Back to January 2007, and Paul Weller is doing three nights at Irving Plaza, New York. Word is, he’s going to do three different sets, too. First night: The Jam, second night: The Style Council, and third night: Paul Weller.
My friend, Gavin, from Our Price Records days, was then running the biggest record shop in the world: The Virgin Megastore, Times Square, and he reckons he can get me into all three shows, so I book my flight.
The day before I leave London, Gavin texts me to say that he has booked Paul Weller to do a Virgin in-store acoustic set, on the Sunday afternoon, before the three Irving Plaza shows.
“You’ll be able to meet him, tell him how many times you’ve seen him live..” says Gavin, sarcastically.
Gavin knows that I never want to meet any of my favourite musicians; my fear being that I will say something SO ridiculous, that it will stay with me, and ruin every single song of theirs that I listen to, forever and ever. So, quite a lot at stake.
I’m not sure how many times I’d seen Paul Weller up to 2007, but as my 2016 count is 328, it was probably 250+; enough for me to worry that he would recognise me and ‘have me removed’ from the store.
Gavin agrees not to let me anywhere near Weller, so I trust him.
After the Virgin Megastore set finishes, Gavin takes me upstairs to his office to keep me out of the way, while he sorts out how to get Weller out, quietly, through the back door. So I’m sitting at Gavin’s desk, in his office; it’s not a big office, just enough room for the desk, a couple of chairs and a filing cabinet. I’m flicking through one of the music mags that Gavin keeps on his desk, and I hear chatting on the other side of the office door; then a knock. It’s Gavin, and he’s ushering Paul Weller inside; Weller comes in, carrying a huge pile of CDs and DVDs that he’d just bought in the shop. Now I realise that Gavin has planned the whole thing.
“You stay here..” Gavin says to Weller “..and I’ll let you know when your car is ready..”.
I only looked up for a split second, but, to me, Weller looked the size of a mountain. I could hardly breathe. Inside, all I was thinking was “Don’t faint, just don’t faint. That’s all you need to do: not faint”. I stared intently at the magazine, my eyes fixed on one word. From the corner of my eye, I could see Weller, sat three feet away, flicking through his new CDs, looking at sleeve notes; just the two of us in the room. I could hear him breathing.
I had lost all sense of time, so I looked up to see if Gavin had a clock anywhere in the room. As I look up, I can see Gavin’s astonished face through the small square window in the door; he is mouthing “It’s Paul Weller!”, “It is PAUL FUCKING WELLER!” at me, like he’s genuinely thinking that I hadn’t noticed him.
It was probably only five minutes before Weller got the call that his car was ready, but it was both the longest and slowest five minutes of my life.
“FOR FUCK’S SAKE!” says Gavin, after Weller has been whisked away.
I can’t remember much about the three Irving Plaza shows, other than Gavin had only managed to get me tickets for the first and third nights. For the second night, Gavin hung a ‘Virgin Security’ pass around my neck and managed to convince the staff at the venue that I was Paul Weller’s security guard, and that I needed to check out the backstage area before showtime. Gavin ordered me not to say a word as he was trying to blag me in; I just stood there, giving the most menacing look I could manage, and they waived us through.
And that was it: I’d flown 3,500 miles to see my favourite artist play three shows, only to completely ignore him as he sat next to me in my friend’s office.