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Going Underground – The Jam

Extract from Sounds From the Street

Going Underground (Weller)
Recorded in January 1980 at The Townhouse Studios, Shepherd’s Bush, London
Produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven
Double A-side released 7 March 1980; Polydor POSPJ 113; reached no 1 in UK chart
Double A-side: ‘The Dreams Of Children’
B-side: ‘Away From The Numbers’, ‘The Modern World’, ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’

In February 1980 The Jam played four low-key warm-up gigs in Cambridge, Canterbury, Malvern and finally at The Woking YMCA (the latter a benefit gig for that organisation). As most of their equipment had been shipped off to America for the tour that was due to begin a week later, The Jam turned to original band member Steve Brookes, who happily agreed to supply a free PA for their YMCA appearance.

All three band members still lived around the town and would still frequently appear in local pubs or make unpaid appearances at school fetes and other local functions. The previous summer, Paul, Bruce and Rick had even turned up bleary-eyed one Saturday morning to present the prizes at the Old Woking Primary School, later retiring to The Kingfield Arms pub outside the gates, where they discussed their in-production album, Setting Sons, with a gathering of schoolboys. The band at that point were still describing it as a concept album and explained the theme in the public bar while the landlord turned a blind eye to the underage drinkers that made up their audience.

The following week the band set out on their fourth tour of America and, buoyed by the commercial success of ‘The Eton Rifles’ and Setting Sons in the UK, they found their American fan base also increasing to the point where they were now able to sell out the 3000-capacity New York Palladium. Despite a positive start, the trip once again proved a sour one as Polydor’s US arm clashed with the band by releasing the unsuitable ‘Heatwave’ as a single in an attempt to win over an even larger American audience.

After yet another arduous month travelling around the States, the band had just finished a gig in Austin, Texas on 22 March when they received a late-night Trans-Atlantic phone call during the after-show drinks party at their hotel. By then it was already Sunday morning in England and the UK charts had been published. The message was that ‘Going Underground’ had entered at number one, and the party accordingly switched into high gear. The following morning, through a haze of hangovers, the band were facing a week off before picking up the tour for the final leg starting in New Jersey the following Friday.

But the band members had other ideas. Collectively the decision was taken (in under a minute, apparently) that The Jam would pack their bags and return home to England in order to perform ‘Going Underground’ on Top Of The Pops, which was recorded on Wednesday afternoons. They could have gone back to America in time to complete the tour but they had already had enough. Their fourth US tour was over and Britain’s biggest band were staying at home.

When The Jam performed ‘Going Underground’ on Top Of The Pops they were sans Rickenbacker, probably because their kit was still in the process of being shipped home. Foxton, in any case, was now creating his sound by using a Fender Precision Bass. Weller decided to demonstrate his growing interest in pop art by wearing a kitchen apron bearing a Heinz Tomato Soup logo (which he later referred to in the sleeve notes of Dig The New Breed, the band’s final album), although this move unnerved the BBC, who were very strict about product endorsement.

Weller had only been using it as a reference to the pop art cover of The Who album The Who Sell Out, which features Roger Daltry holding a giant can of Heinz baked beans. But Weller was only joking and mocking what he expected the reaction in some parts of the music press would be to his band’s long awaited success. ‘Number One single – The Jam have now sold out?’

In the event The BBC refused to allow Paul to wear the apron, although Weller characteristically agreed only to turn it round and wear it back to front. But with the studio lights blazing the apron became virtually transparent and viewers could clearly see the logo, which meant Weller had effectively got his way. But he wasn’t happy with what he perceived as establishment bullies laying the law down so when the time came for the performance (which was mimed), Weller minced about and deliberately got his words wrong.

Another typically humorous gesture from a man publicly becoming known as ‘Old Misery Guts’, after being labelled that by Smash Hits magazine. But, personally, Paul was largely unaffected by this tag, even playing up to it by introducing a flexi disc, given away by Smash Hits, with the words, ‘Hello, this is Paul Weller speaking, but don’t let that stop you enjoying yourselves.’

Driven once again by Foxton’s bass line, lyrically ‘Going Underground’ tackles the growing nuclear threat, referring to the invasion of Afghanistan by Russia in December 1979. Again written in the first person, Weller portrays himself as the proletariat instructed by the establishment to support their wishes (presumably by increasing taxes) and meekly towing the line.

In 2002, 22 years after The Jam released ‘Going Underground’, Paul Weller gave Virgin Radio’s breakfast DJ Daryl Denham permission to rewrite the lyrics to his number one hit. The song was released as ‘Go England’ just prior to the 2002 World Cup campaign.

 Sounds from the Street is available at these links.

UK ebook here    US ebook here    UK paperback here   US paperback here

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This is The Modern World  – The Jam

Extract from Sounds From the Street

The Modern World (Weller)

Recorded on 21 September 1977 at Basing Street Studios, Notting Hill, London
A-side released: 21 October 1977; Polydor 2058 945; reached no 36 in UK chart
Produced by Chris Parry and Vic Coppersmith-Heaven
Album track: ‘This Is The Modern World’ (November 1977)
B-side: Sweet Soul Music (live); Back In My Arms Again (live); Bricks And Mortar (live)

‘The Modern World’ (the single) was written in April 1977, just after the recording sessions for In The City had finished but prior to its release. Other songs were written during the course of those few months: ‘London Girl’, ‘Carnaby Street’ and ‘All Around The World’. It seemed as if, even before their debut album came out, the band were halfway towards a follow-up already. But with his father already having committed to a second album Weller’s creative process ran aground. And his lack of songs was made worse by the release of ‘All Around The World’ as a mid-year single, which caused Weller to block its inclusion, along with ‘Carnaby Street’, on the new album.

Weller was appalled at the thought of releasing an album ‘in instalments’ and insisted on giving fans value for money. It was an attitude that remained with the band throughout their career, ensuring that only one or two track’s from each album ever sneaked out as singles or B-sides. The same attitude extended to their live shows, where entrance fees were kept to a minimum and merchandising was intended as a non-profit making exercise, with items sold virtually at cost price.

For a while, during the summer of 1977, Polydor had considered releasing a live album in an attempt to capitalise on the quality of The Jam’s concert appearances, and a gig at the 100 club on 11 September had been recorded for that purpose. The idea was scrapped, however, when Weller and Foxton put together enough original songs considered good enough for a second studio album.

When ‘The Modern World’ was released as a single in October, the fact it had a supporting flip side of three live tracks lifted from the 100 Club recording suggested to many that the band were drying up creatively. As a result the upcoming album was viewed with suspicion, but the A-side itself was pure Jam in its structure and intensity and was well reviewed. ‘The Modern World’ was recorded at a much faster tempo than the live version they were performing and shows Weller, apparently unaffected by the criticism he had received over the band’s mod image, rounding on his detractors and literally sticking two fingers up.

At school Weller had been derided for his ambition and told he would amount to nothing; now his band had been criticised for not being punk (they never tried or claimed to be) and Weller himself had been told they were a one-album act. The lyric makes it clear that Weller was highly driven and that criticism, especially from those with influence and perceived authority, was never going to affect him. Paul could not have made it clearer than that, although to his dismay he was obliged to replace the ‘two fucks’ he threw at his reviewers with ‘a damn’ for the radio-friendly version. Musically the song once again looks back to the previous decade and is full of swinging power-chords reminiscent of The Who’s ‘Pictures Of Lily’. But it also includes a snapping drum pattern and bass line that drive the tune forward.

‘The Modern World’ was first heard on the John Peel show on 2 May, three weeks before In The City was released, so it came as a surprise to many when it wasn’t included on the album. The track remained popular with fans across the world right through to the very end of the band’s career; it was played both on the Beat Surrender tour and on The Jam’s last ever live television appearance (on The Tube in 1982). Though criticism at the time of its release seemed to be supported by its eventual chart position (much lower than that of the previous single), the song’s longevity speaks for itself.

But the track’s poor chart performance affected Weller’s confidence more than at first appeared. It would be a full year before he could produce another A-side, when ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ was released in October 1978. In the meantime, the singer basically passed the reins to Bruce Foxton.

The Modern World was later covered in 1999 by Ben Harper for The Jam tribute Album Fire and Skill

Sounds from the Street is available at these links.

UK ebook here    US ebook here    UK paperback here   US paperback here

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In The City – The Jam

In The City (Weller)
Recorded in March 1977 at Stratford Place Studios, Oxford Street, London
A-side released 29 April 1977; Polydor 2058 866; reached number 40
[B-side: ‘Takin My Love ]
Album track: In The City (May 1977)

Curiously, the album’s blistering title track was left to open the second side. Written towards the end of 1976 after Weller had turned 18, this was his tribute to the emerging punk scene, acknowledging it but at the same time placing himself firmly outside it. Such was the song’s popularity The Jam would open their live set with it and encore with it during the UK tour promoting the album. It was this song that Polydor signed the band to release as their debut single, and for that reason they were disappointed to see it only scraping into the Top 40 of the UK chart. By contrast the band themselves were delighted, particularly with the chance to perform on Top Of The Pops – although they were obliged to mime.

The idea for the lyric came from Paul’s experience of travelling into London from Woking for the early punk gigs in the summer of 1976; at the time he actually made up a lapel badge, pretty fashionable in those days, with the words ‘In The City There’s A Thousand Things I Want To Say To You’ printed on it. That homemade slogan was a reference to the thousands of kids who formed part of the punk/New Wave movement, each of them with something to say but not being listened to or taken seriously. Weller was one, but managed to articulate those feelings in a way no other 18-year-old had been able to up until then.        

‘In The City’ was the band’s debut single, released on 29 April 1977 and earning them the immediate respect and recognition of their contemporaries. Suddenly everybody knew who The Jam were, and their credibility was assured when Sex Pistol Steve Jones borrowed ‘In The City’’s descending guitar riff for the Pistols’ hit ‘Holidays In The Sun’, which reached number eight in the UK chart in October of that year. This sparked a confrontation between Weller and punk legend Sid Vicious at the Speakeasy drinking club in Soho. Vicious certainly had a reputation but he was unwise to confront a naturally volatile and aggressive Weller over who stole whose guitar riff. In fact, the wiry punk was left bleeding after Weller allegedly settled the row by smashing a glass over his head. Bruce Foxton: ‘I was there but I don’t remember it like that. It was only a punch up, in fact more of a scuffle really – nothing serious.’

To promote the record, Polydor arranged The Jam’s first real UK tour playing venues outside London, a rare event for them at the time. The first major date the band played was Leicester (at the Polytechnic on 5 March). Other out of London trips included Leighton Buzzard, Canterbury and Ipswich, but as the single wasn’t due for release until 29 April very few people outside London had heard of The Jam. Even the local paper in their home town of Woking made no reference to their new recording contract or growing reputation. Consequently the early shows were poorly attended, but the four-month tour gathered pace and after ‘In The City’ started receiving radio play in April the group found themselves playing to steadily growing audiences.

‘In The City’ has long been a favourite among Jam fans. Such is its popularity that when Polydor reissued it on seven-inch vinyl in 2002 to celebrate the song’s 25th anniversary, it once again broke into the UK Top 40. A staggering achievement considering it was released on an outmoded format (vinyl) and in limited numbers, with hardly any promotion at all. ‘Yeah, I was surprised about that,’ admitted Weller at the time. ‘But then again I think that’s a testimony to the music. The mark of a great band, if I may say so.’

That same week, a new compilation, The Sound Of The Jam, reached number three in the UK album chart and turned gold. ‘In The City’ was the album’s opening track, as it has been on every other Jam compilation album to be released since 1982. It is also the first song they ever played live on radio, during their first John Peel sessions on 26 April 1977 (transmitted on 2 May). The song also opens the track list on The Jam At The BBC, a collection of all their live radio appearances throughout their career.

The original picture sleeve was designed by Polydor art director Bill Smith, who took its DIY style from Jamie Reid, the youth responsible for the cut-and-paste lettering technique The Sex Pistols had used on Never Mind The Bollocks; the spray can graffiti image for The Jam’s first logo was a very similar homemade idea. A 10 x 6 sheet of plywood was set up and tiled over to give the impression the band were leaning against a subway wall, and then ‘The Jam’ was simply sprayed onto it. For the back sleeve Smith literally took a hammer to some of the tiles, re-photographed the board and then pasted Paul, Bruce and Rick’s photographs onto it as an effective way of using the same cheap prop twice.

 Sounds from the Street is available at these links.

UK ebook here    US ebook here    UK paperback here   US paperback here

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Down in The Tube Station at Midnight – The Jam

Extract from Sounds From the Street

Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
Recorded in August 1978 at RAK Studios, St Johns Wood, London
Produced by Vic Coppersmith Heaven
A-side released 6 October 1978; Polydor POSP 8; reached no 15 in UK chart
B-side: ‘So Sad About Us’ (Townshend)/’The Night’ (Foxton)

Only two months after ‘David Watts’’ muted reception The Jam returned to the charts in some style. ‘Down In the Tube Station at Midnight’ was released on 6 October and signalled a real turning point for the band. Musically the track demonstrates a significant change of style for The Jam. Instead of having Weller’s raging Rickenbacker high in the mix, the song is driven along by Foxton’s intricate bass line, with Paul contributing single spaced-out chords throughout the verses before raising the tempo in time for a punching chorus – a style Kurt Cobain would use to great effect with Nirvana a decade later.

Lyrically Weller again tells a story in the first person, this time a witty but at times menacing tale of a young man attacked on the London Underground late at night. The scene is set is set as the song’s character fumbles in his pocket for the right change for his ticket and hears hateful voices whispering behind him. Finally the voices shout out and demand money with menaces and a violent mugging is about to take place. (The phrase in the second verse ‘smiling beguiling’, incidentally, was lifted from The Yardbirds’ 1965 single ‘Evil Hearted You’.)

Descriptively, Weller borrows from Ray Davies’ style of creating images in the Kinks songs, whereby the listener can almost see and feel the events taking place. First Weller’s victim was punched and then kicked by right wing thugs fresh out of prison (Wormwood Scrubs) and then left drifting in and out of consciousness on the platform. Finally, in a sinister twist, Weller reminds us his victim’s wife is waiting at home for him and the muggers have stolen his flat keys.

Weller himself describes the track as a short television play transposed to a three-minute pop song. ‘A geezer is on his way home from work with a take-away and gets beaten up on the platform by some thugs. He assesses his life as it flashes across his eyes and his last thought is his take-away curry getting cold on the floor.’ But, in perhaps the greatest image of all, as he slips in and out of consciousness all he can make out is a British Rail poster advertising an Awayday. With that, Weller firmly establishes himself as one of the great three-minute storytellers.

Rick Buckler: ‘I remember exactly what happened with ‘Tube Station’. It was developed around Bruce’s bass line, which is pretty obvious, and we had all the musical parts worked out and then Paul came in one day with some lyrics, which are fantastic, and we adapted the song to suit them.’ But adapting it wasn’t as easy as Buckler makes it sound. ‘Paul wanted to scrap it after a while,’ producer Vic Coppersmith Heaven said. ‘He’s very impatient in the studio, with The Jam being very much a live band, and he didn’t think it was working. He said it was rubbish but when I read the lyrics I was knocked out and told him he must be joking.’

History has proven Coppersmith-Heaven right in encouraging The Jam to persevere with ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ and make it work. In 1981 Paul said, ‘I still think that ‘Tube Station’ is the best single we have done and it’s not that commercial when you first hear it. I think people are getting more into actually listening to the songs and not just the first hook line.’

‘Down In the Tube Station at Midnight’ only managed to chart at number 15, failing to beat their previous best position with ‘All Around The World’, which reached number 13. But, more encouragingly, it was the first song Weller had written since April 1977 (before the release of their debut album) which was good enough to be released as a single. The song illustrated that not only was Weller back, he was far better than he had ever been. In the past his story telling had been at best lumpy, but now Paul was creating identifiable English characters and telling grim real-life English stories.

‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ was one of the most popular songs The Jam played live at that time, and a haunting version appears on The Jam at the BBC during their live concert broadcast from the Golders Green Hippodrome on 19 December 1981. Anybody attending a Jam gig between 1978 and 1980 will remember the thunderous noise of a tube train echoing through the PA system, which would usually attract the largest cheer of the night as the band launched into the song.

But Rick Buckler remembers it all going wrong on one occasion: ‘We went off on tour and nobody thought to bring along the taped tube train intro to the song,’ he recalled. ‘Then someone had the bright idea of going out to a local record shop and buying the single to play the intro off that. The problem was the single was half a beat out from the version we played live and Paul came in at the wrong time. Bruce and I looked at each other and switched to Paul’s beat, just as he realised it for himself and switched to ours, which meant we were all out of time again. That time Bruce and I just stayed with it and Paul had to come back to us. We got away with it though, but we didn’t bother with the tube recording after that.’

But some recognised pundits missed the point of the song completely, and Radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn was scathing about the lyric on his show. ‘I think it is disgusting the way these punks sing about violence all the time,’ he raged. ‘Why can’t they sing about beautiful things like trees and flowers?’ Weller was furious and phoned the programme to defend his creation on air and explain the anti-violent message he was trying to put across. But ‘Tube Station’ won The Jam an army of new fans, all eager to find out what was going to be on the upcoming album All Mod Cons. The rush to the shops as soon as the LP was released catapulted The Jam to number six in the UK charts.

For students of detail, the tube train intro was recorded by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven just around the corner from the studio at St Johns Wood tube station and the sleeve photographs were taken Polydor art director Bill Smith at Bond Street tube.

 Sounds from the Street is available at these links.

UK ebook here    US ebook here    UK paperback here   US paperback here

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That’s Entertainment

Extract from Sounds From the Street

That’s Entertainment (Weller)

Recorded in September 1980 at the Townhouse Studios, Shepherd’s Bush, London
Produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and The Jam
Album track: Sound Affects

‘Coming home from the pub pissed and writing ‘That’s Entertainment’ in ten minutes – Weller’s finest song to date, hah!’ is how Paul  himself refers to the song in his sleeve notes for Dig The New Breed.‘That’s Entertainment’, by using candid language, creates a vista of the English way of life in 1980 and is widely regarded as Weller’s finest attempt at articulating the society he is a part of and his day-to-day boredom with it.

But the lyric is apparently based on a poem called ‘That’s Entertainment’ written by Paul Drew and submitted to Riot Stories for publication in their 1980 collection of poems Mixed Up-Shook Up. In 2003 Paul was asked on his official website if it was true ‘that someone call Paul Drew wrote a poem, which the lyrics for ‘That’s Entertainment’ are based on or am I completely mistaken?’ Weller, unabashed by this suggestion of plagiarism, replied cheerfully: ‘You are not mistaken at all!’

The visual image the lyric creates is used for the theme of the album cover, which is borrowed from a BBC Sound Effects album Paul found in the studio during the recording sessions. Weller simply substituted the small picture of each of the effects on the album with everyday urban images, many of which can be found in the ‘That’s Entertainment’ lyric. The inner sleeve picture was taken at sunrise, an early morning Weller refers to in his Dig The New Breed sleeve notes.

Several demos of ‘That’s Entertainment’ were recorded, one of which appears on the 1983 compilation album Snap,including a gentle drum part and experimental bass line, neither of which was used in the final version. The Jam also recorded a lively ‘punk’ version of ‘That’s Entertainment’ which Buckler likened to the version Reef contributed to the tribute album Fire And Skill in 1999, but that effort has never been recovered. The final stripped-down version of ‘That’s Entertainment’ has been described by some as Buckler’s single biggest contribution to the art of drumming: knowing when not to drum and having the confidence not to.

When ‘That’s Entertainment’ was initially released in Germany in 1981, The Jam were so popular in the UK that it sold enough copies on import alone, despite the release never being publicised in Britain, for it to reach number 21 in the UK charts. It went on to stay in the top 75 for a total of seven weeks.

‘That’s Entertainment’has remained popular, and synonymous with The Jam, for over 30 years and has been played live by many artists.

The Jam – Sounds from the Street is available now.

Albert Jack books available for download here

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Town Called Malice

Extract from Sounds From the Street

Town Called Malice (Weller)

Recorded in December 1981at the AIR Studios, Oxford Street, London
Produced by Pete Wilson and The Jam
A-side released 13 February 1982; Polydor POSP 400; reached no 1 in UK chart
Double A-side: ‘Precious’

In February 1982 The Jam had not topped the charts for 18 months and, despite the fact that the two singles they had released since the 1980 hit ‘Start!’ had both reached number 4 (‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Absolute Beginners’), they once again needed to make a comeback. In 1978 the band had returned in style with the seminal All Mod Cons. This time, three and a half years later, they again managed to produce something special. ‘Town Called Malice’ crashed into the charts at number one on 13 February and remained there for three weeks, while simultaneously enjoying comprehensive chart success all over the world.

The song’s title is an obvious allusion to Nevil Shute’s popular novel A Town Called Alice, but nothing else of Shute’s makes it onto the track. Instead, Weller presents his defining image of everyday urban English life. The real inspiration comes from Paul’s old friend Dave Waller, whose method of descriptive urban imagery is mirrored in ‘Town Called Malice’. The images could have reflected any suburban town, but in fact it was The Jam’s hometown of Woking that provided the backdrop.

In 1982 the Unigate Dairy on Goldsworth Road was on the verge of closing, with the town’s milkmen making way for the hypermarkets and their wall-to-wall plastic milk cartons. Also, 1982 was a time of high unemployment in the area and Weller draws on this, giving his townsfolk the choice of ‘beer or the kids’ new gear’ as families are forced to make cutbacks. But Paul finally recognises that he’s moaning too much by signing off with the masterful lyric: I could go on for hours and I probably will but I’d sooner put some joy back into a town called Malice’. All this is set against a classic bass line and stomping Motown beat borrowed from The Supremes’ 1966 gem ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, written by Holland/Dozier/Holland (and inspiring Phil Collins to rework The Supremes’ song itself in November 1982).

Squire guitarist Enzo Esposito remembers that, despite the chart success of ‘Town Called Malice’, Paul was never totally happy with the end result. Enzo: ‘Paul wanted it to have a slower, more soulful tempo, more like he plays it these days. I think he was happy with the song but just felt it was recorded with a faster tempo than he would have liked at the time.’

But The Jam were back, and bigger than ever. ‘Town Called Malice’ was in fact released as a double A-side with ‘Precious’ and the band were immediately asked to perform both tracks on the same edition of Top Of The Pops. In doing so they became the first act since The Beatles performed ‘Day Tripper’ / ‘We Can Work It Out’ to play two songs back to back on the show. It was official: The Jam were, to many people, as popular as The Beatles, and Weller felt he had achieved his childhood dream.

Unlike 1981, The Jam set out on a grueling world tour, starting on 12 March at the Guildhall in Portsmouth, taking in the whole of the UK, parts of Europe, America, Canada and Japan before returning to London on 26 June to play at Loftus Road in Shepherd’s Bush. The tour was a major success and The Jam sold out in every town, but the yobbish culture of the band’s audience increasingly depressed Weller, who was by now determined to lighten up and enjoy the lifestyle advocated by Colin MacInnes in his book Absolute Beginners. In the video for ‘Town Called Malice’ the band flashed up a series of subliminal messages, one of them reading: ‘If we ain’t getting through to you then you obviously ain’t listening.’

‘Town Called Malice’ came in a sleeve decorated with a depressing urban image, using a photograph taken by Rick Buckler from the tour coach as the band travelled to a gig in Leicester.

The Jam – Sounds from the Street is available now

Albert Jack books available for download here

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The Jam – Sounds From The Street

PREFACE

I was one of those rare Jam fans who discovered the band via their apparently unpopular second album This Is The Modern World. In January 1978 I was 13 years old and a friend of mine pulled the album out and played it to me. He told me they came from the same place as us, Woking, so we sat and listened to it one afternoon. He reckoned his elder sister had seen them play down at Michael’s Club some years earlier. A few hours later I was out washing cars to raise the money for my own copy, and a copy of the band’s debut album In The City.

That’s possibly the reason why I still regard Modern World as such an important set of songs – and why the constant criticism that album has come in for frustrates and irritates me. So, in these pages I will try to make it clear why that release was, and still is, so important.

With the demise of the band in 1982 it became hip in some Jam circles to diminish drummer Rick Buckler and bassist Bruce Foxton, and even to forget about original bandmember Steve Brookes, while collectively agreeing that the whole thing had been The Paul Weller Show. That, too, has irritated me. As far as some writers are concerned, Buckler and Foxton feel hard-done-by and are bitter and bemused at Paul’s decision to move on. But both Rick and Bruce are friends of mine and at no point in the last 20 years have I heard either of them say an unpleasant word about anything. They know the value of the part they played in the band and so do I. Steve Brookes, in his honest and accurate account of the early Jam, Keeping The Flame (an essential read for Jam fans), clearly indicates that he too knows the value of the part he played. But, characteristically, Steve understates the case. I hope I can give him the credit he deserves here.

As I wrote this story I had four imaginary readers sitting on my shoulder and I owe them my thanks for their imaginary criticism. The first reader is the Jam fan, who will be the most critical of all. All of them know The Jam better than the next one (and that is part of the mystique of the band) and I already realise I could be picked up at every turn by fans who say ‘This isn’t right and that isn’t right’. So I have taken great care to be as accurate as possible. The second reader is the non-Jam fan who wasn’t present on the 70s/80s scene, and who therefore needs some of the details explained – details which the big Jam fans will consider a case of ‘stating the bleeding obvious’, for which I apologise in advance.

The third group of readers are Messrs Brookes, Buckler, Foxton and Weller, who need no introduction and who I hope will read this story. I want to emphasise that criticism is not the intention, the intention is to create an honest picture and to tell the story as it actually happened. My research suggests that it was Foxton and Brookes who were crucial to The Jam’s emergence and subsequent stability. But I make no apologies to those who cry ‘sycophant’, as I am an obvious Weller and Buckler fan too. The fourth reader is my publisher, Reynolds and Hearn. I know that sensationalism would sell them a shed full of books but they didn’t want that and nor did I (the sensationalism part, I mean). They simply asked me to ‘tell it as it happened’. And that, quite simply, is the reason I agreed to write it.

There are two further motives for writing this book. The first is Ian MacDonald’s Revolution In The Head, which tells the story of The Beatles. When I read it in 1999 it fascinated me and I still refer to it when I hear Beatles tunes. I thought that weaving the story around the important thing, the songs, was a wonderful idea and my immediate reaction was to look around for such a balanced account of The Jam, but there wasn’t one. Like Ian I wanted to create a chronology of the music. But, instead of labouring too hard over the technical details of each song, I saw the opportunity to tell the inside story of a group of schoolmates, who grew up to dominate the music scene of a generation.

The second reason came earlier this year when I was sitting in a pub in Guildford with Bruce Foxton. A young fan came over for an autograph and a chat. Bruce duly obliged and after a short while the lad made to leave and said, ‘It’s great to meet you, I have always loved your music and I don’t believe any of the shit that’s been written about you.’ Bruce just laughed and replied, ‘Thanks very much. Nor do I.’

I decided that I too had heard enough of that sort of thing and that it was time the true story of The Jam was told, without slant or spin, name-calling, side-taking or rancour. What’s the point in all that? It’s the music that matters.

Albert Jack.
Guildford
May 2003 (Revised August 2012)

The Jam – Sounds from the Street is available at these links.

Albert Jack books available for download here