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The Modfather: Being a Paul Weller fan for two decades requires a lot of patience.

Biter

Paul Bearer

By Todd Inoue

PAUL WELLER WAS the leader of English punk-rock gods the Jam (1977-82) and boho soul group the Style Council (1983-88). Since 1991, he's enjoyed a prosperous solo career. The following is a true account of 21 years of intermittent fandom.

To Be Someone, 1982: I'm a junior at Branham High, and writing mentor/buddy Jamie Welton hands me a copy of the Jam's Sound Affects and Dig the New Breed. Interest piqued, I buy an import copy of All Mod Cons, and it becomes intense study and decompression music. The band promptly breaks up that winter. Weller quickly reappears in Style Council with ex-Dexy's Midnight Runners member Mick Talbot. Introducing the Style Council is released, and its lazy jazz and white-boy soul takes me to another level.

That's Entertainment, 1983: At Lisa Caldwell's house party, I make out with a friend's sister to the Style Council tracks which play on a tiny boombox I brought from home. These were the days before auto-reverse, so I perform intricate tape flipping mid-tongue flex.

Pretty Green, 1984: Upstart Crow, Campbell. At the time, the Crow was the epitome of snooty cafe culture; today, it's sorely missed. I pick up a copy of Colin MacInnes' novel Absolute Beginners, a huge influence on Weller. I buy a cappuccino and try to look arty. The book rivals an advanced trig text in its complexity, and the cappuccino tastes like battery acid. Contemplating the mod lifestyle, I realize I have no fashion sense, don't know how to ride a scooter and am hopelessly Japanese-American and middle class. To compensate, I become obsessed with the music. I plaster stickers on my red 1973 VW Bug. I spot a similarly decorated vehicle on Meridian, and we pull over and talk. One of the girls gets out and dances in the street to "Billy Hunt." We exchange numbers.

Cost of Loving, 1984: West Valley College, Saratoga. The Style Council singles "My Ever-Changing Moods" and "You're the Best Thing" are released, and people who wouldn't have known them now suddenly do, including a superhot WVC classmate. I lace her with tapes and rare B-sides, and she surprises me at school by wearing a shocking-pink camisole with the words "The Style Council" stamped in gooey electric green lettering. I, I don't know what to think.

My Ever-Changing Moods, 1986-90: Spend days combing record stores for rarities, posters, magazines. TSC's Cost of Loving comes out, and it's pretty damn weak. I find a copy of the pointless long-form video Jerusalem, and I consider dumping my entire Council collection. The Confessions of a Pop Group album is released, and I can't be bothered. At Star Records I notice a copy of TSC's final gasp, the house foray "Promise Land" on 12," which I rescue from the bargain bin. I don't even recognize them anymore.

The Changing Man, 1991-93: Weller comes to the States for a week's worth of solo shows in L.A. My girlfriend at the time (hi, Betty!) buys tickets. The show is amazing, filled with Jam classics as well as Style Council joints. A year later, the mod father plays another solo show in L.A., this one at the cavernous Greek Auditorium. The line of vintage Italian scooters on Figueroa is an amazing sight.

I catch the tail end of Weller's San Francisco show. We decide to wait outside to catch a glimpse. The minute the side doors open, he bolts straight into a cab and onto Market Street, tailed by at least 20 scooters. Bastards!

Happy Together, 1994-97: Betty and I get married. We briefly consider "You're the Best Thing" as a first dance but decide instead on Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Baby." A crucial decision, but one validated as Weller releases increasingly boring (to me) Wild Wood and Stanley Road. After 1997's thoroughly lame Heavy Soul, I slam the door on Weller again.

The Modern World, 1998-2003: Interest in the Jam and Style Council is rekindled as retrospective box sets are released, and I fall in line. A Jam tribute album, Fire & Skill, is released; Buffalo Tom's version of "Going Underground" is genius. The Complete Jam DVD makes my Christmas wish list. Jan. 4 at Z. Gallerie in Palo Alto, the Style Council's "Headstart for Happiness" plays over the in-store music system, inducing a flood of mixed memories where nostalgic toe-tapping and lip-syncing trump bitterness and betrayal.


Paul Weller plays Feb. 8 at the Warfield Theatre. Tickets are $25 and available through Ticketmaster (408.998.TIXS).


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From the January 16-22, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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