30. The Style Council – It Just Came to Pieces in My Hands (1983)
On the B-side of A Solid Bond in Your Heart, Weller’s mea culpa thanks lurk for Jamen’s sudden passing, the arrogance of youth and the dangers of becoming a generation’s voice. “I was a shit-spotted statue / school kids would stand in awe … I thought I was master of this shit jungle.”
29. Paul Weller – Into Tomorrow (1992)
After the style council’s death, it took Weller’s father-cum manager to get him to perform again. On his debut solo single, a kind of musical note-to-self, there’s something really exciting about the way you can hear Weller will himself with, “into the stars and always up … pray that it is not gone “.
28. The Style Council – Life at a Top People’s Health Farm (1988)
The relative commercial failure of Confessions of a Pop Group was certainly not due to the quality of the music it contained – it may be Style Council’s best album. And Life at a Top People’s Heath Farm should have been a bigger hit: soul horn, electronic funk, a fiercely bitter lyric.
27. Paul Weller – Uh Huh Oh Yeh! (Always there to fool you!) (1992)
Where Weller revisits his hometown of Woking in search of inspiration and becomes surprisingly emotional at the sight of the old place – “dear reminders of who I am, the very roots on which I stand”. A fascinating dissemination of place and aging and the bonds that bind, plus its saxophone-driven groove strikes through.
26. Paul Weller – From the Floorboards Up (2005)
Before the radical reinvention of 2008’s 22 Dreams, Weller’s 00’s album was subject to declining artistic returns – not bad, but nothing spectacular. And yet, he could still occasionally pull out something that made you sit up and notice it. From the Floorboards Up, from 2005’s As Is Now, is a short, sharp, exciting – and Jam-like – shock.
25. The Jam – Funeral Pyre (1981)
Well, there are duets like traditionalists do not get enough credit for being experimental. Funeral Pyre has almost no melody, only scattered guitar noise, a relentless fusillade of drums and a furious, still relevant lyrics. “When I stood at the edge / I could see the faces of those who led / pissed in laughter.” A simple, incredible.
24. Paul Weller – The Cranes Are Back (2017)
For an artist who spent the first part of his career fetishizing youth – from “I want to tell you about the young ideas” to Saturday’s children – Weller has carried age exceptionally well. An example: the voice of hard-fought experience, singing harsh, careful southern soul ballad The Cranes Are Back, shakes his head over Alan Kurdi’s death as he walks.
23. Paul Weller – Starlite (2011)
Prominent from Sonik Kicks, Starlite is a delight in its album version – an airy, delightful melody that hovers over scratchy funk guitars, clattering drum machines and a dose of dubby echo. If you want something smoother, the Drop Out Orchestra remix is casual, disco-string-laden, sax-solo-heavy nirvana.
22. Paul Weller – You Do Something to Me (1995)
Yes, that’s the dictionary’s definition of dadrock, complete with footy, kids and the Beatles t-shirt in the video. Yes, it’s a Weller song that could be played on Mellow Magic – a once unthinkable idea. But You Do Something to Me is also a superb bit of songwriting, a really influential lyrics set to a tune so well twisted that it feels like it has always existed.
21. The Jam – Carnation (1982)
The biggest single band of their era – four of them went to No. 1 – Jam were also extremely adept at storing incredible songs away on their albums. An example is Carnation’s gently psychedelic Beatles soul hybrid, which was topped with an extraordinary self-enticing text.
20. Paul Weller – Peacock Suit (1996)
Peacock Suit is a high-water brand by Britpop-era classicist Weller, and Peacock Suit is basically one of the overwhelming check-me-out 60s anthems – I’m the Face; What will you do about it? Rewritten as the troubled Middle Ages. The schmutter is still as sharp as ever, the man inside is “sour as shit … I have no solutions”.
19. The Jam – Tales From the Riverbank (1981)
Pastoral psychedelia of a sort, albeit shot through Weller’s dirty early 80s lens – “life and death are carried in this stream”, he sings – and there is a dark undercurrent to the music. Tales From the Riverbank is the perfect example of Jam’s willingness to release excellent A-quality songs as B-sides.
18. The Style Council – Headstart for Happiness (1983)
That says something about Weller’s determination to prove that Style Council were Not the Jam, that the rap-influenced funk from Money-Go-Round was the single, and Headstart For Happiness – 2min 47 sec pure, 60s soulful joy – was referred to the 12 ”B-side. The best version is at Café Bleu – Weller performed it still live in the 00’s, which testifies to its charm.
17. The Style Council – You’re the Best Thing (1984)
That great Weller love song – at least until You Do Something to Me came to compete – You’re the Best Thing is timelessly beautiful songwriting. In another era, Al Green could have covered it; instead, it was subjected to a spectacularly dripping reading of faintly remembered 90s boyband 911.
16. The Jam – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight (1978)
One thing that made Jam so compelling was the sound of Weller growing up in public. The leap from A Bomb in Wardour Street’s shock-horror ramalama to Down in the Tube Station at midnight – a tightly written short story with a terrifying twist, where the music jumps from tense evocative to cathartic release – is huge.
15. Paul Weller – Push It Along (2008)
Whatever provoked Weller’s artistic face on 22 Dreams, it led to a stream of brilliant songwriting. You can fill half of this chart with selections from that album alone – Sea Spray! Where are you going! – but let’s go with Push It Along: dilapidated, occasionally atonal, crazy key changes and a massive hook.
14. The Jam – English Rose (1978)
English Rose was not listed on the cover of All Mod Cons, suggesting that Weller felt self-conscious about releasing something so nakedly romantic – “no bonds can ever tempt me from her”, he sings over finger-picked acoustic guitar – in the climate evoked of punk. He should not have been: English Rose is musically beautiful, lyrically heartfelt, a great leap forward.
13. The Style Council – Long Hot Summer (1983)
The summer of 1983 was really hot, and the single hit list was oddly enough filled with songs that seemed to soundtrack the weather. Blurred ingeniously and audibly influenced by groundbreaking R&B, Long Hot Summer fit perfectly. Extra characters for the homoerotic video, apparently designed to annoy the fuller aspects of Weller’s fanbase.
12. Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation (2010)
The sound of a man who got brand new energy, at 51, a clammy punky racket that carries Weller’s most touching call to arms for decades. His vocal limits to rotten mockery, everything sounds as if it is on the verge of collapse, there is room for some cod-like moans over the “Facebook”, and it’s all over and done in just under two minutes. Fabulous.
11. Paul Weller – Sunflower (1993)
More than any other song, Sunflower Wellers set course in the 90s, its sound is a harrowing cocktail of the traffic and soul of the Low Spark of High Heeled Boys era. It was a plan he eventually carried out, but it sounds aggressive and fresh here: a great riff, a subtle but effective lift into the chorus.
10. Paul Weller – Rockets (2020)
Weller’s last days exploratory purple patch continues with rapid strides. Rockets, from 2020’s On Sunset, is a song he obviously would not have written 20 years ago – first, you can hear the influence of David Bowie. It’s incredibly powerful, the arrangement swells when the lyrical focus shifts. “All wealth is hidden … yes, have it all, it’s worthless.”
9. The Jam – The Eton Rifles (1979)
The Eton Rifles is an old-fashioned protest song, inspired by a single incident in which unemployed marchers clashed with mocking students from the titular school. But the great power of its anger – and the brilliance of its melody – meant that it long ago slipped its original moorings. Does not matter. The story that provoked it may have been forgotten, but the rage of the song is still burning.
8. Style Council – Walls are falling! (1985)
With one of Weller’s most spectacular opening lines – “You do not have to take this shit” – Walls Come tumbling Down! made him rage against political apathy for a northern soul-backbeat. The chorus is so amazing that it snuck such an uncompromising text as “the class war is genuine and not mythological” into the Top 10.
7. The Jam – A Town Called Malice (1982)
A snapsy, super-smart Motown pastiche that is Ray Davies’ favorite Weller song, which makes sense: a praise for the demise of a Britain ruined by Thatcher’s rise, his early lyrics have disappeared, replaced by sharp lines, evocative images and vid (“I could go on for hours, and I probably will”).
6. The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984)
Choose between the ballad at Café Bleu or the soul-inspired reading of the 70s published as a single. Both are excellent in their own way, the ambivalence of the lyrics and the strong melody (inspired, insists one American critic, by the light-hearted band Classics IV’s 1968 hit Stormy), meaning it works perfectly as either a longing lament or a festive anthem.
5. The Jam – The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) (1982)
“I will never be ashamed of love again,” Weller sang on Monday in the 1980s, and he meant it. The opposite of English Rose’s subdued, no-mind-mind-me performance, The Bitterest Pills’ saga of romantic woe opens with a squeaky, wedding bell-like riff, bringing in dramatic strings, falsetto vocals and an epic chorus. What an amazing single.
4. Paul Weller – Wild Wood (1993)
You can trace the roots of Weller’s folky, bent back to Jam’s English Rose and Liza Radley, but Wild Wood remains its finest flowering. The beautifully understated music suggests getting it together in the country, but – as on Weller favorite Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter – the lyrical setting is distinctly urban. Killer Portishead remix too.
3. Style Council – Shout to the top! (1984)
The greatest Style Council single in the party, an exquisite, orchestrated anthem of resistance and picking yourself up after failure; its video made its message links to the ongoing miners’ strike explicit. Shout out to the top! enjoyed an unexpected afterlife as a Balearic anthem on the early acid house scene.
2. The Jam – Going Underground (1980)
Weller on his most ingenious contrast: appalled by Thatcherism, he writes a song that claims he does not get what “the public wants” and has no interest in the mainstream, and then puts it to his most potent and irresistible melody yet, full of explosive twists and turns. It enters the charts as No. 1.
1. The Jam – That’s Entertainment (1980)
It’s something very close – yes, there are Weller songs that did not make this list that people can easily claim as their favorite, with Strange Town, The Changingman and Speak Like a Child among them – but That’s Entertainment moving to the front. Apparently written in 10 minutes while full, it’s a cynical depiction of working class limitations that also captures a universal sense of longing and limitation – is that all there is? – in a series of blunt, but memorable, images. “Pissing with rain on a boring Wednesday”, “A hot summer day and sticky black asphalt”, “Watching TV and thinking about your holiday”. To put it bluntly: what a fucking good song.
An Orchestrated Songbook: Paul Weller with Jules Buckley and the BBC Symphony Orchestra will be released on December 10 on Polydor Records