So having got all the singles out-of-the-way, I thought I’d be completely self-indulgent and try to pull together a decent ICA without any of the songs that ever appeared on the 45s – and that includes those which were featured live versions on bonus discs. Despite the fact that well over 40 songs were ruled out from the outset, it still proved a challenge to settle on these particular two sides of vinyl.
1. Art School (from In The City)
Time hasn’t been all that kind to the first two LPs which is why the opening track of their debut is the only one to make the cut. This was seen as a potential single by Polydor Records with a promo video (of sorts) being filmed on the same day as In The City. Most bands would have gone for a second single to boost the sales of the debut album but given that Paul Weller was writing songs at a prestigious rate at the time, and that he was desperate to get the new material out as quickly as possible, then any thoughts of Art School being a 45 were shelved. It’s a more than decently energetic tune, with a lyric that basically said punk/new wave was the modern-day equivalent of art schools where you could dare to be different and challenge the traditional ways of thinking. These were also of course the type of establishments where so many well-respected British musicians of the 60s and early 70s had started out….
2. Thick As Thieves (from Setting Sons)
It is astonishing to look back and realise that Weller was barely 21 years of age when he wrote the songs that made up Setting Sons, the band’s fourth and most ambitious album. There’s no doubt that in his head he wanted to pull together a concept album telling the story of three childhood friends whose lives don’t go the way of their youngdreams with everything changing after them fighting but surviving a war. The concept wasn’t fully realised, possibly being down to him deciding it was an ‘unpunk’ thing to do or perhaps it became just too big a challenge in too short a timescale. It’s a real pity and begs the thought ‘if only….’ for the foundations that were laid down, as exemplified by Thick As Thieves, make you think that the result could well have been a record forever feted to be near the top of the all-time classic lists.
3. Billy Hunt (from All Mod Cons)
Another great anthemic Jam song that many had marked out as a potential 45.
Billy Hunt is actually a pitiful figure of disaffected youth when you analyse it. He hates the idea that he is always getting picked on by everyone, unafirly in his mind, and he dreams of somehow inheriting the powers of fictional film and TV characters and taking his revenge after which he’ll happily head down to a pub that has strip shows for entertainment. He’s not exactly answering the call to arms that so many punk bands were making at the time.
Incidentally, I always thought that the character Ziggy Sobotka from Series 2 of The Wire is a 21st Century Billy Hunt….
4. Little Boy Soldiers (from Setting Sons)
A song like no other in the history of the band and perhaps the new wave era’s equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody – or at least that’s how I initially felt when listening to this as a 16-year old back in 1979. It was earnest and it was thought-provoking stuff but above else it was unsettling, thanks in part to its constant changes in pace and rhythm but also as a result of the doom and gloom nature of the lyric.
OK, I was sure that I was going to leave school, head off to university and find myself some sort of job linked to whatever qualifications I manged to get but I knew quite a few folk who were hell-bent on joining the armed forces and seeing what happened from there….none of them of course even remotely considered that in doing so they were putting their young lives at risk. I wanted so much to give every one of them a cassette with this song on and ask them to have a serious think about things….
5. Boy About Town (from Sound Affects)
It doesn’t do well to dwell for too long on the implications of Little Boy Soldiers otherwise you’ll end up depressed, miserable and worried about where the world is heading, so it’s important to bounce back with a great bit of pop music that puts a a smile on your face and makes you leap off the settee/chair/bean bag and flip your 12” piece of vinyl with its classic red Polydor label over to the other side for another fifteen or so minutes of class.
1. Happy Together (from The Gift)
Let’s get this party pumping. This is one where Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler really come into their own, driving the song along at a tremendous pace and in the bass players’s instance adding an essential backing vocal. The ending where Paul Weller chants out NOW!!!!!!! Is one of my favourite moments on any Jam song – single, b-side or album track.
2. Saturday’s Kids (from Setting Sons)
And let’s keep things moving along apace with this paean to growing up in a working-class household.
At 16, I had no idea what the line ‘stains on the seats – in the back of course’ was all about. Nor did I know who smoked Capstan Non-Filters (Embassy Regal? yup….that was my dad’s choice of habit) and for Selsey Bill and Bracklesam Bay you would have had to substitute places a little nearer home or insert Blackpool which around half of Glasgow seemed to migrate to in the last two weeks in July back in the mid-70s. Otherwise it was a song that resonated with me and even now I can recite every single word of the lyric. But I do accept that, with its descriptions of things that aren’t part of modern society then it’s a lyric very much of its time and so probably won’t resonate much with today’s kids….except perhaps the bit about hating the system. Some things just never change.
3. To Be Someone (Didn’t We Have a Nice Time) (from All Mod Cons)
It will seem strange hearing this out of context with it not being preceded by the title track of All Mod Cons.
As a teenager, there’s just no possibility in your own mind of there being any downside to being famous and rich from getting paid wads of money for doing something you loved like football or music. And yet, here’s someone who I’m looking on as a bit of a role model (despite the fact he’s only 5 years older than me – although at 14/15 that is such a huge age difference) warning me off. All these years later, and the growth of celebrity and its associated frenzied media feeding makes me glad that I’ve got myself through life without ever reaching the giddy heights of being a someone – I’d never ever want to get as angry or as pissed off with my lot as Mr Weller was in 1978.
4. Man In The Corner Shop (from Sound Affects)
There’s something intrinsically sad about this mid-paced number which I’ve always thought is a hidden gem of a song.
I’ve never thought its central message was that everyone is born equal; nor do I think Paul Weller thinks that to be the case and so his tongue is very much in his cheek when he sings those particular lines. The sadness come from the fact that neither of the factory worker or shop owner are happy with their lot and both believe the grass on the other side is a much more favourable shade of green. Even sadder isturning your thoughts to what was likely to have happened to the protagonists in real life over the subsequent 2-3 years….a factory closure and redundancy for the blue-collar worker and the end of the family business for the shop owner as the supermarkets take over? Most likely…..and and as for the factory owner….well, he was never really ever any better off than the other two….maybe just a little bit richer in financial terms. In other words, the central message of Man In The Corner Shop is really quite simple……………………….
5. The Gift (from The Gift)
Just as Art School as the opening song on Side A of the first album served the purpose of announcing the arrival of a new and exciting band, so the final song on Side B of the final album serves the purpose of providing us with a very fine sign-off.
Go and shout it from your roof mountain top – The Jam were a fucking ace combo and one of the greatest things to happen to music in my generation.
mp3 : The Jam – Art School
mp3 : The Jam – Thick As Thieves
mp3 : The Jam – Billy Hunt
mp3 : The Jam – Little Boy Soldiers
mp3 : The Jam – Boy About Town
mp3 : The Jam – Happy Together
mp3 : The Jam – Saturday’s Kids
mp3 : The Jam – To Be Somone (Didn’t We Have A Nice Time)
mp3 : The Jam – Man In The Corner Shop
mp3 : The Jam – The Gift
That’s the last of The Jam for the time being……