It might well have turned out to be the band’s penultimate 45 but even then it managed to achieve a couple of firsts, not least having a contribution from a female backing vocalist in the shape of Jennie McKeown of The Belle Stars (and NOT Tracie Young as many folk mistakenly believe) while the b-side had the very unusual combination of two tracks running seamlessly into one another, with the first song being a new original and the second a cover of an old R&B number….
mp3 : The Jam – The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)
mp3 : The Jam – Pity Poor Alfie/Fever
Released on 10 September 1982, it was another surprise to fans in that this was more a classic pop number in the long history of break-up songs while the new original track on the b-side immediately brought to mind the theme tune of The Sweeney, a very popular and at the time ground-breaking TV cop show in the UK from the mid-1970s.
It reached #2 in the singles chart but it couldn’t quite dislodge Eye of The Tiger…….
It was going to be interesting to see where the band went from there. But what happened next was a shock even if it had been on the cards for some time…
A couple of alternative versions are available courtesy of the Direction Reaction Creation box set.
mp3 : The Jam – The Bitterest Pill I Ever Had To Swallow (first version)
Rather different in tone and sound with much reliance on piano and no backing vocal from Jennie.
mp3 : The Jam – Pity Poor Alfie (swing version)
Totally different sounding (ie nothing like The Sweeney!!) with the bass guitar to the fore and a rather different vocal delivery. It also extends out to well over four minutes with a sax solo and major contributions on the Hammond Organ….
The Bitterest Pill wasn’t re-released in 1983 at time whan all the other old singles came out again, presumably on the grounds it was just too soon after the original release. However, it did appear again in 1997 as a CD single to promote the release of yet another compilation album where it was backed by the first version of the song together with The Butterfly Collector and That’s Entertainment.
It reached #30 in the singles chart