When The Jam were at their peak, I wasn’t there for the ride. Barring a few songs, I wasn’t too crazy about their music, their image and the über British feeling they oozed. Around the time Paul Weller started The Style Council, a project I thought (and still think, by the way) was way better than The Jam, I bought The Jam’s farewell (live) album, Dig The New Breed.
The Jam was a typical British band. Therefore, it’s not very remarkable that The Jam was incredibly popular in the United Kingdom. The Jam has never made an impact in the USA. In March of 1982 they had their first chart-entry in The Netherlands with the song Town Called Malice, a Motown pastiche that did very well. The next chart success came in 1983 with the single Beat Surrender. By then, The Jam had already disbanded.
But within indie-circles The Jam was very much loved and many couldn’t wait for the next and upcoming releases. The band is oftentimes categorized as being part of the punk movement, but that’s not quite correct. Particularly on their first two albums the songs were short and fast, but they were deeply rooted in classic (English) beat music (probably one of the reasons I initially wasn’t too keen). The band’s presentation was also not on par with the punk movement. The Jam were the front runners in the mod-revival at the time, and flirted openly with (the grandeur of) the (former) British Empire (and its decline), while punk was more critical and was certainly not melancholy. And, also noteworthy: they really could play (very) well! They played on Rickenbackers and had a soul preference, which became more prominent with every release.
The Jam released 6 studio albums between 1977 and 1982. I bought the 1997 boxset Direction Reaction Creation. The box contains all studio recordings ever done by the band. A beautiful box, immaculately packaged, great remastered sound. Did it affect my opinion on The Jam? Yes and no: the stuff that is good is really exceptional, but I think there’s too much filler. What can be heard very clearly is the band’s development. It’s striking that the music The Jam made on their last offering(s) very much resembles the start of The Style Council.
The band only existed for 5 years and the 95 songs on the first 4 disc of the boxset prove that The Jam made some great songs. In The City, The Modern World, Standards, David Watts, Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, In The Crowd, The Eton Rifles, Private Hell, Going Underground, Start!, That’s Entertainment, Town Called Malice, Ghosts and Beat Surrender are all brilliant pop songs.
At the time, The Jam was accused of ‘quoting’ other people’s work, of which Start! (which is almost a remake of The Beatles’ Taxman) is just one example. I remember clearly that VARA (Dutch) radio station spent an hour analyzing The Jam songs and whether or not those songs were basically rip-offs or not. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact content of the radio show anymore.
By far, the best The Jam song is That’s Entertainment. According to Weller, it was written in ten minutes. Some ten minutes! A beautiful song with impressive lyrics, about ordinary daily life, which provide a vivid image of ‘normal’ life at the time:
A police car and a screaming siren
A pnuematic drill and ripped up concrete
A baby waiting and stray dog howling
The screech of brakes and lamplights blinking
A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat
Lights going out and a kick in the balls
Days of speed and slow time Mondays
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday
Watching the news and not eating your tea
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls
Waking up at 6 a.m. on a cool warm morning
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol
An amateur band rehearsing in a nearby yard
Watching the tele and thinking about your holidays
Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes
Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume
A hot summers’ day and sticky black tarmac
Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were faraway
Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight
Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude
Getting a cab and traveling on buses
Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs
© Paul Weller, 1980
The song was never released as a single in England. It is indicative of The Jam’s popularity that the single, purely based on import sales (!), still entered the British charts. To this day, the song remains one of the two all-time biggest selling import singles in the UK (the other one being The Jam’s Just Who Is The 5 O’Clock Hero? single.
And, rightfully so. Just for this song alone, the name Paul Weller is a name that must not and can not be forgotten.
The end of The Jam
In October 1982 Paul Weller announced that The Jam was about to disband. In a letter, which was published in the New Musical Express in November 1982, he explained his reasoning:
At the end of this year the Jam will officially be splitting up, as I feel we have achieved all we can together as a group. I mean this both musically and commercially.
I want all we achieved to count for something and most of all I’d hate for us to end up old and embarrassing like so many other groups do. The longer a group continues, the more frightening the thought of it ever ending becomes – that’s why so many of them carry on until they become meaningless. I’ve never wanted the Jam to get to this stage.
What we (and you) have built up has meant something, for me it stands for honesty, passion and energy and youth. I want it to stay that way and maybe exist as a guideline for new young groups coming up to improve and expand on. This would make it even more worthwhile.
I have written this as a direct contact with you and so you hear it from us first. But also to say thank you for all the faith you have shown in us and the building of such a strong force and feeling that all three of us have felt and been touched by.
Here’s to the future,
In love and friendship.
Paul Weller (Oct. 1982)
Dig The New Breed
A short farewell tour was planned. Five consecutive days at Wembley Arena would be the last shows. Due to the overwhelming demand for tickets, some extra dates were added. On December 11th, 1982, in Brighton, The Jam performed for the very last time.
One day earlier, December 10th, 1982, 35 years ago today, the farewell album was released: the live-compilation Dig The New Breed. Just over 5 years after the release of their debut single (In The City: April 29th, 1977) The Jam chapter was closed indefinitely.
Despite the reviews and overall reception of the album, I love it. It is exciting, firm, fast and very very good. The Jam was a very nice band indeed! In my view this is a worthy goodbye.
Goodbye notes on Dig The New Breed
The back cover of the LP cover contained texts written by all three band members:
A brief six years! Sweaty frantic Red Cow residency, 1st week 50 people, 2nd week 100, by the 4th week a queue around the block! SWITCH the Marquee with Shane, Claudio and Adrian dancing on stage to the confusion of the usual Marquee hippies! SWITCH the first tour, traveling in this red Cortina for hours and having to learn to walk again when you got out! SIWTCH Dunstable and that hotel?! SWITCH QUICKLY! Making the first LP in 5 days or something, vocal tracks done in a lift! SWITCH actually being on Top of the Pops!! SWITCH RAK Studios listening to the playback of All Mod Cons, knowing we were onto something good! SWITCH Mod Cons gets to No. 6 in the LP charts! SWITCH writing Eton Rifles in a caravan in Selsey! SWITCH playing to 5 people in the Hope! SWITCH 30 kids sitting in the control room at the Townhouse!! SWITCH up at 4 o’clock in the morning to do the shot for Sound Affects! SWITCH coming home pissed from the pub writing ‘That’s Entertainment’ in 10 minutes, ‘Weller’s finest song to date’ hah! SWITCH near to tears when ‘Going Underground’ goes to the top! SWITCH ‘Why did you wear that apron?’! SWITCH a night in the nick in Leeds! SWITCH ‘Paul Weller is innocent’ chalked on the steps of the Leeds Court, God bless you girls! SWITCH the Sound Affects tour. SWITCH ’81 was an ‘orrible year for songs! SWITCH cracking-up over the GIFT LP, I wanted it perfect, but settled for good, oh well! SWITCH the noise those Japanese kids make, fantastic! SWITCH Chicago gig, brilliant! SWITCH What have I learnt? BELIEF IS ALL!
There are a lot of memories, emotions, laughs, drinks and hard work connected with this ‘live’ LP. To achieve the atmosphere of a Jam gig on an album is virtually impossible, but it does represent part of our 6 year career.
I would like it to be treated with RESPECT! Something we always tried to give our audience, and hopefully they to us.
Loyalty from the fans has always surprised and amazed me. Traveling around the world to give us the support we badly needed in places such as the States.
This album is especially for you… Thank you very much
Playing live, to me, is still the roots of all music, it can be and should be a spontaneous and exciting event for those involved but to capture this atmosphere on record is near impossible for obvious reasons. I have never been a great fan of live albums that try and emulate a studio recording with a cast of thousands, but instead a more basic and honest account.
These recordings were made over a five year period, and should give more than just ‘an account of songs played live’, or a ‘Greatest Hits’ type album.
All songs written by Paul Weller, except Big Bird, written by Eddie Floyd & Booker T. Jones.
|In The City||The 100 Club, London (1977)|
|All Mod Cons||The Rainbow Theatre, London (1979)|
|To Be Someone||The Rainbow Theatre, London (1979)|
|It’s Too Bad||The Rainbow Theatre, London (1979)|
|Start!||The Hammersmith Palais, London (1981)|
|Big Bird||The Hammersmith Palais, London (1981)|
|Set The House Ablaze||The Hammersmith Palais, London (1981)|
|Ghosts||Bingley Hall, Birmingham (1981)|
|Standards||Reading University (1979)|
|In The Crowd||The Edinburgh Playhouse (1982)|
|Going Underground||The Glasgow Apollo (1982)|
|The Dreams Of Children||The Glasgow Apollo (1982)|
|That’s Entertainment||The Glasgow Apollo (1982)|
|Private Hell||The Glasgow Apollo (1982)|
The Jam after The Jam
The decision to disband The Jam was made by Paul Weller. Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler wanted to go on and were, to put it mildly, ‘not amused’. They both described the end to be a bitter experience, but in the end (it took some years) they were able to accept the inevitable. It took Foxton and Weller over 20 years to even speak to one another. In 2015 Buckler stated he still hadn’t talked to Weller since The Jam’s last show.
One month after The Jam’s demise, record company Polydor re-released all of The Jam’s 16 singles at the same time: nine of them actually re-entered the charts!
Since the disbanding of The Jam, at least 6 compilation albums have been released, of which Snap! probably is the best-known. Each time the compilations sold well. The above mentioned Direction Reaction Creation, which contains all of The Jam’s studio material, was released in 1997 (20 years ago). It entered the album charts, number 8 being the highest position: an unbelievable feat for a box set (5 cd’s).
After The Jam
In 1983 Weller announced that he had formed a new band: The Style Council, together with Mick Talbot. The band dissolved in 1989, after which Weller launched a reasonably successful solo-career.
Foxton had a small solo-hit in 1983 with Freak. His debut album and consecutive singles didn’t make any impact. He went on to play with the re-formed Stiff Little Fingers. After his stint there, he started the band Casbah Club, which released an album: Venustraphobia.
Buckler started the band Time UK and released the single Entertain Me with Foxton using the moniker Sharp.
In 2006 Buckler formed the band The Gift. The band solely played The Jam material. Nowadays, a little industry has emerged in The Jam tribute bands: The New Age Jam, The Jam DRC, The Jam’d, Sound Of The Jam, Not The Jam, The Underground Jam, The Setting Sons, The Jam Restart, etc.
It (once again) illustrates the appeal The Jam had and apparently still possesses.
Meanwhile all the former band members have vowed that The Jam will never reunite.
What do you think of The Jam? And what about the goodbye album? Let me know!
The Jam – Live At The Marquee 1978 image: bbc.co.uk
The Jam (Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler): very British indeed! image: popmatters.com
The Jam – Studio Albums image: thejam.org.uk
The Jam – That’s Entertainment (single & video) image: realvj.com/apple.com
The Jam – NME November 1982 image: nicktriplow.blogspot.com
The Jam – Dig The New Breed (LP) image: cdandlp.com
The Jam – Dig The New Breed – Ad image: rockpopmem.com
The Jam – Logo’s image: thejam.org.uk/elbeasto.com/thejamofficial.com
The Jam – Direction Reaction Creation image: paulweller.com
The Jam – Live 1981 image: telegraph.co.uk