Monday, 22 October 2012

The Punk and The Modfather (part 1)

          This is a tale that's been a long time coming - I've sort of blocked myself from telling it to anyone much for the last twenty years because, for a number of years before that, I bored everyone rigid with it.... Now prompted by a comment by Monkey over at Monkey Picks I'm coming out. It all starts back in 83 and I was just getting home from working at the local dole office, another drudgy day with nothing much to look forward to... as I walked through the back door of my parent's small-town fenland house that I'd reluctantly moved back to, my mum shouts to me
           'Someone on the 'phone for you...',
           'Oh right,' I call back disinterestedly, 'Who ?',
           'Paul Weller...'
           What ???
           My mum is on the phone talking to Paul Weller ???? You've never seen someone move from the back door so fast, grab the phone and still have time to process the thought that this is probably a wind up from one of my mates. But the first words were enough to confirm who it was - lord knows I'd listened to enough interviews with him to know what he sounded like.

          So rewind a bit - at the time I was writing a lot of stuff for a fanzine called (sorry it's an awful name really) 'Summer Fun (In Violent Times)' - a sort of mod / surf / psych / punk 'zine with a circulation rather smaller than our ambition. Whatever the readership it did allow us access to a lot of bands and gigs, mostly for free, so we certainly had the motivation. A couple of months before I'd interviewed the late and most lamented Vaughn Toulouse (previously of Guns for Hire and Department S), who was then fronting the Main T Posse on Weller's Respond label, along with his backing singers whose names shamefully escape me . Serendipitously a few weeks later I was at the 100 Club and bumped into one of those self same backing singers who started chatting and introduced me to her boyfriend - one Mick Talbot - already pretty pissed before the bands came on....along with a very nice lady from Polydor Records who turned out to be the Style Council's press person. I blagged her phone number off her, told her I wanted to interview Weller (much as I like Mick's keyboard work I figured that he wasn't going to be the interesting one....) and she asked me to send a few back copies in to her. I did, sat back, expected to hear nothing and didn't.

          Then that 'phone rang and instead of some Polydor apparatchik it was Weller himself who'd taken the trouble to call me up and ask me if I fancied getting up to the Smoke to interview him. We chatted for a bit - well, I suspect he chatted for a bit, I was way too monosyllabic with shock - and made a date, said goodbye and hung up. I think at that point I probably started wondering if I'd imagined it all. 

          My mum stood grinning at me in the doorway - she knew exactly how much that call had meant and was quite proud of herself for having had a chat with the man herself. After all she'd endured years of my Jam obsession. She declared him 'very polite'.

          Two weeks or so later I'm on the train up to London, best clobber on, girlfriend and her brother in tow. She if anything is way more starstruck than I am, I'm trying to play it cool. She's about to dump me for Paul should he so much as look in her direction.

          We find the Polydor offices, Paul comes out after about two minutes - with press woman Lee who I'd met previously - and suggests we go and sit out in the nearby square since it's so sunny. My girlfriend nearly faints at the sight of him. I'm thinking this is great, not only do I get to interview him but other people get to see me doing it ! That was important in those days.

          On the short walk over it's apparent that Paul has read and liked the fanzine - he talks a bit about a piece we'd done on Thee Milkshakes and how he likes their early Beatles in Hamburg sound. I'd love to hear a Weller/Billy Childish collaboration, I guess that there's still time. 

          So we sit in the sun, my old tape player hopefully grabbing every word - I haven't listened back to the interview in a long while, though I still have the tape - Weller is more than free with his time and I can remember having to flip the C90 over at some point so I guess we had him for well over an hour. He was direct, funny (not something that usually gets said about him I know), thoughtful , honest and most of all very generous with his time to a young wannabe who asked him stunningly naive questions and a girl who sat there just gazing at him (Hi Hayley wherever you are !). I tried to scan some of the interview - but to be honest it's not great journalism and the print has faded a lot in the last 28 or so years, happy to send a photocopy if you still want it Monkey !.

          What strikes me now is that he must have been about 26 at the time. It was the first year of The Style Council's life and he was still getting some heavy flak from the national music papers for having broken up The Jam. He was heavily into 'youth' as a concept at the time and I guess that him spending his time with us was a good a way as any of putting his ideas into action. Most of all what struck me was just how normal he seemed (what had I expected???) but it was hard sometimes to get past the bloke I'd seen on stage numerous times in front of an almost fanatical army of fans to get to the skinny, casually dressed guy not much older than me  (OK, casual but as ever his attention to what he wore was obvious - even if it was only jeans and a short sleeved tartan Ben Sherman).

          From my point of view we could have spent the rest of the day talking but he had to get on eventually - my girlfriend gave him a box of after-eight type chocolates that she'd found called 'Cappuccino's' and he handed them around. And that, we thought, was that....but it wasn't.....there was still much more to come, of which I shall tell later...

          And this is what the day looked like through my Olympus Trip !

note the state of the art recording equipment....

...and I don't think I was ever good enough after this....

Heavily underrated - time for a re-evaluation....


  1. Ah yes, still the same message from another Tory Government! Great song.

    1. I was thinking the same myself...about the government that is, different faces same crap.

  2. Props to Monkey for prompting you to share this brilliant story. Very cool indeed - and there's more to come? Can't wait!

    1. Ta The Swede - that's all the encouragement I need....

  3. This is very special. What great pics too - a real moment in time captured so naturally.

  4. That is so flippin cool.

    For some reason my work computer hates your site and will not get on...all my other electronic devices love it though.