 17. After taking time off throughout 1990, he returned to the road in 1991, touring as ‘The Paul Weller Movement’ with long-term drummer and friend Steve White, and Paul Francis (session bassist from The James Taylor Quartet) . After a slow start playing small clubs with a mixture of Jam/Style Council classics as well as showcasing new material such as “Into Tomorrow”, by the time of the release of his 1992 LP, Paul Weller, he had begun to re-establish himself as a leading British singer-songwriter and Solo artist. This self-titled album saw a return to a more jazz-guitar-focused sound, featuring samples and a funk influence with shades of the Style Council sound. The album also featured a new producer, Brendan Lynch. Tracks such as “Here’s a New Thing” and “That Spiritual Feeling” were marketed among the emerging acid jazz scene.
Buoyed by the positive commercial and critical success of his first solo album, Weller returned to the studio in 1993 with a renewed confidence. Accompanied by Steve White, guitarist Steve Cradock and bassist Damon Minchella, the result of these sessions was the triumphant Mercury Music Prize-nominated Wild Wood, which included ‘Sunflower’ His 1995 album Stanley Road took him back to the top of the British charts for the first time in a decade, and went on to become the best-selling album of his career. The album, named after the street in Woking where he had grown up, marked a return to the more guitar-based style of his earlier days. The album’s major single, “The Changingman”, was also a big hit, taking Weller to No. 7 in the UK singles charts. Another single, the ballad “You Do Something To Me”, was his second consecutive Top 10 single and reached No. 9 in the UK.
Weller found himself heavily associated with the emerging Britpop movement that gave rise to such bands as Oasis, Pulp and Blur. Noel Gallagher (of Oasis) is credited as guest guitarist on the Stanley Road album track “I Walk on Gilded Splinters”. Weller also returned the favour, appearing as a guest guitarist and backing vocalist on Oasis’ hit song “Champagne Supernova”. Despite widespread critical recognition as a singer, lyricist, and guitarist, Weller has remained a national, rather than international, star and much of his songwriting is rooted in British culture. He is also the principal figure of the 1970s and 1980s mod revival, and is often referred to as “The Modfather”. He also is one of a select few British solo artist who’s had as varied, long-lasting and determinedly forward-looking a career.” The BBC described Weller in 2007 as “one of the most revered music writers and performers of the past 30 years”. In 2012, he was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life. He has received four Brit Awards, winning the award for Best British Male twice, and the 2006 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.