How can a musician so disciplined that he releases 10 classic albums in 10 years in the 1980s (with the band Felt) produce minimal output in the years that followed?
By being true to himself.
Lawrence get things done, but in his own way and on his own terms.
In the documentary Lawrence OF Belgravia, filmmaker Paul Kelly followed the little-known musical legend Lawrence around for five years. The film came out in British theaters in 2011, but is just being released on DVD this week (five years later). The film is worth the wait because the music is brilliant, and just like Brian Wilson, you want to get inside the mind of the musical creator.
Take an authentic eccentric (in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes) as only the British can produce, a dose a megalomania, and ear for a tune, a dash of sartorial excellence, and you have an indie hipster, but not a star. The Beatles were cool too, and they appealed to the masses. Where did Lawrence go wrong?
In Lawrence’s mind, he should be a superstar. That is why he only has one name. Like Sting or Madonna.
But unlike Sting or Madonna, Lawrence takes the Tube (underground) and has difficulty paying the rent.
Lawrence does not collaborate on outside projects. If you want Lawrence to sing on your album, even if you are famous, forget it.
After Lawrence achieved his goal with Felt of recording 10 albums in 10 years, he moved on to form Denim. Unlike Felt, which had and indie music vibe, Denim took its inspiration from ‘70s bubblegum pop and glam rock. Denim released three albums in the ‘90s, but to Lawrence’s dismay, he did not conquer the charts.
His next (and current) band, Go Kart Mozart, is more of a B-sides band. His idea to was to capture the magic of the B-sides of great 45 singles – where the forgotten B-side was uninhibited, more experimental and often more musically adventurous than the radio hit. Again, though received well by critics, Go Kart Mozart did not tear up the charts.
The music business is both music and business. Perhaps all Lawrence needed was a great manager to handle the business side of things. Maybe one day he will get one.
Most of Lawrence’s music is great, and worth a listen. It will challenge your mind, and maybe even get you onto the dance floor.
In 2018, in his own slow yet meticulous way, Lawrence is releasing new music: it is the fourth Go-Kart Mozart record, called Mozart’s Mini-Mart.
The Jam created many crucial albums which should be a part of any discerning music collection – the most notable are:
In the City This is the Modern World All Mod Cons Setting Sons Sound Affects The Gift
The first time I ever heard of The Jam was when I saw the video Town Called Malice on MTV. This tune combined an infectious blend of the hard-hitting Motown sound with a punk edge and a Londonesque, Eastenders-type melodrama evoked in the lyrics – all of which came across in the video. Weller has said he drew the images for this song directly from his experiences in Woking. Unfortunately by the time I discovered this band around 1983 – The Jam were no more.
Around this time, I walked into Northern Lights record store in downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin Avenue – when it was just a hole in the wall – and saw The Jam’s SNAP! compilation – Weller looked so cool – I knew the music had to be good!
But The Modfather was gravitating to a new sound – more Marvin Gaye, less Pete Townshend.
This was neatly summed up in The Jam’s final single – Beat Surrender.
The Style Council reflected an entire movement of politics, style and music. It took the youth explosion of The Jam to the next level.
The spokesman for this new philosophy was The Cappuccino Kid, aka Paolo Hewitt, who provided voluminous liner notes – actually political Manifestos on life – with each new Style council LP or 12-inch single. A compilation of these writings can be found here:
The music recorded by The Style Council between 1983-85 is some of the best of that, or any, era – reflecting a wide variety of musical styles. You can feel Weller’s sense of freedom as he casts off his old identity.
Notable tunes include:
Big Boss Groove Headstart for Happiness You’re The Best Thing The Paris Match
Speak Like a Child The Whole Point of No Return Here’s One That Got Away A Stone’s Throw Away A Solid Bond in Your Heart Have Your Ever Had it Blue?
Although Weller has said he was not feeling inspired when he started as a solo artist, he knew music was in his blood. He also knew he had to basically “fake it until he made it.” The strategy worked, as his solo worked gradually became more inspired and he found his authentic voice not only as a singer, but as a songwriter. Weller recaptured the energy and creativity of The Jam and early Style Council days (without sounding anything like that era) with his landmark album 22 Dreams, when Weller made the conscious decision to work from a more experimental space.
One of his latest albums, Saturn’s Pattern, maintains his high standards.
Paul Weller is a physical, dynamic live performer – feeling the music as he leads the band center stage, singing, with or without guitar. He also often sits down at the keyboard to belt out several tunes during each show.
On July 31, 1992, I saw Paul Weller live in San Francisco at the Warfield Theater. Weller showed that, as a solo artist, he could still be a great performer – and he still had something to say. There were a lot of Japanese fans at this show, which is not surprising as the Japanese have always appreciated good music and style.
The last time I saw him live at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis in 2014, Weller was not resting on his laurels – rather performing a mix of classic tunes from his Jam and Style Council days that he was clearly proud of, along with songs from his latest album, which stand up well with the classic tunes. His band was tight and rocked and chilled as needed.
Paul has several children and is happily married with designated “band mum,” Hannah Weller.
On the initial leg of his Driving USA tour in 2002, Paul McCartney (affectionately known to his fans as Macca) was not coming anywhere near Minneapolis.
The Driving USA tour was part of the Driving World Tour, which was Paul McCartney‘s first concert tour of the 21st century and of any kind since 1993.
So I drove to Denver to see him. This was the first time I saw and listened to what the man said in person.
The date: May 7, 2002.
The the opening act was not a band, but rather Cirque du Soleil characters milling about the crowd and on stage creating a festive, circus-like atmosphere.
The first image you see of Macca on stage is a silhouette with that famous Hofner violin bass from the early Beatles days raised aloft.
It’s a little jarring to see that this person – the dude who has created the soundtrack to so many moments of your external and internal life – is a real person!
It’s a strange feeling – like your internal landscapes have become animated in 4-D technicolor with a killer sound system.
But that wears off quickly and you realize Paul is not resting on his laurels – he is, besides being perhaps the greatest songwriter of all time – an entertainer. Macca is going to give you your money’s worth.
What songs did he play? All the classics like Hey Jude, more obscure numbers like C Moon, a sprinkling of tracks from his current CD at the time called Driving Rain, as well as the theme song to the movie Vanilla Sky. He did not disappoint. Lots of charisma. The banter was maybe a little too well-rehearsed between songs, but who cares? We all love to hear a story from Macca, right?
I saw him again October 26, 2005 in Saint Paul at the Excel Energy Center with my erstwhile musical collaborator David F. and his friend from Poland, Pivo (Polish for beer), who belted every word from every tune aloud and aloft.
Macca played Target Field (Minnesota Twins outdoor baseball stadium) in Minneapolis August 2, 2014 – I saw him there with with Lisa and Anna. Due to rain, it seemed like the show might become an extremely damp one.
In fact, the rain flooded some seating areas (including ours).
To make up for this, an usher handed us the perfect tickets – about 15 rows back right in the center.
This was the best Macca show I have seen (even better due to our perfect location) – we were treated to over three hours of Beatles, Wings and solo Macca tunes. Paul was 72 at this time, and his enthusiasm was showing no signs of flagging.
The visuals on the screen were always cutting edge, and thematically tied to each song. But one of the coolest parts of this particular show was the preshow. Instead of an opening band, music was played through the sound system – an interesting chronological mashup of Paul’s Beatles, Wings, Fireman and solo music, accompanied by a film, photo and animation montage scrolling down on screens on both sides of the stage. The video below should give you a flavor of it.
The most recent time I saw Paul play live was May 5, 2016, at Target Center in Minneapolis. This was a smaller venue that his previous concert here – an indoor basketball arena instead of the outdoor baseball stadium he played previously.
Macca was in a great mood that night, constantly chatting with the crowd and inviting a mother and daughter on stage for a group hug and an autograph.
The preshow visual montage was similar to his previous show in 2014 – but this time the videos where projected onto two round kiosks (think giant cans) – one on each side of the stage, which created a distorted, psychedelic effect as the images and films moved from right to left across these curved screens.
Although the mid-range of Macca’s voice is partially gone – Eleanor Rigby was a bit wobbly, he more than makes up for it with his charisma – and the screaming high notes are still there on Live and Let Die and still sung in the original key. His musicianship remains flawless (still the greatest bass player of all time) and the enthusiasm of his bandmates remains undimmed and unjaded in all the right ways.
Due to Prince’s recent passing, Paul and his band pulled out a moving little trubute to Prince in the form of Let’s Go Crazy and the end of Hi, Hi, Hi:
As demonstrated above, this is still a tight little band that will rock your socks of for close to three hours…
Kudos here also goes to Paul’s band – whom he has worked with since 2002.
It should be said that all of these guys are massive fans of Paul’s music, and their enthusiasm comes through in their performances. The band includes:
Brian Ray, Etta James’ former band leader, on bass and guitar. Like his band mates, Brian is an accomplished studio musician as well as a rocking live performer. His blond hair and giant smile makes him look far younger than his 60 years. For the most recent 2016 show I saw, he played more lead guitar as well. Brian and Rusty (see below) still often bounce around the stage like teenagers.
Rusty Anderson on lead and rhythm guitars. Like Brian Ray, Rusty comes from a session musician background in Los Angeles. Rusty has been a professional musician since age 14. Also like Brian, Rusty knows how to have fun with the music onstage, while still playing every part with the right balance of perfection and looseness. For his debut solo album Undressing Underwater, Anderson invited Paul McCartney to play bass and the rest of the McCartney band to sing backup vocals on the lead track, Hurt Myself.Hurt Myself is a great song worth checking out: https://youtu.be/2oxCTU9OYNI
Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards. Wix is the mad scientist of the band, and as a member since 1989, the one who has been with Paul the longest. If you need a horn part recreated on the keys from Got to Get You in to My Life, Wix is your man.
Abraham “Abe” Laboriel, Jr. on drums. Abe not only nailed his drum parts with an absolute joy of abandon, he sings angelic harmonies with Paul that belie his enormous frame. He is the son of jazz legend and Mexican bass guitarist Abraham Laboriel, Sr. Abe has been the drummer for Macca as well as the talented French singer Mylène Farmer, among others.
See the musicians you love live if you can, because to truly get a sense of who they are and what they do – you need to be there in person to hear, see and feel the full force of their creativity.