July 24th 2008 04:23
I'm going to see the great man perform a solo show at Sydney's Enmore Theatre in August and needless to say I am one excited little cookie. As a little tribute to the songwriting genius of the former Jam and Style Council frontman and one of the most influential British musicians of all time, I am going to be posting on some of his greatest achievements, both with the aforementioned groups and as a solo artist.
And where better to start than with the Jam's best known song, Town Called Malice ?
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life -
cos it's the one we'll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus -
cos those rosey days are few
And - stop apologising for the things you've never done,
Cos time is short and life is cruel -
but it's up to us to change
This town called malice.
Rows and rows of disused milk floats
stand dying in the dairy yard
And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk
bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
fast and furious
In a town called malice.
Struggle after struggle - year after year
The atmosphere's a fine blend of ice -
I'm almost stone cold dead
In a town called malice.
A whole street's belief in Sunday's roast beef
gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear
It's a big decision in a town called malice.
Ghost of a steam train - echoes down my track
It's at the moment bound for nowhere -
just going round and round, Ohh
Playground kids and creaking swings -
lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will -
but I'd sooner put some joy back
In this town called malice.
When I was kid in the eighties, I thought this song was called A Town Called Alice, as in the Aussie town calledAlice Springs and the book of the same name. And whilst Paul Weller did indeed draw inspiration from the title of Neville Shute's novel, it is not about life in the Australian outback.
There is actually no town called "malice" (well maybe there is but that is not what Paul Weller is singing about), rather the song is about life in a working class English suburb. A Town Called Malice deals with Weller's experiences with unemployment, poverty and despair as a teenager in urban England.
"It could have been written about any suburban town" Said Weller, "but it was in fact written about my hometown of Woking." (1000 UK Number Hits)
The lyrics point to a uniquely British view of working class life, with lines such as "A whole street's belief in Sunday's roast beef gets dashed against the Co-op", which left American listener's scratching their heads in puzzlement. Hence, the song, whilst reaching number 1 in the UK, failed to chart in the States. But like millions of fans, I'm glad Weller and The Jam did not compromise their storytelling for the sake of commercial success. His is a distinct British voice, describing aspects of British culture and as such his influence on subsequent British artists has been immense. And whilst those of us who are not British may not be able to relate to all the incidents he relates, very few of us cannot relate to the daily struggle of simply trying to get by.
My favourite line in this song is "To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear
It's a big decision in a town called malice". There are so many layers in these lyrics. It can be read as an indictment to the tendency of some parents to put their alcohol dependence ahead of their children's needs, but primarily it is a heart-wrenching reference to the hopelessness felt by these working class folk. Not enough money to make ends meet and only the numbing effects of alcohol to make the pain tolerable.
Bands who draw or drew inspiration from Weller include The Stone Roses and britpop darlings Blur and Oasis. He is also still affectionately referred to as The Modfather, for his role as the most prominent figure in the 1970s Mod revival.