Thursday, September 24, 2015

When Coventry hosted Paul Weller's 1990 comeback

Another Pete Clemons article for the Coventry Telegraph - this time on Paul Weller.

When Coventry hosted Paul Weller's 1990 comeback.



Paul Weller performing last year

Hugely respected singer, lyricist and guitarist Paul Weller, often referred to as The Modfather, has been a well known figure within the UK music scene for almost 40 years.

He has consistently written and produced well received music for both his various bands, The Jam and The Style Council, and of course his own golden solo period.

He recently visited the area and appeared at Warwick Arts Centre. Prior to that, he starred at a large event at Warwick Castle. On the face of it, it does seem that Paul Weller has had a relatively smooth career, changing direction at will and often making song writing appear effortless. But this has not strictly been the case.

After a very successful period, fronting The Jam, Paul Weller shocked and astounded the UK music scene during the early 1980s when he broke up this incredibly popular band, who at that time, had been at the height of their success. It was huge news that he had kept close to his chest until he announced it during their final tour in 1982.

Paul Weller Movement



It seemed as though Paul had suddenly acquired an urge to explore the more soulful, jazz and R ‘n’ B side of his musical influences. To achieve this he formed a new group that he called The Style Council. The Style Council were seen as a radical departure from The Jam. They had also incorporated a brass section that had also been evident on the last Jam album.

Looking back, each Style Council album seemed to take on a new direction and push new boundaries to the point where I guess Paul became too avant-garde and experimental for his original fan base. With an interest in the political landscape at that time a lot of his songs were also covering current affairs.

In 1989 Paul suddenly found himself without a band and without a recording deal. ‘Confessions of a Pop Group’, his last album with The Style Council, had sold poorly. This then led to his record label, Polydor, rejecting a follow up Style Council album.

The already completed, and ready to go album, which was titled ‘Modernism: A New Decade’, had taken its influence from the house music scene which had sprung up in the UK around the same time. The rejection of that album effectively finished the band.
Into Tomorrow single



This had been the first time Paul Weller had been in this position since The Jam had signed to Polydor records in 1977. From all accounts he was low in confidence and had decided to take a break away from the music industry. It seems that, during that period of self-doubt, Weller had simply given up on writing songs and making music. But all that was all about to change.

After a period when it seemed as though Paul had turned his back on the music industry he was coaxed back into the game, by his closest of musical allies, and returned to the road during the tail end of 1990 touring as ‘The Paul Weller Movement’. One of the gigs on this short low key tour was a Thursday evening in November at the ‘Lanch’ or Coventry Polytechnic as it had, by then, been renamed.

This had not been Paul’s first visit to Coventry. He had visited the city before with both of his previous bands. The musicians that went out with him was made up of long-term drummer and friend Steve White, Henry Thomas on bass, Jaco Peake on sax and flute, Gerrard Pescencer on trumpet and flugel horn and Max Beesley on keyboards.

Initially, it seems as though Weller didn’t want to do the tour but was coaxed back into having a go at it. In a recent interview he commented that ‘I had no interest whatsoever, but I’m really glad I did it because if I hadn’t I think I would have just kept on sinking’.

During his year or so away from the business Paul had heavily immersed himself in bands from the late 1960s and early 1970s like Traffic and Spooky Tooth along with other Island Records recording artists such as Nick Drake.
Heavy Soul



Paul, himself, did eventually sign for that very same Island Record label a few years later. And that obsession in the record label was very evident when his ‘Heavy Soul’ album was released. The artwork on the physical CD disc was in the style of the classic pink Island records logo.

Going back to that 1990 concert though, the Coventry gig itself saw Paul moving back onto lead guitar. Musically, the gig was a mix of familiar and new and unfamiliar songs. But it was the latter which was the biggest surprise as it soon became apparent that a balance of soul and rock was being achieved as well the introduction of several other influences such as ‘Acid Jazz’ which, at that time, had been another recently introduced genre. In hindsight it seemed as though all these influences were coming together and a new found confidence was beginning to surface.

The Coventry gig introduced new songs such as ‘Around and Around’, ‘Strange Museum’ and ‘Kosmos’ which were released on his 1992 self-titled debut release and proved that he was well into the process of re-establishing himself as one of the leading British singer/songwriters of that time. Although the previously initiated had never doubted for a minute that Paul was anything less anyway.



A year on after the Coventry gig a single, ‘Into Tomorrow’, on Paul’s own Freedom High record label, was released during October 1991. It reached number 36 in the UK singles chart. Weller’s next series of gigs were incorporating even more new music and far less of the legacy, and legendary, back catalogue.

The success of the ‘Into Tomorrow’ single meant that Weller was offered a new record deal with the newly created Go! Discs. They, in turn, released the exceptional Paul Weller self-titled debut album during September 1992 which reached number eight on the album chart. This jazz funk masterpiece marked Paul’s remarkable return to the music scene.

Paul Weller performing at this year's Glastonbury Festival

What happened after those early solo gigs is now the stuff of legend as Paul’s career went from one success to another as he hit new heights. Bands such as Blur and The Ocean Colour Scene have often cited Weller as a major influence in their own careers as did the whole Brit Pop scene in general. Sold out concert tours and critically acclaimed albums have also followed. And in 2010 Paul received an Ivor Novello lifetime achievement award. Even today, with the release of his ‘Saturn’s Pattern’ album, Paul Weller’s song writing capabilities show no sign of diminishing.


No comments:

Post a Comment