Suburban 100 – Selected Lyrics
By Paul Weller
Arrow Books – £8.99
He’s not Bob Dylan, but Paul Weller has always had a credible knack for homing in on what effervescently, truly matters. Naturally, as he’s matured, so too has his penchant for ambiguity, along with an increasingly denser and some might say, refined form of lyrical story telling. But what has always remained and budged not one iota is the songwriter’s Englishness.
Lest it be said that Paul Weller is ineradicably English. From his accent to his observation(s), from his choice of words to his dress sense, from his inherently British musical influence(s) right through to his mid-sixties mod haircut. It’s no surprise he’s from Woking. It’s no surprise that the entire fibre of his (musical) intellect, is both derived from, and drenched in Englishness – far more so than The Beatles.
In fact, far more so than any other British artist; with the possible exceptions of The Small Faces and perhaps The Who – both of whom, Weller remains a huge fan of to this very day. All of which is invariably verified and clarified within the pages of Suburban 100 – Selected Lyrics. Whether at the forefront of The Jam, with The Style Council or as a solo artist, everything Weller does is more than anchored within the high-octane parameters of what it means (to him) to be English; none more so than during his tenure with one of the finest British bands of the past thirty years, The Jam.
On 1979’s ‘Saturday’s Kids,’ he sings:
Save up their money for a holiday
To Selsey Bill or Bracklesham Bay
Think about the future when they’ll settle down
Marry the girl next door with one on the way
From the word ‘holiday’ to the final five words ‘’with one on the way,’’ to the two geographical locations in West Sussex, everything mentioned here (and throughout much of this book) is quintessentially English.
As such, these lyrics are a snapshot of England and everything that that entails – good and bad – and there’s much to be said for both.
Just one of many fine social examples being 1982’s ‘Just Who Is The Five O’ Clock Hero?’ on which Weller observes:
Hello darlin’, I’m home again
Covered in shit and aches and pains
Too knackered to think so give me time to come round
Just give me the living room beat to the TV sound
My hard-earned dough goes on bills and the larder
And that Prince Philip tells us we gotta work harder!
It seems a constant struggle just to exist
Scrimping and saving and crossing off lists
One of the most interesting and candid aspects of Suburban 100 – Selected Lyricsis that of Weller’s own footnotes to each and every song. For instance, of the aforementioned, he writes: ‘’This comes from seeing my Dad come back from the building site, exhausted, always struggling for money to make ends meet. At the time, Prince Philip had just told the ordinary man he needed to pull his socks up and make bit more of an effort… but you never did see Phil on the hod, did you?’’
Apart from placing so many ifs and buts of just some of Paul Weller’s lyrics into lucid perspective, it’s great to have them all in one place (at the same time).