I have some fantastic memories of the times I was a Jam fan. Their music might just as well be the perfect companion when you are maturing and leaving the world of juvenile irresponsibilities away.
I was introduced to them by John Alroy. That is, many years ago I sent him an e-mail telling him how interesting I found his record’s review website, and asking him which bands could I like since I had completed my Who collection. I also told him I was fond of The Sex Pistols and Oasis. Alroy sent me a very courteous e-mail and told me I would probably like The Jam (he described them as a cross between The Who and The Sex Pistols). He also recommended XTC to me. Hehe. Bingo!
The Who and The Jam. That is a recurrent comparison, and one that frontman Paul Weller did never shrug off. But we must never overlook the influence of another British band that I hope to review sometime soon: The Kinks. Ray Davies played out a monumental role on the Modfather’s narrative style. We could effectively say Weller coupled Townshend’s identity themes with Davies’ descriptiveness of life in England, and came up with something a British public seized up with both hands. The Jam were to have four number one singles during their (relatively brief) time together, from the pub rock days to the year 1982. That was quite a feat back then. They could never replicate their success States-wide. It is not clear whether Weller actually cared or not about that. Well, that is not taking into account his many “Fuck America and their Cadillacs” comments throughout his whole career.
The fact is that The Jam (Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler) were to be one of the most inspiring guitar acts England produced. They also broke up at the exact time – one album more alone would have damaged them irretrievably. Weller had bigger things at the back of his head, and after splitting the band (he was the leader), he pursued a different vision in the shape of The Style Council. The new formula worked for some time, but then it lost the magic. After that, he went solo, and he still has a noteworthy career in the UK.
I must confess I do never listen to The Jam these days. Their music made me feel fantastic when I was younger. Weller himself can not endure listening to his first band’s output, either. The few Jam tunes he performs nowadays often have different lyrics. Still, I am not saying their oeuvre is not worth being tracked down. Pick a greatest hits and see if it clicks with you or not. If you can, let it be “Snap!” – it has all the many non-album singles they released, including “When You Are Young”, “Strange Town”, “Going Underground” and “Beat Surrender”. All of them are essential tunes. And if you can’t still make up your mind, I hope the reviews I am going to publish shortly will shed some light on the subject.
In the meantime, the boys as they started:
And one of their finest non-album singles from a bit later on: