Why, after 30 years of endless tantrums, I’ve had enough of Paul Weller’s ever changing moods, says a former close friend
Last updated at 00:12am on 25th November 2007
The singer and musician Paul Weller had been with friends to see Brian Wilson play at London's Royal Festival Hall.
It was a great show and his party – Weller, his sister Nicky, her boyfriend Russ, radio presenter Gary Crowley and music journalist Paolo Hewitt - were in high spirits.
They went to a bar in Maida Vale to carry on drinking. Weller gave Crowley money for the first round.
When he returned to the table with the first few drinks, Weller misread the situation, thinking it was the whole round.
"'Paul, shut up,' I said. 'I've heard these whinges a million times.'
"'Do you want to go outside?" he asked, fixing me with a stare. "Sort it out?"
"'Oi,' said Crowley. 'We're not here to fight.'
"'Have a word with him then,' Paul snapped. 'Talk to him, not me.'
"I left soon after," says Hewitt.
Hewitt and Weller were introduced by a mutual friend in 1975. They both came from Woking in Surrey and they shared a working-class background, an encyclopedic knowledge of music and an interest in politics. By the time The Jam had their first No1 with Going Underground in March 1980, the pair were good friends.
Hewitt, by now a writer working for Melody Maker and NME, witnessed Weller's volatile relationship with his girlfriend Gill Price, whom he met at a Jam gig and dated for six years. They broke up during a tour of Japan, two years after the group had disbanded.
"If there was anyone I knew who was an artist, it was this man."
After his marriage broke up, Weller began dabbling in drugs.
"It was the beginning of a period in his life characterised by a regular ingestion of chemicals," says Hewitt.
"Until then he had steered clear of them.
"He had tried Ecstasy once - he took a quarter of a pill on New Year's Eve 1990 at a club in Paddington and nibbled on my ear for five minutes. But it was only in the mid-Nineties when, as the Blur musician Damon Albarn so succinctly put it, 'a blizzard of cocaine descended on London' that Paul really turned his attention to chemicals.
"Cocaine was his thing, as it was for many others."
He had always been a big drinker. Introduced to alcohol as a child by his grandmother, he began drinking regularly at the age of 14.
There was the time he drank so much with his friend Stephen Cradock that they ended up lying in the middle of the road in the genteel village of Ripley in Surrey, roaring with laughter as cars swerved around them.
In the early hours of the morning Weller's mother Ann received a phone call from the police station.
"Get them home, Ann," the policeman said.
"We wouldn't want this in the papers." She took them back and sobered them up with black coffee.
Weller's lack of tolerance sometimes had comic consequences.
"After lunch one day, Simon Halfon (his designer) gave Paul and me a lift in his 1967 Mustang," Hewitt remembers.
"I was sitting in the back, Paul and Simon up front. Simon, who was driving, turned on the car radio. 'Turn that s*** off,' Paul snapped.
"'For God's sake,' Simon shouted back, "it's you, you idiot."
"And it was. It was his song The Changing Man."
In the biography, Hewitt paints a picture of a tortured rock star who strives for perfection, can't take criticism and is obsessed with getting older.
"He's a perfectionist," says Hewitt.
"Everything has to be absolutely correct. You would give him a present and you could see him look at it and he would say, 'The buttons aren't right, are they?' or 'The zip's not right, is it?'
"He is also obsessed with age. Looks have always been important to him, but he'll be 50 next year.
"He used to be in the newspapers criticising David Bowie and Paul McCartney for being on Top Of The Pops at the age of 50. And now it's his turn to be similarly ridiculed by others.
"People really like him because they see him as someone who has stuck to his guns and hasn't sold out.
"But Paul Weller of The Jam would hate the Paul Weller of today."
Hewitt will not reveal why he fell out with Weller in February 2006, although he admits they had a difference of opinion. They have not spoken since. "He has never rung to apologise or explain his actions," says Hewitt.
"He triggered stuff from my past about rejection. His behaviour was just totally thoughtless.