Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Jam



Circa ’81, while most of us were playing dress-up, the Jam was like, "So, this is The Jam, and if anyone would be, like, fuck-off to stylists and hair and makeup and we're just going to be the way we are and if we look pissed off, that's going to be the case." While The Jam were indeed contemporaries of Depeche Mode and Spandau, and despite any negativity regarding their being copycats of bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, The Jam’s debut, In the City, beat everyone else to the punch (Bollocks came out in October ’77, The Jam’s In the City in May). They didn’t take on a punk stance but ushered in the social consciousness of a struggling and violent England under Margaret Thatcher. These were poseurs, but angry average young people.

I wouldn’t discover the band early on, indeed, not until 1980 with Sound Effects and one of my fave singles, “That’s Entertainment,” but from there, I got All Mod Cons, with the hits “David Watts” and “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.” The song featured in the video is one of the great punk singles and was never released on LP, although it comes from The Setting Sons sessions.
The Jam were the most popular band to emerge from the initial wave of British punk rock in 1977. 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.
Paul 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. During the summer of 1977, they recorded their second album, This Is the Modern World, released at the end of the year.

The video captures the spirit of the band and remains one of the iconic singles of the early new wave era. You can see it here. The Jam. So overlooked.

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