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Terrific new Paul Weller book focuses on his solo years

From The Floorboards Up!: The Fans’ Perspective uses words and images to tell the story of Paul Weller’s solo years from 1990 to 2021.
Cover Art

FROM THE FLOORBARDS UP!: THE FANS’ PERSPECTIVE
BY JON ABNETT
NARRATIVE BY PAT GILBERT
This Day In Music Books (Hardcover)
Four Stars

By John Curley

An excellent collaboration between longtime Paul Weller fan Jon Abnett and the veteran British music journalist Pat Gilbert, From The Floorboards Up!: The Fans’ Perspective provides an extremely comprehensive look at Paul Weller’s solo years. The Who’s Roger Daltrey provided the book’s Foreword. Of Weller, Daltrey wrote: “A musical chameleon always willing to try something different, whilst staying true to his Mod roots.” And speaking of The Who, the format of this book reminds me quite a bit of Richard Barnes’ great 1982 book The Who: Maximum R&B in that it is broken up into specific time periods. From The Floorboards Up! uses three sections to go through Weller’s solo decades: 1990-1999, 2000-2009 and 2010-2019, though the third of those sections actually includes material up to 2021 such as the release of the 2021 studio album Fat Pop (Volume 1) and Weller’s May 2021 show at The Barbican Centre in London at which he was backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Each section starts with several pages of text by Gilbert about Weller’s work during the respective decades and is followed by numerous pages of photos of gigs, setlists, concert posters, badges and tickets from the live shows that took place in each decade.

Toward the end of the book, there are comments from members of bands that have supported Weller at his solo shows as well as pieces on Weller’s guitar tech and front of house sound engineer. The book uses an excerpt from the memoir Boys Dreaming Soul by Neil Sheasby, the bassist for the British soul band Stone Foundation, in which Sheasby writes about going from being a fan of The Jam and The Style Council to working and performing with Weller. Also featured are Niall Walsh, manager of the Irish band The Strypes, who talks about how friendly and encouraging Weller was when he had The Strypes at his studio, Black Barn in Surrey, England, to do some recording; Deano Mumford of the British band The Rifles , who writes with admiration about how Weller and his road crew looked after The Rifles when they toured with Weller; and Johnny Cooke of the British band Dogs, who discusses how great it was for his band to get to support Weller at large venues such as Glasgow’s SECC. Guitar and backline technician Roger “Rog” Nowell talks about tour prep and getting Weller’s guitars and amps ready to go on the road. He also discusses things that can go wrong on tour. Nowell’s comments are somewhat technical but also quite interesting. The Q&A with Mr. Jones (Ange), the front of house sound engineer, also includes technical information. The tech stuff makes for a good read because that side of it is rarely discussed in books about bands and artists, and it gives the fans a better perspective on how much work goes into putting on a tour. Jones says that his favorite Weller shows were the October 2018 concerts at London’s Royal Festival Hall at which Weller was backed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra because working with the orchestra helped Weller fully use his voice, something that sometimes gets lost when he is backed by a loud electric band.

While there have been several comprehensive books published about Weller’s years with The Jam and The Style Council, I can’t think of one that covers his solo career to this extent. From The Floorboards Up!, which takes its title from a track on Weller’s superb 2005 album As Is Now, fills that gap superbly. Gilbert’s text tells the tale of The Modfather’s solo era so well, and the pages of images that follow in each section just serve to enhance the book as a whole. It’s clear that a great deal of care was used in putting the book together, so the combination of the fan and the music journalist is a winning formula. The book is a must have for hardcore Weller fans but will also be of interest to newbies because it will bring them up to date on Weller’s solo years. Gilbert’s detailed text sees to that.

The book can be ordered at https://www.thisdayinmusic.com/books/from-the-floorboards-up/. It is published in two editions: a standard hardback version, priced at £39.99 (approximately $54.00 US); and a special edition box – limited to just 500 copies, each featuring an individually hand-numbered certificate – priced at £75.00 (approximately $101.50 US).