Paul Weller

As the leader of the Jam, Paul Weller fronted the most popular
British band of the punk era, influencing legions of English
rockers that ranged from his mod-revival contemporaries to the
Smiths in the '80s and Oasis in the '90s. During the final days of
the Jam, he developed a fascination with Motown and soul,
which led him to form the sophisti-pop group the Style Council
in 1983. As the Style Council's career progressed, Weller's
interest in soul developed into an infatuation with jazz-pop and
house music, which eventually led to gradual erosion of his
audience -- by 1990, he couldn't get a record contract in the
UK, where he had previously been worshipped as a demi-god.
As a solo artist, Weller returned to soul music as an inspiration, cutting it with the progressive, hippie
tendencies of Traffic. Weller's solo records were more organic and rootsier than the Style Council,
which helped him regain his popularity within Britain. By the mid-'90s, he had released three
successful albums which were both critically-acclaimed and massively popular in England, where
contemporary bands like Ocean Colour Scene were citing him as an influence. Just as importantly,
many observers, while occasionally criticizing the trad-rock nature of his music, acknowledged that
Weller was one of the few rock veterans that had managed to stay vital within the second decade of
his career.
Weller's climb back to the top of the charts was not easy. After Polydor rejected the Style Council's
fifth, house-influenced album in 1989, Weller broke up the group and lost both his record contract
and his publishing deal. Over the next two years, he was in seclusion as he revamped his music. In
1991, he formed the Paul Weller Movement and released "Into Tomorrow" on his own independent
label, Freedom High Records. A soulful, gritty neo-psychedelic song that represented a clear break
from the Style Council, "Into Tomorrow" reached the UK Top 40 that spring, and he supported the
single with an international tour, where he worked out the material that comprised his eponymous
1992 solo debut. Recorded with producer Brendan Lynch, Paul Weller was a joyous, soulful return
to form that was recorded with several members of the Young Disciples, former Blow Monkey Dr.
Robert, and Weller's then-wife, Dee C. Lee. The album debuted at number eight on the UK charts,
and was received with positive reviews.
Wild Wood, Weller's second solo album, confirmed that the success of his solo debut was no fluke.
Recorded with Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock, Wild Wood was a more eclectic and
ambitious effort than its predecessor, and it was greeted with enthusiastic reviews, and entered the
charts at number two upon its fall 1993 release. The album would win the Ivor Novello Award for
"Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection" the following year. Weller supported the album with
an extensive tour, which featured Craddock as the group's leader; the guitarist's exposure on Wild
Wood helped him successfully relaunch Ocean Colour Scene in 1995. At the end of the tour, Weller
released the live album, Live Wood late in 1994. Preceded by "The Changingman," which became
his 17th Top 10 hit, 1995's Stanley Road was his most successful album since the Jam, entering the
charts at number one and eventually selling nearly a million copies in the UK. By this point, Weller
decided to stop attempting to break the United States and cancelled his North American tour. Of
course, he was doing so well in the England he didn't need to set his sights outside of the UK.
Stanley Road may have been greeted with mixed reviews, but Weller had been re-elevated to his
status as an idol, with the press claiming that he was the father of the thriving Brit-pop movement,
and artists like Noel Gallagher of Oasis singing his praises. In fact, while neither artist released a new
album in 1996, Weller and Gallagher's influence was felt throughout the British music scene, as
roots-oriented, '60s bands like Ocean Colour Scene, Cast, and Kula Shaker became the most
popular groups in the UK.
Weller returned in the summer of 1997 with Heavy Soul. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine,
All-Music Guide