I mentioned a box set by The Clash the other day. One of the few other box sets I own is Direction, Reaction, Creation which is a 5-disc released in 1996 and offering more than 100 tracks by The Jam.
It also came with lavish packaging and a great booklet which contained summary details of the band’s live performances. That’s where I’m able to see that, having just got myself at the age 16 to get into the habit of getting to see as many live performances as possible at the Glasgow Apollo (I was still too young to see bands play in pubs or sttudent unions), that I caught The Jam for the first time on Saturday 8 December 1979 during their extensive UK tour to promote Setting Sons (29 gigs in 34 days). I would also catch the band on the four subsequent times they played the venue before they broke up in 1982.
My love for the band had been re-ignited by the LP All Mod Cons. I had bought and enjoyed In The City but having been bitterly disappointed by follow-up The Modern World had, in that teenage way where it is so easy to discard something or someone, decided I didn’t really like The Jam.
All Mod Cons was released in November 1978. But it was during 1979 that The Jam really began to establish themselves as my favourite band on account of an astonishing run of singles:-.
First up in March was this:-
mp3 : The Jam – Strange Town
mp3 : The Jam – The Butterfly Collector
There can be no argument that this was and remains an incredible piece of plastic. The A-side is powerful and fast while the B-side is slow and hanting….but both contain really sad and moving lyrics. The A-side being the tale of someone lost, lonely and alienated having been lured to the capital by the bright lights and promises of streets paved with gold, while the B-side is sorry and lurid tale of a groupie whose best days are behind her, but not that she has cottoned onto that fact. It’s worth remembering that Paul Weller was a musician very much in love with a long-term girlfriend and this was his response to the sorts of offers that seemingly most famous young rock musicians get while they are out on tour.
That #15 hit was followed up in August with this:-
mp3 : The Jam – When You’re Young
mp3 : The Jam – Smithers-Jones
An anthem of and for disaffected youth backed with a bitter tale of middle-aged failure. Is it any wonder that so many discerning teenagers in particular latched onto The Jam and proclaimed them as the greatest, most exciting and most relevant band ever? I was 16 years of age when this single was released…and it just seemed to be the story of my whole existence. And as for the b-side…it was a throwback to some of the earlier and well-received Jam singles as it gave space to Bruce Foxton to sing one of his songs, and this I would argue was his finest in all his time with the band. I was 16 years of age when this b-side was released…and it just seemed to be a well-timed warning not to throw my lot in with any old corporation.
That #17 hit was followed up in December with this:-
mp3 : The Jam – The Eton Rifles
mp3 : The Jam – See-Saw
Personally, I thought the last of them was the weakest of the three, but it did give the band their first Top 10 single at the ninth attempt. Oh and every single afterwards (with the exception of the import-only That’s Entertainment) would also go Top 10.
And it was the NME Single Of The Year for 1979.
At the time of release, many thought that Paul Weller had written an autobiographical song, but in fact it was inspired by a happening from the previous year.
A ‘Right to Work’ march had gone through the town of Slough, an event that wasn’t universally received locally – particularly by a group of well-heeled scholars from the nearby Eton College. The marchers were jeered and ridiculed by the scholars which then developed into a situation of a stand-off between the two sides.
Some of the marchers from an organised far-left political party then led a charge into the scholars and a series of stand-up fights ensued…unfortunately many of the marchers got a kicking as the posh boys from Eton turned out to be younger, fitter and more than capable of looking after themselves. Reports indicated that those who had instigated the fight were the first to flee the scene when they realised they were going to get a hiding, thus some of Weller’s most scathing lines:-
” What a catalyst you turned out to be
Loaded the guns then you run off home for your tea
Left me standing like a guilty schoolboy.”
Paul Weller celebrated his 21st birthday in the calendar year of 1979. He was an astonishingly prodigious talent.