We have now reached 16 October 1981 and the band’s fourteenth single.  And the first since I had fallen head over heels with them that left me disappointed.

I didn’t quite understand at the time that it was impossible for any musician or and to maintain incredibly high standards in their career and that at some point in time there has to be a dip in quality.  It would happen in due course with almost every other band that sustained any sort of lengthy career without a break but as this was the first time I’d seen it happen to one off mine I just didn’t get it….

In addition to fourteen singles The Jam had also released up to this point five studio LPs and all in a little over four years during which time they had toured almost non-stop on those occasions when they weren’t in the studio.  And Paul Weller had barely passed his 23rd birthday….

mp3 : The Jam – Absolute Beginners
mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank

I much preferred the b-side but still thought it inferior to many earlier b-sides and album tracks that were unknown to the wider public.   Little did any of us know at the time that the band were going through a bit of a crisis at the time in terms of future musical directions that would only become apparent over the next twelve months….

The first alternative version today again comes from the Studio B15 live show on 25 October 1981.  This time you have to tolerate 17 seconds of jingles and DJ waffle before the song kicks in

mp3 : The Jam – Absolute Beginners (BBC live version)

and then sadly, there’s more waffle from the DJ in the closing few seconds.

From the same show, and again spoiled somewhat by chat at the start and end:-

mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (BBC live version)

The band would play both songs at the Golders Green gig at the end of December 1981:-

mp3 : The Jam – Absolute Beginners (live)
mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (live)

And finally…..a version recorded in November 1981 and issued the following year as a flexidisc to fan club members (and no, I never did sign up and join….for some reason or other I never did that with any singer or band that I liked)

mp3 : The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (flexidisc version)

Oh and I almost forgot to mention. The single did reach #4 on its original release and then #83 when it was part of the batch of 1983 re-releases.


8 thoughts on “THE JAM SINGLES (14)

  1. I adore this single and it’s b-side, but then I’m a Style council fanatic so it probably appeals to me more.

    Recently picked up a very good 2nd hand copy for £3 – Plays perfectly. Maybe the original owner thought the same as you 🙂

  2. I love Tales From The Riverbank. One of Weller’s finest songs IMHO. Think it’s the feelings of nostalgia he evokes or something…

  3. JC, I’m with greyblazer on this one… and I think it has to do with my age. I was 13 when Introducing the Style Council came out, and that’s where it all began for me. From there I went in reverse chronological order with the Jam. So, I’m guessing I feel the same way about the Jam’s later stuff as you do those early singles you write about with such passion.

  4. If I may explain…..I’ve tried to this series from the perspective of what it was like to pick up the singles at the time, and so the sense of disappointment I refer to was how I felt in 1981,

    My tastes have broadened and expanded somewhat in the subsequent years, particularly as I learned to appreciate what it was that made The Style Council so enjoyable; as such I now have as much fondness for Absolute Beginners as I have for many other songs by The Jam. But when you’ve lived through a run such as that of Strange Town/When You’re Young/Eton Rifles/Going Undergound/Start! then a single like this just had that initial feeling of being inferior.

  5. JC has a point. When it came out, the brass lead opening of Absolute Beginners was almost jarring. As a rabid Anglophile I had already read Colin MacInnes’ London Trilogy, so in that context the song made sense, but I’m not sure many Jam fans expected bright and airy sound from the band. I would quickly learn to love Absolute Beginners – it was some of the songs from the follow-up album The Gift that to this day give me some trouble.

  6. I was also young when this came out and loved it at the time. I can now see it as a dip. if Eton Rifles was the absolute peak this was the beginning of the end.

  7. I was a late-to-the-game American. I heard of The Jam from at least 1978, but in the Southeast where I lived, I associated that name with funk. As in Funkadelic’s “Uncle Jam Wants You.” Other funk bands used the word “jam” in their titles, so I assumed at first that The Jam were an African American funk band! It remained until I saw a copy of “Sound Affects” until I bought it and finally heard the band. A good review in my local New Wave paper [Dogfood] convinced me. I stuck with the band until the “Bitterest Pill” single and never really had any problems with any of the stylistic changes that happened fast and furiously from ’81-’82. In America, Polydor bundled non-LP singles into 12″ EPs that helpfully were released in between albums. Where I got off the bus was on the debut Style Council 7″ single. That bored me.

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