Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Jam

Active during the late 70s through the mid 80s, and armed with the fast tempos and angry expressions of the era's punk movement, a British band known as The Jam distinguished  themselves from their punk rock brethren by wearing matching tailored suits instead of ripped jeans and t-shirts, and incorporating  60s mainstream pop and RnB influences rather than rejecting them, thus placing them at the forefront of the Mod revival movement that exploded out of the U.K. during that time.
Formed in Woking-Surrey,England in 1972, the band initially consisted of Paul Weller on bass guitar and a changing membership of various schoolmates with which he attended Sheerwater Secondary School. By the mid-70s the line-up solidified with Bruce Foxton and Steve Brookes on guitars and drummer Rich Buckler. Early on their sets consisted of cover tunes by American rock and rollers such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. In time, Weller discovered The Who's "My Generation" and became fascinated with Mod music and lifestyle. This prompted the band to start playing Motown and Stax soul music of the period and to begin writing original music. Shortly after, Brookes left the band not to be replaced thus leaving them a trio. Weller persuaded Foxton to switch to bass while Weller took over guitar duties developing a rhythm-lead style influenced by Pete Townshend and Dr. Feelgood's Wilko Johnson.

This line-up remained the same for the remainder of The Jam's existence, and they were managed by Weller's father, John Weller until his death in 2009. They built up a steadily growing following and were known for their energetic stage presence, high volume, fast tempos and particularly in the case of Weller, Rickenbacker guitars. In early 1977 they were signed by Steve Parry to Polydor Records. The band's single, "In The City" from the debut album of the same name, reached the top 40 in the U.K.

Also quite prevalent were the openly political lyrical content in the band's songs, which tended to be pro-empire and crown-idealistic which along with their overt displays of the Union Jack caused them to be thought of as conservative in their political stance. This was a contrast to peer bands such as the Clash and the Sex Pistols whose lyrics called for social change or outright overthrow. Musically however, they continued to display strong influences of Motown, The Beatles and particularly The Who, as in their follow-up single, This Is The Modern World".

Weller emerged as the band's principal songwriter, but it was Foxton's bass lines that provided the drive in the band's overall sound. While not an overly complex player, his note placement, tone and unbreakable lock with Buckler's drumming combine to lend undeniable power to songs such as "Start", a song that plainly displays Weller's self-admitted influence of the Beatles' Revolver album, in this case "Taxman".

From the band's debut in 1977 to their break-up in 1982, with 18 consecutive U.K. top 40 singles, 6 studio albums and one live album, The Jam has produced a stunning mixture of 60s beat music,soul, psychedelic pop, punk and new wave all the way up to their final LP, The Gift which went to #1 in the U.K. and featured one of the finest songs ever written, the Motown-flavored "A Town Called Malice".

In addition to having four #1 hits during their career, 15 of the band's singles were re-issued  after their break-up and all went to the top 40 again. It's hard to say why this band seemed to go completely over the heads of American audiences, but one thing is clear...The Jam were among the best world-wide.