Best tunes of 1992: #16 Paul Weller “Uh huh oh yeh”

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You may recall that I featured a guest-written post on The Jam just over a month ago. My friend Andrew Rodriguez, aka the biggest Paul Weller fan that I know, delivered a thorough narrative on some of his favourites of The Jam’s tunes, their history, his thoughts on all of this, and he included some words on his experiences seeing Weller live as a solo artist in 1992 and 1994. It was Rodriguez that first played “Uh huh oh yeh” for me way back, on an evening he didn’t remember and that I could only vaguely remember. So I decided to go back to Rodriguez and ask him some questions, a sort of mini-interview via email exchange, to get his perspective and thoughts on this very excellent and breakthrough single by Paul Weller, the solo artist…

Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard “Uh huh oh yeh”?

“I can’t precisely recall. It was released on 15 August 1992, that summer I’d been away for 6 weeks – I was in the Army reserve at the time. My courses ended mid August, so I know I was home and able to listen to the radio. It was in fairly heavy rotation on CFNY 102.1 in Toronto when it came out. In those days, I used to keep a blank tape at the ready to record good stuff I heard on the radio. Plus side is I was able to record bits of it – negative side is it wasn’t ’til the album came out that I heard the whole song.”

What were your initial thoughts of it?

“Initially, I was blown away. It’s rare that the instant you hear a song, you know it know it will be part of your personal soundtrack. I liked the ‘comeback’ feel. Lyrically, like much of his material – PW was heavily introspective, but not in some whiney BS way. ‘The very roots upon which I stand’. Vocally soulful and powerful. Musically tight, jazz and soul elements combined with raw emotion, and tempered with a feeling of maturity and growth. It was what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. There wasn’t much going on at that time musically. And above all, it was incredible for me to hear something from him that was contemporary. All his previous material I had heard basically after the fact.“

What are your thoughts about it now? Has your perception of it changed over the years?

“That question is double-plus good! My thoughts haven’t really changed, I think the song has stood well against the test of time, both stylistically and production-wise. It is still part of my personal soundtrack. I’ve no idea how it would be received if it were to be released today – but I don’t think that it would be viewed negatively. The musicianship (ahem! Steve White’s drumming) is unimpeachable. My perception, well that’s a bit more difficult to determine. I still feel a RUSH when I hear it. My perception is likely different, I’m older now, my body chemistry has changed and my circumstances are different. But, again the positive and solidly introspective aspects of the song still move and ground me – its simply that there is more experience to be grounded by now, than there was for me in 1992. Also, this song now has to be viewed as BOTH the start of a new chapter in PW’s musical life (which at the time coincided with a new chapter in my life); and it has to be viewed against his large body of subsequent work. Viewed as a start, my perception hasn’t changed. Viewed as part of a larger body of solo work, it remains my favourite – if I had to pick one.”

You have referred to this as a “comeback” and “new chapter” for Weller. How is this album and this song in particular different from The Jam or Style Council?

“In 1989, The Style Council folded – PW also got divorced from DC Lee, a co-member of TSC. At that point, given a combination of factors: his personal and professional situations, and the overall snakelike nature of british music press/culture, he was effectively dismissed as being done. He was single, had no band and no job. If he had had a dog, his dog likely would’ve died too. By 1991, he had assembled a semblance of musicians to form The Paul Weller Movement (which included TSC drummer Steve White – brother of a future Oasis drummer). They started touring, playing a mix of Style Council and Jam songs. Energised by touring, PW gradually introduced new material, which was popular both with fans and critics; popular enough that he signed a new record deal – and that material made the bulk of the first proper solo release. Uh Huh Oh Yeh was one of the later songs to be recorded. I don’t know if the Movement ever played it live. But it was very much a comeback.

I said “new chapter” because that is what it was. Both the Jam and the Style Council had been formalised and established bands. Both bands were talented and competent. In the case of the Jam, Weller basically dissolved them when he realised that they weren’t keen on the direction that he wanted to go. In the case of The Style Council – they were highly creative and very much all over the place – the problem they encountered was that some of their material wasn’t considered to be commercially viable (in some cases rightfully so). SO by going solo the touring and studio personnel changed over time, and included many people of note, members of Mother Earth, and Ocean Colour Scene come to mind. The first show I saw him play, it was basically Mother Earth backing him. So very much a new chapter.

Now if you listen to the full solo album (the original – not special editions), you will note a few things. Uh Huh Oh Yeh is a fantastic opener, but it doesn’t really represent the overall sound of the album. Feel, yes. The album can be easily (and has) described as “Acid Jazz”. UHOY is the most uptempo of the songs, only Into Tomorrow comes close in that regard. But the album is seamless. It is very much one that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. In between songs are intros and outtros, at one point even the sound of a needle crackling and being lifted off a record. More so than any Jam or TSC album it is a very complete package. His influences at the time hadn’t changed much, it was simply that the application had tightened up and focused. It is a smooth and groovy album, moreso than anything the Jam put out, and not as choppy, date-able or manic as anything late Style Council put out.

Uh Huh Oh Yeh, and the album for which it was a single, basically set a mood that was grounded. Just retrospective enough to be credible without being a shameless ripoff or paean to some vague, hollow past. It set a mood that was perfectly suited both for the period, and the future.”

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #15 Luna “Renee is crying”

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I first heard Luna in 1995. Their sophomore album, “Bewitched”, was loaned to me by my neighbour in university residence, Josh, who is better known in our circle of friends as Good Josh (as opposed to Bad Josh), but that’s another story. I was flipping through his CD collection one day*, he noted me looking at the album cover with interest, and highly recommended I give it a listen.

Luna has been one of my favourite bands ever since. I continued to listen to them long after I graduated, entered the adult workforce, moved away to Ottawa from Toronto, and gradually began to grow apart from most of my university friends. In fact, the last time I saw many of them, including Good Josh, was one weekend in 2002, when I took a Greyhound bus to Peterborough. A bunch of these friends were living there so the town was chosen as a central point to gather together to meet up with our friend Mark, who was temporarily back from an ESL teaching job in Japan. I distinctly remember bringing a copy of the latest Luna album, “Romantica”, along to listen to on the bus. I also pulled it out at one point on the weekend to share with Good Josh because he mentioned that hadn’t listened to them in a very long time. I don’t exact remember if he thought much of the album but it has become one of my favourites out of all their discography and was one of my first ever purchases for my vinyl collection, way back back on Record Store Day 2012.

Luna was formed by Dean Wareham in 1991 when his first band, the legendary dream pop outfit, Galaxie 500, disbanded. It was considered somewhat of an indie supergroup at the time because he had managed to gather a past member each from The Chills (Justin Harwood) and The Feelies (Stanley Demeski). Seven full-length studio albums, a live album, as well as a handful of EPs were released under the Luna moniker before the group disbanded in 2005, though the lineup was quite different then than when they had formed. Almost a decade later, Luna reunited as the lineup of Wareham, Sean Eden, Lee Wall, and Britta Philips, and they have since released a new album, an EP, and have toured pretty consistently since.

“Renee is crying” is track six on “Romantica”, an album that seems to me a rejuvenation for the band. Much of that can possibly be attributed to it being the first album with new bassist, Britta Philips, who, for you trivia buffs out there, was the singing voice Jem (of the Holograms). She also happened to be newly, romantically involved with our intrepid frontman and songwriter, Dean Wareham. Many of the tracks on the album have a bit more pep in their step, especially when compared to the previous couple of releases. “Renee is crying” isn’t as sad as the title suggests, but is actually quite upbeat and googly-eyed, though still with the band’s patented understated intricacies. For the guitar work, acoustic rhythms mesh with electric meanderings and the jaunty drums will have your toe-tapping all the way along highway seven on the Greyhound, perhaps annoying the passengers around you, who can’t hear the joyous music pumping through your earphones.

* Flipping through the CD collections of friends in university residence was how I discovered the music of a great many bands in the mid-1990s.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1992: #17 Adorable “Sunshine smile”

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Vocalist and guitarist Pete Fijalkowski, guitarist Robert Dillam, bassist Stephen ‘Wil’ Williams, and drummer Kevin Gritton formed adorable in 1990. They recorded their debut single, “Sunshine smile”, the following year. It received positive reviews in the music press but the kicker is, it was never released to the buying public. At least, not that version. After Alan McGee signed them to Creation Records in 1992, the song was re-recorded and Adorable finally released this amazing track that we now know and love. Unfortunately for all involved, it was just a couple of years too late.

Adorable likely only managed two albums and four years of existence because the world had already moved on from the noise pop and shoegaze scenes to which they were pigeonholed. Their singles did well enough. In fact, a couple of them, this one included, managed to travel the radio waves across the ocean to get some play in North America. Their debut album, “Against perfection”, was released in 1993 and climbed into the album charts in their native UK but only just barely. When it was released on this side of the ocean, they tacked on the two non-album singles that had been released beforehand. And so when I found a copy of it in the used CD bins, a handful of years later, “Sunshine smile” was the opening track on the playlist of the compact disc I brought home with me to learn and love.*

This song is a great introduction to a band that sadly never really got the due they deserved. “Sunshine smile” starts all chiming and jangly while frontman, Pete Fijalkowski waxes poetic about his subject’s smile. Then, it gets all noisy, guitars move to crunchy and then, seamlessly back to reverberating chimes. The bridge gets all quiet with some taps at the cymbals and Pete goes quiet, too (“how does it feel to feel?”) and the feeling explodes and it all races to a crashing crescendo. It’s got Creation all over it.

And now that I am writing about this song and listening to it over and over, I am kicking myself for not thinking to include it in my Valentine’s Day playlist post last month. It’s quite lovely.

*Sadly, this song was left off the playlist again when Music on Vinyl pressed it to vinyl for a special 25th anniversary edition a couple of years ago but I bought it nonetheless.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.