The top 10 best Paul Weller songs, as chosen by Stone Foundation's Neil Jones
Stone Foundation frontman Neil Jones chooses the best moments from collaborator and long-time inspiration Paul Weller
It's the stuff dreams are made of. Early last year, as he began work on Stone Foundation's fourth album, frontman Neil Jones received a phone call. On the other end of the line was bona fide legend and British rock stalwart Paul Weller, asking Neil if he fancied collaborating. A lifelong Weller fan, Jones naturally jumped at the opportunity.
The rest, as they say, is history. Weller joined the Midlands group as they set to work crafting new album Street Rituals, taking on production duties as well as landing a couple of co-write credits.
To celebrate their creative collaboration, we caught up with Neil Jones to hear his definitive Paul Weller tracks.
Going Underground (single, 1980)
Neil Jones: "I had a wonderful upbringing as a kid. My dad’s record collection was a constant source of eclectic inspiration to me. I was too young to really catch The Jam and bands of that generation as they broke, but what I missed out on as a five-year-old, my dad would make up for with records and impromptu pogoing sessions in the front room when I was around eight. I distinctly remember requesting three songs a lot as an impressionable young boy: Going Underground, Man In A Suitcase by The Police and Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin. Me and the old man would recreate a mosh pit in and amongst the living room furniture to the amusement of my mother, as we leapt, jostled and whooped “la la la la”, eyes wild and smiles wide! It’s a beautiful memory deeply connected to that high-energy song. Released by a 22-year-old genius with a fire in his belly. The single to end all singles!"
Shadow Of The Sun (from Wild Wood, 1993)
NJ: "At this point my life is completely overrun by my love of all things mod. The Small Faces, The Who, The Action, Weller; I’m completely obsessed. It’s all-consuming, from the clothes I wear, the haircut I’m rocking and the way I walk down the street. Anyone who experienced the resurgence of that scene in the 90s will understand – it was absolutely everything to me. You lived and breathed it. This tune would always be waiting on the turntable when I came home from a raucous Saturday night out. 'I plan to have it all while I’m still young' usually accompanied the sun coming up, and that never-ending teenage desire to grasp every ounce of life from a boozy, drug-fuelled night out! [Weller] was the main man for me as a kid. Those first three records were the catalyst and driving force behind my first band. It was songs like this that made me realise how much I wanted to be a singer and guitarist."
Frightened (from Heliocentric, 2000)
NJ: "One of Paul’s great piano ballads highlighting the vulnerability I guess we all feel as we stumble our way through life. He has such an amazingly deft touch when it comes to tapping into raw emotions and basic human feelings, you can hear it in so much of his great work. That’s the trait of an amazing songwriter for me – you almost feel like the song you’re listening to has always been there lurking in the back of your mind somewhere. I wanted to tap into some of the sentiments on Frightened with Back In Game on the Street Rituals album. I’d spoken with Paul at the turn of the year prior to starting that song and we’d had a long chat about Heliocentric and what a tremendous and sometimes overlooked record I thought it was. Frightened in particular was a track I pretty much wore the grooves out on. It transports you to another place and time, ebbing and flowing like curtains blowing through an open window on a summer morning. At some point you need to leave that tranquility and step outside to face the world."
Down In The Seine (From The Style Council's Our Favourite Shop, 1985)
NJ: "Lyrically wonderful and musically compelling, I always loved this Style Council gem. It wasn’t until Paul revisited it on his Days Of Speed album that I began to play the track a lot at home on my acoustic. You really appreciate the craft and beauty within a song when you start to perform, feel and sing it. We went back to Paul’s about a month ago to play through some tunes and I shouted this one up as something I’d love to sing. He was as enthusiastic as always and even pulled me up on a slight chord change I’d been getting wrong. Another 'pinch yourself' moment followed with Paul playing piano as the band swung along to the song's Parisian vibe. We recorded a really energetic live version actually and, who knows, it may one day see the light of day."
That’s Entertainment (single by The Jam, 1980)
NJ: " Besides the video being as cool as fuck, this record really taps into my love of Paul’s descriptive and lyrical genius: 'A police car and a screaming siren/A pneumatic drill and ripped up concrete/A baby wailing and stray dog howling/The screech of brakes and lamp light blinking.' It’s as good as it gets really. It tapped into that Beatles Revolver sound (my favourite Beatles record), and combined it with Dylan-esque lyrics. You can almost feel the damp rising and the cold air within those council houses. I guess that’s because that’s where we came from, that was our lot in life, our beginnings; he was talking about all the families I knew and grew up with, he was talking about my early life!"
Push It Along (from 22 Dreams, 2008)
NJ: "Taken from Paul’s wonderful 22 Dreams album. I remember we managed to get a copy of this record way in advance of it actually being released to play at our studio. It was like opening the arc of the covenant, twists and turns galore; experiments, loops and this glorious urgent Technicolour tune that never ceased coming at you. I do a lot of road running to clear my mind – it’s the time music and ideas tend to come to me. Push It Along has become an iPod favourite of mine over the years, able to pull you back from the depths of exhaustion in an instant. It’s a tune that makes you feel like you’ve had 20 cans of Red Bull. Heart-racing, exciting music."
Pink On White Walls (from Stanley Road, 1995)
NJ: "Stanley Road, in my mind, is a faultless record. From the wonderful Peter Blake cover which captures timeless images of Aretha [Franklin] and Georgie Best, to the immaculate music captured within that beautiful sleeve. It’s a work of art from start to finish, and I guess I could have chosen any of its 12 tracks. I went for Pink On White Walls because of its Traffic-like swagger, created in part by Steve Winwood's soulful piano playing and, of course, Paul’s poetic lyrics. This record transports me to lazy Sunday afternoons in quintessentially English gardens, as the heat from a summer's day lingers in the air before the sun drops from view. A majestic piece of songwriting from a perfect record."
Walls Come Tumbling Down (From The Style Council's Our Favourite Shop, 1985)
NJ: "Taken from my favourite Style Council record, Our Favourite Shop, this 1985 soul-stomper instantly captured the attention of the burgeoning 10-year-old soul fan in me. A call to arms and a song as relevant today as it was back then – “You don’t have to take this crap! You don’t have to sit back and relax! You can actually try to change it!” I guess there was a definite element of some of the sentiments Paul tapped into with The Style Council on the new Stone Foundation record. There seems to be so little of that written in music today; music with a message, music to make you think a little. Walls is a plea for communities and people to pull together, to try to make a difference. We as people have so much power when we pull together, if we could only put aside our divisions and disagreements we could make a brighter future. I think Marvin or Curtis would have been overjoyed to have written a song like this, I guess that’s the highest compliment I can give this tune. It’s a bona fide modern soul classic!"
From The Floorboards Up (from As Is Now, 2005)
NJ: "I love the spiteful Wilco-style guitar chops on this record – you can only really get that sound from a Telecaster. It’s a beautifully simplistic floor-shaker that makes you skip back and hit the repeat button time and time again. There’s some really nice production on As Is Now as well, another beautiful record from start to finish. Having worked so closely with Paul on our new record, this tune kind of sums up his personality for me. He’s constantly coming up with suggestions, sparking like an indoor firework and when he gets in the moment and the ideas start flowing you know it’s time to buckle up and start running with it."
Bull-Rush (from Paul Weller, 1992)
NJ: "From the psychedelic Small Faces opening, this tune captures a songwriter full of fire and passion for the new chapter ahead in his life. You can sense the excitement in the music as he gets ready to set sail towards his solo career. The musical references are beautiful in this tune, it's almost like he’s rediscovering some of the music so dear to him. I was extremely fortunate that my dad would take me to see Paul whenever he came to the midlands, and sometimes, if I was lucky, to London. This was always the live track that seemed to ignite the blue touch paper and send the show into overdrive. I learnt so much about stage craft from going to see Paul as a kid. He’s one of those artists that always makes you feel like he’s giving everything for you at a gig. I think that’s so important, to play like it could be your last time up there. It’s an absolute privilege to play in front of an audience, I think he taught me that more than anyone else."
Street Rituals is released on March 31st. You can catch Stone Foundation on tour at the following dates:
31 Mar: London, Royal Albert Hall, UK (supporting Paul Weller)
27 Apr: Bristol, The Fleece, UK
28 Apr: Manchester, The Ruby Lounge, UK
29 Apr: Norwich, Norwich Arts Centre, UK
05 May: Coventry, The Empire, UK (with special guests Street Rituals Orchestra)
06 May: Brighton, Concorde 2, UK
12 May: Leeds, The Wardrobe, UK
13 May: London, Islington Assembly Hall, UK (with special guests Street Rituals Orchestra)
18 May: Newcastle, The Cluny Tickets, UK
19 May: Edinburgh, Voodoo Rooms, UK