He was mad on them, properly mad. I wasn't a fan at all really. In fact up until this point they'd not been on my radar very much at all. A Town Called Malice, their most recent hit was good, but I never bought it.
So when Paul and I became fast friends on the second day of the first term at boarding school, I was subjected to them. At the time of starting boarding, I was mad on anything indie or what I considered to be trendy, with the odd bit of cheese thrown in. The Jam was serious music. But their songs went into my brain whether they liked it or not. And they have never left.
Like me, Paul was from ordinary stock, and like me his parents were ex-pats, but working in Nigeria for Shell. We had a lot of Shell brats at school, mostly those whose parents were in Africa, but some from further afield. He was from Essex, sounded like he was from Essex and dressed like a Jam fan from Essex. He was the first person ever to shorten my first name to what it is and has remained ever since. Both smokers, he was the one who boldly marched us into the common room (where you could smoke). Without him, I'd probably have dithered on the edge for a few more days and missed my window.
We were in the same school house, though he was in this poky, nasty low level new-build with the thinnest walls ever called The Annexe. It was but a minute's walk from the main house but over there more liberties could be taken, especially with loud music. All those musics going at once: Lionel Richie v Tears For Fears v Kid Creole & The Coconuts v Evelyn King v Kool & The Gang v Eddy Grant v The Human League, etc. It was like being hermetically sealed in Tupperware that was having a provincial disco.
And then there was The Jam of course. Their album The Gift was released around this time, and we listened to it a lot. Tracks like Ghosts, Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero, their No.1 Beat Surrender and of course this song, The Bitterest Pill, whose intro is the sound of autumn leaves falling from trees in the land of post-punk rock.
I've never loved a band so much I've been consumed by them. I have three friends who are Springsteen crazy, and Paul was not the first friend I had who was Jam-mad, though this other fan was also bonkers over Level 42, which was nice. The closest I've come was discovering Fairport Convention, but it was more a case of plundering their back catalogue rather than waiting for the new single to come out.
Paul remained a Jam fan, then a Style Council fan. I preferred the Style Council much more and bought the awkwardly phrased Speak Like A Child. Then they got a bit jazz funk until Long Hot Summer when I was back on board. Then jumped ship again forever, though I still think they've got a lot to offer.
Like most Weller devotees, I'd put money on Paul having followed his career since. I have no idea, not having seen him since 1988 (see 1988: Slowing down, and yes, I still owe him a tenner).
I have grown to really love The Jam over the years. I think they're far superior to anything Weller did after that, with an oeuvre of the most amazing songs. Yes, I've got all their albums, yes I'm a fan. Paul would be proud.