Where to START! (I’m not even sorry) with The Jam ?
Normally I’d like to focus on an album or period but, let’s face it, The Jam was just non-stop progression from 1977-82. To pull apart and fixate on any one point in their career is… well, it’s too hard for me to do. What makes the group amazing, is the full journey of the band.
I’ve been a Jam fan since I was a kid, and in hindsight I think that was the START! (I promise I’ll stop doing that) of my love of punk and new wave: the genres that are defined by their clever lyrics and in-your-face sound. Growing up with a natural rebellious streak and always wanting to read between the lines, it was love. A love I consistently cheated on with metal and hard rock, but a love I always came home to, and shared me with glam (a sweet relationship, right?)
So, this was a recommendation. Instead of picking an album, I’ve been watching videos of Weller’s genius and listening through what they’ve done over 6 albums. This was better than commenting on hits I already know word for word, and learning some history. It only dawned on me how definitely British the group is (yeah, yeah, Weller’s voice NEVER gave that away). I mean more in terms of their success. The songs are all written about working class life in England, from “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” to “Town Called Malice”, and the more you listen to the albums (not just the “hits”) the more you hear the influences in the sound as well as the lyrics.
Paul Weller grew up in an environment where most people only wanted to mirror what their parents had – a 3 bed house, a family, a stable job – and this fueled his writing. I think the rejection of mediocre dreams is something that always resonated with me. Although this is a foundation block to the punk movement, what he had to say in his music always hit home more than Sex Pistols or The Clash ever did. It has always been easier to relate to, particularly as I got older and now that I’m getting into the London groove.
In terms of how they got from “In The City” (1977) to “The Gift“(1982) is amazing. There are countless bands, needless to name (you can fill the gaps), that take time to find their sound and a lot of music (or quality thereof) is lost in transition . The Jam is a real rarity in that nothing was really lost and each album was great at moving from strength to strength. It makes it harder to admit, having said this, that “Going Underground” and “Beat Surrender” are still my favourite songs as they were at the end of their career, but gems like “The Eton Rifles“, “Pretty Green” and “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” that came along the way will never die.
I suppose that although I have been comparing them to punk acts, The Jam are more in the new wave (some say Mod or prog-rock, whatever) movement. However, it’s easy to draw that comparison from their influences – The Who, The Clash, Sex Pistols. I’ll always pool them with my punk albums though. Even looking at their albums, they are tight at 30-40 minutes long, with no filler, and always challenging the status quo. The same could be said of their lifespan, cranking out 6 albums and all of their singles landing in the charts, finding their sound and always maintaining relevance until the end, and beyond, all in 5 years. That’s pretty punk, but yet they’re not.
In summation (having really not said all that much), The Jam is deserves a place in British musical heritage and was revolutionary. If nothing else, they make me want to pick up my bass and play along more than almost any other band.
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