Paul Weller, the solo artist and ex-Jam and ex-Style Council frontman, has recently been reported as creating disturbances in the increasingly polite world of rock. According to the Mirror newspaper he gobbed on a framed picture of Sting at a cancer charity event, said to a magazine that Sting is 'a fucking horrible man', and told Bob Geldof to 'fuck off'. Is the so-called 'godfather of britpop' just a yob, or a rebellious working class politico? [Read more below]
You won't find a lot of politics in Paul Weller's recent solo CDs, but he's produced a truly decent output of politically-aware lyrics throughout his career in the Jam and the Style Council. It was in the latter that he went truly radical, with a long list of songs that were about revolution, the class struggle and Thatcherism. The highlight was the excellent album Our Favourite Shop, which included the upbeat anthems Walls Come Tumbling Down and Shout to the Top. During this time Weller was an almost musician ultra-activist, organising the pro-Labour Party Red Wedge collective with Billy Bragg amongst other benefits for striking miners etc.
Essentially Weller got burnt out and disillusioned with British left politics and the Labour Party in particular. In the 1990s he reflected on his move away from such overtly political music in an interview:
First and foremost I'm a musician, and if politics come into my music, if I take a certain stance, well that's part of it as well.... In the '80s, in the Style Council, we were involved with a lot of political things going on at that time. I think after a while that overshadowed the music a bit, and I suppose because of that experience I'm wary of getting too involved.... But I still think there's a place for outspokenness. That's what folk songs were all about, originally ... I think that's still valid.
He also expressed a desire to do something like Red Wedge again, 'but not for the Labour Party. I became disheartened with it all. I still have the same views, but how do you go about it?'.
More recently, Weller has started playing political gigs again - most prominently in the occasional anti-war rally. And in the last year the singer refused a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Paul Weller has a new album out, Catch-Flame, which is a live recording of a recent London gig.