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Me, Paul Weller and the Twins

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The title may give you the wrong idea. This isn't about me, The Modfather and The Cheeky Girls. Or the Proclaimers, for that matter - I'll save that for another time (when I've thought of a punch line).

I grew up in Southampton. It was 1977 when I heard first heard Paul Weller sing In the City.

"In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you" (In the City)

It was The Jam's debut single. I was 14 and suddenly everything fell into place. I don't think Southampton was the city he was singing about though because it was two years before he finally showed up. 1979; the height of the mod revival. Now he was saying things to a million other teenage boys, as well as me. The Jam had become the biggest band around. They were on tour, promoting their fourth album Setting Sons. And I had a ticket.

On the day they were due to play, I was doing a Saturday job in what was snappily called "a shop within a shop". I worked in Debenhams for a company that sold "door furniture" called - Knobs and Knockers. (It's true. I still have the badge to prove it).

Anyway there was me, a teenage mod, behind the counter of Knobs and Knockers, looking more like a knob than a knocker, when suddenly in walks Paul Weller. Paul Weller! In Debenhams. In Southampton. I guess even a mod god can be a knob now and then and he definitely has his knockers but that day he wasn't interested in either. Thank Mod for that. The shame of selling him a knob would have far outweighed the honour of serving him.

To my relief he headed towards the stationary department with his minder to buy a birthday card. Not for the minder. I don't think it was the minder's birthday. I don't know whose birthday it was. It doesn't matter. After hesitantly following him around the shop for a while, I eventually chose the moment to say hello and get an autograph. Paul was polite. He paused from looking at the cards, took the pen and my Knobs and Knockers notepad and signed his name. I floated back to work, ecstatic, with a grin wider than a brass letter box.

I'd waited a long time but finally, that evening; there I was, down the front, jumping up and down to the sound and the fury of Eton Rifles. I have to admit my woollen lined, over-sized, ex US Army parka and blue tonic suit, were a bit warm for the occasion but I didn't care. This was what I'd waited two years to experience. At last. The Jam. Live.

Afterwards I queued to meet the band backstage, alongside an army of sweat soaked, parka clad fans. Soon enough we were chatting again. Me and Paul. Twice in one day. He didn't mention Debenhams. He probably didn't want to embarrass me about the Knobs and Knockers thing. I didn't care anyway because it was then I noticed that we were wearing the same shirt! Me and Paul. Quarter inch, blue and white stripe, buttoned down, Ben Sherman style. That clinched it. We were real mates now - for life.

"Thick as thieves us. We'd stick together for all time." (Thick As Thieves)

And so we have, pretty much. Admittedly it's been a bit one-sided but me and Paul have stuck together for 35 years.

In the late 80s or early 90s, I did an ambulance workers' benefit in London, with my comedy partner Simon Hickson. Paul was on the same bill. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked "Where's the sound check?" I was speechless and just pointed. We didn't talk about the old times together, in Southampton, in 1979, when we wore the same shirt. But that was okay.

Some years later, I sneaked into a recording of Later with Jools Holland at the BBC in which Paul was appearing. I stayed for drinks afterwards and he was there mingling with everyone. I didn't say hello. That's how close we were. We didn't need to speak.

And I think that was Paul sat in the window of a café on Kensington High Street a while back. I walked past and caught his eye. Again, no words were spoken. They weren't necessary. We've always had that kind of easy going friendship.

"It doesn't matter if we never meet again. What we have said will always remain" (Start!)

Paul's been a good friend over the years. He's shared all kinds of interesting stuff with me - Tamla Motown, Fred Perry, Otis Reading, scooters, Tootal scarves, Red Wedge, loafers, Rickenbacker guitars, The Small Faces, Peter Blake, bowling shoes, the Kinks, polka dot shirts, the Who, dog's tooth trousers, northern soul and a whole bunch of embarrassing haircuts.

It's been a long time since we last met. In January he became the proud father of twin boys - John Paul and Bowie (definitely twins not triplets - one named after a pope and the other after a large knife).

So, congratulations, Paul. Now we're both dads with twins. Me and you. I have two other children as well. I'm five years younger than you and my twins are 16 this year. You are 53, with five other children and your twins are newly born. And so now I can give something back in exchange for everything you've given me; For once in our 35 year friendship, at last I can finally share with you something from my experience; from my life. And it's just a few simple words...

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT THEN, MATE!

Oh and here's a punch line for the Modfather and The Proclaimers -

And the Proclaimers said... "When you go will you send back, a Lambretta from America"

*tumbleweed*

I'll get my parka.

Around the Web

Paul Weller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paul Weller | Free Music, Tour Dates, Photos, Videos

Paul Weller | Music | The Guardian

Paul Weller - YouTube