Operating out of an office located deep in the recesses of Buckingham Palace is a covert organization of artistically minded individuals that govern and regulate the art, artists, and entertainment content that is released to the United States. This organization known as E.A.T.M.E (Englanders Against The Music Exportation) has been in existence since the 1960’s, and is considered to be the sole ruling body in determining which artists are released to the unsuspecting U.S. public. Their mission is to keep the good stuff within the realm and export the rest.
The Beatles were a “canary in a coal mine” test project where they sent the fab four across the pond to expose the Americans to good music to the point they would want more. This was kind of like a drug dealer giving away free samples to get their clients hooked on the product. Once it became clear that the response to this group was going to be overwhelming, just to mess with them, they sent Benny Hill followed by Monty Python knowing full well it would take the Americans 20 years to discover how brilliant this band of comedic heavyweights really were (Monty Python NOT Benny Hill).
The membership of this elite yet diabolical band of merry music mavens has been shrouded in mystery and a closely guarded secret for more than 50 years. It is rumored that Cliff Richard is an original member, a theory that might make sense since no one has heard from the guy in 30 years. In 1977, a story was circulating that Marc Bolan was still alive and his death was staged in order to ensconce him as a permanent “mystery” member of the team. Many U.S. music critics that follow the “underground railroad” migration of talent consider the arrival of Boy George as supporting the theory that the T-Rex front man is pulling some of the strings as a member of the Glam Rock committee. The band “The Darkness” was clearly his doing, which thankfully, in a rare demonstration of mercy, he pulled the plug on after only a few painful years.
The organization has a permanent presence in The Palace and also meets once a quarter to determine which artists are going to be released to the unsuspecting American public. At the end of the meeting there is a breakout session where the “legacy” picks are decided upon. A legacy pick is an artist that has been previously considered for exportation, yet has been deemed to be too good to share with the rest of the world.
This recount process is responsible for Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Rod Stewart. As in Stewarts case not all selections are winners. Each year the “cream of the crop” is held back. Joe Jackson, Robyn Hitchcock, Paul Weller, and Nick Cave are just a few of the talented artists that have been held back over the years. It is rumored that Nick Cave was actually traded for Tom Waits back in 1986. The trade was revised however when committee members heard Nick Cave’s brilliant cover version of “The Long Black Veil”. Since the genii was already out of the bottle, the U.K. got to keep Tom Waits, and in a deal more lopsided than the one where the American Indians sold Manhattan for a handful of beads George Michael and Wham were sent across the pond in return.
The best of the lot and the Artist that has been the most shamelessly ignored in the United States is Paul Weller. Paul Weller is arguably the coolest, most stylish, influential British artist over the last three decades with the coolest nickname in rock, “The Modfather”. Bursting on the scene in 1977 as lead singer of The Jam, Paul Weller fronted one of the most popular English bands of the punk era. Their four #1 hits in the U.K. apparently weren’t enough to get them noticed outside of their own neighborhood. The song “A Town Called Malice” is brilliant and could have been a number one hit anywhere, even on the planet Mars given the exposure it deserved. Paul disbanded the group in 1982 and formed The Style Council. This band was a marked departure in sound and style and as a result was not all that well received even in their own country.
The Style Council did give Weller a chance to spread his musical wings and explore several different genres including Jazz and R & B with a heavy dash of soul thrown in for good measure. It was this experimentation in musical textures that has formed the core of Much of Paul Weller’s solo work that would come later including his eponymous release Paul Weller. This album showcased his Curtis Mayfield pipes and is a smooth, soulful album with an effortless feeling production job and horns in just the right places. In other words a great springboard and window as to what we could expect in the future from this musical genius.
.. And then came Wildwood
And, in the words of the aforementioned Monty Python, it was a case of : ” And now for something completely different ! “
Wildwood was a big departure for Weller. For the first time there’s a feeling that he was willing to stretch out a little bit, let the songs go to new places rather than stay within the tight structures he’d worked with previously. It doesn’t really feel like an album that was worked on much before entering the studio, more a case of getting in there, picking up a guitar and saying “right, let’s see what happens next !” That’s a feeling that’s evoked by the 2/3 short instrumental tracks which serve as a kind of pastoral glue, holding things together.
Released just as the Britpop phenomenon was about to kick off, it sounds absolutely nothing like any of those bands. Oasis, Blur and the rest took major inspiration from 60’s music but our man had already been there/done that years before, he’d had his Small Faces period, now it was time for some Humble Pie ! Oh and Traffic, Nick Drake, Van Morrison etc. etc. Which is to say that this one found Weller channeling a whole new set of influences, artists that by his own admission he’d previously dismissed as “hippy bollocks”. He was listening to a lot of different stuff now and was willing to let it seep into the music he was making and it’s all the better for it.
This was really the album that put him back on the map, it received a lot of attention and fantastic reviews. His debut solo album, released just a year earlier had been snapped up by the loyal fans but didn’t really connect with a wider audience the way Wildwood managed to, this one made an impact and became the catalyst for his subsequent years of (massive) success. It certainly helped to fire up the man’s creative juices, his next single “Hung Up” was a beauty and has subsequently been added to all copies of Wildwood..
Paul Weller’s next album was Stanley Road, a superb effort which went on to become his best-selling (to date), and he’s forged ahead since then, staying fresh and innovative, always willing to try something new. Maybe it’s time some more of us were joining him on his journey……….
— By Walt Falconer & Stephen Dalrymple
- Sunflower 4:06
- Can You Heal Us (Holy Man) 3:41
- Wild Wood 3:22
- Instrumental, Pt.1 1:37
- All the Pictures on the Wall 3:56
- Has My Fire Really Gone Out? 3:50
- Country 3:39
- Instrumental Two 0:49
- 5th Season 4:54
- The Weaver 3:43
- Instrumental One, Pt. 2 0:34
- Foot of the Mountain 3:37
- Shadow of the Sun 7:36
- Holy Man (Reprise) 1:50
- Moon on Your Pyjamas 3:59
- Hung Up 2:40
- Paul Weller – vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Jacko Peake -flute
- Dee C. Lee – vocals
- David Liddle – guitar
- Brendan Lynch – Moog synthesizer, percussion
- Maxton G. Beesley, Jr. – wurlitzer, vocals
- Marco Nelson – bass, guitar, keyboards. vocals
- Helen Turner – organ
- Steve White – drums
- Robert Howard – guitar
- Steve Cradock – guitar
- Simon Fowler – vocals
- Yolanda Charles – bass
- Mick Talbot – Hammond organ