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Long Hot Punter: Paul Weller’s Topless Video Revisited

Scourge of The Eton Rifles Paul Weller was sending out quite a statement to his die-hard Jam fans in this video for his 1983 Style Council single ‘Long Hot Summer’, shot on the River Cam in Cambridge. Acting the big posh pooftah in a punt.

Like almost everyone in the UK in the early 80s the young Modfather had fallen madly in love with the beautifully-shot 1981 ITV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – much like today’s Downton Abbey, but with believable, interesting aristos, a script, and an actual point.

Sometimes a pole is just a pole. But not this time.

Oh, and a seductive homoerotic storyline in which two young hetero men fall for one another surrounded by the Baroque splendour of Castle Howard, North Yorkshire. Charles Ryder’s long hot summer with the decadent Sebastian Flyte opened up a whole new realm of sensation for a generation emerging from the concrete rubble of 1970s Britain. Even for the son of a taxi driver and a cleaner from Woking like Weller.

I sometimes wonder, considering the bathetic comparison between Brideshead and Downton, and the general, glorious queerness of early 80s pop culture, whether the notion of ‘progress’ is just an illusion we cling to make the diminishing returns of life more bearable. (And by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ of course.) Though much less technically sophisticated, Weller’s Brideshead tribute video ‘Long Hot Summer’ video knocks LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It’ into a banana hammock.

Rather wonderfully, wanking seems to be the focus of this promo, along with the attendant narcissism and homoeroticism of Paul’s display of topless, oiled-up self-pleasuring for the camera – lying on his back for most of the video whilst his fully-clothed chum labours behind him. Thirty years on, and after all the slutty, spornographic advertising campaigns of the last decade, Paul’s petulant passivity in this video is still jaw-dropping.

Understandably, Style Council keyboardist Mick Talbot is driven to playing with his pole and gnawing passing willow trees in frustration. Fortunately for him relief is at hand – a little later pretty Paul allows himself to be spit-roasted in his punt by the drummer and the guitarist (2:31).

Whether lolling on his back, fingers travelling down his abdomen, or dancing barefoot, Weller’s whippet thin body reminds us of what British young men looked like before Ronald McDonald and Mens Health redesigned them.

Or maybe I’m just falling prey to the intoxicating nostalgia for a better, more golden time that permeated Brideshead.

UPDATE 15/04/2017

In case anyone thinks the above reading was just the product of my overheated imagination, it seems there was a ‘hardcore’ version of the ‘Long Hot Summer’ homo promo – in which Mick and Paul lie on the picnic blanket with their heads together, fondling each other’s hair and ears.

This version was only aired once on Top of the Pops before the offending scene was cut, though it’s not clear whether it was because of pressure from the BBC or outraged blokey fans. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original, uncut filth online. Does anyone have a copy?

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8 thoughts on “Long Hot Punter: Paul Weller’s Topless Video Revisited”

  1. Glen: It probably was a bit pointless in Oz, but I think it sort of worked in the UK at the time. For a while. Or maybe I just say that because I fancied Anthony Andrews. (He reminded me of a blond lad I had a crush on at the time – who was actually anything but posh.)

    Actually, thinking about it, the best thing about Brideshead was the way it made 1930s haircuts fashionable again.

    Interesting though how the Brideshead fad went against the grain of ‘street’ fashion and ‘authenticity’ – and was taken up by people like Weller. It was almost New New Wave.

    Watching it now it seems impossible to conceive that boys with accents as preposterous as Charles and Sebastian’s could ever have been regarded as sexy. But they were.

  2. Am I the only one who found all this Brideshead stuff really suffocating and quite dull when it was around? There were always these somewhat older guys around with delusions that they were Sebastian slumming it Down-Under, bizarrely expecting blue collar boys like me to be impressed that they could quote Oscar Wilde…

  3. Lainey: think you’re being a little harsh there. And yes, Weller like a good Mod has been a dedicated follower of fashion. But he was also the driving force behind Red Wedge. Mind, that was pretty fashionable….

    The point of this post isn’t really to dissect Weller’s personality or politics (which I don’t really know enough about) so much as to perve in pseudo intellectual fashion over the collision of Weller’s rent-boy chic with hooray Bridesheadery in this video.

    Mary Lynn: I didn’t know about Gorgeous George! I just started reading a book about him last night. I hope it’s not my fault.

  4. I adore Paul Weller, the Jam is my favorite, and the Style Council wasn’t bad either. I do find it a bit put-offing that he is so bourgeois now, but what’s an old, rich guy to do?

    This vid is hilarious, I think I ignored this single, as it really wasn’t up to snuff. It does make me want to hear “You’re the Best Thing” though.

    Gorgeous George, Jr. died – a pioneer of pretty boy athletics and entertainment.

  5. Weller is one of those fake liberals.
    He voted Tory when he was in The Jam, he wassends his kids to private school which us all very well but not something a socialist would ever do.

    I could never warm to him on tv or in videos whereas Morrissey doesn’t need pretend to be at Henley rowing about like he was born into that wealth.
    To find beauty in the grime and mundane is more poetic to me.
    Weller seems to try to fit in with who or whatever is popular at the time….Tories, Brideshead, lad culture…….

  6. I tried not to mention Morrissey! But yes, Weller’s narcissism in this vid is the non-ironic version of Moz in ‘November Spawned a Monster’ and in that famous NME cover used on the jacket of St Moz.

    In fact, the whole set-up – Cambridge classicism, the water, the summer heat, seems to invoke the Narcissus myth of the beautiful boy who spurns the love of others and ends up captivated by his own image.

    And yes, it’s the arrogant self-pleasuring that is shocking now. Like when Paul kicks Mick and his erect pole away so he can really get down to sex with someone he loves.

  7. Weller’s body looks more Charles’s and Sebastians’s actually would have than Jeremy Irons’s does in the movie – he’s already movie-star pumped in 1981, although not to the degree he’d have to be now. You’re right that the skinny pale Morrisseyean narcissism is the most shocking thing about the vid. Amazing that can still shock, but narcissism now is about getting self-validation – it’s the self-pleasuring that’s shocking.

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