This interview changed my life.
By the summer of 1978, four issues of Jamming! (the first one called In The City) had been produced by myself and a couple of third-year schoolfriends. All had been printed on school copy machines and while they showed a certain promise - considering we were just 14-years old and barely able to attend gigs, they really weren't that bad - they lacked content of any real quality. We were having fun reviewing records, selling copies to our mates, but we weren't producing a fanzine that mattered.
Still, I had caught the bug. I loved the whole process of putting a fanzine together and I wanted to take it further. The summer of 1978 - six weeks off school - seemed to offer that opportunity. And so I sent copies of Jamming! with letters requesting an interview to three acts I hoped would respond - The Jam (using the fan club address that I already knew was the Weller family's home in Woking), Tom Robinson, and Reggae Regulars (who had a wonderful single on Greensleeves called 'Where Is Jah?' that has disappeared in the mists of time.)
The person who responded first was the one I least expected to: Weller. Though it looked to many like The Jam might have already peaked as a band in 1977 (recent singles 'The Modern World' and 'News of The World' had barely charted), at my school the trio were nothing less than Gods. I had already seen them play at least three or four times, including a sold-out, sweat-down-the-walls gig at the Marquee in February 1978 where I learned the hard way that 13-year olds cannot survive penned against the stage at the front of an 1000-strong crowd. And unlike the critics, I thought that the album 'This Is The Modern World' was one of the greatest ever made (and because it meant so much to me back then, I still do). So when I got a letter back from Paul Weller, suggesting I give his parents a call and come up to the studio to interview him, I was elated beyond belief.
(This was the same month that I met Keith Moon at the Who's ICA Exhibition. It was clearly a watershed summer.)
In the week following the group's headlining appearance at the violence-ridden Reading Festival over the August Bank Holiday, just before school started back up, I went to the RAK Studios in St John's Wood, understandably nervous about conducting my first ever interview with none other than my icon. (The reasons the Jam meant so much to me and many kids like me would fill a book, or at least a chapter, and who knows, I may be writing it; those who followed the Jam won't need my explanation.) Weller, only just 20 himself, was down to earth if occasionally defensive during an interview conducted over a lunch of fried-egg sandwiches with tomato ketchup. (Funny the details you remember, but I'd never had that culinary delight before.) I'm assuming that Bruce and Rick were in attendance, but given that Weller was recording 'English Rose' that day, his first enrirely solo cut, I can't be certain. I do remember bets being placed on the impending chart position for 'David Watts,' which had just been released. That The Jam had been reduced to a Kinks cover, their second single in a row to be sung by Bruce Foxton, provided ample ammunition for those who believed the band were dried up, but as we all know, the album they were then working on, 'All Mod Cons,' would instead be hailed as a post-punk classic, propelling Weller towards the 'Spokesman for a Generation' mantle he so hated.
Jamming! 5 was also aided by interviews with Adam Ant on the eve of his first single release ('Young Parisians'/'Lady') and our broadcasting hero John Peel. With so much good material under our belts, we decided to print the magazine properly, complete with photos, no easy matter considering we had no money. The father of my co-editor and fellow band mate Jeff Carrigan lined up a deal with a printer in Hastings, who ran off 1000 copies cheaply enough for us to peg the price to 25p. (Which many of our schoolmates still considered exorbitant; I'm not sure NME or Sounds were any more expensive.) The other co-editor, Lawrence Weaver, quit in disgust at our featuring someone with the name Adam Ant; this was a blessing in disguise as we could now do without Lawrence's effusive praise of Rush, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin and the like.
Reading back through the interview as it was printed below, it's evident that I was trying to imitate the standard music press features of the time. That said, it looks like I did a bloody good job of it, and I'm pleasantly surprised by how well written it seems more than 20 years on. And in defence of our rather pedestrian ambitions for Jamming! (We took major shit from punk fanzines after issue 5 came out for being so neat and tidy, though we won just as many converts for the same reason), I'm pleased I wasn't too star-struck to ask a few tough questions.
As for why the interview changed my life, two reasons: The exclusive interview with a big name allowed Jamming! to become a 'proper' fanzine, competing in the marketplace rather than just being sold at school. And for reasons that are better left unscrutinized, it marked the start of a friendship between myself and Weller which lasted throughout the rest of my teens and resulted, in 1981, in my leaving school after my 'O' Levels to run a record label with him. That relationship got complicated towards the end, no surprise given that there was money involved, but his willingness to respond so quickly to my request for an interview and to give me so much time and attention when I was just another teenage fan has never been forgotten. Nor, of course, has the music.
(In case you're interested, Tom Robinson also replied, but it took several more months for him to commit to an interview; I never heard from Reggae Regulars.)
Click on each of the thumbnails below to see the interview as it was printed in Jamming!, and the letter Paul sent me after the magazine came out. Being so bloody anal that I've kept a copy of the interview manuscript all these years, I finally ran it through text recognition software and was surprised how well it came out. We seem to have gotten by on near-monosyllabic questions and answers, but I think that's just the way Paul was at the time. You can therefore read the unedited transcript here.