Weller’s sound and aesthetic evolved significantly when in 1982, he shut down The Jam at the height of their success
and popularity to build a completely new combo, The Style Council. True to their chi-chi moniker, the band — led by
Weller and keyboardist Mick Talbot — adopted a soft’n’smooth sartorial approach utterly in keeping with the slickly
produced, jazzy blue-eyed soul the group issued on vinyl, cassette, and the spanking new compact disc format.
Weller continued to write conscious songs, notably ‘Soul Deep’, a 1984 charity record raising money for striking
miners. (Sample lyrics: “Don’t say this struggle does not involve you / If you’re from the working class this is
your struggle too…We can’t afford to let the government win / It means the end of trade unions”.) But his most
influential and memorable output of the period came in the form of crisp R&B-jazz-pop hits like ‘The Paris
Match’, ‘Shout To The Top!’ and ‘You’re The Best Thing’ — smoky, cokey, sophisticated tunes endlessly spun by
Thatcherite yuppies on their state-of-the-art CD players.
When the 1990s arrived, The Style Council adjourned, and Weller underwent another catharsis, becoming first an avatar
for the burgeoning acid jazz movement, which combined jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop and electronica, then a mentor to
the emerging Britpop cognoscenti. He developed an ongoing friendship with sometime collaborator, Noel Gallagher of
Oasis, who has called Weller “fucking amazing” and admits to remaining shaky in the company of such a legend. (Noel
says despite his greatness, Weller remains a solid, down-to-earth human being. “I’ve seen a kid come up to him once
and say, at a pub outside ours, ‘I really like that shirt’ and [Weller] just took it off and gave it him and then
sat in the pub topless...for the rest of the day,” Gallagher recounted of one man-of-the-people moment.)
Swapping jazz and soul for a Neil Young-influenced rock-folksiness, Weller enjoyed some of his biggest critical and
commercial success in the mid-to late-1990s with the albums Wild Wood, Stanley Road, and Heavy
Soul. The man they call ‘The Modfather’ continues to look and sound great two decades later, at age 59, with 13
solo albums under his belt, the most recent released earlier this year. His sound and personal style keep evolving,
and unlike many pushing sexagenarian status, Weller remains engaged with ‘the now’.
“I’m still a fan of music. I’m not really one of those people who thinks the best days have gone, or music was better
30 to 40 years ago. I don’t really buy that, man,” he told The Observer a few months ago. “There’s still
great music being made, it’s just getting to hear it most of the time. Being open to it, really. I know a lot of
people my age who are still really stuck in the ’80s or the ’70s, whatever their time was. But as a musician, I like
hearing what else is happening, being turned on to whatever it may be.”
Weller’s material is less obviously activist than it once was. But that’s because, as he sadly told Mojo, “nothing’s
fucking changed”, so his classic stuff stands — those old Jam tunes say whatever needed (or needs) to be said. A
stylistic shapeshifter, Weller’s never been one for repeating himself. “People say, ‘Why don’t you write any more
political songs?’ But I would just write exactly the same fucking things I wrote 30-odd years ago.” There’d be
nothing particularly modernist about that, now, would there?