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The Jam (looking Back)

Tue May 28, 2002 8:01 am

Even though The Jam never received the acclaim it deserved in the USA, I am a big fan of this group and have been for almost 20 years now. This group was born during the Mod revival during the very late seventies and early eighties. The group took much of its inspiration from The Who (Quadrophenia) and other groups from the Mod genre, like The Squires, Secret Affair and the like.

We don't honor the Jam, as we should. There are no memorials to the heroic struggles they undertook on our behalf. There are no Mountain Dew commercials, or MTV press conferences or comic books. But they worked harder than the Sex Pistols ever worked, and kept at it long after the Pistols had gone out in a cloud of lawsuits and unfulfilled contractual obligations. Those of us who remember the Jam from the late '70s and early '80s -- the post-Pistols years -- remember them as a bright spot in a firmament blotted dark with Styx’s and Foreigners, and as a band rewarded for their pains by ending up as a chew-toy for cranky rock critics. We know them as keepers of a guttering aesthetic which has lately come back into flame (with Pulp, and Oasis), but whose light has yet to reach the place where lie their neglected bones.

They were far from alone: There were hundreds like them bubbling up through the import bins, and circulating underground through tiny vanity labels and Xeroxed fanzines. But they were large among their peers. Only the Clash were consistently larger, and the Clash fell hard and flat at the end, while the Jam were still climbing when they met their fate.

I recently listened to an interview with Paul Weller proclaiming he hasn't talked with former band members since 1984. Damn it I will never get the opportunity to see this band. I was a Mod, living in Sunny California ridding around on my Vespa P200E, with Parka and Bowling shoes.

I was caught up in this revival movement in Los Angeles and loved the pseudo clean punk image it presented. I guess the reason I am talking about this because recently, I witnessed a large "Scooter Rally" in Austin and it brought back found memories.

I can't believe this movement is still around. Does this movement still exist in England? What about other countries? Has anyone come across modern Mods in their community? Let's talk Mod can we?

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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Tue May 28, 2002 11:42 am

Sound Affects is one of the best albums ever made, IMHO.
Next Up: STL-MIA-GCM-MIA-STL. Fun in the December sun! :santahat:
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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Tue May 28, 2002 12:31 pm

Definitely one of the great bands of my youth... it seems so long ago! Saw them twice live, in Toronto -- at the Masonic Temple, and the CNE coliseum. Both excellent shows.

The guitarist in the first band I was in was a Mod, fresh off the plane from Scotland; we (the singer and drummer, I missed this) met him on a bus here in Hamilton; they saw him and started singing "we are we are the Mods (or something like it)" and that was that... He's now a banker, and probably rolling in the dough...

Did you know Bruce Foxton has spent the last few years playing bass for Stiff Little Fingers? Another great band, underappreciated in this part of the world.

How old this reminiscing makes one feel!


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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Tue May 28, 2002 4:47 pm

The Jam are still honoured and respected in the UK. And Paul Weller is of course pretty well known both for the subsequent Style Council and his solo work.

Their biggest influence by far was The Who. The style was more or less identical, and no-one else constructed their songs the same way, using the bass guitar to carry the melody with the "lead" guitar virtually disappearing, operating purely as rhythm guitar tied into the drums. Indeed, both Pete Townshend and Paul Weller have at different times commented on how many bands tried to copy them but couldn't understand how they got that sound. The fact that Weller was a huge Who fan was indicative of where the style came from. If you wish to hear a classic exposition of what I'm talking about listen to the Who song "The Real Me", which consists of extraordinary bass and drums with the electric guitar anchored to about two notes.

The other thing to note about both bands was their defiant Englishness, which in the Who's case certainly didn't damage their popularity in the US, but in the Jam's case probably did.
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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Wed May 29, 2002 2:06 am

The Jam were a class act.
The first Album was OK, the second pretty poor, but then they really hit their stride with 'All Mod Cons', what a classic! (Bruce Foxton wrote half of the rather poor 'This Is The Modern World', a coincidence?).
'Setting Son's', the 1979 follow up is an odd beast, it's almost a concept album, (and in those days that was a dirty word, rightfully so when you consider the rotten stuff Genesis, ELP, Yes and all the others gave us in the 1970's).
But it's still a favourite of mine, 23 years on.
'Sound Affect's', I really took time to appreciate that album, but it's the bravest Jam album, and one of the best.
'The Gift' was a bit patchy, we were sad at the then but with hindsight they split at the right time.
I bitterly regret not gettting tickets for their last tour, having heard some of it on live albums they were, as always, brilliant, giving it 100%
I really went right off The Style Council after the excerable 'Our Favourite Shop' album.
When Paul Weller re-emerged 11 years ago, I saw one of his shows at a small venue in London, he still didn't have a record deal so was angry, and he played some Jam songs too! Bliss!
(This concert was released on video once he got a contract, 'great' I thought, small venue, we were up the front for the most part, we're bound to be in it. Nope, Weller, still being a Mod, thought the audience was 'not dressed well enough, and too few Black people in the crowd', so he had another audience put in the video footage-cheeky git)!
This wasn't the reason I've never got into Paul Weller as a solo artist, I just find him boring now.
Most really great bands like The Jam are the sum of their parts.
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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Wed May 29, 2002 2:17 am

That's a good point GDB. How many members of "great" bands have gone on to equivalent solo success? Not even John Lennon or Paul McCartney managed that.
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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Wed May 29, 2002 9:27 pm

TechRep- thanks for the kind words about one of my favorite bands.

(Cues up "Smithers-Jones")

"Sympathy is something that shouldn't be bestowed on the Yankees. Apparently it angers them." - Bob Feller
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Part 2

Wed May 29, 2002 10:23 pm

The Jam were the most popular band to emerge from the initial wave of British punk rock in 1977; along with the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Buzzcocks, the Jam had the most impact on pop music. While they could barely get noticed in America, the trio became genuine superstars in Britain, with an impressive string of Top Ten singles in the late '70s and early '80s. The Jam could never have a hit in America because they were thoroughly and defiantly British. Under the direction of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Paul Weller, the trio spearheaded a revival of mid-'60s mod groups, in the style of the Who and the Small Faces. Like the mod bands, the group dressed stylishly, worshipped American R&B, and played it loud and rough. By the time of the group's third album, Weller's songwriting had grown substantially, as he was beginning to write social commentaries and pop songs in the vein of the Kinks. Both his political songs and his romantic songs were steeped in British culture, filled with references and slang in the lyrics, as well as musical allusions. Furthermore, as the Jam grew more popular and musically accessible, Weller became more insistent and stubborn about his beliefs, supporting leftist causes and adhering to the pop aesthetics of '60s British rock without ever succumbing to hippie values. Paradoxically, that meant even when their music became more pop than punk, they never abandoned the punk values — if anything, Weller stuck to the strident independent ethics of 1977 more than any other punk band just by simply refusing to change.
Weller formed the Jam with drummer Rick Buckler, bassist Bruce Foxton, and guitarist Steve Brookes while they were still in school in 1975; Brookes quickly left the band and they remained a trio for the rest of their career. For the next year, the band played gigs around London, building a local following. In February 1977, the group signed a record contract with Polydor Records; two months later, they released their debut single, "In the City," which reached the U.K. Top 40. The following month, the group released their debut album, also called In the City. Recorded in just 11 days, the album featured a combinations of R&B covers and Weller originals, all of which sounded a bit like faster, more ragged versions of the Who's early records. Their second single, "All Around the World," nearly broke into the British Top Ten and the group embarked on a successful British tour. During the summer of 1977, they recorded their second album, This Is the Modern World, which was released toward the end of the year. "The Modern World" made it into the Top 40 in November, just as the Jam were beginning their first American tour. Although it was brief, the tour was not successful, leaving bitter memories of the U.S. in the minds of the band.

This Is the Modern World peaked in the British charts at number 22, yet it received criticism for repeating the sound of the debut. The band began a headlining tour of the U.K., yet it was derailed shortly after it started when the group got into a nasty fight with a bunch of rugby players in a Leeds hotel. Weller broke several bones and was charged with assault, although the Leeds Crown Court would eventually acquit him. The Jam departed for another American tour in March of 1978 and it was yet another unsuccessful tour, as they opened for Blue Öyster Cult. It did nothing to win new American fans, yet their star continued to rise in Britain. Bands copying the group's mod look and sound popped up across Britain and the Jam itself performed at the Reading Festival in August. All Mod Cons, released late in 1979, marked a turning point in the Jam's career, illustrating that Weller's songwriting was becoming more melodic, complex, and lyrically incisive, resembling Ray Davies more than Pete Townshend. Even as their sound became more pop-oriented, the group lost none of their tightly controlled energy. All Mod Cons was a major success, peaking at number six on the U.K. charts, even if it didn't make a dent in the U.S. Every one of the band's singles were now charting in the Top 20, with the driving "Eton Rifles" becoming their first Top Ten in November 1979, charting at number three.

Setting Sons, released at the end of 1979, climbed to number four in the U.K. and marked their first charting album in the U.S., hitting number 137 in spring of 1980. At that time, the Jam had become full-fledged rock stars in Britain, with their new "Going Underground" single entering the charts at number one. During the summer, the band recorded their fifth album, with the "Taxman"-inspired "Start" released as a teaser single in August; "Start" became their second straight number one. Its accompanying album, the ambitious Sound Affects, hit number two in the U.K. at the end of the year; it was also the band's high-water mark in the U.S., peaking at number 72. "That's Entertainment," one of the standout tracks from Sound Affects, charted at number 21 in the U.K. as an import single, confirming the band's enormous popularity.

"Funeral Pyre," the band's summer 1981 single, showed signs that Weller was becoming fascinated with American soul and R&B, as did the punchy, horn-driven "Absolute Beginners," which hit number four in the fall of the year. As the Jam were recording their sixth album, Weller suffered a nervous breakdown, which prompted him to stop drinking. In February 1982, the first single from the new sessions — the double A-sided "Town Called Malice"/"Precious" — became their third number one single and the band became the first group since the Beatles to play two songs on BBC's Top of the Pops. The Gift, released in March of 1982, showcased the band's soul infatuation and became the group's first number one album in the U.K. "Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero" hit number eight in July, becoming the group's second import single to make the U.K. charts.

Although the Jam was at the height of its popularity, Paul Weller was becoming frustrated with the trio's sound and made the decision to disband the group. On the heels of the number two hit "The Bitterest Pill," the Jam announced their breakup in October of 1982. The band played a farewell tour in the fall and their final single, "Beat Surrender," entered the charts at number one. Dig the New Breed, a compilation of live tracks, charted at number two in December of 1982. All 16 of the group's singles were re-released by Polydor in the U.K. at the beginning of 1983; all of them re-charted simultaneously. Bruce Foxton released a solo album, Touch Sensitive, and Rick Buckler played with the Time U.K.; neither of the efforts were as noteworthy as the Jam biography the two wrote in the early '90s, which contained many vicious attacks on Paul Weller.

Immediately after the breakup of the Jam, Weller formed the Style Council with Mick Talbot, a member of the Jam-inspired mod revival band the Merton Parkas. After a handful of initial hits, the Style Council proved to be a disappointment and Weller fell out of favor, both critically and commercially. At the end of the decade he disbanded the group and went solo in the early '90s; his solo albums have been both artistic and popular successes, returning him to the spotlight in the U.K. The legacy of the Jam is apparent in nearly every British guitar pop band of the '80s and '90s, from the Smiths to Blur and Oasis. More than any other group, the Jam kept the tradition of three-minute, hook-driven British guitar pop alive through the '70s and '80s, providing a blueprint for generations of bands to come. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

An interesting article indeed. The main reason for my extreme like for this group has to be the gritty blue-collar lyrics mixed with smart riffs and the ability to speak to me through music. Few bands have the ability to speak to me within the confines of my generation. The Beatles didn't speak to me nor did the Stones. They were before my time and only one other group has gripped me like the The Jam has and that has to be early Who.

I listened to Quadrophenia so much I had to buy it on CD since I wore the vinyl out. Early in my punk/mod upbringing I was smitten with the Clash buying their albums with fervor. I quickly grew out of them and graduated to The Jam. I found growing up in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles, a certain amount in common with what this group and could thoroughly understand where they were coming from.

Later after transforming into a complete Mod, I found all the groups in the LA area were just complete copies of this group. I was able to see The Undertones and The Stiff Little Fingers at Madam Wong’s West along with over 1200 other Mods complete with 200 Scooters. My Vespa P200E was a bad machine with 14 mirrors, racks, 8 Lights, expansion chamber and could easily go 75 MPH.

After I left the Mod movement around 1985 for the Air Force, I found my youth was too over and time to move on to adulthood, something The Who and The Jam spoke of many times in song. The fear of growing old and joining the dreary rat race. The song "Mr. Clean" empathizes this quite well.

Talking about the perfect Englishman who has it all, wife, college education great job. Paul Weller emphasizes don't look at me Mr. Clean, I hate you and your life and if I get the chance I’ll fuck up your life. He surrounds himself with dreams and can only dream about what it will be like to ever attain what the perfect Englishman has. An obvious attack at class structure here. I can easily understand what he is identifying with.


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RE: The Jam (looking Back)

Thu May 30, 2002 12:33 am

Great article Tech Rep.
Me, and all the friends I grew up with still hold a special place in our heart for The Jam, they really did reflect life as we knew it, at school a Jam single or album release was a major cutural event!
And they sounded great too.

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