Rather than an intimate portrait of Paul Weller, this book reads more like a chronological history of his career – no more, no less. It sheds very little light on the man himself, is hardly a substantial analysis of his seemingly endless output, and in truth, reads like a rather bland shopping list.
Written by someone to whom writing does not come naturally, Shout To The Top has very little to actually shout about. There are no highs, no lows and no parts to which one feels compelled to return. Apart from the numerous (careless) errors and omissions, it reads as if an A&R man has written it: ‘’On May 31, 1985, Polydor released Our Favourite Shop, which gave the Council their only number one record during their turbulent career, although it didn’t stay there long. Polydor released Brian Ferry’s solo album Boys And Girls shortly after, and they wanted that at the number one spot – know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink!’’
What is this, On The Fucking Buses circa 1971?
It’s no surprise that the book’s author, Dennis Munday, was a one-time A&R man at Polydor, before eventually becoming The Jam’s Product Manager. And herein lies the inexorable close proximity to Weller, along with a writing style that’s as vacuous as custard: ‘’Nobody likes criticism, not even a plasterer in the building trade, and although Paul deserved some, the critics of the Council went way over the top; after all, he was only making records […]. Was every song that Lennon & McCartney wrote a classic, I doubt it, there were the classic tunes, and many of them, but some were just plain good.’’
The ever so comprehensive Discography and Gig List is top notch however, and the photos are pretty good too. Yet given the nature of the subject – and the degree to which The Jam are still adored – this book really ought to have been so much better. As is, it’s a disappointment.
Perhaps Munday ought to have considered writing Shout To The Top in conjunction with Paul Weller’s manager/father, John; a man for whom the expression fuck-off is akin to hello. At least this would have made for far more colourful and enticing reading.
Shout To The Top The Jam and Paul Weller
By Dennis Munday
Omnibus Press - £14.95