Monday, October 26, 2009

Old silver heirs

Those who are fans of Paul Weller would know that his father and manager of some 30 years, John Weller, passed away earlier this year. He was 77, or 78. Paul Weller has gone on to say that his dad was the best drinking buddy anyone could ever have. But it's quite obvious he was more than just a drinking buddy, and much more than a maverick rock manager even. The man was just plain extraordinary. There he was, uneducated, a worker, a former boxer, turned into one of Britain's most successful and enduring rock managers, charting and following the path his son led as one of Britain's most loved performers and songwriters.

People will associate the immensely musical and talented Paul Weller as the star with his incredible body of recorded work, his awesome live shows and his perpetual suave mod looks and fashion sense. Yet John Weller had that extra-special something, you just have to watch and listen to him talk on videos to see that. He appeared to possess a most convincing psycho-physical presence. With his large, handsome face and big hair, and his persuasive manner of speaking, he was just so captivating. He was blunt, forceful, passionate, gruffly-spoken, and to the point. He had no vestiges of useless intellectualism whatsoever, and he spoke in a kind of broad cockney. But he was smart, very much so. Not all men and women are created equal. This doesn't only apply to talent and ability, but also to presence and personal power. Some people have more pull than others, a certain kind of charisma that you can't help but be swayed and captivated by that person. John Weller had that charisma, totally. That's why, in the space of under five years, he was able to get his son up on the local workers club stage at age 14 to have him headline the Hammersmith Odeon not long after his 19th birthday. "Give my son a gig!" "yessir". Pure working-class street-smarts and bluntness certainly served he and his family a long way. Paul's mum has it too. Paul was amazingly lucky to have the parents he had, and when you look at it, he and his dad made the perfect team, the perfect duo. Each of them, with their unique talents and abilities, have served each other well.

It takes a kind of boundless energy and unerring dedication to do the kind of thing John Weller did for his son's band, The Jam. John was a brickie during the Jam's formative period and he managed the band outside of work hours. But whatever he did for Paul and the band, it worked. Paul not only fronted Britain's most successful band of the era, but managed three distinct careers with John as manager for each of them. Most critically it was John, with his boundless enthusiasm, who kept the Jam going during its sometimes shaky formative years. His was the mind and body of the doer, not the intellectualiser or the pontificator. He was certainly no Hamlet. Nothing ventured nothing gained, being his motto.

I remember my old man when I was growing up and he held similar traits to John Weller. My dad was a brickie too with a very handsome face and big head of silver hair. He was everyone's mate and he always had loads of friends, and his was a gruff, direct manner. The difference between someone like John Weller and my dad was that my dad was very musical himself - and I've inherited my musicality and passion from him - and that my dad was a very sensitive man, although he would never show it. The other difference between John Weller and my father is that my dad was not close to me or the rest of us in the family. He wasn't demonstrable, and sadly he preferred to sozzle himself at the pub on a nightly basis. But if he enjoyed himself, all the best to him.

It all comes back to intelligence and smarts without the unnecessary intellectualism. Neither of my parents - like a lot who fled their war-torn Mediterranean homelands at a young age - had formal schooling. Yet they were both smart, smarter than me that's for sure. My mum had (has) innate poise and wisdom, dad a natural intelligence and social nous.

My dad's sister, my late-auntie Angelina was a true case in point. She lived in farms throughout her time in Australia. A softly-spoken demure thing she certainly ain't never was; she had a loud voice even when speaking softly, but when she spoke loudly or yelled - which was often - she could be heard on farms all the way from Griffith to Wagga and back again. She was amazing for her verbal capacity. She was sharp, witty, cheeky, and masterful with language (albeit Calabrese) though she barely read and had no real schooling. I love that sort of thing - true salt-of-the-earth smarts. Something that appears lost to our generation, especially those of us born and bred in the big cities. I tell you there's nothing more amusing than hearing the Calabrese dialect of Italian yelled out - it's true farm language!!

I think about psycho-physical presence a lot and apply it mentally to the people around me, and to my friends. I can't be objective about myself but I sense that I have this disparity between my gentle and almost effete side, and the part of me that's passionate, determined and even a little aggressive. It could be a generational thing. I think my sister and brother are both stronger than I in some ways. They're of the generation born in the fifties, I was born in 1970. I know I possess a delicate quality that they don't quite have; my brother is certainly a lot tougher than me in outward appearances. He's taller with broader shoulders, more rugged looking with a deeper voice and with a tougher personality. I'm a mixture. I love the beautiful, wistful dreamers like Eva Cassidy and Nick Drake and can relate to them intimately, particularly Eva Cassidy. But equally I'm into fist-wavers and piano-smashers like John Lennon and Beethoven. And Paul Weller.

Ultimately, the spirit of Beethoven within me is what I most relate to. That's where I'm like my father's son.

As for John Weller, what a fucking legend!!!

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