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I came across this while I was looking at reviews of Paul Weller’s “22 Dreams” album on Amazon. I hadn’t read any of Paolo Hewitt’s previous books on the Jam, but I used to like his writing in Melody Maker/NME - mainly because he didn’t toe the “white blokes with guitars” party line. So I was surprised and intrigued to see this book getting a right kicking from most of the reviewers, generally along the lines of “Hell hath no fury like a sycophant scorned.” 

It certainly is an odd one, this book. Its divided into 68 short chapters, each nominally related to a Paul Weller song, sometimes staying close to the song, sometimes not.

The basic premise - and ultimately the biggest flaw - is that from having a close working relationship and long term friendship with Weller, Paolo Hewitt has now fallen out big-time with his mentor and wants to put the record straight. But PH never tells us what’s caused this rift, and this becomes a major problem as the book goes on. Its frustrating and a bit of a tease that he gets us interested, and then goes “I’m not going to tell you”. Maybe this is for legal/libel reasons - but it’s a shame PH didn’t feel able for whatever reason to go for the full “Mommie Dearest” approach, reveal all, and let us make up our own minds about his beef with Weller.

The main accusations against Weller are hypocrisy, plagiarism, bad faith with friends, and generally using and discarding mates/partners/colleagues as he sees fit. In PH’s eyes, PW has become everything he despised - the dreaded Claptonesque complacent career rock star.

There’s a feeling throughout the book of throwing as much mud as possible in PW’s direction in the hope that some will find its target. Some of these moans are pretty trivial and laughable in some cases. Thus we learn that PW has a bit of a temper, can be rude and inconsiderate when he’s pissed (just like you and me), got into coke for a bit, and doesn’t like Sting (hooray), Velvet Underground, Bowie or Roxy Music (boo hiss). 

One thing for sure is that I can’t see PW losing any sleep over these accusations. In fact he seems to have been very generous to PH during their friendship, at one time giving him a year’s salary as an xmas present to give him the freedom to commit to his own writing. For any creative artist, there is a time when you just have to go off and do the work, however long it takes, and hanging out with your mates has to take a back seat. PH seems to have trouble with this, and the general blurring of roles between being a mate and an employee of PW’s.

I think its this fear and anger at rejection that lie at the heart of this book. I’m not going to all deep-psych on you now, but I’d suggest going back to an earlier PH book, “The Looked After Kid”. It’s a beautifully written book about his time in care - direct, intense, and emotional - although at times a very harrowing read, and I think it casts a different light on the issues raised in “Changing Man.”. It’s a much more perceptive book than “Changing Man”, and in facing up to his self-destructive tendencies, as well as his fear and rage about issues of being rejected and abandoned,  PH gives us some clues to the emotional background of his feud with Weller.

The book would have benefited from some stronger editing, mainly around the central issue of why they’ve fallen out. If you’re going to start the story, see it through. The book would also be improved by removing the mainly pointless quotes from psychiatrist Anthony Storr and composer Aaron Copland, which don’t add anything to the story and feel like a tacked-on attempt at adding some intellectual ballast. 

So I’m recommending this book as an intriguing read, but with reservations. However, it did spark me off on a very enjoyable day of digging out old Jam b-sides etc … I was also listening to the latest PW, “22 Dreams” with the intention of including in it in this review. Still can’t make up my mind, though. One Weller fan friend loves it, another reckons its PW “trying to do The White Album and failing dismally.” There’s nothing wrong with it, but so far it just hasn’t grabbed me in the way that “Sound Affects” or “Wildwood” did. 

Den Browne

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