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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What the Mod Father Knows

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Paul Weller, the stylish and legendary singer/songwriter who founded both The Jam and Style Council famously worked through his milestone [50th] birthday last year. His life and career were chronicled over the course of his turning 50 by Britain's UNCUT magazine. So, it is actually no surprise to me, the calendar watcher, that Weller's 51st birthday on May 25, went unsung - even by me. Those aren't the kind of anniversaries acknowledged by the Mod Father.

On a more somber note, it is difficult to mark Paul Weller's recent entry into the 5-decade club with humor. Last month, the senior Weller, John, Paul's dad, who was very much a part of the Weller music machine since day one, passed away. They were best mates, father and son and manager and client... inseparable men who closed each hard day's night by sharing a pint.

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I recall sharing an evening at the bar with the Wellers - John, Paul and Paul's wife. It was October 2003 and Paul performed at NYC's Town Hall. Afterwards, I headed back to their hotel bar with Yep Roc head honcho Glenn Dicker [who released Weller's records at the time] for the nightly wind-down.

When Paul and I began to regale Glenn with stories of early punk rock days including the 1976/77 Jam experiences in Los Angeles, John Weller joined in... the man remembered the events of his son's career with a combination of paternal pride and keen managerial attention to detail.

The Wellers combined their personal and professional lives side by side for more than 30 years. My heartfelt condolences go out to Paul.

Just last week, Paul was to receive the UK's Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award but declined to attend the ceremonies and accept the award as he was still mourning the loss of his beloved father, John.

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"In the city, there's a thousand things I wanna say to you..."

So began Weller's anthem from his days fronting The Jam. it is a song that punk rockers and young people in general cleaved to for its proclamation that hearkened back to a Pete Townshend sentiment about the younger generation.

And I know what you're thinking
You still think I am crap
But you'd better listen man
Because the kids know where it's at

Nine years ago, Paul Weller was 42 and well established and respected as a legend even then. He's a man who uses his power for good and still understands that the kids know where its at. He invited a band that impressed him to open his show at Earl's Court... a venue that holds 20,000. That band - the particular kids who knew where its at was The Shazam, from Tennessee, USA.

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Paul Weller learns the chords to The Move's "Beautiful Daughter" by watching Hans Rotenberry of the Shazam [photo by Tracey Maloney... I THINK]

On May 29, 2000 [I am a couple days ahead of this anniversary] at London's Abbey Road studios, The Shazam performed on the show Music Live joined by members of a band that influenced them greatly - The Move.

The Shazam's Mick Wilson, The Move's Carl Wayne, RIP; The Shazam's Hans Rotenberry, Bev Bevan of The Move and ELO, Jeremy Asbrock of The Shazam

Just as Paul Weller could in The Jam and Style Council combine his musical love of 60s British invasion pop and Motown R n B with his own punk rock-era sensibilities to create a distinctive voice and sound, so do The Shazam. Drinking in the cumulative music and cultural influences - some of the very same that touched Weller's craft - Hans Rotenberry and his band deliver a pop with a lot of power, a rock that rolls and the same non-stop energy that rock n roll had when it was new, that punk rock revitalized.

What does the Mod Father know? He knows plenty but most important, I've always believed that Paul Weller knew to trust his musical instincts and always play and write what felt good regardless of the genre. At the end of the day, its the ultimate punk rock statement and act - Do Anything You Wanna Do... thanks to Ed Hollis for taking a Rabelaisian dicta and making it punk for Eddie and the Hot Rods... the Mod Father knew in 2000 that The Shazam were a band to watch, and he's right.

Look for a new Shazam record later this year.

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